Reliable guard. Russia’s coastal defence systems

Text Alexander Ermakov 

Anti-ship missiles are one of the types of armaments and military equipment developed by Russia, traditionally leading in this field. Russia's leadership is evident not only in the development of the most powerful ship-based and airborne missile systems, but also in the widest range of coastal defence missile systems popular in the world market. 

Coastal defence system «Bal» 

The history of the development of Russian coastal missile systems dates back to the mid-1950s when the S-2 ground-based systems – the fixed version Strela and the mobile version Sopka were developed based on the first full-featured airborne anti-ship missile (ASM) KS-1 Kometa. Put in service in 1957–1958, these systems became the world’s first systems in their class. The Sopka anti-ship systems were included in the weapons deployed in Cuba on the threshold of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Later, many Soviet ASMs initially developed as ship-based or airborne versions were modified into ground-based systems. First of all, we should mention the Redut system with a heavy supersonic missile P-35, as well as the Rubezh system with a lighter missile P-15. The Russian armed forces are currently removing these systems from service, but they are sill operational in foreign countries. The P-15 missile has many Chinese replicas which are produced and exported in modified versions.

So far, ASMs are basically subdivided into heavy and high-speed missiles (superfluous for attacks on large ships not equipped with a powerful air defence system), and lighter missiles intended for breaking through enemy's air defence systems at very low levels and for fighting more dangerous systems. The latter missiles are efficient due to firing a many missiles salvo.


One of typical representatives of light missiles is the Kh-35 ASM with which the Bal coastal defence system is equipped. After launch (ship-based and ground-based versions use a solid propellant booster), the missile extends its airfoils and continues the flight, using a turbojet engine. The missile flies at a low altitude and descends to the level of 3-4 m when approaching the zone protected by enemy’s ship-based air defence systems. Actually, the missile flies over wave tops by means of a high-precision radar altimeter.
After entering the area of estimated enemy target location by means of the passive inertial system, the onboard active radar target-seeking device is activated for target lock-on at a distance of up to 20 km (in practice, depending on the missile’s flight level, lock-on is enabled as soon as the target appears on the horizon).

At that moment, the missile speed reaches 0.8 M. It is a challenging task to hit a missile moving so fast. The range of fire of the Kh-35 missile’s basic modification is 130 km. The Kh-35U missile, an advanced modified version of the Kh-35, has already been developed, featuring new avionics, a high-bypass turbofan engine and increased fuel capacity. In comparison to the original version, the range of fire of the Kh-35U missile is 2 times higher (up to 260 km). A new target seeking device ensures lock-on at a distance of up to 50 km while the missile weight has been increased only by 50 kg. The missile is compatible with the existing launchers. For now, the Kh-35U missile is the basic modification for export and domestic procurement.

Coastal defence system «Bal»

The main advantages of the Kh-35U missile are its relatively low price and weight/overall dimensions characteristics. This allows to equip carriers with a larger amount of missiles and to fire them in large quantities. The missile power is not excessive to hit light targets. In total, these advantages make the missile the best solution in terms of quality-price ratio. The Kh-35U missile has the excellent range of fire in its class – for example, only the latest version of the U.S. Harpoon missile (modification RGM-84N Harpoon ER with a lighter warhead passing its test phase) has surpassed the Kh-35U.

These features are fully implemented in the coastal missile system “Bal”. Each launcher is able to carry up to 8 missiles due to a low weight of the missile. The missile battery may include up to four launchers controlled by one or two command vehicles fitted with radar stations and electronic reconnaissance equipment that provide a quiet launch mode without radiation in favorable conditions. For reloading, the missile battery includes up to four loader transporter vehicles with ammunition loads compatible with launchers. Thus, a single missile battery is able to fire a salvo of 32 missiles (moreover, able to hit 24 individual targets) and, unlike a ship, is able to repeat a salvo in 30 minutes.
Only a powerful ship formation is able to repeal a coordinated attack of this large number of ASMs; however, even such a ship group will sustain losses (in particular, during the second attack when the set of air defence missiles is partly depleted). The value, importance for the enemy and the number of staff of such a group will be absolutely incommensurable with the attacking Bal.


The cruise missile Kalibr is one of the most well-known products developed by Russia's military and industrial complex in recent years. Its application by means of surface ships and submarines to hit terrorist targets in Syria has been widely covered by mass media. However, we know that the Kalibr family includes anti-ship missiles that are also intended for the mirror-like application – they may be used as surface-to-sea missiles. The Club-M coastal missile system is armed with these missiles.

We will not discuss in detail the well-known Kalibr family in this article, but we will give a quick look at 3М-54E/E1 anti-ship missiles used by the Club-M system. The difference between these two exported ASMs is the presence or absence of the unique know-how featured by the anti-ship version of the Kalibr, i.e. a supersonic second stage which carries out the final rush at about 20 km to reach the target at a low altitude and speed of 2,500 km/h approx. It needs no explanation that such features critically affect the interception capabilities. The 3М-54E missile is equipped with such a stage while the 3М-54E1 version does not have this option – it is meant to approach the target at a low altitude when flying along the entire trajectory. Of course, the 3М-54E missiles are more expensive; they have larger overall dimensions and heavier weight (the length is 2 m longer and the weight is 500 kg heavier). The best way to use them is to hit targets with more advanced air defence systems. Another advantage of the 3М-54E1 version is a longer flight range – up to 275 km versus 220 km for the 3М-54E version.

The coastal defence system’s launcher is unitized and its ammunition load includes up to 6 missiles of any types. In addition to the above-mentioned missiles, the Club-M system may use 3М-14E missiles intended for hitting ground targets. They have overall dimensions similar to the 3М-54E1 version and a longer range (to comply with Missile Technology Control Regime, the official data indicating the range of “up to 300 km”). Unlike many foreign equivalents, the 3М-14E missile uses an active radar target seeking device at the terminal phase for more precise hitting of a ground target.

The missile battery includes up to 3 launchers, therefore, up to 3 loader transporter vehicles with the second ammunition load, one or two command vehicles fitted with radar stations and electronic reconnaissance equipment, plus a maintenance vehicle. Thus, a single salvo of the system may comprise 18 low-altitude high-speed ASMs. Such performance guaranties that any target will be hit. In December 2017, the simplified Club-T version was demonstrated at Kuwait Military & Defence Exhibition. Exclusively designed for hitting ground targets, this system is armed with the 3М-14E missiles only. The known-coordinate firing option allows to get rid of command vehicles included in the missile battery; however, if necessary, the customer can buy them in addition and “restore” its lost anti-ship functions.


Traditionally, the signature line of Russia’s military and industrial complex was heavy supersonic ASMs with the highest performance characteristics at that stage of the development. And if the newest developments such as the hypersonic ASM Tsirkon are currently passing the final testing stage and are to be put into service for the Russian Navy, the most advanced ASM of the previous generation such as the Yakhont missile is available to foreign customers. The BrahMos missile co-developed by Russia and India is based on Yakhont.

Yakhont is a heavy high-speed ASM with the unique characteristics. When flying along the composite trajectory at medium altitudes, its speed reaches 2,700 km/h; when approaching the target at the final flight leg of 40 km at very low levels, its speed is 2,450 km/h. The range of fire along the composed trajectory reaches 300–500 km (along the low-altitude trajectory – about 120 km). The missile’s high flight speed provides not only high survivability, but also the most efficient real-time hitting of ship groups. This may be an important tactical option. In November 2016, unexpected capabilities were demonstrated – the missiles were used in Syria for hitting ground targets. The range of fire was reported to reach 450 km (probably, because the entire flight is carried out along the most energy-saving high-level trajectory).

The Bastion system uses the ground versions of the Yakhont missiles. It is worth mentioning that unlike the other systems described herein, the Bastion system is available as the fixed version Bastion-S with missiles located in the pit. The Bastion-S version is available for export. The fixed version has been purchased by the Russian Navy and used for refitting inactive coastal defence installations which were built in the Crimea in the Soviet era. However, as the fixed version has limited options for application, we will discuss only the mobile version Bastion-P.

To ensure high performance, the missile has larger overall dimensions and heavy weight. Due to these characteristics, the Bastion system’s launchers can carry only two missiles. Somehow, this shortage is offset by configuring the missile battery, i.e. the battery may be controlled by a single command center with up to 18 launchers spread in a wide area (of course, in practice this number is not greater than 4–6). To ensure the operation of launchers, the missile battery may include up to 3 command vehicles with radar stations and electronic reconnaissance equipment, as well as the required amount of loader transporter vehicles and launch support vehicles (in case the system is deployed for a long period of time). In conjunction with its capabilities, Bastion is the most powerful missile system available in the world market and for export.

Basically, the Bal, Club, and Bastion systems discussed in the article, as well as the artillery system Bereg prove that Russia’s supply in the global arms market can cover all segments relating to coastal defence systems and can meet any demand.


New defence order. Strategy | 05 | 2018

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