Russian Kinzhal missile vs. USS Arleigh Burke – the ship will not withstand

This post was published in VPK News. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


MOSCOW, (BM) – In November 2019, in the Arctic, successful tests were carried out of the newest hypersonic aviation missile system, “Kinzhal,” [Dagger in English – ed.] from the MiG-31K fighter. The hypersonic missile complex is capable of striking stationary infrastructural objects and surface ships.

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Iskander on ships

With the help of “Kinzhal,” our strike aviation can destroy a powerful ship formation of a potential enemy, consisting of an aircraft carrier and escort ships: cruisers, destroyers, frigates. According to the United Aircraft Corporation, the Dagger is nothing more than an aviation version of the Iskander operational-tactical missile system.

Is our “Kinzhal” really that good? For example, will the tip be pierced by one of the most protected from air attack by the newest US destroyer of the Arleigh Burke-class? To answer this question, you need to understand that it will most likely be beyond one fighter’s power to hit a destroyer with a displacement of 8 to 9.5 thousand tons, which has modern air defense systems.

However, in recent years, the construction and modernization of airfields have been proceeding at an accelerated pace at strategic military facilities in the north of Russia. It can be stated with confidence that an attack on such formidable ships should be carried out comprehensively. The strike will be guaranteed both from the land by our Bastion coastal missile systems with Onyx anti-ship missiles and from ships equipped with Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles, and of course, the Daggers of the fighter squadron.

Deviation from target – meter

The general public first learned about the Kinzhal complex’s development in March 2018 from the Russian Federation’s Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Vladimir Putin. He mentioned that the combat platform’s functions for this newest missile are performing by a supersonic long-range interceptor range of the MiG-31.

The rocket flies at Mach 10, maneuvering along the entire flight path. This combination of characteristics allows the “Kinzhal” to overcome all existing air defense and missile defense systems. The declared speed is achieving due to acceleration by the carrier. The launch is carried out outside the atmosphere’s dense layers at altitudes from 12 to 15 thousand meters. The “Kinzhal” rocket’s flight occurs at the stratosphere border, which significantly reduces air resistance.

It is clear that the crew of the ships of the destroyer “Arleigh Burke,” consisting of 26 officers and more than 350 naval ranks below, will not wait for the missile to hit the target. In the duel of our MiG-31K with the “Kinzhal” and the destroyer’s vital combat posts, much will depend on the opposing sides’ professional actions. The Kinzhal’s attack targets are locating below the main deck, and the possible circular deviation from the target is only one meter. These can be electronic warfare antenna posts or control posts for anti-submarine sensors and Tomahawk missile systems. The destruction of these posts will make the destroyer a useless vessel, even if it remains afloat.

It should be borne in mind that the ship’s power plant’s premises have Kevlar anti-fragmentation protection [more than 130 tons of Kevlar are consumed to protect the primary units of each Arlie Burke-class destroyer]. Mechanisms and equipment are also protecting by local anti-splinter armor made of high-strength aluminum-magnesium alloys. Not only ammunition storage rooms, upper tiers of superstructures, premises of combat information posts, but even waveguides and cables are protecting by plates made of these alloys.

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The American destroyer’s hull is designing for an overpressure of 0.5 kg / cm2 during an explosion [and the mass of the warhead of the Dagger missile is 500 kg]. Earlier in the US shipbuilding, the overpressure’s expected value was considered to be 0.21 kg / cm2. That is, this indicator on Arley Burke has improved more than two times.

Explosion consequences

But is the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, one of the most heavily protected destroyers of modern fleets in the world, so invulnerable? The experience of the combat operation of this ship and the tactical and technical characteristics of the “Kinzhal” led military experts to identify several significant shortcomings in this project’s ships.

When in 2000, an explosion occurred on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Cole with a capacity of only 200-230 kilograms in TNT equivalent, the two-level armor protection of the central part of the hull was pierced. The ship’s gas turbine engines were completely disabled, which deprived the ship of its progress and control. The sixth part of the crew [56 people] was incapacitated, including 17 killed crew members. At the same time, we have to say that the ship remained afloat despite the list and damage received.

The incident with the destroyer Cole once again showed that the protection of individual elements of the hull, engines, and weapons with Kevlar’s help, at best, provides anti-splinter and anti-projectile protection. The destroyer’s constructive security is unable to protect against the destructive action of anti-ship missiles. That is why the Americans place their stake in protecting a ship from an air attack on naval air defense systems. Weak constructive protection is compensated for by powerful anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defense provided by the multifunctional BIUS “Aegis.”

The subsystems of the Aegis multifunctional weapon system are closely interconnected. The controls and controls are general. They are using in the interests of each element and the entire system as a whole. Aegis also includes a display subsystem, which is up to 22 multifunctional consoles [MFP] with tactical situation displays.

The hit of the “Kinzhal” in the combat information center, where the display equipment locates, is guaranteed to deprive the destroyer of processing tactical information, evaluating it, and, accordingly, making decisions based on its analysis. Air defense means against the “Kinzhal” maneuvering from a height of 15 kilometers are practically powerless. The blow, of course, must be sudden and massive.

Life raft as a means to stay alive

A significant role in the “Arleigh Burke” stealth is using reducing the thermal and acoustic signature. The defeat of destroyers by a single subsonic anti-ship missile or torpedo is almost unbelievable. The destroyer that appears in our territorial waters will most likely be the first to be found by long-range fighter aircraft, not a submarine. They are the first to attack. The Kinzhal hypersonic missile can collapse its survivability for a destroyer.

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The Americans, who have already heard about the formidable Russian “Kinzhal,” now rely more on the two 24-foot [7.32 m] semi-rigid inflatable search and rescue boats and 15 life rafts, which are part of the equipment of the Arlie Burke-class destroyers, which is designing for 25 people.


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