Russian Carrier Killers

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Russian Carrier Killers

Flag Russia If the Ukraine situation goes up in smoke, the Mediterranean could become a front line between Russian and NATO navies. NATO has three carriers there. The largest is the US Navy's Nimitz Class supercarrier USS Harry Truman, followed by the Marine Nationale's Charles de Gaulle. Italy's Cavour makes up the group. They are now facing two Russian Navy surface groups led by SLAVA Class cruisers, and conventional submarine ops out of Syria.

Russia of course has a particular focus on anti-carrier capabilities. With the historical carrier imbalance vis-à-vis the US Navy, Russia has developed a wide range of powerful anti-ship weapons.

The SLAVAs are a great example of this. Each is equipped with 16 ginormous SS-N-12 SANDBOX (P-500 Bazalt / P-1000 Vulkan) supersonic anti-ship missiles.
Marshal Ustinov Cruiser
SLAVA Class cruiser Marshal Ustinov seen heading south off Norway, Jan 25. The large missile bins along each side are for 16 x SS-N-12 SANDBOX 'carrier killer' missiles. Photo Norwegian Air Force

Hiding beneath the waves are large cruise missile submarines (SSGNs) armed with even more potent SS-N-19 SHIPWRECK (P-700 Grannit) supersonic anti-ship missiles. And newer Yasen class SSGNs have the smaller yet still considered particularly potent SS-N-26 STROBILE (P-800 Onyx). A shore based version of this system is also fielded.

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This visual reference guide covers off the rest of the 'carrier killers'. Of course, any warship or submarine may get a lucky shot with whatever weapons it has. But these platforms are particularly relevant against large high-value targets.

There is some uncertainty about the Kinzhal hypersonic missile. It has been reported as an anti-ship weapon but we have not seen hard proof of this. One factor however is that there have been reports that the Tu-22M3 BACKFIRE-C will be upgraded to carry four Kinzhals. These are maritime bombers so it does support the anti-ship ballistic missile argument.

Another hypersonic anti-ship missile, Zircon, has been tested a lot recently. It is comparatively smaller than the other 'carrier killer' missiles mentioned above but should feature high survivability. It will be carried by surface combatants with the universal VLS, and later by cruise missile submarines. But it is not in active service yet.

Another potential weapon not included is Poseidon (KANYON). This Intercontinental, nuclear armed, undersea autonomous torpedo is in a category of its own. Russian Ministry of Defense information consistently presents it as a multi-purpose weapon able to target carriers. This does not necessarily make sense to external eyes, but is what it is. However the first host submarine for Poseidon, Belgorod, has not yet entered service. The system is not operational.

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