Russia is equipping its Su-35 fighters, the world’s most potent non-stealth air superiority platform, with anti ship weapons to target enemy naval assets. Kh-35U anti ship missiles, which double as air to ground missiles, have recently finished trials and have now been officially added to the armament suite of the Su-35.
The Su-35 are long range platforms which are currently far more capable in air to air combat than any seaborne platform in the world – a result of the cancellation of the F-22 carrier based fighter program and the shortcomings of the Su-33 and J-15. Their ability to carry a colossal arsenal of 14 missiles – and their new capability to engage ships with the Kh-35 alongside their existing air to air combat capabilities, makes them a truly potent threat to enemy ships.
The Kh-35 was developed by JSC Tactical Missiles Corporation, and the decision to introduce the it to the armament suite of the Su-35 was made in September 2017. The missiles’ software and components were modified to allow for full compatibility of the Kh-35 and the Su-35.
The missile has a weight of 550 kg, with a 145 kg warhead, and can travel at 300 meters per second and hit targets up to 260 km away. With more Su-35 fighters continuing to enter service in the Russian Air Force, with over 60 already in service, the service’s ship hunting capabilities will be significantly augmented by this new development. This development may also facilitate sales of the Kh-35 to Su-35 customers such as Sudan, China and Algeria.
It could also be a considerable asset for Russian fighters deployed to Syria, where not only can the missile be equipped to neutralise enemy ground targets but would also provide crucial support to Russian Naval assets deployed to Tartus should they come under threat from Western naval forces in the Mediterranean.