Submarines: Klub Wreckage Found In The South China Sea

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December 12, 2013:   Last August cell phone photos appeared showing the beat up airframe of a Russian 3M54 “Klub” anti-ship missile that had recently been hauled in by a fishermen off southern China. One can surmise that this was fired by one of the dozen Kilo class submarines in the Chinese Navy. The Kilo class submarine is the primary user of Klub, although a growing number of surface ships use it as well. But the only vessels anywhere near southern China that uses Klub are Chinese Kilo class submarines. What the fishing boat dragged in was apparently a training missile that landed in the water and sank. The Chinese Navy refuses to issue any comment but did come and pick up the wreckage.

India also has all of its nine Kilo class submarines equipped with Klub missiles. India had some problems in the past with Klub and China apparently had similar difficulties. For India the problems began in 2007, when an Indian Kilo test fired six Klubs in and all the missiles failed. The Russians had no explanation for this. The boat that fired the Klubs had been in Russia for over two years, for $80 million worth of upgrades and repairs. India refused to pay, or take back the sub, until Russia fixed the problems with the missiles. This the Russians eventually did, and there were several successful Klub launches that persuaded the Indians to accept the Klub equipped boat. The Chinese apparently also did a lot of test firings to ensure that their Klubs were not duds.

The Klub missile is a key weapon for the Kilo. Weighing two tons and fired from a 533mm (21 inch) torpedo tube, the 3M54 has a 200 kg (440 pound) warhead. The anti-ship version has a range of up to 300 kilometers and speeds up to 3,000 kilometers an hour during its last minute or so of flight. There is also an air launched and ship launched version. A land attack version does away with the high speed final approach feature and has a 400 kg (880 pound) warhead.

Missiles like Klub are considered "carrier killers," but it's not known how many of them would have to hit a carrier to knock it out of action, much less sink it. Moreover, Russian missiles have little combat experience and a reputation for erratic performance. Quality control was never a Soviet strength, but the Russians are getting better, at least in the civilian sector. The military manufacturers appear to have been slower to adapt. India plans to use the Klub against Pakistani, or Chinese, ships in any future conflict. China plans to use its Klubs against India, the U.S., and a long list of neighbors who are not on good terms with the Chinese Navy at the moment.

 

 


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