Neptune Anti-Ship Missile System (RK-360MC) – Will Enhance Security
Neptune (RK-360MC) is a Ukrainian Anti ship missile system developed by Luch Design Bureau. This missile was first announced in 2013 and reportedly completed and tested in 2016.
The RK-360MC Neptun (Neptune) is a Ukrainian anti-ship missile system. It was developed by Luch design bureau. It uses R-360 anti-ship cruise missile, version of the Russian Kh-35. It is generally similar to the Kh-35U, but has a longer body with more fuel, larger booster, and some other modifications. This missile was first announced in 2013. First examples were reportedly completed and tested in 2016.
At the time this missile reportedly lacked guidance system. This missile has a range of up to 280 km. It could be carried and launched from naval, land and air platforms. Development of the Neptun anti-ship missile was completed in 2019. It should be delivered to Ukrainian military for trials and adopted in the near future.
Some sources report that before the collapse of the Soviet Union there were plans to produce the Kh-35 missiles in Ukraine. However missile’s development predated the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union. As a result the Kh-35 never entered Soviet service, and was first produced in Russia only in the mid 1990s. So most likely that Ukraine had all the technical documentation for this missile. Furthermore Ukraine was producing engines and some other components for the Russian Kh-35 missiles.
Similar to Neptune
There is a very interesting thing about this missile. An exact copy of the Neptun was first observed in 2014, in North Korea. It is locally known as Kumsong 3 (Venus 3). Initially it was thought that North Koreans acquired the Russian Kh-35E, or Kh-35UE missiles. However after close examination it appeared that it is not a Russian missile, but is extremely similar to the Ukrainian Neptun. It made its first apparent test launch in 2015 and reportedly demonstrated a range of 200 km. In 2017, during another test launch, the Kumsong 3 demonstrated a range of 240 km.
It is unclear how a missile, that was under development in Ukraine, was tested in North Korea even before its test in Ukraine. There is still some missing link in this whole story, how this North Korean missile was developed. One of the explanations could be that Ukraine contributed development of the North Korean Kumsong 3 anti-ship missile. Ukraine is actually among Top 10 military producers of the world and has a far more developed weapons industry than North Korea. Also Ukraine supplied engines for North Korean ballistic missiles via Russia before. This fact was confirmed by Ukrainian space agency and South Korean intelligence.
In terms of performance the Neptun is generally similar to the Russian Kh-35U. It has a planned range of up to 280 km. In 2019 this missile demonstrated a range of over 250 km for the first time. It carries a High Explosive Fragmentation (HE-FRAG) warhead, which weights around 145 kg. This missile should be efficient against vessels with a displacement of up to 5 000 t, such as frigates and smaller destroyers.
The Neptun will have and inertial navigation system with active radar homing on the terminal stage of its flight. Currently Ukraine is facing problems developing radar of this missile. The missile will travels 10-15 meters above the surface. In the terminal stage of the flight it will descend to 3-10 meters above the surface in order to overcome hostile defense systems.
This missile travels at subsonic speed. It is estimated that due to its subsonic speed that anti-ship missile can be intercepted rather easily, especially by advanced defense system.
Ukrainians also developed coastal defense missile system, that will carry Neptun missiles. There were proposals to reuse the ageing MAZ-543M heavy high mobility chassis (Ukraine has a number of these vehicles in storage), and repurpose them as mobile launchers to carry the new anti-ship missiles. Also there were proposals to reuse an old radar of the Rubezh coastal defense missile system.
However the new launcher vehicle is based on a KrAZ-7634.NE military vehicle with 8×8 configuration. Overall the new Ukrainian coastal defense missile system could be an equivalent of a Russian Bal coastal defense system, though not as capable. A typical Neptun coastal defense battery consists of 6 launcher vehicles with a total of 24 anti-ship missiles. Launcher vehicles can be located up to 25 km from the sea. It takes 15 minutes to prepare this coastal defense missile system for firing.