Procurement: Syria Gets A Bunch of Coast Defense Missiles


April 26, 2007: Syria has obtained (probably as a gift) a large number of Chinese C802 anti-ship missiles from Iran. Over a hundred missiles may be involved. This is all the result of an incident last July 14th, when an Israeli Saar class corvette (the Hanit), cruising off the Lebanese coast, got hit by a C-802 missile, damaging the ship and killing four of the crew.

The C-802 is a 21 foot long, 360mm, 1,500 pound missile, with a 360 pound warhead. The Saar class ships displace only 1,100 tons, are 281 feet long and have a crew of 61. A direct hit by a C802 could sink one of these ships, but the Hanit only got clipped. The C-802 has a max range of 120 kilometers, and moves along at about 250 meters a second. The Saar class ships have a Phalanx anti-missile gun system, that is supposed to be turned on whenever the ship is likely to have an anti-ship missile fired at it. The radar can spot incoming missiles out to about 5,000 meters, and the 20mm cannon is effective out to about 2,000 meters. With incoming missiles moving a 250 meters a second, you can see why Phalanx is set to automatic. There's not much time for human intervention, which is why the Phalanx has to be turned on and set to "automatic" to work. . Israeli ships also have electronic countermeasures for missiles like the C-802, and that's what probably prevented a direct hit.

Iran bought 150 C-802s from China in the early 1990s, but shipments were halted in 1995 because of diplomatic pressure from the United States. Iran is apparently building its own version of the C-802, which is 30 year old technology. The C802 moves along at low altitude (60-100 feet), but drops down to about 10-14 feet for its final approach. For a ship not equipped with missile defenses, the C802 can be quite deadly. Iran plans to use them to close the entrance to the Persian Gulf (the Straits of Hormuz), in the event of war with its neighbors, the West, or anyone in general.

The C-802 needs a radar to spot the target at long distance, and guide the C-802 to the general vicinity of the target. In this case, the Lebanese government coastal radar apparently was used. As a result, Israel destroyed the Lebanese coastal radars after the use of these two C-802 missiles.

The Israeli navy was embarrassed by the July 14th incident, which occurred mainly because naval intelligence failed to pass along, to warships off the coast, the fact that Hizbollah had C802s. Israel can handle anti-ship missiles like the C802, especially if it is known that these missiles are in play. Thus the Syrian stockpile of C802s don't change the balance of power in the area.




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