For the first time the missile was fired directly from its container outfitted with short guides. After liftoff, the missile's wings automatically deployed in flight. The new launch method made it possible to eliminate weapon system assembly operations, typical of the P-10 domestically produced missile system and Regulus, its foreign counterpart operational at that time, on board the submarine. By virtue of this engineering innovation, the number of missiles carried by submarines was considerably increased, their maintenance became much simpler and combat readiness of the entire "submarine - weapon" system became higher. It is basically these features that allowed the missile to win a competition between various designs. The system entered service with a group of submarines and became one of the first and powerful weapons capable of performing strategic missions in ocean theaters of operations. Later, the engineering solutions incorporated in the missile system were recognized by domestic and foreign rocket builders as classical, without which one cannot even imagine further development and wide use of cruise missiles by armed forces worldwide.
On the basis of the advanced engineering solutions and other fundamentally new approaches incorporated in the P-5 missile, the MBR&PA developed several generations of cruise missiles which actually made a revolution in Russia's Navy and its armament. All of them featured such unique qualities as supersonic speed and powerful "smart" warheads adequately protected both in flight and on board their platforms. The missiles developed in Moscow suburb of Reutovo were equipping all domestic submarines - antiship missile system carriers - and most of surface fleet combatants, including nuclear-powered cruiser Pyotr Veliky and heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov, Russian Navy's flagship.
Major advances in the development of previous-generation weapon systems, combined with the latest scientific and technological achievements made in Russia's defense industry, have enabled the MBR&PA headed by Gerbert Yefremov, General Designer, to start developing the fourth-generation antiship missiles.
The Yakhont-type antiship missile is designed to combat naval surface-ship groupings and single ships under heavy fire and electronic counteraction.
The missile is noted for:
- over-the-horizon range;
- true "fire-and-forget" performance;
- flexible flight path ("low", "high - low");
- supersonic speed at all flight phases;
- multi-platform capability permitting their use by surface ships of all major classes, submarines and ground-based launchers.
Capabilities of the Yakhont antiship missile
1. Preliminary targeting
2. Launch phase
3. Acceleration and ascent
4. High-altitude cruise phase
5. Diving phase
6. Seeker head activation and acquisition of target
7. Descent and low-altitude flight
8. Seeker head repeated activation
and missile homing
The parameters and performance characteristics given in Table 1 have become technically feasible due to the application of an array of unique design solutions and technology-intensive components and, above all, a supersonic ramjet sustainer motor, capable of operating in a broad range of speeds and altitudes, a noise-adaptive radar homing head, and a powerful onboard computer.
In the development of the missile, designers made use of a system approach, where different components, producing different output parameters, were integrated into a complex, well-tuned system capable of accomplishing its dedicated purpose with maximum efficiency. For the missile's capabilities, refer to the Figure.
Due to the Yakhont's short flying time (its speed is 2.5 times greater than the speed of sound) and the long effective range of its seeker head, the targeting of the missile need not be very accurate.
The ability to observe the entire target area from a high altitude, augmented by the enhanced capabilities of the antiship missile control system, make it possible to cue missiles to hostile ships in a group and discriminate false targets.
After launch, Yakhont's early descent to a low altitude, combined with its supersonic speed and seaskimming flight mode in the homing phase, make it possible to avoid detection and tracking of the missile by even the target's most sophisticated air defense systems.
The missiles's compactness and maintainability on board its platform are not the least important factors determining its appearance. First of all it can be explained by the missiles's unique construction unrivaled in terms of the degree of integration of components. Basically, the entire missile - from the nose air intake to the nozzle exit section - is a propulsion plant arranged in an airframe. Except for the intake bullet, where the control system and warhead are arranged, all of the missile's internal spaces, including the ramjet motor air duct, are filled with sustainer motor propellant and accommodate the built-in solid-propellant booster stage. The missile is enclosed in a sealed launch-container. The fact that there is almost no clearance between the missile's fuselage and internal surfaces of the launch-container indicates that the degree of integration of components is very high. The missile size provides for a two- or three-fold increase in the number of the missiles carried on board a platform.
The launch-container is an integral part of the missile system. The missile is dispatched from the manufacturing plant, shipped, stored and delivered to the user in its launch-container ready for use at all times. The missile's systems check-out is made without removing the weapon from its launch-container.
The launch-container, with the missile in it, is very simple to operate and maintain. It requires neither any liquid or gas for maintenance nor specific microclimate for storage and on board its carrier. All this simplifies operation and maintenance procedures and enhances the weapon's reliability.
As the missile's basic features encompass the use of a launch-container, a wide range of launch angles and an advanced firing method which does not require flame deflectors, the missile can easily be blended into the architecture of various platforms. It should be noted here that launchers of different designs can be used: very simple rack launchers intended for installation on low-tonnage vessels of the "guided-missile boat - corvette" class or vertical-launch modular systems designed for installation on large-displacement surface ships, i.e. frigates, destroyers and cruisers.
In addition to the well-known inclined and vertical installation methods applied to submarine- and ground-based antiship missiles, some innovative basing and launching methods have emerged for which Yakhont is quite suitable.
We can say with confidence that no one antiship missile system currently in service elsewhere in the world possesses such an array of unique technical and operational characteristics as Yakhont. Taking into account current trends in the development of the navies in the world, this fact is of paramount importance.
Due to economic reasons, since the early 1990s, most countries have been giving preference in their naval development plans to the procurement and construction of limited-displacement ships.
As a consequence, the requirements for combat effectiveness of their weapons systems have become more exacting and the process of replacing old-generation antiship missiles with new ones, where the first-generation subsonic missiles will be replaced with supersonic systems featuring a longer firing range and higher effectiveness, is associated with this trend and, according to forecasts, is likely to commence at the beginning of the 21st century. We can affirm that, owing to the unique characteristics of the Yakhont missile, even light warships armed with it will be able to perform missions that before could only be handled by large combatants.
Thus, we have good undertakings for the future and all reason to believe that the Yakhont antiship missile system will appear on the foreign market. Operators can rely on this system as it will ensure high operational effectiveness of their warships and security of sea borders.
The Oniks missile has a typical Russian appearance, with folded delta wings in the middle and tail surfaces right behind them. The missile presently carries only a conventional penetration warhead, weighing 300 kg. It is propelled by a ramjet engine running on liquid fuel, with launch assisted by a solid-rocket booster. The missile flies on various trajectories up to an altitude of 20,000 m. Typically, it flies at 14,000 m at the high point of a high-low trajectory and at about 10-15 m at the low point of a low-low trajectory. Just before terminal engagement, the missile usually descends to 5-10 m. The maximum range is 300 km (high-low) or 120 km (low-low). At a distance of 60-80 km to the target the missile's radar switches on and searches for the target. As soon as the target is located, at a distance of about 25-30 km, the radar stops transmitting and works in passive mode only while the missile is directed into a computed point of intercept. Usually one out of every three missiles turns on its radar with the others being directed by the "leading" missile. There are also some other features that enhance the missile's air-defense-penetration capabilities. First of all, the missile is coated with radar-absorbent materials (RAM). The missile also has an onboard radar-warning receiver and analyzer, enabling it to initiate sharp maneuvers when necessary. The high speed of the missile - Mach 2.6 at high altitude and Mach 1.5-1.7 at low altitude - on the one hand helps in penetration of the enemy ship's air defenses, but on the other hand, it causes the missile to become aerodynamically heated, giving it a relatively high infrared signature.
The original export version, the Yakhont, was available starting in 1998. Since then, another export version has been under development called the PJ-10 Brahmos. It is a joint venture between Russia and India's Defense Research and Development Organization. The Brahmos is more or less a modified Oniks, adjusted to Indian requirements. Russia invested $122 million in the program, while India allocated $128 million. The first launch of the Brahmos missile took place in June 2001. The most recent test was conducted on February 13, 2003. After the trials, Indian sources claimed that a salvo of nine Brahmos missiles could destroy a group of three frigates under any conditions. According to some unconfirmed sources, the Brahmos will be used onboard India's newly built Shivalik-class frigates (also known as the P-17 project). The Brahmos differs from the Russian missile mainly in that it is launched vertically, whereas the Russian Yakhont is launched from angled launchers. A land-attack version of the Brahmos is also said to be planned.
The missile is powered by a ramjet-type, liquid-fuel sustainer and a solid-rocket booster, which is used in the first seconds of flight. The missile's range is 300 km (high-low profile) or 120 km (low profile. These ranges include maneuvers, so theoretically a missile could reach longer distances if it flew directly. The missile's speed is Mach 2.3 at high altitude and Mach 1.5 at low altitude. The passive radar mode enables the missile to detect active jamming sources and use them for homing. This and other features of the missile's radar seeker make it very ECM resistant.