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  • Supersonic vs Subsonic antiship/cruise missiles

    The Soviets/Russians devoted considerable effort towards developing and fielding fast supersonic antishipping missiles, while the Nato countries stayed with subsonic antishipping missiles. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each philosophy. Did anyone have a clear superiority ?

  • #2
    From what I've read, the difference is the speed. Depending on the speed, there are 3 classifications.

    Subsonic: Subsonic missiles flies at a speed lesser than that of sound. It travels at a speed of around 0.8 Mach.

    Supersonic: Supersonic missiles travels at a speed of around 2-3 Mach.

    Hypersonic: Hypersonic missiles travel at a speed of more than 5 Mach.
    "Stand for the flag ~ Kneel for the fallen"

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    • #3
      I remember one discussion over the difference between missile design philosophies of the West and the former Soviets. I don't know if it was true, but the claim was that the East used supersonic missiles while the West stuck with the sub-sonic variety. The argument I recall was that the West focused on ECM, decoys, and other seductive defences. The fast missiles only needed to be distracted a slight bit and thus could not correct their courses thereby missing their targets.

      I wish that I could find the original discussion.
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      • #4
        If it were me considering delivering nuclear weapons to an adversary, I'd forgo potentially unreliable missile systems altogether, whether supersonic or sub sonic, and put my faith in the well-tried delivery systems of shipping containers, UPS and FedEx.


        Philip
        "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."— Bertrand Russell

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        • #5
          I'd hazard a guess that the Russians used supersonic missiles because they envisaged very long range engagements over the Atlantic. A launch range of 100 miles and a speed of 600mph means the target has 10 minutes to defeat the missile (and its launch platform). At 1,200mph you only have 5 minutes. That's quite an important difference
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          • #6
            Originally posted by PhilipLaos View Post
            If it were me considering delivering nuclear weapons to an adversary, I'd forgo potentially unreliable missile systems altogether, whether supersonic or sub sonic, and put my faith in the well-tried delivery systems of shipping containers, UPS and FedEx.


            Philip
            This is what Homeland Security has been focusing on with detectors and satellite tracking. Several ships from North Korea that were heading for the Eastern Mediterranean with suspect cargo have been detected and turned around or in one case mysteriously sank.
            http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/11/wo...a/11korea.html
            http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/...75C0PD20110613
            http://nz.news.yahoo.com/a/-/full-co...s-ship-report/
            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13747912
            http://news.webindia123.com/news/art...7/1064582.html

            Otherwise, it is sea skimming missile, stealth submersible drones, or railguns being used for ship to ship combat.
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            • #7
              My understanding is that the development of anti-ship supersonic missiles like the SSN-22 by the Soviet Union was a response to the development of Aegis (and Aegis-like) systems by the USN and its' allies.

              Prior to Aegis, Soviet naval doctrine for surface and air-to-surface missile combat was to launch an overwhelming number of missiles at the defender. The capabilities of Aegis to track and obtain a firing solution on a large number of targets simulaneously made such doctrine untenable, the number of missiles required for success would have been huge.

              As mentioned, supersonic missiles reduce the time for defenders to track, classify and target the missile. The trade off is the large size of the missile giving a larger radar cross section and the relatively short range, especially of early versions.

              Response to this has been the development of western equipment (most importantly, tracking and guidance systems) and doctrine to destroy the air-borne missile carrier before launch (seperation). Thus the deployment of long range anti-air warfare missiles such as the Standard family.
              Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Roadkiller View Post
                My understanding is that the development of anti-ship supersonic missiles like the SSN-22 by the Soviet Union was a response to the development of Aegis (and Aegis-like) systems by the USN and its' allies.
                Perhaps, but they've had high-speed missiles since well before the AEGIS system. The AS-4 is early-1960s and Mach 2 or Mach 4 depending on which source you believe (and I think it depends on what stage of its profile it's at - from what I gather it flies semibalistically, ascending from launch to maximum altitude of 22km, then descending on the target - it must gather quite a lot of speed in descent...)

                EDIT: Just been having a look through this site, very good on Russian anti-shipping missiles. http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-Rus-C...mozTocId478484
                My board games blog: The Brass Castle

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by The Land View Post
                  ...The AS-4 is early-1960s ...
                  So about the same time as development of the Aegis started? Bit of 'chicken and egg', so it's hard to say.
                  Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Herman Hum View Post
                    I remember one discussion over the difference between missile design philosophies of the West and the former Soviets. I don't know if it was true, but the claim was that the East used supersonic missiles while the West stuck with the sub-sonic variety. The argument I recall was that the West focused on ECM, decoys, and other seductive defences. The fast missiles only needed to be distracted a slight bit and thus could not correct their courses thereby missing their targets.

                    I wish that I could find the original discussion.
                    The contrary, Soviet, view was that supersonic meant less engagement time, less reaction time, less target movement. It also means in most cases that the firing platform can be further out for a realistic engagement.
                    This later is important in carrier killing when you have little means to close close to a carrier battle group with your launch platforms.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Roadkiller View Post
                      So about the same time as development of the Aegis started? Bit of 'chicken and egg', so it's hard to say.
                      AS-4 in service: 1962
                      Aegis programme initiated: 1964
                      Aegis in service: 1983

                      Pretty easy to say which is the chicken and which is the egg!
                      My board games blog: The Brass Castle

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                      • #12
                        Wasn't the 'Kitchen' originally designed to carry a nuclear warhead? Therefore it was intended to bust up carrier groups?

                        This makes the doctrine a bit different for this missile. You will only have a small number, but you only have to get one through. For the USSR, general ASuW was saturation.

                        But you're right, looks like my timeline is skewed
                        Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Slim View Post
                          The Soviets/Russians devoted considerable effort towards developing and fielding fast supersonic antishipping missiles, while the Nato countries stayed with subsonic antishipping missiles. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each philosophy. Did anyone have a clear superiority ?
                          The Soviet's, lacking aircraft carriers of their own relied on long-range missiles and satelite and MPA targeting. They had to in order to stay out of the reach of western carrier aircraft.

                          The problem with anti-ship missiles is the farther away the target is, the lower the chances of the missile finding and hitting its target. At beyond horizon ranges hit probabilities really fall off like a rock. The answer to the problem of long-range missile engagements was high speed. Quite simply this allowed the target less time to move out of the box the missile was fired into and the better chance the missile has to find and hit its target. The missiles were large because they had to be to carry the necessary propulsion and because the intended targets were large.

                          Disadvantages of supersonic missiles are large size, high cost, lack of sea-skimming capability and difficulty in re-engaging a target that is missed.

                          Western missiles like Exocet MM38 were designed primarily to deal with WP fast attack craft such as the Osa class missile boats. They need not be large or fast to do this. Harpoon was designed to be fired from the P-3 MPA to attack surfaced cruise-missile firing submarines (hence the name). Again, high speed and large size would not be a requirement. In the west the primary anti-ship weapon against the Soviet surface fleet was always seen as the carrier based Buccaneer, Super Etendard, A-6 and A-7 strike aircraft. Not much need then for big supersonic missiles. Western anti-aircraft missiles such as Tartar, Terrier, Standard, Sea Slug, Sea Dart and Masurca all had a secondary but very useful anti-ship capability at any rate.

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                          • #14
                            The newest technology is hypersonic, the U.S. has already conducted flight test last year.

                            U.S. tests hypersonic weapon

                            The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command launched the Advance Hypersonic Weapon (AHW), “a first-of-its-kind glide vehicle,” at 17:30 GMT Thursday from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii. It hit its designated target at the Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll, about 2,300 miles away.

                            The Army launched the AHW from the military's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai at about 1:30 a.m. local time.

                            The objective of the test is to collect data on hypersonic boost-glide technologies and test range performance for long-range atmospheric flight.

                            “The mission emphasis is aerodynamics; navigation, guidance, control and thermal protection technologies,” the Department of Defense said.

                            The AHW program is managed and executed by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the Army Forces Strategic Command program office in Huntsville, Ala.

                            http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20111118/168813926.html
                            "Stand for the flag ~ Kneel for the fallen"

                            "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer." ~ Bruce Lee

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                            • #15
                              The Russians want to develop a hypersonic bomber. They are concerned they may be falling behind the U.S. in hypersonic technology.


                              Deputy PM Repeats Call For Hypersonic Bomber

                              Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin repeated his appeal on Monday for Russia to develop a hypersonic aircraft for its PAK-DA long-range bomber requirement.

                              "I think we need to go down the route of hypersonic technology and we are moving in that direction and are not falling behind the Americans," he said on Rossiya 24 TV. "We will use this technology when developing a new bomber."

                              Long-range military aviation is vital to Russia and "the question is will we copy the Americans' forty-year experience and create a [Northrop] B-2 analog...or will we go down a new, ultramodern technology route, looking to the horizon, and create a machine able to penetrate air defenses and carry out a strike on any aggressor," he said.

                              Rogozin's latest comments come just days after a test of America's X-51 Waverider hypersonic unmanned test vehicle failed after a control fin broke up and the aircraft fell into the sea. The aim of the test was to prove Waverider could fly for around five minutes at hypersonic speed using a "scramjet" engine.

                              http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20120827/175461736.html
                              "Stand for the flag ~ Kneel for the fallen"

                              "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer." ~ Bruce Lee

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