Kh-55

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kh-55/65/101/102/555
AS-15 Kent
Kh-55 in the Ukrainian Air Force Museum
TypeAir-launched cruise missile
Place of originSoviet Union
Service history
In service1983–present
Used byRussia, China, Iran
WarsSyrian Civil War[1]
2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine[2]
Production history
Designed1971–1981
ManufacturerRaduga OKB, KhAZ (Kharkiv), Novator (MZiK) & NPP Temp (Eka) NPO Strela (Oren), else
Produced1981
Specifications
Mass1,650 kg (3,640 lb) (Kh-65SE)[3]
2,400 kg (5,300 lb) (Kh-101)[4]
Length604 cm (19 ft 10 in) (Kh-65SE)[3]
745 cm (24 ft 5 in) (Kh-101)[4]
Diameter51.4 cm (20.2 in) (Kh-55/Kh-55SM)
Wingspan310 cm (122.0 in) (Kh-55/Kh-55SM)
WarheadThermonuclear weapon or Conventional warhead
Blast yield200kt Nuclear (Kh-55/Kh-55SM)

EngineR95TP-300 Turbofan[5]/turbofan (Kh-55/Kh-55SM)
360-400 kgf (Kh-55/Kh-55SM)
Propellantjet fuel
Operational
range
2,500 km (1,300 nmi) (Kh-55)
3,000 km (1,600 nmi) (Kh-55SM)
600 km (320 nmi) (Kh-65SE)[3]
300 km, later 600 km (Kh-SD)[3]
Flight altitudeunder 110 m/300 ft
Maximum speed Mach 0.75 (KH-SD)[3]
Mach 0.6-0.78 (Kh-101)[4]
Guidance
system
inertial guidance with Doppler radar/terrain map updates; Kh-SD had a TC/IIR terminal guidance system, and an alternative active radar homing seeker was proposed
Launch
platform
Tu-95MS, Tu-160, Su-34[6]

The Kh-55 (Russian: Х-55[note 1], also known as RKV-500; NATO reporting name: AS-15 "Kent") is a Soviet/Russian subsonic air-launched cruise missile, designed by MKB Raduga in the 1970s. It has a range of up to 2,500 km (1,350 nmi) and can carry nuclear warheads. Kh-55 is launched exclusively from bomber aircraft and has spawned a number of conventionally armed variants mainly for tactical use, such as the Kh-65SE and Kh-SD, but only the Kh-101 and Kh-555 appear to have been put into service. The Kh-55 was not the basis of the submarine and ground-launched S-10 Granat or RK-55 Relief (SS-N-21 "Sampson" and SSC-X-4 "Slingshot") designed by NPO Novator. The RK-55 is very similar to the air-launched Kh-55 (AS-15 "Kent") but the Kh-55 has a drop-down turbofan engine and was designed by MKB Raduga.

Development[edit]

In the late 1960s, the "Ekho" study conducted by the GosNIIAS institute concluded that it would be more effective to deploy many small, subsonic cruise missiles than the much more expensive supersonic missiles then in favour.[7] Work started at the Raduga bureau on an air-launched cruise missile in 1971, with a first test flight in 1976.[8] The appearance of the US Air Force's AGM-86 ALCM in that year gave further impetus to the programme, with the Soviet Air Force issuing a formal requirement for a new air-launched cruise missile in December 1976.[7] The longer-range Kh-55SM was developed a few years after the original went into service. In the late 1980s work began on a replacement missile with either conventional (Kh-101/X-101) or nuclear (Kh-102) warheads[6] and greater stealth. It was designed by Igor Seleznyev of Raduga.[4] The importance of advanced missiles as "force multipliers" increased as Russia's fleet of available cruise-missile bombers declined in the early 1990s.[9] The cancellation of the ambitious Kh-90 ramjet missile due to INF Treaty in 1987 led to a renewed emphasis on improving the Kh-55, in particular to achieve the <20 m accuracy required to hit infrastructure targets with conventional – as opposed to nuclear – warheads. The first flight of the Kh-101 was in 1998, and evaluation trials started in 2000.[6]

After the end of the Cold War and anti-proliferation treaties restricting the deployment of long-range nuclear missiles, the Russians made efforts to develop tactical versions of the Kh-55 with conventional warheads. First came the 600 km-range Kh-65SE (derived from the Kh-55) announced in 1992, then the 300 km-range Kh-SD tactical version of the Kh-101 for export, and finally the Kh-555.[3] In 2001 the Russian Air Force are believed to have selected the Kh-101 and Kh-555 for development.[3]

A 1995 Russian document suggested that a complete production facility had been transferred to Shanghai, for the development of a nuclear-armed cruise missile. Originally it was thought that this was based on the 300 km-range Raduga Kh-15 (AS-16 "Kickback"), but it now appears that it was the Kh-55 that was transferred to China.[10]

Kh-101/102 (X-101/102)[edit]

Kh-101 launch by Tu-160 in Syria

Kh-101/102 is the latest development of the Kh-55, incorporating a low radar cross-section of about 0.01 square meters.[11] The Kh-101/102 is specifically designed for air-launch, abandoning the circular fuselage cross-section of the Kh-55 for a nose and forward fuselage section aerodynamically shaped to produce lift. It is 7.45 m (24.4 ft) long with a launch weight of 2,200–2,400 kg (4,900–5,300 lb), and is equipped with a 400 kg (880 lb) high-explosive, penetrating, or cluster warhead, or a 250 kt nuclear warhead for the Kh-102. The missile is powered by a TRDD-50A turbojet producing 450 kgf of thrust to cruise at 700–720 km/h (Mach 0.57 – Mach 0.59) with a maximum speed of 970 km/h (Mach 0.79) while flying 30–70 m above the ground, and hit fixed targets using a pre-downloaded digital map for terrain following and GLONASS/INS for trajectory correction to achieve accuracy of 6–10 meters; it is claimed to be able to hit small moving targets such as vehicles using a terminal electro-optical sensor or imaging infrared system. Range estimates vary from 2,000 km (1,200 mi), to 4,500–5,500 km (2,800–3,400 mi), with a flight endurance of 10 hours. The missiles are equipped with an onboard EW defence system as of late 2018.[12][13][14][15][16]

The Tu-95MS can carry eight of the weapons on four under-wing pylons, and the Tu-160 can be outfitted with two drum launchers each loaded with six missiles, but the smaller Tu-22M3 will continue to carry the Kh-55, although it can also carry the Kh-101/Kh-102. Long range is essential since Russia has few bases abroad and cannot provide distant fighter escorts.

The first tests were conducted in 1995 and the missile was accepted for service in 2012.[17] The Kh-101 missile is estimated to cost US$13 million.[18]

Design[edit]

R-95-300 turbofan

The original Kh-55 was powered by a drop-down, Ukrainian-made 400 kgf Motor Sich JSC R95-300 turbofan engine, with pop-out wings for cruising efficiency. The Kh-65SE version had a fixed external turbojet engine, while the Kh-SD had its engine inside the body of the missile. Production versions in 2013 were equipped with the increased-power 450 kgf Russian-made NPO Saturn TRDD-50A engine.[19]

The missile can be launched from both high and low altitudes, and flies at subsonic speeds at low levels (under 110 m/300 ft altitude). After launch, the missile's folded wings, tail surfaces and engine deploy. It is guided through a combination of an inertial guidance system plus a terrain contour-matching guidance system which uses radar and images stored in the memory of an onboard computer to find its target. This allows the missile to guide itself to the target with a high degree of accuracy.

In the nuclear role, Kh-55 carries a 200 kilotonnes of TNT (840 TJ) warhead designated TK66, with a warhead weight of 130 kilograms (290 lb). The mass-size simulator for the warhead is designated KTS-120-12.[20]

Operational history[edit]

A Tu-160 bomber launching a Kh-101 cruise missile against targets in Syria, November 2015

The original Kh-55 entered service on 31 December 1983.[21] The Kh-55SM followed in 1987.[8] The conventionally armed Kh-55SE was flight tested on 13 January 2000, and first used in exercises over the Black Sea 17–22 April 2000.[22] The Kh-555 is thought to have entered service in 2004, the first pictures of the Kh-101 appeared in 2007.[23][24]

The Kh-55 can be carried by the Tu-95MS (NATO "Bear-H")[8] and Tu-142M (NATO "Bear-F"),[8] and the Kh-55SM is carried by the Tupolev Tu-160 "White Swan" (NATO "Blackjack").[8] Sixteen Kh-55's can be carried by the Tu-95MS16 variant, ten on underwing hardpoints and six on an MKU-5-6 rotary launcher.[24] The missile was also tested on the Tu-22M (NATO "Backfire") bombers.[8]

The Kh-SD tactical version was to have been carried by the Tu-95MS (fourteen missiles) and the Tu-22M (eight missiles).[3] The Kh-101 is expected to be carried by the Tu-160 (twelve missiles), Tu-95MS16 (eight missiles), Tu-22M3 (four missiles) and Su-34 (two missiles).[6]

The end of the Cold War left Ukraine with 1,612 Kh-55s, part of the armament of the 19 Tu-160s of the 184th Heavy Bomber Regiment at Pryluky and the 25 Tu-95MSs of the 182nd Heavy Bomber Regiment at Uzin-Shepelovka.[25] It was reported that Ukraine demanded US$3 billion for the return of the planes and their missiles to Russia.[25] In October 1999, a compromise was reached that saw Russia pay US$285 million for eight Tu-160 and three Tu-95MS bombers and 575 Kh-55 cruise missiles,[25] while the rest were meant to be destroyed under U.S.-led Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction programme.[26] However, in March 2005 Ukraine's prosecutor-general Sviatoslav Piskun said that in 2001, twelve Kh-55s had been exported to Iran in a deal said to be worth US$49.5 million,[27] and an additional six Kh-55s were exported to China.[26] In March 2015, Iran subsequently revealed the existence of the Soumar cruise missile.[28]

Syrian Civil War[edit]

In the course of the Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War on 17 November 2015, Russian Defence Ministry reported that Tupolev Tu-95MS and Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers launched a total of 34 air-launched cruise missiles against 14 ISIL targets in Syria.[29][30] While the Tu-95MS used the Kh-55 cruise missiles,[31] the Tu-160 were equipped with the stealthy Kh-101 variant in their first combat use.[30][32][33][34]

Video showing Russian Tu-95MS launching Kh-101 cruise missiles in September 2017 at targets in northern Syria.

Russian news agency TASS reported on 17 November 2016 that modernized Tu-95MS armed with Kh-555 and Kh-101 air-launched cruise missiles had launched airstrikes against targets described as terrorist in Syria.[35][36]

On 17 February 2017, Tu-95MS strategic bombers, flying from the Russian territory through the airspace of Iran and Iraq, attacked purported ISIL facilities near the Syrian city of Raqqa with the Kh-101 cruise missiles. The targets included purported militant camps and training centers as well as a command center of a major ISIL unit.[citation needed] Russian Tu-95MS long-range bombers struck ISIL targets in Syria again on 5 July 2017, at a range of about 1,000 kilometers.[37][better source needed] On 26 September 2017, Russia's Tu-95MS strategic bombers carried out further missile strikes with Kh-101 on ISIL and the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda (now known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) in the provinces of Idlib and Deir Ezzor.[38]

2022 invasion of Ukraine[edit]

Kh-101 shot on 26 January 2023 in Vinnytsia Oblast of Ukraine

The Kh-101 has been used extensively in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. US Department of Defense sources claimed that they experienced a not-insignificant failure rate: "either they're failing to launch, or they're failing to hit the target, or they're failing to explode on contact.".[2] Ukraine at War: Paving the Road from Survival to Victory,[39] a July 2022 study published by the UK Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) for Defense and Security Studies, agreeing, according to testimonies from Ukrainian military specialists and inspection of missile components, saying "Briefings by the Pentagon have reported that a large number of Russian cruise missiles fail to either find their targets or malfunction and crash in flight. As far as Ukrainian military scientists can determine, this is actually quite rare."

On 6 March 2022, about eight Kh-101 cruise missiles launched by Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic bombers from over the Black Sea targeted the Havryshivka Vinnytsia International Airport.[40]

On 14 September 2022, Ukrainian MoD reported Russian forces used eight Kh-101 cruise missiles, probably from Tu-95MS bombers, to target various hydraulic structures in Kryvyi Rih. This caused the water level of the Inhulets river to rise sharply.[41] Previously it was reported that Kh-22 missiles had been used.[42]

The UK Ministry of Defence said in November 2022 that it appeared that Russian forces, due to very much depleted weapons stores, were firing old AS-15 Kent cruise missiles with the nuclear warheads apparently replaced by inert ballast, hoping merely to distract Ukrainian air defenses.[43] However the missiles can still pose a serious risk due to their kinetic energy and any unspent fuel left in the missile that might explode.[44]

Ukrainian Kh-55 nuclear missiles that had been transferred to Russia as part of a weapons-for-gas trade in 1999 were found to have been fired at Ukraine after Russian forces replaced their warheads with ballast, as dummy missiles used to overwhelm Ukrainian air defences.[45][46][47][48]

A Kh-55 missile with a ballast warhead, launched over Belarus on 16 December 2022, diverted course and fell in Poland, in a forest 15 km west of Bydgoszcz after having crossed around 500 km of Polish territory.[49][50][51] According to Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki, it was detected by Polish and allied radars, however the missile was accidentally found only on 22 April 2023 and the incident was revealed a couple of days later.[49] It is not clear, if its fall in Poland, near aviation repair works in Bydgoszcz, engaged in military aid for Ukraine, was caused by a technical failure of an old missile, or was a provocation.[49]

During the events of the 29 December 2023 Russian strikes on Ukraine Kh-101s were seen deploying decoy flares.[52]

Variants[edit]

  • Kh-55 (NATO "Kent-A", RKV-500A, Izdeliye 120) - original model with 2,500 km range.
  • Kh-55-OK - with optical guidance.
  • Kh-55SM (NATO "Kent-B", RKV-500B, Izdeliye 121) - with extra fuel tanks to extend range to 3000 km.
  • Kh-101/102 (Izdeliye 111) - developed as a stealthy replacement for the Kh-55SM in the late 1990s, the Kh-101 has a conventional warhead and the Kh-102 is thermonuclear.[6] This missile weighs some 2,200 - 2,400 kg, the weight of warhead is 400–450 kg. According to reports, the Kh-101 has a maximum range of 4500–5500 km[53] and a variable flight profile at altitudes ranging from 30 – 70 m to 6000 m, a cruising speed of 190–200 m/s and a maximum speed of 250–270 m/s. The missile is equipped with an electro-optical system for correcting the flight trajectory and with a TV guidance system for terminal guidance.[6][54] Its official range is 4,500 km or 3,000 km with a conventional payload. It is re-targetable.[55] The missiles are expected to be accurate within 10–20 m CEP.[53] They are expected to be in service in required numbers by 2023. The new missile complex has been successfully tested and in recent years put into series production[56] to equip modernized Tu-160[57] and Tu-95MSM bombers.[citation needed] During the war in Ukraine, starting in January 2023, Russia made use of a Kh-101 air-launched version, that release decoy flares in flight.[58]
  • Kh-65SE - tactical version announced in 1992 with 410 kg conventional warhead and restricted to the 600 km range[8] limit (expired on 2.8.2019) of the INF treaty.
  • Kh-55/65SD (средней дальности Srednei Dalnosti - "Medium Range") - 300 km range conventional version announced in 1995, possibly for export. Shared components with the Kh-101, range reportedly increased to 600 km with a high-altitude approach, but the Kh-SD was apparently shelved in 2001.[3] An alternative active radar seeker was proposed for anti-shipping use.
  • Kh-555 (NATO "Kent-C", Kh-55SE, Kh-55Sh)[8] - conventionally armed version with an improved guidance system and warhead. It became operational in 2000.[22] Entered service in 2004.[23]
  • Kh-BD conventional and nuclear armed version with said range up to 3000 km or greater, near or more than 5000 km range.[59] The missile entered service in September 2023 on Tu-160 (12 missiles each). Its range was reported to be over 6,500 km.[60][61][62]
  • Kh-50 or Kh-SD new stealthy short to medium (300 to 1500–1900 km) ranges and conventional (or also nuclear) variant (somewhat analogue of AGM-158 JASSM). Length: 6m, uses inertial/GLONASS/DSMAC guidance.[63][64]
  • Soumar - Missile likely derived from the Kh-55 produced by Iran.

It was believed originally that the RK-55 (SSC-X-4 "Slingshot" and SS-N-21 "Sampson") were land- and submarine-launched derivatives of the Kh-55, but it is now known that the Kh-55 is different from the other two as its motor drops down below the missile during flight.[8]

Operators[edit]

Current operators[edit]

Former operators[edit]

See also[edit]

  • 3M-54 Kalibr – developed from the Kh-55
  • RK-55 – so similar to the Kh-55 it was long believed in the West to be merely a sub-/surface-launched version
  • AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile – 1430 kg missile with 2400+ km range, Mach 0.73
  • AGM-129 ACM (Advanced Cruise Missile – stealthy 1330 kg missile with 3700 km range) (decommissioned)
  • Ra'ad ALCM - Comparable Pakistani missile of similar operational history
  • BGM-109 Tomahawk – surface/sub- launched, but otherwise similar to the Kh-55
  • Nirbhay (India) – Nirbhay is an all-weather low-cost medium-range cruise missile
  • CJ-10 – Chinese land-attack cruise missile, believed to have incorporated elements from the Kh-55
  • Soumar – Iranian land-attack cruise missile
  • Babur missile Pakistani missile

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The cyrillic letter "Kha" is in English transcribed as either Kh or X, so Kh series missiles may appear in some texts as X-55, X-65, X-101 and so on.

References[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

  • Gordon, Yefim (2004). Soviet/Russian Aircraft Weapons Since World War Two. Hinckley, England: Midland Publishing. ISBN 1-85780-188-1.
  • Healey, John K. (January–February 2004). "Retired Warriors: "Cold War" Bomber Legacy". Air Enthusiast. No. 109. pp. 75–79. ISSN 0143-5450.

External links[edit]