Sunburst: The Invincible?

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Khairul Alam

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I have read in several places that the Sunburst anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) of Russian origin is one of the most powerful of its kind. So powerful that it can even defeat the US Aegis system. It is also reported that Iran possesses 16 of these missiles.
Is the Sunburst really so capable? Can it spell the end of US naval supremacy?
 

robsta83

The Wanderer
I have read in several places that the Sunburst anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) of Russian origin is one of the most powerful of its kind. So powerful that it can even defeat the US Aegis system. It is also reported that Iran possesses 16 of these missiles.
Is the Sunburst really so capable? Can it spell the end of US naval supremacy?
Well 16 wouldn't. Additionally IMO the USN aware of such a devasting weapon, would quickly create a countermeasure.
What is the power that you speak of to defeat a aegis system? Does it contain a powerful ecm system or is it just fast?
 

Khairul Alam

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Yes, it is reported that the Sunburst is ultra fast and flies very very low. Too fast to be shot or gunned down. Moreover, the Sunburst is reported to have an erratic flight path, which prevents accurate tracking and lock-on.
 

Musashi_kenshin

Active Member
Yes, it is reported that the Sunburst is ultra fast and flies very very low. Too fast to be shot or gunned down. Moreover, the Sunburst is reported to have an erratic flight path, which prevents accurate tracking and lock-on.
Sure it's reported as being all that - but has it been tested against a sophisticated defence system yet? Certainly not in combat. Every new missile is claimed to be able to beat any AAW platform these days.... :rolleyes:

The US (and other navies) have been updating their inventory to deal with these sorts of threats - e.g. ESSM, SM-2, Aster, etc. Until a situation arises where they can be tested against each other we won't know.
 

Galrahn

Defense Professional
Verified Defense Pro
First the Sunburn was invincible, now the Sunburst is invincible.

I think Raytheon needs to hire whatever Russian PR dept. is behind all the hype Russian ASCMs get, because that group can advertise their tail off.
 

Big-E

Banned Member
The advent of AN/SPY-3 and ESSM were made to counter this very kind of threat. If it spells the end of anything it will most likely be the conventional applications of CIWS. It will force the need for point defense lasers as a typical CIWS platform and the appropriate electric-drive systems to power them.
 

Grand Danois

Entertainer
First the Sunburn was invincible, now the Sunburst is invincible.

I think Raytheon needs to hire whatever Russian PR dept. is behind all the hype Russian ASCMs get, because that group can advertise their tail off.
Supersonic anti ship missiles has been part of the USN threat environment for decades.
 
yeah, i also read the reports of iran having 16 sunbursts. its also here:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iran/navy.htm

at global security. this article says the transfer occured in the early 90's from the ukraine. despite this the article states that irans real naval threat is in mines, with the vast array they have available.

if the past is an indicator, iran's missiles (anti shipping) would be used against tankers anyway, which is probably why they also bought older styx missiles. as such, the missiles really dont need to be that fast nor that capable, as the tankers are defenceless unless proteced by the navy (us), in which case the missiles and their platforms will be of rather limited use, particularly in such a small number. so from the point of iran, it isnt that much of a threat, with the platforms being so vulnerable anyway. Iran might be better off buying larger numbers of older missiles, as their real card to play would be volume of fire against shipping, rather than for their navy to take on another navy. improving delivery systems would help in a naval confrontation, though the potential threat at the moment is the us, which means that the navy will be of very little use in this role anyway.

having said that, the uss stark incident shouldnt be forgotten, nor the lessons of the falklands war, where asm played a surprisingly (at the time) important and big part.

the incident with the c802 during the recent war in lebanon also caught me by surprise, so itd be interesting to see the role of the asm in the next relevant confrontation.
 

gf0012-aust

Grumpy Old Man
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
the incident with the c802 during the recent war in lebanon also caught me by surprise, so itd be interesting to see the role of the asm in the next relevant confrontation.
everyone was surprised by the C802 as they assumed that the Israelis were in full alert mode. they weren't, and the subsequent debriefs make it patently clear that the vulnerability was human and not system related.


So powerful that it can even defeat the US Aegis system. It is also reported that Iran possesses 16 of these missiles.
16 missiles? even if they were all fired at once they are well within the detection range of an Appache Longbow - let alone an Aegis System. As a small exercise, add up all the available counter responses available in a typical CVN and support fleet. 1 against "nn".

The USN have been training against Mach 3 to Mach 6 ASM/ASuM's since the 1960's. The battlespace response envelope has improved dramatically - and yet, one discrete system without the benefit of multiple attack capability, without the benefit of mutiple defeat systems is a new "you beaut" threat?

Somehow, I have a doubt.
 
that second quote is from where i read the info and linked to, so show where i had read it, not my personal opinion there.

to be honest, im also expecting some similar info coming out of the declassification of the falklands incident reports....some is coming out this year, and some came out earlier this year.

but i these weapons clearly still pose a threat, though it seems it is limited. the fact is that this sort of weapon has been used time and again and has had success, though it is always because of this type f reason it seems. but they have had a few successes, clearly.

as is tated, i think we can agree that iran's use would primarily be against tankers and commercial shipping, anyway. i dont think anyone seriously thinks 16 missiles constitute a grave threat on their own to the us navy, more to shipping in the region.
 

gf0012-aust

Grumpy Old Man
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
that second quote is from where i read the info and linked to, so show where i had read it, not my personal opinion there.
I did notice the change in commentary style, so assumed that it was a quote but not bracketed. :D


to be honest, im also expecting some similar info coming out of the declassification of the falklands incident reports....some is coming out this year, and some came out earlier this year.
I would imagine that quite a few analysts as well as historians will also be reading keenly.

but i these weapons clearly still pose a threat, though it seems it is limited. the fact is that this sort of weapon has been used time and again and has had success, though it is always because of this type f reason it seems. but they have had a few successes, clearly.
Not trivialising the threat. I do get a bit antsy at some commentary you see sometimes where sweeping statements are made about new theatre changing weapons systems - and when the commentary ignores some logical and available examples of why enthusiasm should be tempered.

as is tated, i think we can agree that iran's use would primarily be against tankers and commercial shipping, anyway. i dont think anyone seriously thinks 16 missiles constitute a grave threat on their own to the us navy, more to shipping in the region.
Noticed the pattern of successful strikes seems to fall into some common baskets:

  • approp defending systerm either inactive or inert due to a human intervention issue
  • the target vessel was incapable of responding (eg auxilliary vessels etc)
  • that some cavalier assessments had been made prior, or that good intel was not passed on or acted upon.
again, not making excuses or trivialising, but some clarity also needs to be included.

often you see comments where some people may talk about a counter to another system (eg) Aegis ship etc, but then ignore basic info like fleet management, CEC, emergence of ForceNET, counter systems etc....
 

Khairul Alam

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I am getting a feeling that people are simply ruling out the Sunburst as an effective weapon without giving any hard evidence about its true capabilities.The Sunburst sale to Iran wouldnt have created so much chaos in US military circles had it been so bogus a missile.
 

gf0012-aust

Grumpy Old Man
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
I am getting a feeling that people are simply ruling out the Sunburst as an effective weapon without giving any hard evidence about its true capabilities.The Sunburst sale to Iran wouldnt have created so much chaos in US military circles had it been so bogus a missile.
thats easy - give us a technical explanation how its effective against a typical CSF with all of their current systems.

  • lets use normal fleet disposition but on alert status.
 

Todjaeger

Potstirrer
thats easy - give us a technical explanation how its effective against a typical CSF with all of their current systems.

  • lets use normal fleet disposition but on alert status.
Agreed, a USN CSF would have at least 1 carrier with radar, a Hawkeye airborne, and at least 1 Ticonderoga or Arleigh Burke, in addition to other picket/escort ships. Each warship and the AWACS would have search radars active and they would be linked to each other for co-operative engagement. Against that many radar arrays, even stealthy missles could be hard put to escape detection long enough to get into CIWS range.

IIRC the planned Soviet tactic was long range air launches of large numbers of AShM. Enough so that either the air defense ships couldn't engage all the incoming missles fast enough, or that the magazines aboard ran out of missles.
For that, the Soviets planned on a strike using 100+ missiles. 16 might penetrate the defensive screen around a CSF, and therefore might do some damage. But IMO the probability is not likely assuming the crew is alert.

As for some of the issues with AShM during the Falklands, part of that I think stems from Cold War over specialization. The two main SAM systems the RN had at the time was the Sea Wolf and Sea Dart, and I believe more of the Sea Dart systems were on station (I think Sea Wolf was only on the Broadsword class frigates IIRC) The Sea Dart system was designed primarily to engage Soviet naval aviation and AShM, which at the time were high-speed, high altitude missiles, dropping to low altitude for terminal approach. The Sea Darts were therefore designed according to engage distant, high altitude targets. It wasn't really designed to engage low or sea skimming missiles that were used by NATO and allies. The RN ran into similar problems with the Argentinian Air Force Skyhawks, who did low altitude attacks, precisely because they too had the Sea Dart system and were aware of the performance issues at low altitude.

-Cheers
 

contedicavour

New Member
From a technical point of view, why would it be so difficult to shoot down even a Mach 4 or more ASM, if you have 32+ VLS active guided Mach 4 SAMs with a range of 120km (I'm using the Aster 30 example) and a combination of long range air search radar (for ex S1850 with 450+ km range) and phased array radar (for ex EMPAR with 300km range) ?
The enemy missile may be flying low, but the 2 radars mentioned above, plus IRST, should detect sea skimming missiles 30+ km away, and Aster 30s have enough time to intercept the ASMs and destroy it since they fly at approx the same speed.
Any insight from experts ?

cheers
 

Musashi_kenshin

Active Member
First the Sunburn was invincible, now the Sunburst is invincible.
Yeah, exactly. I'm sure the Taiwanese HF-III will be invincible too, though to be fair the Chinese AAW capabilities are not nearly as good as the USN's so their missiles don't need to be that fabulous to work.
 
its not that the weapons systems are being taken lightly....its more that irans prior application of anti shipping missiles has been primarily against tankers, where the iranians get more out of their weapons, as it has a greater effect on their situation.

iran's interest in asms is the strangle point around the strights of hormuz, not in being able to fight a naval conflict as such. therefore having high cost and very high performance asms isnt really a bigger threat than having larger numbers of older asms, as the tankers are just as vulnerable to both in reality, defenceless as they are. therefore adding sunbursts to their sunburn stock doesnt actually add that much of a threat in practice. then there is also the fact that the number of sunbursts is limited though i did state that the lessons of the c802 in the summer, uss stark and the falklands should not be overlooked. in the case of the falklands, we should also remember that the losses were low for the hits taken, due to a high dud rate (roughly 50% if i recall correctly, for both bombs and asms combined). the environment of the straights would, in some respects be similar to the falklands, where the navy had to be close in to land, also like the summer c802. in the straights one would operate very close to land indeed. anyone who has been to the straights will also know that the area is most certainly not flat desert leading to the shore.....

so, the weapons are a threat, but iran's prior use tells us/ indicates that asms will be primarily used against tankers, as this is their trump card/one of their trump cards.

what is the minimum range of the sunburst? this might actually limit its value in the straights...
 

Todjaeger

Potstirrer
its not that the weapons systems are being taken lightly....its more that irans prior application of anti shipping missiles has been primarily against tankers, where the iranians get more out of their weapons, as it has a greater effect on their situation.

iran's interest in asms is the strangle point around the strights of hormuz, not in being able to fight a naval conflict as such. therefore having high cost and very high performance asms isnt really a bigger threat than having larger numbers of older asms, as the tankers are just as vulnerable to both in reality, defenceless as they are. therefore adding sunbursts to their sunburn stock doesnt actually add that much of a threat in practice. then there is also the fact that the number of sunbursts is limited though i did state that the lessons of the c802 in the summer, uss stark and the falklands should not be overlooked. in the case of the falklands, we should also remember that the losses were low for the hits taken, due to a high dud rate (roughly 50% if i recall correctly, for both bombs and asms combined). the environment of the straights would, in some respects be similar to the falklands, where the navy had to be close in to land, also like the summer c802. in the straights one would operate very close to land indeed. anyone who has been to the straights will also know that the area is most certainly not flat desert leading to the shore.....

so, the weapons are a threat, but iran's prior use tells us/ indicates that asms will be primarily used against tankers, as this is their trump card/one of their trump cards.

what is the minimum range of the sunburst? this might actually limit its value in the straights...
I'm not aware of any problem with duds in the Falklands. There was an issue with the bombs being dropped by the Skyhawks. Frequently they were dropped at such low altitudes that the bombs didn't have time to arm before impact. In a few cases, the bomb struck a RN vessel and went completely through without detonating. There were also cases where bombs struck and got stuck, then detonated later.

-Cheers
 

Grand Danois

Entertainer
This is what the USN uses as a target drone. Before that they used the Vandal.

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