Artillery: Black Sea Coastal Missile Batteries

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November 12, 2021: Romania has selected the Norwegian NSM (Naval Strike Missiles) for land-based launchers that will provide coast defense against Russian or Turkish attack. The 409 kg (900 pound) NSM anti-ship missile is 3.95 meters (13 feet) long, has a 125 kg (275 pound) warhead and a range of 185 kilometers. NSM uses GPS and inertial guidance systems, as well as a heat imaging sensor (and a database of likely targets) for picking out and hitting the intended ship. Romania is buying two NSM coastal batteries. All the equipment is mobile (truck mounted) and each battery includes one FDC (Fire Direction Center), four launcher vehicles (four NSMs each), plus reloading trucks that carry more NSMs and can remove and replace empty NSM containers. There are also ten Link-16 digital radios that enable encrypted messages to be sent and received by FDCs and launcher trucks.

The transaction will be handled via the U.S. Department of Defense FMS (Foreign Military Sales) program which provides allies with assistance dealing with the technical aspects of such sales, including delivery and setting up new systems. This is particularly useful for NSM, which is designed to work with wide variety of radars. FMS will help the Romanians with that as well. Allies (like Romania) eligible for FMS use when purchasing new tech and, for Romania, NSM coastal batteries are something new.

Romania, with a 245 kilometers Black Sea coast, wants these coastal batteries to deal with the Russian naval threat in the Black Sea. Romania is one of three NATO members with a Black Sea coastline. The others are Bulgaria and Turkey. Romania is closest to Russia and borders Ukraine.

The NSM has an excellent reputation, is compact, inexpensive and popular with users. In 2013, a year after NSM was first test fired, Norway held a SINKEX (sinking exercise) in which a NSM was fired at a decommissioned 2,100-ton Oslo class frigate. The NSM, fired from a missile boat, hit the frigate and did a lot of damage, but did not sink it. If the frigate had been loaded with fuel and ammo the NSM would have started fires and probably put the ship out of service and possibly caused it to go down.

Despite the many lightweight (under a ton) anti-ship missiles on the market, NSM still gets sales because it is effective, reliable, and affordable. It is also offered for use on all platforms; ships, aircraft, and trucks as part of a mobile coastal defense system. There is lots of competition, the main ones being the U.S. Harpoon and similar missiles from Russia and China. NSM was competing with the Harpoon on the $300 million Romanian coast defense contract.

The 546 kg (1,200 pound) Harpoon anti-ship missile is 4.6 meters (15 feet) long, has a 222 kg (487 pound) warhead, and a range of 220 kilometers. It approaches the target low, at about 860 kilometers an hour. GPS gets the missile to the general vicinity of the target, then radar takes over to identify and hit the target. The Harpoon has successful combat experience going back two decades. The Russian Kh-35 anti-ship missile is similar to the American Harpoon but lighter (610 kg/1,340 pounds, compared to 728 kg/1,600) and has less range (130 kilometers compared to 224 for the latest version of Harpoon). The Kh-35 (also known as the SS-N-25 or Switchblade) can be fired from helicopters, aircraft, ships, or shore batteries.

China sells a lot of C-801 and C-802 anti-ship missiles. The C-801 is 5.81 meters (18 feet) long, 360mm in diameter, has a max range of 42 kilometers, and weighs 636 kg (1,400 pounds) each. The C-801 is similar to the French Exocet and is believed to have been based on that missile.

The C802A is a 6.8m (21 foot) long, 360mm diameter, 682kg (1,500 pound) missile, with a 165kg (360 pound) warhead. The C802 has a max range of 120 kilometers and moves along at about 250 meters a second. The French Exocet missile is the same size and performance but costs twice as much, as in (over a million dollars each. To deal with this the manufacturer is known to be flexible on pricing).

The new Exocet MM Block 3 has twice the range (180 kilometers) because of their turbojet engine. This is a 670 kg (1,500 pound) missile that has been around for over three decades, has been proven in combat, and is known to be reliable. The C802 is known to be less capable than the Exocet but it looks similar.

Russia pioneered the use of larger (up to three ton) supersonic “carrier killer” anti-ship missiles. The most common example is the Yakhont, which is an 8.9-meter (27.6 foot) long, three ton missile with a 300 kg (660 pound) warhead. Russia has been building missiles like this since the 1970s, but they are only popular with the few nations that have a need to destroy American aircraft carriers. Romania will be confronting the smaller Russian warships that comprise the Black Sea Fleet.

 


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