Sur­face-to-Sur­face Mis­siles on War­ships

Cruise mis­siles have be­come weapons of choice at sea be­cause of their abil­ity to fly close to the sea sur­face at very high speeds (sub-sonic/su­per­sonic), for­mi­da­ble wave point pro­gram­ming, and lethal ex­plo­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties

SP's NavalForces - - FRONT PAGE - Rear Ad­mi­ral Dr S. Kul­shrestha (Retd)

Cruise mis­siles have be­come weapons of choice at sea be­cause of their abil­ity to fly close to the sea sur­face at very high speeds (sub­sonic/su­per­sonic), for­mi­da­ble wave point pro­gram­ming, and lethal ex­plo­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

BLUE WA­TER NAVIES DE­FEND and at­tack with a va­ri­ety plat­forms util­is­ing a wide range of weapons. The three-di­men­sional op­er­a­tions of a for­mi­da­ble navy in­volve air­crafts, sur­face ships and sub­marines. each of these plat­forms has weapons de­signed for its spe­cific role. a naval force far away from its home­port is thus fully ca­pa­ble of meet­ing threats aris­ing from the air, sur­face or un­der wa­ter. a war­ship’s weapon out­fit in­cludes mis­siles for anti-air and an­ti­ship war­fare; tor­pe­does, depth charges and rock­ets for anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare; and guns for anti-sur­face, anti-air, anti-mis­sile and naval gun­fire sup­port roles. among the mis­siles, a war­ship’s out­fit gen­er­ally com­prises of sur­face-to-sur­face mis­siles (ssM) and sur­face-to-air-mis­siles (saM). The ssM ca­pa­bil­ity has rapidly ad­vanced to the realm of the cruise mis­siles.

The cruise mis­sile owes it ori­gins to the Ger­man V1/V2 rock­ets and mainly to the fact that manned air­craft mis­sions had proved to be very ex­pen­sive dur­ing the wars (loss of trained fighter pi­lots as well as ex­pen­sive air­craft). Un­for­tu­nately, the cruise mis­sile de­vel­op­ment un­til the 1970s re­sulted only in un­re­li­able and in­ac­cu­rate out­comes, which were not ac­cept­able to the armed forces. cruise mis­siles over­came their in­her­ent tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties and owe their tremen­dous suc­cess and pop­u­lar­ity to no­table tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances in the fields of propul­sion (small tur­bo­fan jet en­gines re­sulted in smaller and lighter air­frames); minia­tur­i­sa­tion of elec­tronic com­po­nents (smaller on­board com­put­ers led to much bet­ter guid­ance and con­trol abil­i­ties); and high-den­sity fu­els, much bet­ter ex­plo­sives, and smaller war­heads. cruise mis­siles have be­come weapons of choice at sea be­cause of their abil­ity to fly close to the sea sur­face at very high speeds (sub­sonic/su­per­sonic), for­mi­da­ble wave point pro­gram­ming, and lethal ex­plo­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties. These make the mis­siles very dif­fi­cult to de­tect and counter at sea.

a sur­vey of some of the most pow­er­ful weapon plat­forms at sea would con­firm that the sur­face-to-sur­face mis­sile is one of the most po­tent ar­ma­ments on­board. The sig­nif­i­cant sur­face-to-sur­face mis­siles in­clude the Tom­a­hawk, the ex­o­cet, the Uran, the YJ-18, the rBs15, the BrahMos, and the un­der de­vel­op­ment LrasM.

Raytheon’s Tom­a­hawk

The Tom­a­hawk Land at­tack Mis­sile (TLaM) has proved its ver­sa­til­ity by suc­cess­fully car­ry­ing out at­tacks on var­i­ous types of land tar­gets un­der hos­tile en­vi­ron­ments. The land at­tack Tom­a­hawk is equipped with in­er­tial and ter­rain con­tour match­ing radar guid­ance. The mis­sile con­stantly matches its data­base with the ac­tual ter­rain to up­date its po­si­tion. for ter­mi­nal guid­ance, it uses the op­ti­cal Dig­i­tal scene Match­ing area cor­re­la­tion (DsMac) sys­tem for com­par­ing the ac­tual tar­get im­age with the stored one. In Ter­coM a dig­i­tal char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of an area of ter­rain is mapped based on dig­i­tal ter­rain el­e­va­tion data or stereo im­agery and loaded in the mis­sile. Dur­ing flight, the mis­sile com­pares the stored map data with radar al­time­ter data, mis­sile’s in­er­tial nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem is up­dated, and the mis­sile can cor­rect its course if re­quired. In DsMac, a dig­i­tized im­age of an area is mapped and then em­bed­ded into a TLAM mis­sion. While in flight the mis­sile com­pares the stored im­ages with the ac­tual im­age for up­dat­ing its in­er­tial nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem to en­able course cor­rec­tions.

The Tom­a­hawk Weapon sys­tem com­prises of four ma­jor com­po­nents; Tom­a­hawk Mis­sile, Theatre Mis­sion plan­ning Cen­tre, Afloat Plan­ning Sys­tem , Tom­a­hawk Weapon con­trol sys­tem for sur­face ships, and com­bat con­trol sys­tem for sub­marines. sys­tems of the mis­sile in­clude Gps re­ceiver; an up­grade of the op­ti­cal DsMac sys­tem; time of ar­rival (Toa) con­trol, and im­proved 402 turbo en­gines. The mis­sile is pro­vided to ships as an ‘all-up-round’. It in­cludes the mis­sile, the booster, and a trans­porta­tion con­tainer which it­self acts as a launch tube. TLaM-c has a con­ven­tional uni­tary war­head for at­tack­ing hard­ened tar­gets, and TLaM-D has a con­ven­tional sub­mu­ni­tions (dis­pense bomblets) war­head for use against softer tar­gets.

TLaM Block III sys­tem up­grade had in­cluded jam­ming-re­sis­tant Gps sys­tem re­ceivers, Toa and im­proved ac­cu­racy for low con­trast match­ing of DsMac, ex­tended range, and a lighter war­head. The war­head for Block IV, the WDU-36, has an in­sen­si­tive pBXn-107 ex­plo­sive, the fMU-148 fuse, and the BBU-47 fuse booster.

Tac­ti­cal Tom­a­hawk has the ca­pa­bil­ity to re­pro­gramme the mis­sile dur­ing flight to at­tack any of 15 pre­pro­grammed al­ter­nate tar­gets or the war­ship can re­di­rect the mis­sile to any new Gps des­ig­nated tar­get. It is also able to loi­ter over a tar­get area for some hours, and with its on­board TV cam­era, en­able bat­tle dam­age as­sess­ment and if re­quired re­di­rect­ion of the mis­sile to any other tar­get. ad­di­tion of net­work-cen­tric war­fare-ca­pa­bil­i­ties is a ma­jor im­prove­ment to the Tom­a­hawk where in it can use data from mul­ti­ple sen­sors (ships, satel­lites, air­craft UAVs, etc.) to find its tar­get as well as share its own sen­sor data.

The new fea­tures in Block IV mod­i­fi­ca­tions in­clude a new multi-mode pas­sive seeker. as far as war­head is con­cerned, it is un­der­stood that Joint Multi-ef­fects War­head sys­tem, bunker bust­ing fea­ture as well as ad­vanced anti-ra­di­a­tion Guided Mis­sile tech­nol­ogy is be­ing in­cor­po­rated for in­creas­ing the war­head ver­sa­til­ity. The TLaM-D con­tains 166 sub­mu­ni­tions in 24 can­is­ters; 22 can­is­ters of seven each, and 2 can­is­ters of six each of com­bined ef­fects Mu­ni­tion bomblet used with the cBU-87 com­bined ef­fects Mu­ni­tion of the Us air force. De­vel­op­ments are also un­der­way to use scram­jet tech­nol­ogy and make TLaM a su­per­sonic mis­sile with a speed of Mach 3.

The MBDA’s Ex­o­cet

The vari­ant Block 3 MM40 is the shiplaunched ver­sion of the ex­o­cet. The ba­sic body de­sign of the ex­o­cet is based upon the nord as30 air-to-ground tac­ti­cal mis­sile. It has a solid-pro­pel­lant booster and with a tur­bo­jet sus­tainer mo­tor pro­vid­ing it a range of more than 180 km. It is a mis­sile, which flies 1-2 m above the sea level and re­mains very dif­fi­cult to de­tect un­til about 6 km from the tar­get. It is guided in­er­tially and has an ac­tive radar ter­mi­nal guid­ance. The ex­o­cet MM40 has three main ver­sions Block 1, Block 2 and Block 3 for de­ploy­ment from ships as well as coastal bat­ter­ies. The Block 3 ver­sion can at­tack tar­gets from dif­fer­ent an­gles through Gps­based way­point com­mands. It weighs 670 kg, with a war­head weight of 165 kg.

The BrahMos is a su­per­sonic ram­jet cruise mis­sile be­ing pro­duced un­der a joint ven­ture be­tween the In­dian De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion and the Rus­sian NPO Mashinos­troeye­nia. It is the fastest cruise mis­sile in the world with a range of 290 km.


The rus­sian Uran mis­sile is a sub­sonic anti-ship mis­sile with ac­tive radar ter­mi­nal guid­ance. It is the booster launch ver­sion of the Kh-35U mis­sile. Tar­get des­ig­na­tion and flight mis­sion de­tails are fed to mis­sile prior to the launch. The mis­sile is guided through in­er­tial nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem un­til it reaches the tar­get zone. There af­ter the radar is switched on for lo­cat­ing and track­ing the tar­get, once tar­get has been ac­quired the mis­sile tra­verses at very low al­ti­tude un­til it hits the tar­get. It is said that it can

be launched in sea states up to six. The ac­qui­si­tion range of the radar is 20 km. The arGs-35e radar is be­ing re­placed by spe radar MMs built Gran-Ke seeker. The Uran is highly se­cure even in a hos­tile counter-mea­sure en­vi­ron­ment. It has a weight of 610 kg with a shaped charge war­head of 145 kg.


The YJ-18 is a chi­nese anti-ship cruise mis­sile with a naTo des­ig­na­tion of ch-ssnX-13. It is said to be a copy of the rus­sian 3M-54e that is sub­sonic dur­ing the cruise phase and turns su­per­sonic in the ter­mi­nal phase. It has a range of 540 km. It may be hav­ing a BeiDou based in­er­tial guid­ance with a war­head (ex­plo­sive/anti-ra­di­a­tion) of 300 kg. It is said to be de­ployed from the Type 052D de­stroy­ers.


The rBs15 is po­tent long-range sur­face-to­sur­face mis­sile de­vel­oped and man­u­fac­tured by saab Bo­fors Dy­nam­ics. It weighs 800 kg with a blast/pre-frag­men­ta­tion war­head of 200 kg. It has in­er­tial, Gps guid­ance with ac­tive radar ter­mi­nal hom­ing. It has range of 250 km and cruises at sub­sonic speeds. The rBs15 Mk3 mis­sile sys­tem is claimed to have ex­tremely flex­i­ble tra­jec­tory, an ad­vanced tar­get seeker with all-weather ca­pa­bil­ity and high de­fence pen­e­tra­tion ca­pa­bil­ity. saab claims that it will sup­port the mis­sile sys­tem through­out its 30-year ser­vice life and of­fer in-coun­try main­te­nance and other flex­i­ble main­te­nance so­lu­tions for its cus­tomers.


The BrahMos is a su­per­sonic ram­jet cruise mis­sile be­ing pro­duced un­der a joint ven­ture be­tween the In­dian De­fence re­search and De­vel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion and the rus­sian npo Mashinos­troeye­nia. It is the fastest cruise mis­sile in the world with a range of 290 km. Be­cause of its high speed (close to Mach 3), it can pen­e­trate cur­rent anti-mis­sile de­fences. It has a wing­span of 1.7 m, di­am­e­ter of 70 cm with a war­head of 200 kg. Its Block III ver­sion can carry out land at­tack also. It is un­der­stood that it has been tested in su­per­sonic dive mode, with­out any seeker; against hid­den land, tar­gets with G3oM based nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, which can use Gps, GLonass, as well as the In­dian GaGan satel­lite sys­tems. BrahMos-II (K) is a hy­per­sonic mis­sile un­der de­vel­op­ment with a range of 290 km and a speed of Mach 7. It is likely to be pro­pelled with scram­jet air breath­ing jet en­gine.

Mis­siles of the Fu­ture (LRASM)

Darpa is de­vel­op­ing an anti-ship cruise mis­sile with ad­vanced stealth fea­tures as a re­place­ment for the har­poon mis­sile for the Us navy. Lock­heed Martin has been given a lim­ited pro­duc­tion con­tract for 90 mis­siles to meet Us navy’s ur­gent re­quire­ments. In Au­gust this year, the US Navy has of­fi­cially des­ig­nated the air-launched LrasM as the AGM-158C. LRASM will be fit­ted with a mod­i­fied Mk 114 jet­ti­son-able rocket booster for launch from ships us­ing the ex­ist­ing Mk 41 Ver­ti­cal Launch sys­tem. LrasM is likely to her­ald au­ton­o­mous tar­get­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties by util­is­ing on­board tar­get­ing sys­tems. The LrasM would not re­quire Gps, data links or any prior in­tel­li­gence, it would be able to carry out pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of its tar­get and track and at­tack it on its own. It will have ad­vanced counter-coun­ter­mea­sures to pen­e­trate the en­emy de­fences un­der highly ad­verse con­di­tions.

The ba­sic de­sign of LrasM is de­rived from the aGM-158B JassM-er with ad­di­tion of a new weapon data link, ra­dio fre­quency sen­sor (multi-mode), al­time­ter, and bet­ter power sys­tem. It is a sea skim­mer with a range of 370 km, which can be guided to tar­get, given mid­course cor­rec­tions, or func­tion in stand-alone mode for se­lec­tion of the tar­get. The guid­ance sys­tem and the hom­ing head have been de­signed by Bae sys­tems. These com­prise, imag­ing in­frared hom­ing with au­to­matic scene/tar­get match­ing recog­ni­tion, jam­ming re­sis­tant Gps/Ins, pas­sive rf and threat warn­ing, esM, radar warn­ing sen­sors, and data link. Data link en­ables the mis­sile to col­late real time dig­i­tal pic­ture of the tar­get zone from friendly as­sets. The emis­sion data is au­tonomously clas­si­fied, and ac­quired for gen­er­a­tion of the mis­sile’s at­tack tra­jec­tory. The LrasM can search and at­tack the tar­get on its own us­ing the ac­tive radar, the mul­ti­mode hom­ing head en­ables the mis­sile to avoid be­ing de­coyed and hit­ting the in­cor­rect tar­get. It is claimed that the mis­sile can also op­er­ate in swarms and has land at­tack ca­pa­bil­ity.


cruise mis­siles are very ex­pen­sive weapons cost­ing mil­lions of dol­lars per piece. There­fore, se­lec­tion of the tar­get be­comes a dif­fi­cult task, as cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis has to be car­ried out prior to launch­ing the cruise mis­sile on its mis­sion. how­ever, with their min­i­mal sig­na­tures in the visual, in­frared and radar spec­trums they be­come weapons of choice in mis­sion of high pri­or­ity and stealth.

It ap­pears that the trend to­wards de­vel­op­ments of su­per­sonic/hy­per­sonic scram­jet cruise mis­siles will con­tinue to gather mo­men­tum and such mis­siles could be in the naval in­ven­to­ries by 2020. cou­pled with hy­per­sonic mis­siles, would be real time tar­get data up­dat­ing and guid­ance by ex­tremely fast on­board com­put­ers and satel­lite-based sys­tems. The ki­netic en­ergy of hy­per­sonic cruise mis­siles would be a lethal­ity mul­ti­plier against tar­gets at sea and there­fore such a mis­sile would be a for­mi­da­ble weapon with­out a cred­i­ble coun­ter­mea­sure as on date. The costs con­tinue to in­crease with new de­vel­op­ments; how­ever, main­te­nance re­quire­ments ap­pear to be re­duc­ing with can­is­terised mis­siles. The pro­lif­er­a­tion of pre­ci­sion guided mis­siles would con­tinue to in­crease with re­duc­tions in cost of com­po­nents, elec­tron­ics and soft­ware.

PHO­TO­GRAPHS: Saab Group, In­dian Navy

(Top) Saab’s RBS15 mis­sile fir­ing; (above) BrahMos anti-ship land at­tack test from INS Kolkata

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