Russia's air force will accept the Raduga Kh-101 cruise missile into service in 2013, a service official has told the Izvestia newspaper.

Currently being flight-tested, the new weapon will enable bombers to hit targets with an accuracy of 10m (33ft) from a mission range of up to 5,400nm (10,000km), giving Russia's Long Range Aviation command its first such precision-strike capability.

The subsonic Kh-101 navigates primarily by using Russia's GLONASS satellite navigation system, but also has a back-up inertial guidance system. It will also be to hit small moving targets, such as vehicles, the paper says.

Tu-160 bomber


Russia's Tu-160 strategic bomber (above) will be equipped with the Kh-101

Carrying a bigger, 400kg (880lb) warhead than its Kh-555 predecessor's 200kg charge, the new type will also be fielded in the nuclear-armed Kh-102 variant.

The long-range capability is essential for Russia, which no longer has bases abroad and cannot provide distant fighter escorts for its bomber fleet, Alexander Konovalov of the Strategic Evaluation Institute told Izvestia.

Photographs of the Kh-101 on the internet show the Tupolev Tu-95MS bomber carrying eight of the weapons on four under-wing pylons. Russia's Tu-160 strategic bomber will also be equipped with the type, while the air force's smaller Tu-22M3s will continue to carry the Kh-555.

Source: Flight International