Why does Russia use anti-ship missiles to attack land targets?

In the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, why do the Russian Armed forces have to use both types of surface-to-ship and ship-to-ship missiles to attack ground targets?

Recently, the Russian Army showed a video of the launch of four K-300P Bastion anti-ship missiles at targets in Ukraine. This is the second Russian anti-ship missile, used by the Russian Army to attack military facilities on the ground of Ukraine.

In general, surface-to-ship missiles are mainly used against sea targets and are rarely used for ground attacks. So, are Russia’s land-attack missiles too expensive or have they run out of surface target missiles, and forced to use anti-ship missiles to attack the mainland?

The Kh-35 and Bastion-P surface-to-ship missile systems are mainly used to attack ships. These are currently two main types of anti-ship weapons on the shore of Russia today, with the task of complementing and supporting each other in a near-far fashion.

Kh-35is a subsonic surface-to-ship missile developed by Russia in the late 1990s. A Kh-35/Kh-35U Uran system consists of four Maz 7930 launchers and four loader vehicles. , 2 command and control vehicles, 1 communication vehicle, and support radar equipment.

One launcher can carry eight Kh-35/Kh-35U Uran anti-ship missiles, and a system with four launchers can launch 32 missiles within tens of seconds to carry out “saturation” attacks into the enemy’s surface ship.

Bal Coastal Defense Missile System
Bal Coastal Defense Missile System

The Kh-35 Uran anti-ship missile is 4.4 m long, 0.42 m in diameter, with a warhead weighing 145 kg, which can hit enemy surface ships from 130-260 km away. The rocket adopts a conventional aerodynamic layout design, using a turbofan engine and a solid-fuel booster engine, mounted on the tail to launch the missile from the launch pad.

Like other subsonic anti-ship missiles developed by many countries around the world, Uran anti-ship missiles use inertial guidance + active radar in the last phase. The ARGS-35 radar mounted on the top of the Uran missile is an active X-band type, used to detect and locate enemy targets.

Unlike the Kh-35 anti-ship missile system that uses missiles with subsonic speeds, the K-300P Bastion surface-to-ship missile system developed by Russia in the 1990s and entered service in 2010, is a type of missile with supersonic flight speed.

The P-800 anti-ship missile of the Bastion system uses a jet engine and has a maximum flight speed of more than 2.5 times the speed of sound, used to attack enemy sea targets. The missile is 8.6 meters long, 0.67 meters in diameter, weighs 3 tons, and has a 250 kg warhead; a 300km range.

K-300P in action
K-300P in action

During the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the Russian Navy’s use of coastal defense system surface-to-ship Kh-35 and K-300P to attack Ukrainian military targets on the ground; This has attracted attention from the outside world.

The main targets of anti-ship missiles, are surface ships sailing on the ocean, but they can also be missiles to strike targets on the ground, if necessary.

It should be emphasised that, while anti-ship missiles can hit land targets and have unanticipated outcomes, the battle environment for land attacks is far more complex than the anti-ship missiles conflict at sea; thus, anti-ship missiles must be truly capable of targeting land targets.

The ship’s radar reflection is very clear, because the target is a strong radar reflector making it easier to detect and identify. Because of the various landscape, the target is stationary and frequently hidden when attacking land targets.

Therefore, when attacking land targets, the active radar used by anti-ship missiles can be overloaded and sometimes cannot detect and accurately identify the target. To deal with these situations, anti-ship missiles of some countries, have taken into account the multi-use feature when developing.

According to experts, the main reasons why Russia uses anti-ship missiles to attack land targets are; Firstly, since the conflict broke out, Russia has used more than 1,000 missiles of all kinds. That is why the Russian Navy uses anti-ship missile systems, to attack military targets on the ground.

Second, Russia’s use of anti-ship missiles to attack land targets of Ukraine to show foreign customers the capabilities of Russian anti-ship missiles, which are “specialized and multifunctional”, to promote and export these weapons.

At the same time, Russia also hopes to take the opportunity of real combat to continue to detect possible problems and defects with anti-ship anti-ship missiles and provide data to support improvements for the next upgrade.

In fact, Russia is not the first country to use anti-ship missiles launched from shore, against military targets on land. The first country to use it was India, but also used Soviet anti-ship missiles, destroying land targets of rival Pakistan. In 1971, during the Third Indo-Pakistan War, India used a Soviet-made Styx anti-ship missile to launch it at the Karachi military port in Pakistan, destroying more than 10 Pakistani oil depots.

In 2016, the Russian military used the Bastion-P anti-ship missile system for the first time, to destroy the targets of ISIS terrorists in the interior of Syria, and at the same time to support the Syrian government forces against the extremist group IS affirmation.

Currently, Russia is continuing to improve and upgrade two surface-to-ship missile systemsKh-35 and K-300P Bastion-P to further improve the ability to detect and attack enemy targets; in which improves the ability to scout to detect targets and increase the range of fire.

Currently, the second phase of Russia’s special military operation is still going on, whether the Russian Army continues to use a large number of surface-to-ship missiles to attack military targets on the ground of Ukraine or not, that is something to be concerned about.

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