Monday, March 26, 2007

Russia's 'Sizzler' Missile Feared By The US

Capable Of Destroying Entire Aircraft Carrier, Yet US Said To Have Defence Against It

China's Got 'Sizzlers', But What About Iran?

It is the one missile the US military reportedly has no defence against it. The Russians built it, the Chinese have already deployed it, installing it on eight deisel submarines, and the Iranians want it. Or maybe they've already got it.

Whether the US military knows the full scale of defensive weapons and military technology Iran has accumulated since their defeat in the Iran-Iraq war in the late 1980s is debatable.

But what isn't debatable is the awesome destructive capability of the 'Sizzler' missile. What else can you say about a supersonic missile that flies fast and low can take out an aircraft carrier, except 'Oh Shit.'

From Bloomberg :

The U.S. Navy, after nearly six years of warnings from Pentagon testers, still lacks a plan for defending aircraft carriers against a supersonic Russian-built missile, according to current and former officials and Defense Department documents.

The missile, known in the West as the 'Sizzler,' has been deployed by China and may be purchased by Iran. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England has given the Navy until April 29 to explain how it will counter the missile, according to a Pentagon budget document.

"This is a carrier-destroying weapon,'' said Orville Hanson, who evaluated weapons systems for 38 years with the Navy. "That's its purpose.''

"Take out the carriers'' and China "can walk into Taiwan,'' he said. China bought the missiles in 2002 along with eight diesel submarines designed to fire it, according to Office of Naval Intelligence spokesman Robert Althage.

Charts prepared by the Navy for a February 2005 briefing for defense contractors said the Sizzler, which is also called the SS-N-27B, starts out flying at subsonic speeds. Within 10 nautical miles of its target, a rocket-propelled warhead separates and accelerates to three times the speed of sound, flying no more than 10 meters (33 feet) above sea level.

On final approach, the missile `"has the potential to perform very high defensive maneuvers,'' including sharp-angled dodges, the Office of Naval Intelligence said in a manual on worldwide maritime threats.

The Sizzler is `"unique,'' the Defense Science Board, an independent agency within the Pentagon that provides assessments of major defense issues, said in an October 2005 report. Most anti-ship cruise missiles fly below the speed of sound and on a straight path, making them easier to track and target.

A Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia also offered the missile to Iran, although there's no evidence a sale has gone through. In Iranian hands, the Sizzler could challenge the ability of the U.S. Navy to keep open the Strait of Hormuz, through which an estimated 25 percent of the world's oil traffic flows.

The Navy's ship-borne Aegis system, deployed on cruisers and destroyers starting in the early 1980s, is designed to protect aircraft-carrier battle groups from missile attacks.

But current and former officials say the Navy has no assurance Aegis, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., is capable of detecting, tracking and intercepting the Sizzler.

Then again, that might be just want the US Navy wants Iran, Russia and China to think.