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Russia Follows China's Lead on Hypersonic Anti-Ship Missiles

PLA Rocket Force
Chinese PLA Rocket Force anti-ship missile launchers for the DF-26 ASBM system (PLA file image)

Published Jul 12, 2022 12:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

Russia's state media is putting a new spotlight on efforts to develop an anti-ship ballistic missile for coastal defense. It would be the first Russian weapon of its kind. 

According to state-owned outlet TASS, contractor NPO Mashinostroeniya - a division of JSC Tactical Missiles Corporation - is working on the Russian equivalent of China's "carrier-killer" ballistic missiles. 

The People's Liberation Army Rocket Force maintains two anti-ship ballistic missile types, the DF-21D and the longer-range DF-26. Both are designed to hit moving vessels at sea - a challenging task for a ballistic missile descending from space. This capability is a key component of Beijing's area-denial strategy for the East and South China Seas. Russia is interested in creating a similar system, potentially with a maneuverable payload.

"The 'Zmeevik' ["coil" or "serpentine"] ballistic missile with hypersonic combat equipment has been developed for quite a long time. It will be designed to destroy large surface targets, primarily aircraft carriers," a military source told TASS. 

NPO Mashinostroeniya would be well-qualified for the task. The firm is the developer of the P-800 Onyx, a high-supersonic anti-ship missile used often against ground targets in Ukraine. Mashinostroeniya is also the builder of the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, an ICBM-delivered payload which entered Russian service several years ago; the Avangard carries a nuclear warhead and maneuvers at a (claimed) speed of Mach 20-27 on reentry. 

U.S. intelligence and independent analyst assessments indicate that Russia is having difficulty sourcing components for precision-guided munitions due to sanctions, and is increasingly reliant on previous-generation missiles and secondary-use capabilities (like anti-ship missiles deployed against ground targets) for its war in Ukraine.