TAIPEI — China’s new CX-1 supersonic anti-ship cruise missile is ready for export to America’s friends and foes alike, with potential markets including Iran, Pakistan and African and South American countries.
On display at the recent Airshow China in Zhuhai, the missile resembles India’s BrahMos cruise missile with a large intake in the nose, referred to as the “axial symmetrical inlet” in the brochure. However, that appears to be the only similarity, according to Chinese-language media outlets, which mention differences in wing, guidance vanes and jet vanes of the two missiles.
Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM) and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation jointly developed the BrahMos, basing it on the NPOM’s Yakhont (P-800 Oniks) missile.
Vasiliy Kashin, a researcher at Moscow’s Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, disputed Chinese media reports that denied a connection. He said the CX-1 is likely based in part on the BrahMos surface-to-surface missile, “but Russia did not sell this to China or offer enough data to China to build one.” However, Russia has sold the missile to other states in the region, including Indonesia and Vietnam, “so it is conceivable one or more of those states could have provided some details to China,” he said.
Andrew Erickson, a China military specialist at the US Naval War College and coauthor of the book “A Low-Visibility Force Multiplier: Assessing China’s Cruise Missile Ambitions,” said that while the CX-1’s “precise provenance remains uncertain, the overall capabilities of China’s cruise missile industry are clearly significant.”
China continues to pursue foreign technological sources actively, “but is able to combine multiple technologies and vectors of inspiration with genuine indigenous capabilities to produce major new systems of its own,” he said.
Kashin said the CX-1 is a product of the Chinese Academy of Launch Technology (CALT), or the 1st Academy under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. Most of China’s cruise missiles, including the most advanced ones, are developed by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp.’s 3rd Academy.
Kashin said though it is unusual for CALT to be “in this game, they do have very strong aerodynamics experts and other capabilities that they can parlay into competing in the ballistic missile and cruise missile sectors.”
The CX-1 display at Zhuhai indicates the missile comes in two variants; the CX-1A ship-borne system and CX-1B road-mobile land-based system. With a range of 40 to 280 kilometers, the missile can carry a 260-kilogram warhead. These numbers are below Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) restrictions that ban missiles carrying payloads greater than 500 kilograms at ranges exceeding 300 kilometers.
However, Kashin suggested these numbers could be designed to mislead and that the actual capabilities of the missile might be greater than MTCR restrictions.
At speeds of Mach 3, the missile can strike a target within a circular error probability of 20 meters, according to the display. Warheads include a unitary semi-armor-piercing warhead for ships and a unitary fragmentation-blast warhead and unitary penetration warhead for land attack.
Each road-mobile launcher carries two missiles. When attacking a slow target, such as a ship, the missile can make a terminal horizontal attack by combining high and low cruise and employ the compound guidance of a strap-down inertial measurement unit and active radar seeker.
A land-based road-mobile unit would consist of one command vehicle, one integrated support vehicle, three launching vehicles, three transporter-loader vehicle and 12 canisters for two-wave attacks.
Airshow China, known officially as the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, was held Nov. 11-16 in Zhuhai. ■