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Air-Launched Weapons

Russian bombers to be armed with new Kh-50 theatre-level cruise missile

21 December 2017

Russian sources in early December disclosed the designation ‘Kh-50’ for new Russian airborne theatre-level (substrategic) cruise missile. Purchases of production Kh-50 missiles are planned under Russia’s State Armament Programme for 2018–27 (GPV-2027), the sources added.Schematic of the Kh-50 based on a patent filled by KTRV. (Piotr Butowski)Schematic of the Kh-50 based on a patent filled by KTRV. (Piotr Butowski)

Developed by Raduga Design Bureau of Dubna within the Kh-SD (Sredney Dalnosti, medium-range) programme, the Kh-50 is expected to be a subsonic cruise missile utilising the guidance system of the strategic Kh-101 missile but with a smaller, low-observable airframe, similar to the US AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile (JASSM). Research and development work on the Kh-SD began in early 1990s, but was subsequently suspended for a number of years.

Designed to fit in the weapon bays of the Tupolev Tu-22M3 theatre and Tu-95MS and Tu-160 strategic bombers, the Kh-50 missile is about 6m (19.7 ft) in length – about 1.5 m (4.9 ft) less than the Kh-101 – and weighs around 1,600 kg (3,527 lb). Powered by an OMKB izdeliye 37-04 (or TRDD-50B) turbofan engine, the missile is expected to achieve a range of over 1,500 km (810 n miles), a cruise speed of 700 km/h (378 kt), and a maximum speed of 950 km/h (513 kt).

The missile’s body has a flattened cross-section and faceted sides; this shape combines the requirements of radar cross-section reduction and the most efficient use of the heavy bomber’s weapon bay capacity when loaded on six-round rotating launcher. The guidance system includes strap-down inertial navigation corrected by GPS/GLONASS for the cruise phase, and an Otblesk electro-optical digital scene-matching area correlation (DSMAC) system for use close to the target. Apart from the low-observable airframe, to penetrate the enemy air defence the Kh-50 missile uses low-altitude flight profile and is equipped with self-protection devices, including a small active electronic jammer and towed decoys.

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