Means of the complex RK-360MTs. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine
June 17, Ukraine tested a promising anti-ship missile R-360 "Neptune" in full full-time configuration. Allegedly, two products successfully discovered the target and hit it with a direct hit. All this brings the final development work and the entry of Neptune into service. Accordingly, the topic of the future deployment of such weapons and his abilities in the context of the military-political situation.
Neptune from Uranus
Recall, “Neptune” is a subsonic low-altitude anti-ship missile system for hitting ships with a displacement of up to 5 thousand tons. The design is based on a fairly old X-35 missile, used on different carriers, including with the ship complex "Uranus". In the past, Ukrainian enterprises participated in the manufacture of the X-35 as suppliers of individual units. Now they had to master the production of other products, resulting in a full-fledged rocket of local production.
In the current configuration, for launching from the ground platform, the R-360 has a length of 5,5 m with a case diameter of 380 mm, folding planes with a span of 1,33 mm are provided. Starting weight - 870 kg, of which 150 kg falls on the warhead penetrating type. The power plant includes a starting solid propellant engine and a mid-flight turbojet MS-400, made on the basis of the serial P95-300.
Start June 17, 2020. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine
The speed of the Neptune rocket on the trajectory reaches 0,8-0,85 M, the flight takes place at altitudes of no more than 250-300 m with a decrease in the final section. Flight range - up to 280 km. While the product can only be used by the coastal missile system RK-360MTs, but development has already begun aviation and ship modifications.
Production and Deployment
To date, the plans of the Ukrainian command for the deployment and combat alert of new missile systems have become known. It is supposed to build and put into operation three divisions of the coastal "Neptune". Each division includes six launchers with four anti-ship missiles on each, as well as six transport-loading and transport vehicles. The division simultaneously has three ammunition, 24 missiles each; one of them is ready for immediate use.
The production of pilot anti-ship missiles was carried out as part of the cooperation of several enterprises. Apparently, for the series it will be saved. So, the electronic systems are supplied by the Impulse plant (Shostka city), the main engine is manufactured by the Zaporizhzhya Motor Sich plant, the start engine is supplied by the Pavlograd Chemical Plant, etc. Combat and auxiliary vehicles of the coastal missile complex are built on the KrAZ chassis with the involvement of various organizations.
Target after hitting two missiles. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine
The ability of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense within a reasonable time not only to order, but also to pay the required amount of ground facilities and anti-ship missiles for a promising complex raises obvious doubts. 18 launchers and 36 auxiliary vehicles, as well as at least 216 missiles, so far look like an excessively large order, which is simply beyond the power of a country with limited financial capabilities.
In addition, problems should be expected in the production line. Almost all participants in the Neptune project experience certain problems of an economic, technological or other nature. A chronic lack of funding, outdated production facilities and forced staff reductions do not at all contribute to the rapid and high-quality fulfillment of military orders.
Since the first announcements of the RCC, the R-360 has been called a universal weapon for use on different platforms. They promised to create coastal, aviation and ship versions of the complex. However, to date, only one has been created, built on automobile chassis. The prospects for other developments are vague. It is alleged that work on this topic has already begun, but the timing of their implementation remains unknown.
One of the previous launches, 2019. Photo by GK "Ukroboronprom"
For the Navy, two versions of boats with anti-ship missile weapons are offered. The first is the project of the missile and artillery boat 58260 Doe. It is proposed to equip the product with a length of 54 m with a displacement of 445 tons by various weapons systems, including eight anti-ship missiles Neptune and related controls.
A further development of these ideas is the Vespa / Doe-LK missile boat project. The 640-ton boat should also carry artillery weapons of various calibers. The main percussion product remains 8 P-360 products. There are some design differences that increase the basic characteristics in comparison with the "Doe".
Back in 2015, it was decided to build three boats, pr. 58260 with delivery in 2018-2020. However, the project was stuck at the stage of development of working documentation, fundraising, preparation for construction, etc. As a result, “Lani” has not even been laid. Whether the situation will change in the future and whether the construction of such boats will begin is a big question.
The rocket after launch, the solid fuel engine is still running. Photo by GK "Ukroboronprom"
The Vespa project was first presented in 2018, and the following year it was decided to build three units. The lead boat is planned to be part of the Navy in the next 2021. However, the "successes" of several previous projects make it doubtful whether it is possible to carry out plans for the current.
It was previously stated that by 2020, the Neptune missile launcher could go into service with the Air Force. They plan to make the Su-24M front-line bomber the main carrier of such weapons. The possibility of its use by the An-148-300MP patrol aircraft, designed for naval aviation, was also considered.
According to known data, the number of Su-24 drillings in Ukraine is small - no more than 25-30 units. A few dozen more are in storage. The patrol version of the An-148 has not yet reached production and its prospects are dubious. It is possible that the development of an aircraft modification of the R-360 rocket will take a lot of time, and by the time it is ready, the situation with potential carriers will worsen.
Low-altitude subsonic anti-ship missile can be a serious threat. However, the presence of a developed layered air defense covering the ship’s warrant or naval base will make it possible to detect the attack in time and bring down the missile at a safe distance. For this reason, such weapons should be used as part of massive strikes that can "overload" enemy air defenses.
Missile version of the boat "Doe". Graphics Ukrmilitary.com
In the near future, the Ukrainian army plans to get up to three divisions of coastal complexes RK-360MTs, each of which can simultaneously launch up to 24 missiles. A joint strike of three divisions will send up to 72 missiles to the targets. However, the real volley volumes at which the missiles will not interfere with each other are unknown. The ship and aircraft versions of Neptune so far can not be considered due to the lack of real time and results.
72 missiles of three divisions are a serious threat to any naval group or base. Such an amount of anti-ship missiles is enough to create a high load on the enemy’s air defense, up to the expenditure of the air defense system’s ammunition and transfer to defense using artillery. In such conditions, individual missiles have a chance to break through to their targets and at least damage them and disable them.
There is no reason to hope for a second salvo. The enemy will make every effort to detect and destroy coastal complexes performing reloading as soon as possible. In a number of situations, solving such a situation will be relatively simple and quick.
Vespa boat model. Photo Mil.in.ua
It should be borne in mind that Ukraine considers Russia to be the main adversary, and Neptune is created primarily to counter the Black Sea the fleet RF Given the geographical, organizational, combat and other features of the Russian Navy, it is not difficult to imagine how the use of the RK-360MTs systems could end. Most likely, the first salvo of a separate launcher or division will be their last.
Thus, the RCC project “Neptune” is faced with a host of problems that sharply limit its real potential. As a result, the Ukrainian authorities cannot seriously rely on this missile and consider it as a convenient tool of political pressure and an argument in disputes with the "aggressor neighbor".
As tests show, the P-360 product is really capable of hitting surface targets and can be a fairly effective weapon. However, obtaining all the desired results due to a number of objective factors is possible only with mass production, deployment and application. In addition, the results of the use of "Neptune" directly depend on the ability of a potential opponent to defend against such attacks.
The ability of Ukrainian industry to build and deliver the required equipment to equip three new divisions within a reasonable time frame, as well as the large number of missiles for them, raises fair questions. It is possible that the real production of RK-360MTs and R-360 will be lower than planned and will drag on for several years. And this means that even the limited potential of Neptune will not be fully realized.