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Kh-55

Air-launched cruise missile

Kh-55 missile

The Kh-55 was patterned after a US BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile

 
 
Country of origin Soviet Union
Entered service 1983
Missile length 6.04 m
Missile diameter 0.51 m
Wing span 3.1 m
Missile launch weight 1 210 kg
Warhead weight 410 kg
Warhead type Nuclear, 50 kT
Range of fire 2 500 km
CEP ~ 80 m

 

   The Kh-55 is an air-launched cruise missile. It was developed in Soviet Union. Development commenced in 1971. It was a Soviet response to a US AGM-86 ALCM air-launched cruise missile. Initial production commenced in 1981. This cruise missile was officially adopted in 1983. Its Western reporting name is AS-15 Kent. Externally the Kh-55 is very similar to the RK-55 land-based cruise missile. In fact, Western intelligence and news sources had mistakenly assumed for some time that the Kh-55 was directly derived from the RK-55. However the Kh-55 was actually patterned after a US BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile. Sometimes it is even nicknamed the 'Tomahaw-ski'. Even though it is an air-launched missile, rather than a surface/sub- launched weapon it is similar to the Tomahawk in many respects. After the collapse of the Soviet Union these missiles were taken over by Russian. However a total of 1 612 missiles were left in Ukraine. In the late 1990s a number of these missiles were transferred to Russia. Ukraine also secretly sold some of these missiles to China and Iran, where indigenous versions of the Kh-55 were developed. Currently Russian Air Force is the only operator of the Kh-55. Russians also developed several variants of this missile.

   The Kh-55 cruise missile is used as a long-range standoff weapon. It is carried and launched by bomber aircraft. The Kh-55 and its versions are carried by a Tu-160 long-range strategic bomber (12 missiles), Tu-95 strategic bomber (6 or 16 missiles, depending on the version), and even Su-34 interdictor (1 missile). The Kh-55 was also tested on a Tu-22M medium-range bomber, however it is not normally carried by this aircraft.

   The Kh-55 has a drop-down turbojet engine. During flight the engine drops below the missile. Also there are pop-out wings for cruising efficiency. The Kh-55 can be launched at altitudes ranging from 20 meters out to 10 000-12 000 meters.

   The original Kh-55 had a nuclear warhead with a blast yield of 50 kT. Some sources suggest that the warhead has a blast yield of 200 kT. Though it seems that this original missile is no longer used by the Russian Air Force. After the Cold War some conventionally-armed versions of this cruise missile emerged.

   This missile has inertial guidance system with Doppler radar/terrain map updates. It uses radar and images stored in the memory of and onboard computer to find its target. The original Kh-55 might not be particularly accurate however its nuclear warhead compensates for accuracy.

 

Variants

 

   Kh-55 (Western reporting name AS-15 Kent-A) is a baseline version, adopted in 1983. It had a range of 2 500 km and carried a 200 kT nuclear warhead. It seems that this original missile is no longer used by the Russian Air Force.

   Kh-55OK version with optical guidance.

   Kh-55SM (AS-15 Kent-B) is an improved extended-range version. It was developed a few years after the original Kh-55 entered service. This missile was adopted in 1987. This missile was fitted with additional conformal fuel tanks for a longer range of 3 000 km. Also it has a more powerful engine. The Kh-55SM has a launch weight of 1 500 kg. This missile has a nuclear warhead. The Kh-55SM is currently used by the Russian Air Force.

   Kh-65SE is a version of the KH-55SM with conventional warhead and a range of 600 km. This missile had a weight of 1 650 kg and had a 410 kg warhead. Its range was deliberately limited to 600 km due to the INF Treaty. This missile had a fixed external turbojet engine, rather than a drop-down engine. A mock-up of this missile was demonstrated in 1993. This missile was not adopted.

   Kh-101 is a stealthy cruise missile, developed in the late 1980s to replace the Kh-55. It made its first flight in 1998. Evaluation trials started in 2000. First pictures of this missile appeared in 2007. This missile was adopted and is currently used by the Russian Air Force. It is carried by modernizes Tu-160M and Tu-95MSM bombers. It is larger and heavier than the Kh-55, but retains a similar design with drop-down engine. The Kh-101 is armed with conventional warhead and has a range of 3 000 km. The missile weights 2 400 kg and carries a 400-450 kg warhead. This missile is equipped with an electro-optical system for correcting the flight trajectory and with a TV guidance system for terminal guidance. The Kh-101 is estimated to be accurate within 10-20 m CEP. Such accuracy is sufficient to hit infrastructure targets. The missile is re-targetable so it can be used to engage moving targets. It has a variable flight profile and travels at altitudes ranging from 30-70 meters to 6 000 meters. This missile has reduced radar cross-section and is more stealthier than the Kh-55SM.

   Kh-102 is similar to the Kh-101 stealthy cruise missile, but carries a thermonuclear warhead. It has a range of 4 500 km. This missile is also used by the Russian Air Force alongside the Kh-101.

   Kh-SD was a missile with a 410 kg conventional warhead and a range of just 300 km. It was designed specially for export. It was a shorter-range version of the Kh-101. The range was deliberately reduced in order to comply with Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) guidelines. This version was announced in 1995. Eventually in 1999 its range was reportedly increased to 600 km. This missile shared components with the Kh-101. The Kh-SD had a Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) system with infrared homing on terminal guidance. The TERCOM is considerable more accurate than inertial navigation system. An anti-ship version of this missile was proposed with an active radar homing seeker. The Kh-SD received no production orders from export customers and was not adopted by the Russian Air Force. The project was shelved in 2001.

   Kh-555 (AS-15 Kent-C) is a conventionally armed version of the Kh-55SM with improved guidance systems and increased range. Its nuclear warhead was replaced by a 400 kg conventional warhead. Some types of warheads are available, including high explosive, penetration high explosive, or submunitions warhead. This missile has larger conformal fuel tanks and a range of 3 500 km. Also due to the new guidance systems it has increased accuracy. Furthermore this missile has reduced radar cross-section and is more stealthier. This air-launched cruise missile was tested in 1999 and was eventually approved for production. It was adopted by the Russian Air Force in 2004.

   Kh-BD is a future cruise missile with a range of 3 000 km, or greater. In 2017 this missile was at the project stage. It is planned with conventional and nuclear warheads. It should be carried by modernized Tu-160M2 bombers.

   Soumar is an unlicensed Iranian copy of the Kh-55. Unlike the original Kh-55, the Soumar is ground-launched. In 2001 Ukraine sold twelve Kh-55 missiles without nuclear warheads to Iran. Existence of the Soumar missile was revealed in 2015.

   Meshkat is a more recent Iranian missile based on the Kh-55, which is believed to have increased range over the Soumar.

   CJ-10 is a Chinese land attack cruise missile, which is believed to be based on the Kh-55 technology. In 1995 production unit of the Kh-55 missiles was delivered to Shanghai and appears to have been used to produce similar cruise missiles in China. Other sources suggest that in 2000 Ukraine exported six Kh-55SM missiles to China.

 
Kh-55 missile

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Kh-55 missile

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Kh-55SM missile

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Kh-55SM missile

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Kh-55SM missile

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Kh-55SM missile

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Kh-55SM missile

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Kh-55SM missile

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Kh-55 cruise missile

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Personal appeal from Andrius Genys

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