Strait of Hormuz

Assessing the threat to oil flows through the Strait

5 - ASCM - Exocet being shot from land

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Exocet-mil.jpg

Caption: An Exocet missile fired from a land-based launcher

How ASCMs Work

In order for an ASCM to function properly, it must perform the following sequence correctly:

Relevant Historical Use of ASCMs

The maritime threat of ASCMs is serious: ASCMs cause severe damage and are difficult to combat. Historically, ASCMs have played a critical role in warfare.

  • The Germans in WWII were the first to use ASCMs.
  • In 1967, Egypt sunk the Israeli destroyer Eilat with four Styx ASCMs. Egypt fired the missiles from missile boats supplied by the Soviet Union.[vii]
  • During the Falklands War (1982), four Argentine Navy Super Etendard fighters sunk a British Type 42 destroyer and a support ship, the Atlantic Conveyor, with Exocet missiles. A land-based Exocet missile also struck the Royal Navy's HMS Glamorgan, but maneuvers made by the Glamorgan minimized damage to the ship.[viii]
  • During the Tanker War, Iran and Iraq used anti-ship missiles in more than half of all attacks on shipping. Iraq used missiles in approximately 80 percent of their attacks on commercial ships.
  • The U.S. Navy used Harpoon missiles to sink an Iranian patrol boat, Joshan, during Operation Praying Mantis in 1988.
  • In Operation Desert Storm, Iraqis fired a Silkworm missile in the Gulf. The Silkworm was intercepted and destroyed by a Sea Dart missile launched by HMS Gloucester.
  • In 2006, Hezbollah fired a radar-guided[ix] C-802 at the Hanit, an Israeli corvette. Four Israeli sailors were killed and the Hanit sustained significant damage. An additional C-802 missile fired at the corvette missed, striking a nearby Cambodian-flagged merchant ship.[x]
7 - ASCM - Mirage launching Exocet during Tanker War

Caption: A Mirage aircraft firing an Exocet missile

8 - ASCM - Sardine missile

Source: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/images/c-801_1.jpg

Caption: Sardine / CS 801 missile fired from a naval warship

Iran & ASCMs

Iran currently does not possess any reliable western ASCM. They have either used up these missiles (i.e., Harpoons purchased by the Shah) in Iran-Iraq War, or their Western-supplied systems are so extremely unreliable that they cannot be considered operational (e.g., their Sea Killers).[xi] However, Iran has acquired a number of Chinese ASCM models " perhaps 100 Seersuckers,[xii] 125 Sardines[xiii] and 75 Saccades, and perhaps more.[xiv] There are also reports that Iran acquired the Russian SS-N-22 Moskit, also known as the Sunburn[xv], though the reliability of these reports is disputed.[xvi]

6 - ASCM - Moskit missile

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Moskit_missile.jpg

Caption: Picture of a Moskit (or Sunburn) missile

M-80E Moskit (SS-N-22 Sunburn)

The Russian-made M-80E Moskit employs a 661-pound, semi-armor piercing warhead. The Moskit uses a liquid ramjet engine and four solid boosters to reach a speed of Mach 2.1 with a cruising trajectory between seven and ten meters above the water's surface.[xxii] It is fueled by a kerosene-type fuel but also has a solid-propellant booster. Its maximum range is 108 nautical miles. By approaching the target more than twice as fast as other cruise missiles,Moskit is designed to reduce the target's time to employ self-defense weapons. [xxiii] However, since tankers do not have defensive capabilities, Moskits offer little advantage (other than their larger warhead) over Iran's Chinese missiles for attempts to stop tanker traffic in the Strait of Hormuz.

[i] S. Navias and E.R. Hooton, Tanker Wars: The Assault on Merchant Shipping During the Iran-Iraq Crisis, 1980-1988 (New York: I.B. Taurus & Co Ltd, 1996), pp. 87-88.

[ii] GlobalSecurity.org, SMS GUIDED MISSILES, AERODYNAMICS, AND FLIGHT PRINCIPLES. Online. Available: www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/navy/nrtc/14110_ch9.pdf. Accessed: April 9, 2008.

[iii] MissileThreat.com, Glossary for Cruise Missiles. Online. Available: http://www.missilethreat.com/cruise/pageID.1736/default.asp. Accessed: April 9, 2008

[iv] GlobalSecurity.org, SMS GUIDED MISSILES, AERODYNAMICS, AND FLIGHT PRINCIPLES. Online. Available: www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/navy/nrtc/14110_ch9.pdf. Accessed: April 9, 2008.

[v] David J Nicholls, "Cruise Missiles and Modern War," Occasional Paper No. 13 Center for Strategy and Technology Air War College (May 2000), p. 6.

[vi] Martin S. Navias and E.R. Hooton, Tanker Wars: The Assault on Merchant Shipping During the Iran-Iraq Crisis, 1980-1988 (New York: I.B. Taurus & Co Ltd, 1996), p. XX.

[vii] Carlo Kopp, "Warship Vulnerability," Air Power Australia (July 2005). Online. Available: http://www.ausairpower.net/Warship-Hits.html. Accessed: October 4, 2007

[viii] Carlo Kopp, "Warship Vulnerability," Air Power Australia (July 2005). Online. Available: http://www.ausairpower.net/Warship-Hits.html Accessed: October 4, 2007.

[ix] Christian Lowe ed., "Hezbollah's Surprise Weapons," DefenseTech.org. Online. Available: http://www.defensetech.org/archives/002591.html Accessed: October 4, 2007.

[x] Matt Hilburn, "Asymmetric Strategy: Growing Iranian Navy Relies on "˜Unbalanced Warfare' Tactics,"Navy League of the United States, (December 2006). Online. Available: http://www.navyleague.org/sea_power/dec06-14.php. Accessed: October 4, 2007.

[xi] Anthony Cordesman, Iran's Military Forces in Transition (Westport, Connecticut 1999).

[xii] "C-201 / HY-2 / SY-1 CSS-N-2 / CSS-C-3 / SEERSUCKER," FAS Military Analysis Network. Online. Available: http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/missile/row/c-201.htm. Accessed: April 9, 2008.

[xiii] E.R. Hooton, ed., Jane's Naval Weapon Systems(Alexandria: Jane's Information Group Inc., 2004), p. 298-300.

[xiv] GlobalSecurity.org, C-802 / YJ-2 / Ying Ji-802 / CSS-C-8 / SACCADEC-8xx / YJ-22 / YJ-82. Online. Available: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/c-802.htm. Accessed: April 9, 2008.

[xv] Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., James Phillips, and Wouldiam L. T. Schiran, "Countering Iran's Oil Weapon," Heritage Foundation, (2006).

[xvi] INSS.org, Iran. Online. Available: www.inss.org.il/upload/(FILE)1198577424.pdf. Accessed: April 29, 2008.

[xvii] E.R. Hooton, ed., Jane's Naval Weapon Systems (Alexandria: Jane's Information Group Inc., 2004), pp. 298-300.

[xviii] Anthony Cordesman, Iran's Military Forces in Transition (Westport, Connecticut 1999).

[xix] E.R. Hooton, ed., Jane's Naval Weapon Systems (Alexandria: Jane's Information Group Inc., 2004), pp. 298-300.

[xx] E.R. Hooton, ed., Jane's Naval Weapon Systems (Alexandria: Jane's Information Group Inc., 2004), pp. 295-297.

[xxi] Anthony Cordesman, Iran's Military Forces in Transition (Westport, Connecticut 1999).

[xxii] Thomas G. Mahnken, "The Cruise Missile Challenge," Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, (March 2005).

[xxiii] GlobalSecurity.org, Moskit SS-N-22 Sunburn. Online. Available: www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/moskit.htm. Accessed: April 9, 2008.

This page last modified in August 2008

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