In May 1995, Boeing/McDonnell Douglas was awarded a $4.7 million
contract to evaluate four Russian built Kh-31 ramjet cruise
missiles under the foreign comparative test program. That
contract included an option for the procurement and target
presentation support of up to 20 targets. The titanium Kh-31
was built in 1988 by Zvezda-Strela for the former Soviet Union.
In 1997, the U.S. Navy test-fired the four kerosene Kh-31 cruise
missiles. In 1998, the Clinton administration gave
Boeing/Douglas and Zvezda-Strela engineers additional funding to
improve the Russian missile range to over 100 miles. The
Clinton program to improve the Russian missile also requires the
U.S. Navy to employ Russian engineers on board American ships to
observe attempts to shoot it down.
The improved Kh-31, called the MA-31 target drone, is slated to
become the Clinton pick for a long delayed Navy high-speed
target program. The Clinton selection of the Russian missile is
also expected to force the closure of an Allied Signal
production plant in Indiana that builds a superior product.
Zvezda-Strela missiles grace the arsenals of the sworn enemies
of the United States such as Serbia, Libya, Iraq and Iran.
Zvezda-Strela has openly documented plans to export the improved
weapon, using U.S. technology and profits from the Navy target
According to the Navy, the modified Russian Kh-31s flew at a
blistering 2.7 times the speed of sound while cruising at a mere
30 feet over the sea. Three of the MA-31 target drones were
test-fired to verify performance. The MA-31 is faster than a
rifle bullet, traveling over a mile every two seconds.
The fourth MA-31 drone was flown in a live fire exercise in
which the Navy was reportedly unable to shoot it down. The Navy
has requested and obtained permission from the Clinton
administration to purchase nine more of the hot cruise missiles
from the Russian Zvezda-Strela missile design bureau.
“The success of this test flight proves that a Russian missile
can be easily and successfully modified for use in the United
States as a nonlethal target,” said John Reilly, Boeing/Douglas
MA-31 program manager.
“Our team worked long and hard to prove to the world that
Russian-American military-industrial cooperation is a reality in
the post-Cold War era. Now we are hoping to build on this
foundation,” stated Reilly. Boeing’s Reilly told Aviation Week
and Space Technology the Russian missile has a range of 50 to
100 nautical miles.
Despite the Boeing claims of 50 to 100 nautical miles the real
MA-31 performance is poor at best. According to the actual test
results obtained from Boeing, the Russian MA-31 can fly only a
mere 16 miles. In fact, one test conducted by Boeing recorded
the MA-31 ran out of fuel and fell into the sea after traveling
only 8 miles.
The Russian missile falls far short of U.S. Navy requirements
for a target missile with a minimum low altitude range of 50
miles. The short-range problem forced Boeing/Douglas to use a
F-4 Phantom to carry the missile close enough for firings
against Navy ships. Such a mission also places the F-4 and
pilot at great risk.
The risk of losing a pilot was apparent to Boeing engineers.
Boeing and Zvezda converted the Navy launch plane into a
radio-controlled drone (QF-4) to carry the Russian target
missile. The QF-4 will be flown by remote control from a safe
distance using either a chase plane or ground base.
The QF-4 radio controlled launch adds to the cost of the project
by adding ground crews and support vehicles. There is only one
QF-4 attached to the project. The MA-31 can only be fired from
a single site and only one at a time.
Russian missile engineers will need detailed specifications on
American Navy radars in order to modify the MA-31 missile into
a usable target drone. Boeing and Zvezda engineers will have to
share data on Aegis radars and participate in live fire
exercises. This will require Russian engineers to be on site
and on board U.S. Navy Aegis ships.
Boeing has now acquired funding to increase the poor range for
the Russian missile using air launched cruise missile technology
developed during the Cold War (ALCM). Furthermore, the Russian
Zvezda-Strela design bureau demanded that testing of the
extended-range MA-31 must be done inside Russia.
Once modified, the extended range MA-31 is intended to simulate
advanced cruise missile threats such as the Russian SS-N-22
cruise missile or the supersonic French ANS missile, the
replacement for the widely exported French Exocet. Both the
SS-N-22 and the ANS have a range of over 50 miles.
Possible customers for the Kh-31 include India, Syria, Libya,
Iran, Iraq and China. India, Iraq, China and Libya have all
purchased Russian built MiG or Sukhoi fighter aircraft capable
of carrying the Kh-31 without modification. Iran flies a large
number of U.S. built F-4 Phantoms bought by the Shah — the same
plane picked by Boeing and Zvezda to carry the MA-31.
Iranian F-4s flew anti-ship missions during their “Road To
Jerusalem” wargames in late 1997, firing Chinese made C.801
cruise missiles at simulated targets. Zvezda-Strela has already
courted Iranian sales, showing the Kh-31 at a number of Moscow
and Middle East air shows. The detail designs on how to modify
a F-4 Phantom to carry the MA-31 are being offered to Iran by
Zvezda thanks to Bill Clinton.
The Clinton decision to back a Russian missile has serious
defense and security consequences. American contractors already
have a missile that exceeds all Navy requirements called SEA
SNAKE. Yet, the administration’s decision to delay awarding
contracts may send American missile engineers to the
unemployment line and close down a facility that has worked with
the Navy since World War II.
Sea Snake is a 1990s version of the U.S. Navy Talos/Vandal
ramjet powered missile produced by Allied Signal at Mishawaka,
Indiana. The Talos missile was deployed as the number one
surface to air defense missile for the Navy during the Cold War.
Some versions even carried nuclear warheads.
Talos is a battle proven weapon. Talos had a long and
successful career filling Navy air defense needs until it was
retired from service in the late 1980s. During the Vietnam War
a single Talos destroyed two MiGs at a distance of over 65
miles. Talos was also used to strike North Vietnamese radar
sites on the ground over 75 miles inland. Allied Signal
Director for New Business Development Mike Boies noted that the
Talos story did not end with its retirement from active service.
“When Talos was retired we modified and successfully fired over
500 missiles as Navy target drones called Vandal,” stated Boies.
“The Navy has nearly used up all the Vandals so we propose to
build the Sea Snake. Sea Snake was designed to take advantage
of our years of experience with Talos and Vandal.”
“Sea Snake combines the best features of Talos ramjet with the
latest American technology such as GPS and a programmable
guidance computer,” stated Boies. “It can be fired from nearly
every Navy test range. Sea Snake was designed to meet the
specifications of the Navy’s Aerial Target Launch Ship (ATLS).”
Allied Signal claims that Vandal was merely “successful” are
modest indeed. The Vandal/Talos target drone was so fast and
maneuverable that it frequently outperformed the Navy
anti-missile defenses intended to replace it.
The proposed Sea Snake is more than a son-of-Talos/Vandal it is
a super-Talos. It can fly at over 1,500 miles an hour, skimming
over the sea at only nine feet above the surface. Sea Snake is
not a short distance sprinter but a long distance, air-breathing
monster. The missile can maintain that blazing low altitude
speed for over 50 miles. The American built Sea Snake is as
fast as a rifle bullet and has the range needed to safely test
future Navy anti-missile systems, including lasers.
The advantages of the American missile are obvious. More than
one Sea Snake can be fired from multiple sources at the same
target, simulating real combat. Sea Snake can be fired from
every U.S. Navy range such as Wallops Island in Virginia and
Point Mugu California. Allied Signal designed it to be fired
from a multi-million dollar launch ship built by the Navy
precisely for that job.
In time of war the super-Talos may yet find a place in the U.S.
Navy arsenal again. A weaponized Sea Snake would have the speed
and impact of a battleship shell. Sea Snake could serve as a
bunker buster and heavy artillery weapon, carrying the
destructive power of the USS New Jersey.
The Russian missile is clearly inferior and comes from an
unreliable source. The Russian missile cannot be labeled “non
lethal” no matter what Clinton claims to the contrary.
Thousand-pound titanium bullets traveling at twice the speed of
sound do not need much in the way of explosives. The MA-31
heritage is rooted in the Kh-31; a missile designed to kill.
The political and economic instability of the Clinton
administration may force American engineers out of business.
President Clinton threatens to select the Russian contractor for
political reasons and not based on the needs of national
defense. According to the Clinton administration, the political
and economic instability of Russia may force Zvezda-Strela out
of business unless they get American money.
Russia will soon destroy an entire American missile factory and
witness former Soviet missiles flying over American skies. All
with the single stroke of Bill Clinton’s pen.
MA-31 and Sea Snake details, images and photos –