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Cruise missiles are becoming capable of supersonic to hypersonic speeds, perform evasive maneuvers and hit moving targets with extreme precision

The technical definition of a cruise missile is any weapon which automatically flies an essentially horizontal cruise flight profile for most of the duration of its flight between launch and its terminal trajectory to impact.  In the framework of technical cruise missile definition, weapons are further divided into tactical / sub-strategic / theatre weapons, and strategic weapons, and then divided by warhead into nuclear and conventional.  A further division, somewhat arbitrary with the arrival of the SLAM/Block II Harpoon and Russian analogues, is the split between Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCM) and Land Attack Cruise Missiles (LACM).

Some common cruise missiles are the US Navy UGM/RGM-109 Tomahawk/TLAM or US Air Force AGM-86 ALCM/CALCM. On April 6, 2017, the United States attacked a Syrian government airfield with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Known for its range and accuracy, the Tomahawk has been a part of America’s arsenal since 1983, and has seen extensive use in several military actions.

The most widely deployed are ASCMs, which typically start with ranges of tens of nautical miles, warhead sizes around 100 kg, and subsonic cruise profiles. The Exocet, Harpoon, Kh-35U and YJ-8 families are the most widely used examples. At the opposite end of this spectrum are the Russian heavyweights, like the rocket propelled subsonic 2.5 tonne class Styx family (Chinese C-601/611 Kraken), the Mach 3+ 6 tonne class Kh-22M Burya (AS-4), the ramjet Mach 2+ 4.5 tonne class Kh-41 Sunburn and 3 tonne class Kh-61 Yakhont/Brahmos.

Historically, the main attraction in cruise missiles has always been in the often very significant stand-off range provided, keeping the delivery platform out of the reach of most if not all air defence weapons. An equal attraction has been the difficulty in detecting, tracking and killing a small, and often very low flying cruise missile.

The drawback in all cruise missiles has always been economic – the fraction of warhead weight to total weapon weight has typically been less than 50%, while the cost of these weapons has been of the order of 50 times or greater than guided bombs. Complex guidance and propulsion systems have been the main cost drivers. Each Tomahawk unit cost about The missiles cost around $1.4 million apiece.

Russia has built a hypersonic missile capable of destroying an aircraft carrier with a single impact, it has been reported.  Kremlin chiefs claim to have constructed a Zircon cruise missile which travels between 3,800mph and 4,600mph – five to six times the speed of sound. Experts warn the ‘unstoppable’ projectiles could spell disaster for the Navy’s new £6.2billion aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales

Current Navy anti-missile defenses are only equipped to shoot down projectiles traveling 2,300mph, meaning they would be useless against the Zicron. This would force aircraft carriers to anchor outside of their estimated 500 mile range. That would make it impossible for the carrier’s jets and helicopters to reach their target, carry out their mission, and return without running out of fuel – effectively rendering them useless.

Pete Sandeman, a naval expert, told the Sunday People: ‘Defence against hypersonic missiles presents a huge challenge to surface ships. ‘There is so little time to react that even if detected, existing defences may be entirely inadequate. ‘Even if the missile is broken up or detonated by close-in weapons, the debris has so much kinetic energy that the ship may still be badly damaged.’

Tomahawk Land Attack Missile

The Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) is an American-developed weapon classified as a cruise missile, which is an unmanned jet-propelled aircraft that uses guidance systems to seek and destroy targets.

The missiles are approximately 21 feet long, weigh 1.5 tons and can be launched from both traditional torpedo tubes and vertical launch tubes on modern submarines. Once the Tomahawk is in the air, the turbojet engine kicks in and its wings spread, allowing it to reach speeds of 500 miles per hour.

The sophisticated guidance system uses a combination of GPS, TERCOM (Terrain Contour Matching) and DSMAC (Digital Scene-Matching Area Correlator) to ensure the missile accurately destroys its target. TERCOM uses radar signals, while DSMAC uses optical images stored in the electronic system. The

The Tomahawk’s INS relies on waypoints. Waypoints are well discernible terrain features with the characteristic outlines, e.g. mountains, hills, valleys, river bends, etc. When passing waypoints, the missile turns on its electro-optical system. The INS has the master image showing how the terrain the missile is passing through should look like if the missile is on course. Comparing the standard image with the imagery provided by the optics, the INS realizes the degree of its deviation.

The Tomahawk flies 30-50 m above the ground. During its navigation correction, it climbs to 100 m for a few seconds but then descends again. The cruise missile climbs sharply once it reaches the target to ensure the best view for its electro-optical system, because the TLAM finds the target by using both its grids and video imagery. The target’s image is stored in its memory. The guidance system analyzes the video, finds the target’s outline, compares it against the memory-stored image and only then steers the weapon to the target.

On average, the missile’s circular error probable (CEP) is within 10 m. The present-day Tomahawk uses satellite navigation (satnav). However, the GPS system is needed on the last leg of the flight for terminal attack. The weapon’s accuracy has grown from 10 m to 10 cm owing to its satnav capability. This is especially important when the cruise missile is employed against point targets, e.g. ICBM silos.

If the Tomahawk impacts 10 m away from the silo’s cover that weighs many tons, it will not damage it. Owing to its satnav receiver, the missile will hit the middle of the cover and destroy it. However, it does not need this kind of accuracy when engaging area targets, such as airfields, bunched-up combat vehicles or fighting positions. The Tomahawk’s guidance system also relies on the GPS signal for course updates. Once updated, the INS compares its data with that of the GPS. The Tomahawk will approach its target without satnav anyway

“What’s important about the Tomahawks is that they just don’t necessarily go from point A to point B in a straight line. They will take kind of a circumnavigation route so they can’t be shot down,” retired US Army Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks said.

In layman’s terms, this type of missile is designed to be used at great distances, with pinpoint accuracy, minimizing risk to personnel and civilians.

There also is a specific variant of the Tomahawk that can carry cluster munitions that separate over a target, causing fragmentation and incendiary damage that could destroy vehicles, supply depots and aircraft on a flight line. The missiles would not cause as much damage to a runway as a larger Air Force bomb launched from a bomber or fighter, such as Joint Defense Air Munition (JDAM).

IN 2015, a Raytheon-built Tomahawk Block IV missile was tested against a moving target — a vessel carrying shipping containers — in a test that showed the weapon can strike moving objects at sea. The missile launched from the destroyer USS Kidd near San Nicolas Island and was flying on a pre-planned course when a surveillance plane also participating in the test designated a new target – a mock cargo ship. The plane sent data to a control center, which relayed the command to the missile. The Tomahawk rocketed toward the vessel and punched straight through a shipping container on its deck.

The test was the next step in the evolution of Tomahawk, a  precision weapon that can fly more than 1,000 miles, can circle on command and can even transmit photos of its target to commanders before striking. Raytheon is also developing a seeker that will allow the missile to find moving targets on its own.

“This is a significant accomplishment,” the Navy’s Tomahawk program manager, Capt. Joe Mauser, said in a statement. “It demonstrates the viability of long-range communications for position updates of moving targets. This success further demonstrates the existing capability of Tomahawk as a netted weapon, and in doing so, extends its reach beyond fixed and re-locatable points to moving targets.”

 

Russian cruise missiles strike against Islamic State targets

In October 2015, Russian warships belonging to the Russian Navy’s Caspian Sea Strike Group launched 26 cruise missiles against Islamic State targets located in Syria. The missiles flew nearly 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) over Iran and Iraq and struck targets in Raqqa and Aleppo provinces (controlled by the the Islamic State) as well as Idlib province (controlled by the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front).

It was the first time Russia had fired the new Kalibr cruise missile in a combat mission. According to the Russia’s MoD, the cruise missiles “engaged all the assigned targets successfully and with high accuracy.”

The missile used to conduct the attack is the 3M14TE Kalibr-NK with a maximum range of 2,600 km, fired by a strike group consisting of the Dagestan missile ship, the small-sized missile ships Grad Sviyazhsk, Uglich, VelikyUstyug.

Defense experts believe that 26 missiles that were launched were land-attack versions of Russia’s SS-N-27 anti-ship missiles similar to a Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Anton Lavrov, an independent military expert, said in an interview with “Izvestia” that high-precision cruise missiles are only owned by a few countries in the world, so the emergence of new “Kalibrs” is a landmark in the development of the Indian armed forces.

“The strengths of the “Kalibr” are its high precision and the ability to hit well-protected objects, including control and air defence facilities centres”, Lavrov said. “The most important thing is the surprise effect. When there is an air raid, the enemy has time to react, but cruise missiles strike unexpectedly. In addition, “Kalibr” has an advantage – it can manoeuvre and hit the target from unexpected directions.” He also drew attention to another important aspect of the export of new cruise missiles.

“’Kalibr’ has the feature of using high-precision satellite guidance, and hence, its application requires very close cooperation in the military sphere, as the Indians will have to grant access to the three-dimensional model of the Earth, maps, terrain and the GLONASS military frequencies,” said Lavrov. “Such opportunities are not just given to anybody, only the closest allies.”

 

India Russia Joint development of the BrahMos missile system

The BrahMos is a ramjet powered supersonic cruise missile developed in a joint venture between India and Russia. It is the world’s fastest operational cruise missile. Cooperation between the Indian Defense Research and Development Organisation and Russia’s Mashinostroyeniye Company began in 1998, with the first successful test of the BrahMos missile conducted in 2001. Since then, the missile has been employed aboard at least eight warships of the Indian Navy, and by three regiments of the Indian Army.

The Navy has also successfully tested in 2013 a submarine-launched version which is expected to enter service in future vessels. Submarine-launched BrahMoses could potentially be launched fairly close to the target without being detected.

In April 2017, the Indian Navy successfully carried out the first-ever test of a supersonic land-attack cruise missile (LACM). A “land attack version of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was fired for the first time from an Indian Navy’s stealth frigate, off the eastern coast, at a land target,” an unnamed Indian Ministry of Defense source noted. To date, the only variants of the BrahMos tested by the Indian Navy were the anti-ship variants. The variant tested on Friday has a range of 290 kilometers, but India is working toward longer-range variants with ranges of up to potentially 800 kilometers.

The missiles are capable of Mach 2.8 flight. It also weighs twice as much as a Tomahawk, at six thousand pounds. The combination of twice the weight and four times greater speed as a Tomahawk result in vastly more kinetic energy when striking the target. Despite having a smaller warhead, the effects on impact are devastating.

Even more importantly, the BrahMos’s ability to maintain supersonic speeds while skimming at low altitude makes it very difficult to detect and intercept. To cap it off, the BrahMos performs an evasive “S-maneuver” shortly before impact, making it difficult to shoot down at close range.

The BrahMos capable of being equipped on mobile, ground stations and warships with considerable ease. Its precision, speed and low flying altitude make it the weapon of choice to avoid enemy detection and perform stealth attacks on radar installations, army headquarters and communication / control modules. It is considered the fastest missile of its kind due to its supersonic speeds, and can carry warhead in excess of 200 kg, making it quite a formidable weapon.

India is developing a second generation BrahMos-II missile is collaboration with Russia based on the scramjet technology.The BrahMos-II is expected to have a range of 600 km. The missile is expected to be ready for testing by 2020.

 

 

References and resources also include:

https://in.rbth.com/economics/defence/2016/09/01/india-seeks-calibr-cruise-missiles-from-russia_626215

http://edition.cnn http://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php/focus-analysis/naval-technology/5112-tomahawk-cruise-missiles-proved-to-be-difficult-targets-for-russian-electronic-warfare-system.html.com/2017/04/06/politics/tomahawk-missiles-explainer/index.htm

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4350360/Russia-develops-unstoppable-4-600mph-cruise-missile.html

http://www.raytheon.com/news/feature/tomahawk_moving_target_sea.html

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