As it turned out, we have not yet talked about the R-360 Neptune, the missile that sank the Russian missile cruiser Moscow on April 13, 2022. Let’s fix it!
The R-360 Neptune cruise missile is a Ukrainian development based on the Soviet X-35 Zvezda missile, with significantly improved range and modern electronics. According to some indicators, R-360 “Neptune” is even better than the American AGM/RGM/UGM-84 Harpoon, which both domestic officials and Western experts demand to provide to Ukraine. Why do we need Harpoons if we have Neptunes?
The fact is that the Neptunes, whose development began only in 2014, barely had time to pass state tests and get approval for use in the military. The first division of the coastal anti-ship complexes Neptune was to be transferred to the Navy of Ukraine only in April 2022.. Due to the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the transfer was slightly accelerated. But the production of second division systems has just begun, it should not be expected in the army before the end of 2022 – early 2023, at best.
Luch Design Bureau began developing the R-360 Neptune cruise missile in 2014, following the annexation of Crimea. It turned out that the Armed Forces of Ukraine do not have the means to prevent the blockade of ports or the landing of Russian troops in the Black and Azov Seas. The first flight models of the missile appeared in 2016, and in 2018 a series of tests took place, in which the missile proved its ability to hit targets at different distances. And on April 5, 2019, a test of the real RK-360MCs Neptune ground-based complex together with R-360 missiles took place at the test site in Odesa region.
The missile soon received an updated target seeking device, altimeter, starting engine, wings and fins, gyroscopes and navigation system. During 2019-2020, the tests continued, and on May 27-30, 2020, state tests took place at the Alibay test site. On August 23, 2020, the Neptune missile system was adopted. Interestingly, the development of the entire RK-360MC Neptune complex, including the cruise missile and all the machines, cost Ukraine only $40 million. By Western standards, this is very cheap.
R-360 Neptune cruise missile for the destruction of ships with a displacement of up to 5,000 tons, and like all missiles of this class can be used from land, surface and aircraft platforms. First missile boats of the Lan class of Mykolaiv State Enterprise Research and Design Shipbuilding Center were initially planned as surface platforms for Neptune, but in 2018 the carrier was replaced by the promising missile boat of Vespa class from Kuznia on Rybalsky plant, which surpasses Lan in all respects. Unfortunately, after the signing of the agreement on the development by the Ukrainian Navy and financing by the United Kingdom in late 2021, nothing was heard about Vespa, although according to the preliminary plan in 2021, the first boat in the series, armed with 8 R-360 Neptune was to join the fleet.
There are also problems with the aviation platform. A supersonic front-line strike-aircraft with a Su-24M variable-sweep wing was chosen as the air carrier of the Neptune cruise missiles. But after the agreements on the development of the aviation version of the R-360 missile in December 2020 nothing happened.
Therefore, only the ground platform remains – the coastal mobile missile system Neptune RK-360MC. The first division was made on KrAZ-7634NE chassis, the second already has Tatra chassis, probably Tatra T815-7, used for Hurricane launch rocket system.
The Neptune RK-360 MC division includes:
- 6 unified USPU-360 launchers (4 R-360 Neptune canister launchers on each)
- 6 transport and loading vehicles TZM-360
- 6 transport vehicles TM-360
- mobile commanding post RCP-360
That is, 24 R-360 cruise missiles are ready to be launched for various purposes with an interval from 3 to 5 seconds. Another 48 missiles are in transport-loading and transport vehicles. Deployment time of the complex at the new position is 10 minutes. Reload / charging time – 20 minutes.
The R-360 missile is launched using a special accelerator (solid propellant engine from the S-125 anti-aircraft missile), which helps the missile gain starting speed to turn on the propulsion engine (turbojet MS-400 manufactured by Motor Sich) and reach the altitude. The cruise missile flies at an altitude of several tens of meters along the route set in its memory. An inertial system with satellite correction is used for navigation. This autopilot brings the missile to the target area.
A few tens of kilometers to the target, the missile slides up to a couple of hundred meters, turns on the active target seeking device from Radionics, “looks around” and captures the target. The R-360 seeking device is able to find and capture a target at a distance of 50 km and has increased resistance to radar interference. In addition, the viewing angles of the Radionics head are ± 60 °, which is even better than the AN / DSQ-28 target seeking devices of the Harpoon missile, whose maximum deflection angle is only ± 45 °. After capturing the target, the R-360 Neptune lowers and continues to fly a few meters above the water, as they say “on the crests of the waves.”
Attack on the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, missile cruiser Moskva on April 13, 2022 was the first confirmed use of missiles R-360 Neptune and the RK-360 MC Neptune complex. What is important here is the fact that Moskva is not just a “killer of aircraft carriers” (which in fact never fought aircraft carriers), but a ship with the best air defense in the entire Russian fleet. On board the Moskva were as many as 64 SAM S-300F Fort launchers (this is a marine version of S-300), 4 PU SAM 4K33 Osa-MA and 6 × 630-mm anti-aircraft artillery AK-630. And all these weapons, designed to protect an entire group of ships or even the sea area, couldn’t get two Ukrainian missiles?
It is said that the coolest radar of Moskva either failed or was confused by the Bayraktar TB2 UAV. Well, this air complex turns out to be even more multifunctional than everyone thought.
It is also interesting how the Neptunes got to Moskva. On April 10, the cruiser was parked in the bay of Sevastopol, which could be reached by the Neptunes only from a position near Ochakiv, where the RK-360 MC Neptune themselves could become prey for enemy aircraft. Most likely, the cruiser was outside the harbor and, ironically, covered the landing ships of the Russian Federation with their “strong” air defense.
Well, the RK-360 Neptune MC and the R-360 Neptune cruise missile seem to have successfully passed the final test. The Moscow missile cruiser is Russia’s largest ship in the Black Sea, and if the Neptunes defeat it, they will defeat any other enemy ship off our shores.
We can only thank the soldiers of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who showed the Russian ship the correct direction, and wish them new successful shots. Thank you the Armed Forces of Ukraine! And, of course, Glory to Ukraine!
Tactical and technical characteristics of RK-360 MC Neptune
Missile range – 7-280 km
Distance of the starting position from the shoreline – not more than 25 km
Maximum number of R-360 missiles in one round – 24
Launch interval – 3-5 seconds
Deployment time of the complex at the new position – 10 minutes
Operating range (land) – up to 1000 km
Viewing angle – ± 60 °.
Missile diameter – 380 mm
Missile weight – 870 kg
Warhead weight – 150 kg
Missile speed – 900 km / h