Cruise missiles

 Cruise missiles in the Asia-Pacific region

Byline: Guy Martin / Johannesburg

Over a dozen Asian nations have cruise missiles in their inventories and several of them – notably China, India, Taiwan and Pakistan – have indigenous production capabilities. Although many nations possess anti-ship cruise missiles similar to the US Harpoon, a growing number are fielding advanced land attack systems.

Cruise missiles give countries political and military influence disproportionate to their size. Indeed, cruise missiles are no longer the domain of the great powers and the proliferation of them is something many analysts consider to be more of a concern than the proliferation of ballistic missiles, due to their affordability, relative ease of use, availability and accuracy. Cruise missiles require less maintenance and operator training than aircraft and are comparatively cheap and reliable. Because of their relatively small size, they can be launched from a wide variety of platforms – even shipping containers. It is therefore not surprising that the number of cruise missiles in the Asia-Pacific region is on the rise. Proliferation is being hastened by the regional tensions between India and Pakistan, China and Taiwan and North and South Korea.


India has long been a client for Soviet weapon systems and has several Russian-made cruise missiles in its inventory, such as the Kh-35 Uran/3M-24 (SS-N-25 Switchblade), Kh-31 (AS-17 Krypton) and 3M-54 Club (SS-N-27 Sizzler). India has also partnered with Russia to jointly develop and produce the export version of the SS-N-26 (3M55 Oniks/Yakhont), resulting in the PJ-10 or Brahmos. In 1998 Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) created the Brahmos Aerospace joint venture to develop the weapon.

Brahmos is launched with a rocket engine and is then powered by a ramjet, giving it a top speed of Mach 2.8. The 3.9 ton, 8.4 metre long missile can fly as low as 10 metres above the surface and is armed with a 200 kg warhead for the ship/land-based variant and a 300 kg warhead for the air-launched version. Brahmos has a range of 290 km, which was imposed to comply with Missile Technology Control Regime restrictions, to which Russia is a signatory.

Brahmos was first test fired in June 2001. India is busy trialling improved versions of the missile with better guidance systems and software, and recently fired a steep dive Block III version (for use in mountainous terrain) from a transporter erector launcher at the end of March. The air- and submarine-launched versions of the missile are in development, with an underwater launch scheduled for later this year.

The Indian Navy inducted the system in 2005 aboard the INS Rajput, while the Army introduced the Block I missile in June 2007. Brahmos is now fully operational with two regiments of the Indian Army, while another regiment will soon accept the weapon for deployment along the border with China in Arunachal Pradesh. India has plans to install Brahmos on a number of platforms, including Rajput destroyers, Kolkata destroyers, Shivalik frigates, Talwar frigates, Kilo submarines, Il-38SD and Tu-142M maritime patrol aircraft and Su-30MKI fighters. India is expected to receive around a thousand Brahmos missiles over the next decade while another thousand will be exported.

Russia and India are working on a follow-on to the Brahmos. The Brahmos 2 will be able to fly faster than Mach 5, making it the fastest cruise missile in the world. It will be very similar in size and shape to the first generation and is intended to be compatible with those launchers. It is estimated that it will only be around five years before the missile is produced, when it will arm India’s future destroyers and frigates.

For more than five years the DRDO has been developing the Nirbhay long range cruise missile, which will be available in ground-, submarine- and air-launched versions and carry a payload of around 450 kg. Launch is via a rocket, with a turbojet providing subsonic delivery to the target. Range of the INS/GPS-guided weapon is estimated to be around 800-1 000 km. Nirbhay will complement the shorter range Brahmos. Testing is expected to commence early this year.


Across the border, Pakistan has, with Chinese help, obtained a stockpile of nuclear-capable Hatf-7/Babur land-attack cruise missiles, which were developed in response to events in India, and assisted by the recovery of two nearly intact Tomahawks in southern Pakistan in 1998. Work began in the 1990s and serial production commenced in October 2005.

Launched by a solid fuel rocket booster, the Babur is powered by a turbojet engine giving a speed of Mach .8. Guidance is via a combination of INS/terrain contour matching and GPS. The weapon can be launched from land, sea or submarines. Strike range is 500-700 km.

Pakistan’s National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) has also developed the Ra’ad/Hatf 8 air-launched cruise missile. It is not an air-launched version of Babur but a new design capable of carrying nuclear or conventional warheads. The first announced test launch took place in August 2007 aboard a Mirage IIIEA, with several test firings taking place over the next three years. Range is estimated to be around 350 km, against land and ship targets. Guidance is believed to be via GPS and infrared using terrain matching techniques.


China is a big cruise missile user – its preoccupation with such weapons reflecting its earlier lack of aircraft capable of penetrating enemy air defences. It has prioritised land-based cruise and ballistic missile programmes and is expanding its stocks, developing dozens of models for both domestic use and export.

In 1985 China tested the X-600 turbojet powered cruise missile, which evolved into the turbofan-powered Hong Niao-1 (HN-1), development of which began in 1988. This later evolved into the longer-range (1 500 km) HN-2, which was believed to have been tested in 1995 or 1997. The Hong Niao-3 (HN-3) is thought to be a stealthier, more accurate HN-2 model with a range of 2 500 km. It was successfully tested in August 2004 and later entered service with the People’s Liberation Army. China is working on the Hong Niao-2000 (HN-2000) next generation cruise missile, apparently equipped with advanced navigation technologies for pinpoint accuracy (1-3 metres). The missile will feature stealth technologies, a supersonic terminal flight phase and a range of several thousand kilometres.

The DongHai 10 (DH-10)/ChangJian-10 (CJ-10) land attack cruise missile made its public debut in October 2009. Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), it is a conventional or nuclear land attack cruise missile with integrated inertial navigation system, GPS and terrain contour and scene mapping guidance. Range may be around 4 000 km. It is believed that several hundred have been deployed, but very little is known about this important weapon system.

China has a long history of local cruise missile development, particularly with regard to anti-ship weapons. In 1959 the Soviet Union supplied China with P-15/SS-N-2 Styx missiles, which were manufactured under license as the SY-1/CSS-N-1 Scrubbrush. In the 1960s China developed the missile into the Hai Ying-1 (HY-1/CSSC-2 Silkworm/CSS-N-2 Safflower) and later the improved HY-2/C-201/CSSC-3 Seersucker. From this family emerged the turbojet-powered HY-4/CSSC-7 Sadsack and air-launched YJ-6/C-601/CAS-1 Kraken. The YJ-61/C-611 is an upgraded, extended range version, which entered service in 1990. China also produced the HY-3/C-301/CSSC-6 Sawhorse and YJ-16/C-101/CSSC-5 Saples missiles. The latter had, by 2005 been replaced by the C-801 and C-802.

China developed the YJ-6 into the KD-63 (Kong Di-63)/YJ-63 air-launched cruise missile, which emerged into open view in 2005. It was most likely the first indigenous long-range airborne standoff weapon to be fielded by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and incorporated systems such as electro-optical seeker and datalink.

The C-801/C-802 series of missiles, developed in the 1980s, are some of the most important in China’s anti-ship cruise missile arsenal. The YJ-1/YJ-8/C-801 was approved for service in 1987 as a surface-launched anti-ship missile (CSS-N-4 Sardine). The subsonic missile has a range of 45 km while the YJ-81 version has a range of 80 km.

The anti-ship YJ-2/YJ-82 (C-802)/CSSC-8/CSS-N-8 Saccade was first seen in 1989 and is based on the YJ-1/C-801 but replaced the solid propellant rocket with a turbojet. Believed to have entered service in 1994, the YJ-2 has a 165 kg warhead and a range of 130 km. Improved versions are the YJ-21 (180 km range) and YJ-22 (400 km range). The recently unveiled C-802AKG air-launched weapon has a range of 220-250 km.

The YJ-83 (C-803) is a more modern supersonic version of the YJ-82, apparently having a range of 150-250 km. It can be launched from the air, ships and submarine torpedo tubes. JH-7 aircraft equipped with the YJ-83 provides China with a power-projection capability of more than 1 900 km – more than enough to cross the Taiwan Strait.

The KongDi-88 (KD-88) air-launched land attack cruise missile was developed from the C-802 family and unveiled in 2006 under the export designation C-802KD. Powered by a turbojet engine, the missile can deliver a 164 kg warhead at Mach .9 over a distance of around 180-200 km.

Some of China’s other cruise missiles include the C-701, C-704, C-705 and turbojet-powered YJ-62 (C-602). This has a reported range of 280 km, a cruise altitude of 30 m and a 300 kg warhead. It debuted in public in 2006 and, although an anti-ship missile, has a land attack capability as well.

In addition to developing its own weapons, China has a number of Russian cruise missiles in service, including the 600 km range Kh-65SE and Kh-41 Moskit (SS-N-22 Sunburn) supersonic sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missile, which has a range of 250 km. The Moskits were procured together with the two Sovremenny destroyers purchased from Russia. In addition, the 3M-54 Club (SS-N-27 Sizzler) is placed on China’s Kilo-class submarines. Ukraine apparently exported 3 000 km range nuclear capable Kh-55 (AS-15 Kent) missiles to China.


Taiwan faces what is probably the most severe land attack cruise missile threat of any country, with hundreds of Chinese cruise weapons pointed at it. For its part, Taiwan possesses the Wan Chien air-launched conventional land attack cruise missile, which was developed in response to the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis. The 240 km range turbojet-powered missile can be used against both ground and ship targets and launched from the air. Mass production will start in around 2014.

Wan Chien is one of a number of indigenous weapons systems, including the Tien Chien IIA anti-radiation missile and Hsiung Feng series of anti-ship missiles. Starting with the Hsiung Feng I, Taiwan developed the 80-160 km range turbojet-powered Hsiung Feng 2, which entered service in the early 1990s. The Hsiung Feng 3 is a ramjet-powered supersonic cruise missile aimed at ship and land-based targets. The ramjet powered weapon gives a speed of around Mach 2.5 while cruising at between 20 and 200 metres altitude. The +/- 150 km range missile has been in development since 1995 and is believed to have entered service in 2008.

Development of the Hsiung Feng 2E (HF-2E) ground-launched conventional land attack missile was first reported in 2001 and production confirmed in late 2010, with several hundred being planned to be built. The missile has a range of 600+ km and is reportedly powered by a turbofan, and carries a 500 kg warhead. Guidance is thought to be through INS, GPS and terrain matching with imaging infrared terminal guidance.


Japan has developed several indigenous cruise missiles, starting in the 1970s with the air-launched ASM-1 (Type 80) anti-ship weapon. It entered service with the Japan Air Self Defence Force in 1982 and is powered by a solid rocket/turbojet, giving a range of 50 km. The ASM-1 was developed into the ASM-1C (Type 91), which is lighter and has an extended 65 km range. It entered service in 1994. The ground-launched version is designated SSM-1 (Type 88) while the ship-launched variant is called the SSM-1B (Type 90). The ASM-1 series has been supplemented by the newer ASM-2 (Type 93), in production from 1993, which features a turbojet engine and new imaging infrared seeker. This air-launched cruise missile has a 150 kg or 225 kg warhead and a maximum range of 100 km. The Type 96 variant features various upgrades and entered service in 1997.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is developing the stealthy ASM-3/SSM-2 as a successor to the ASM-2 and SSM-1 for use against ship and land targets. The new missile has a solid rocket propellant/ramjet motor and a range of more than 200 km. It reportedly has dual-mode imaging infrared and active radar seekers.


Due to American restrictions limiting the production of its own ballistic missiles, South Korea has placed a heavy emphasis on developing long-range cruise missiles to defend against its northern neighbour. In the late 1990s South Korea began developing the ASM/SSM-700K Hae Seong ground, ship, air and submarine-launched anti-ship missile. The turbojet-powered weapon was ordered into production in 2006, with an initial order for 100 for deployment aboard KDX-II and KDX-III destroyers. The Hae Seong has a range of around 150 km.

In October 2006 South Korea first test fired a new land attack cruise missile designated Hyunmoo 3 (ground launch) and Cheon Ryong (for maritime deployment). Designed by the Agency for Defence Development, it had an initial range of 500 km, but the Hyunmoo 3B has a range of 1 000 km and the Hyunmoo 3C a range of 1 500 km, enabling it to target all of North Korea’s territory. The subsonic, turbofan-powered missile has a payload of 500 kg, with terrain matching/inertial/GPS guidance. Production began in 2009, with deployment along the borders and on KDX-3 destroyers.

In December last year Korean media reported that the government had set aside 388 billion won (US$343 million) to buy 177 stealthy standoff cruise missiles and will this year select between the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) and Germany’s Taurus, for use aboard its F-15Ks and F-16Ks. Seoul could deploy the first weapons in late 2013.

North Korea has a varied cruise missile capability but its anti-ship cruise missile arsenal is not a great threat to South Korea’s navy as it mainly comprises of several Styx variants, including the land-based SSC-2B Samlet and HY-1/CSSC-2 Silkworm or HY-2/CSSC-3 Seersucker. Pyongyang has the ability to produce the HY-2 as well as the locally developed, extended range AG-1.


Under Air 5418 Phase 1 Australia is purchasing Lockheed Martin’s AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile and in March 2006 selected the JASSM to equip the Royal Australian Air Force’s F/A-18 Hornets, after eliminating the Boeing AGM-84H/K Stand-Off Land Attack Missile – Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) and Taurus KEPD 350.

The JASSM is a stealthy standoff cruise missile being developed for the US Air Force. Although development began in 1995, service entry was delayed until 2009 due to several failures during testing, notably because of problems with the GPS guidance system. The AGM-158A is powered by a Teledyne CAE J402 turbojet, giving a subsonic cruising speed and a range of 370 km (230 miles). Guidance is via inertial navigation with GPS updates, with target recognition and terminal homing via an imaging infrared seeker. Thanks to a datalink, it can strike relocatable targets. The warhead is a WDU-42/B 450 kg penetrator. Netherlands and Finland have also selected the JASSM.

A number of other nations in the Asia-Pacific have invested in cruise missile capabilities, but are limited to anti-ship weapons. Bangladesh, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam all have anti-ship cruise missiles, including the C-801, C-802, AGM-84 Harpoon, HY-2, Exocet, Gabriel, Kh-31, Kh-35, Kh-41 and Kh-59.

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