10 Juni 2016
KCT-15 anti-ship missile (photos : Kienthuc)
Vietnam paddles its own Kayak
Vietnam has become the second Asia-Pacific nation, it would appear, to embark on the indigenous production of a missile based on the Russian Zvezda-Strela 3M24 Uran (SS-N-25 Switchblade). The first is North Korea, which has previously shown footage of a missile that closely resembles the Russian medium-range anti-ship weapon.
Unlike Pyongyang, however, Hanoi has been at least slightly more forthcoming as to the nature of its own programme. The Vietnamese variant of the missile is designated the KCT 15 and is the result of technology transfer from Russia. Whether this represents a full production capacity, or licensed final assembly, or something in between, has yet to become clear. Vietnam and Russia began to discuss local ‘manufacture’ of the 3M24 in 2011–12. Zvezda-Strela, the design house behind the 3M24, is part of Russia’s Tactical Missiles Corp.
The initial acquisition of the 3M24 from Russia was aimed at improving the anti-surface warfare capacity of the Vietnam People’s Navy. Regional maritime tensions are propelling naval weapons-programme acquisitions. Vietnamese manufacture of its version of the 3M24 will help develop local industry and likely simplify logistics support. The unit cost of a round will probably be reduced.
How North Korea acquired the technology to support its programme, possibly known as the KN-01, has yet to be ascertained.
The KCT 15 was first shown publicly in late 2015 as part of a display of defence technology that also included air defence surveillance radar. The missile was shown alongside a twin launcher for surface vessels. The Vietnamese navy already operates the 3M24, with the missile providing the main anti-ship armament of the Gepard-class frigate. The navy operates two of this class at present with a further two under construction. The Switchblade is also the main armament of the navy’s six Tarantul V fast missile boats, as well as its single BPS-500 corvette.
The active radar-guided 3M24 is in service with a number of nations apart from Russia, including India and Algeria. An air-launched variant, the Kh-35 (AS-20 Kayak) has also been integrated on helicopters and on fixed-wing aircraft for the maritime strike role. Work on the basic 3M24 began in the early 1980s and it had a maximum range of 130km, but some local press reports suggest the KCT 15 has around double this range.
There has also been a suggestion in the media that the licence agreement with Russia covers three versions of the missile. These could conceivably cover the air-launched Kh-35 and also the coastal defence variant, the 3K60 Bal, known in the West as the SSC-6 Sennight.
The KCT 15 that was put on display differed from the basic 3M24 in that there was no inlet duct between the mid-body wing for the turbofan engine. An upgraded air-launched variant, known as the Kh-35U, has a revised layout for the engine, which is repositioned in an enlarged rear-fuselage section. This provides for greater fuel capacity and extends the missile’s maximum range. The KCT 15 shown, however, did not correspond to this configuration. A further option is that the design has a flush intake, although this was not visible on the missile displayed.