NPO Machinostroyenia (NPO Mash) is extending the capabilities of Russia's anti-ship Yakhont supersonic cruise missile for use against ground targets.

The work is part of NPO Mash's efforts to develop the Alfa next-generation universal missile. Earlier versions are used against ships and "high contrast ground targets" such as coastal installations and bridges.

The new missiles will be used with Sukhoi's various twin-seat multirole fighters which can carry up to three of the Mach 2-2.5-capable Yakhonts. Sukhoi is known to be developing a Yakhont capability for Su-30 export variants.

Work on air-launched and land attack variants of the missile was accelerated follow-ing NATO's offensive against Yugoslavia in 1999. According to the company, post-war analysis indicated the need to "move whenever possible from active to passive homing".

The ground-attack Yakhont will have the same shape as the earlier missile, differing only in its onboard control and homing systems. It will have the same 300km (160nm) range on an "optimised trajectory" during which it climbs to 46,000ft (14,000m). At low altitude it has a 120km range.

NPO Mash is offering tailored Yakhont variants, aimed at potential Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern customers. As such, weapons are based on technologies and hardware in Russian naval service, so only limited testing of a new variant is needed, says the company.

According to NPO Mash, fielding a Yakhont-based system - including training personnel and setting up storage, maintenance and command facilities - in a customer country can be completed within two years of it receiving a contact.

NPO Mash says Yakhont is most effective when used in conjunction with the company's 800kg (1,760lb) low-orbit Kondor-E satellite. Kondor-E is equipped with a high-resolution radar with a phased-array antenna. It can detect targets within a 500km surveillance window and supply initial targeting for the missiles. Alternatively, targeting data can be supplied by the carrier aircraft or ship, or a specially-equipped helicopter.

Source: Flight International