Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Aster 30, HHQ-9, SM-2 MR..: Modern long-range naval surface-to-air missiles

At the beginning of the 1950s, the world's navies began to equip their large naval units, cruisers and destroyers, with a new type of anti-aircraft weaponry capable of opposing the new supersonic fighters which were joining the air and naval forces.

This is how the first surface-to-air missiles were developed, the American RIM-2 Terrier, the French Masurca , the British Seaslug and the Soviet SA-N-1. All then shared comparable technologies and performances, with a range of 30 to 45 km, a ceiling between 20 and 25 km, and guidance on a radio-controlled or semi-active radar beam.

The capabilities offered by these new systems, but also the progress made in the field of missiles, radars and guidance systems, led all navies to turn, relatively quickly, towards massive use of these increasingly surface-to-air missiles. more efficient and sometimes more and more specialized.

To ensure the self-defense of surface ships, close protection missiles appeared, such as the French Crotale Naval, the British Seawolf, the American Sea Sparrow or the Soviet Osa-M (SA-N-4 Gecko), while missiles with a longer reach than their predecessors, such as the American SM-1MR or the Soviet SA-N-6, laid the foundations for the denial of naval air access.

The Jean Bart anti-aircraft frigate was equipped with 40 standard SM-1MR missiles and 2 SPG-51C firing radars. It could only guide 2 missiles at a time.

Although effective, all of these systems developed in the 1960s and 1970s suffered from a major weakness, their inability to respond to so-called saturation attacks, when the number of threats exceeded the number of guidance systems available at board of the ship. Indeed, the medium and long range missiles of this era relied on exclusive guidance systems. A destroyer or a cruiser only employing between 2 and 4 pointing devices, it could only guide so many missiles simultaneously.

The digitalization and miniaturization of guidance systems in the 1980s provided a response to this limitation, allowing a single ship to simultaneously launch and guide a large number of missiles to respond to saturation attacks. This new generation of medium and long range surface-air systems, which appeared between the mid-1980s and the 2000s, today constitute the spearhead of the anti-aircraft defense of global surface fleets.

In this article, we will present the 5 main systems in service today: the Chinese HHQ-9, the Franco-Italian Aster 30, the Israeli-Indian Barak 8, the American SM-2MR and the 9M96 missile of the Russian Redut system .

China: HHQ-9 system

China's first long-range surface-to-air missile, the HHQ-9 entered service in 2004 with the arrival of the first Type 052C destroyer, the Lanzhou , which was then the first PLA warship to have a real access denial capability with 48 of these missiles in vertical silos.

Type 055 destroyers use long-range surface-to-air missiles of the HHQ-9 system
Chinese Type 055 heavy destroyers have 112 VLS capable of accommodating, among others, the long-range HHQ-9B anti-aircraft missile

With an estimated range of 120 km for a speed greater than Mach 4, the HHQ-9 implements inertial navigation readjusted by the radar of the firing ship initially, before activating an active radar seeker to intercept the target. In addition to the 6 Type 052C destroyers, it also arms, in an advanced version that can be implemented using HHQ-9B vertical hot launch systems, the 22+ Type 052D anti-aircraft destroyers, and the 8 Type 055 heavy destroyers. .

Despite this widespread distribution, little is known with certainty about this system. Derived from the land-based HQ-9, itself very inspired by the S-300F and P systems acquired by Beijing from Moscow, it would also integrate systems inspired by the MiM-104 Patriot land system. The system would be capable of simultaneously engaging around fifty aerial targets, at a distance exceeding 100 km and probably beyond for the Type 052D and Type 055 which have more powerful and more efficient radar.

France-Italy: Aster 30 surface-to-air missiles

While French and Italian frigates of the 1970s and 1980s deployed short-range surface-to-air missiles Crotale Naval and Aspide, and medium-range SM-1MR missiles for air defense ships, the two countries undertook, to At the end of the 1980s, to co-develop a new family of medium and long range land and naval anti-aircraft systems of European design. This is how the Eurosam group was born in 1995, a joint venture between the missile manufacturers MBDA France and Italy and the French radar manufacturer Thales, with a view to developing the Aster missile family and related systems.

Type 45 Sea Viper
Like the Franco-Italian Horizon frigates, the Type 45 destroyers of the Daring class have 6 SYLVER 50 systems (48 silos) hosting Aster 15 and 30 missiles, forming the Sea Viper system with the SAMPSON radar

LOGO meta defense 70

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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  1. […] This is why, in the naval field, most systems are designed to use two missiles per target, especially if the target operates at low altitude and high speed, such as, for example, an anti-missile ship. This is the case of the SM-2 and the American ESSM, but also of Russian or Chinese systems, such as the 9M96 or the H…. […]

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