Russia is planning to modify its Su-30SM fighter jet to carry the Kh-32 air-to-surface missile.
Reports indicate that the Kh-32 became operational in 2016 and is primarily carried by the Tu-22M3 bomber. Izvestia reported the Kh-32 could be carried on the ‘centreline’ hardpoint under the fuselage of the Su-30SM going forward. You may note that in general aircraft can carry their heaviest weapons or fuel tanks under the fuselage.
In this article how Russia plans to turn Su-30SM into a carrier killer with Kh-32 supersonic missile? Total US military expenditure is over one-third of world military expenditure and it is more than 10 times that of Russia’s spendings. Russian cannot possibly compete with the US platform by platform, weapon by a weapon. For example, the US has more than 10 aircraft carriers whereas Russia has only one & that too is in very bad shape. Russia's only aircraft carrier - Admiral Kuznetsov may no longer be actually operational again. The aircraft carrier has suffered back to back accidents in the last 2 years and is out of the service for a long time. An assessment by the Russian Navy’s NorthernFleet estimates the damage at 95 billion roubles (over $1.5 billion). The repair cost is almost as much as the current value of the warship. In this situation,
Russia is developing Asymmetric weapons to counter the U.S
Especially, the American supercarriers. Arming Sukhoi Su-30SM with Kh-32 missile is a step in this direction. The Sukhoi Su-30 is a twin-engine, two-seat super maneuverable fighter aircraft developed in the Soviet Union by Russia's Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. It is a multirole fighter for all-weather, air-to-air, and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions.
The SU-30, developed by Sukhoi is considered to be one of the most successful Russian defense export programs in the past two decades. It is in service with about 12 nations including China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Algeria, and Venezuela. The Su-30 is the backbone of the Indian AirForce, which operates around 272 Su-30MKI jets, a unique version specifically designed for India. MKI for meaning "Modernized Commercial Indian” in English is jointly developed with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or HAL. It is the first Su-30 family member to feature thrust vectoring control (TVC) and canards. Su-30SM is a specialized version of the thrust-vectoring Su-30MKI for the Russian Air Force, produced by the Irkut Corporation and has a NATO reporting name Flanker-H.
The Su-30SM is considered a 4+ generation fighter jet.
The aircraft has been upgraded according to Russian military requirements for radar, radio communications systems, friend-or-foe identification system, ejection seats, weapons, and other aircraft systems. It is equipped with the N011M Bars radar with a maximum detection range 400 km or about 250 miles, search range 200 km, or 125 miles using a phased array antenna. It also frontal horizontal fins and steerable thrusters for super-maneuverability as well as with wide-angle HUD. The aircraft can be used to gain air supremacy as well as for targeting adversary on the ground using a wide range of weapons including air-to-air, air-to-surface, and guided and unguided bombs with total weapons weight up to 8,000 kg or around 17,630 pounds.
To ensure operations at major distances from airfields, the ability of in-flight refueling (IFR) is included. Kh-32 is a Russian supersonic air-launched cruise missile developed by the MKB Raduga from the Kh-22. The missile was accepted to service in 2016as armament for the Tu-22M3M bombers. The Tu-22M3M is able to carry 3 of these missiles. It weighs close to 5800 kg or 12787 pounds, is 12 meters long with a one-meter diameter and a 3 m wingspan. It can be armed with a 500 kg or around 1102pounds conventional warhead or a nuclear warhead. It has a max speed of Mach 4.5 and a range of around 1000 km or 620 miles. It uses Inertial guidance followed by terminal active radar homing. Kh-32 is intended to target U.S Carrier BattleGroups from long ranges.
The excellent range means that Su-30SM will be able to launch the missile from a standoff distance. U.S Carrier defenses include destroyers and cruisers equipped with Aegis Combat System, armed with Standard Missile 6 missiles. The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System is designed by the United States Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency to protect against short and intermediate-range ballistic Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense is devised to intercept ballistic missiles post-boost phase and prior to reentry. It enables these warships to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles by expanding the Aegis Combat System with the addition of the AN/SPY-1radar and Standard missiles Aegis BMD-equipped vessels can transmit their target detection information to other systems and, if needed, engage potential threats usingSM2, SM3 or SM6 missile.
The heart of the AEGIS systems onboard these warships is the AN/SPY-1D RADAR. It is an advanced, automatic detect and track, multifunctional phased-array radar. This high-powered (4 MW) radar is able to perform a search, track, and missile guidance functions simultaneously with a capability of over 100 targets. Standard Missile 6 or SM-6 has been deployed by the US Navy to counter different kinds of threats. It was primarily designed for extended range anti-air warfare purposes providing capability against fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, anti-ship cruise missiles in flight, both over sea and land, and terminal ballistic missile defense.
The missile uses the airframe of the earlier SM-2ER Block IV missile and some targeting elements from AIM-120C AMRAAM. It can discriminate targets using its dual-mode seeker, with the semi-active seeker relying on a ship-based illuminator to highlight the target, and the active seeker having the missile itself sends out an electromagnetic signal. SM 6 has a max speed of Mach 3.5 and has a140 lb or 64 kg blast fragmentation warhead. But Kh-32 is thought to possess several means to penetrate carrier defense. Firstly, Kh-32 flies to a target with a ceiling of about 40 km or 25 miles, which is 6 km or 3.7 miles higher than SM 6 missiles. Secondly, the Kh-32 on the final stage attacks the target in a steep dive which makes it hard to track with radars.
Thirdly, the multi-frequency radar in Kh-32 has excellent resistance to Electronic Warfare such as spot jamming. Kh-32 could play a tactically critical role for Russia when it comes to taking on U.S supercarriers. Missile defense is one of the most technologically challenging quests, it's like hitting a bullet with another bullet. When a missile moves in an unpredictable path with the supersonic, it becomes very difficult to intercept.
American carrier strike group will be in a very precarious position if they have to face multiple Su-30SM launching Kh-32 from different directions and altitudes. Also, the fact that a single hit could cripple or completely destroy a warship - makes it a very dangerous proposition for the U.S military. It is to be noted here that the missile and the aircraft are a fraction of the cost of a supercarrier carrying a large number of aircraft, so even if one goes through after several attempts & losses - it is still a good bet for Russia.