The U.S. Navy has quietly announced a program to acquire a Russian
anti-ship missile recently sold to China — following the Clinton
administration’s decision to cancel the only U.S.-made missile that
could do the same job.
The missile, the 3M82 Moskit, NATO code-named SS-N-22 “Sunburn,” was
recently purchased by China to arm two type 956 Sovremenny-class
destroyers. Each of the new Chinese navy Sovremenny destroyers is armed
with eight Sunburn missiles.
3M82 Moskit anti-ship cruise missile. Illustration by C. Smith.
The ramjet-powered Sunburn is reportedly equipped with a nuclear
warhead equal to 120,000 tons of TNT. Each Sunburn warhead is six times
more powerful than the atomic bomb used on Hiroshima Japan.
WorldNetDaily confirmed the U.S. Navy’s attempts to buy the Sunburn
missiles with defense sources. The sources noted that the missiles
purchased from Russia would not include nuclear warheads.
“The Russians should not be selling the Sunburn to anyone,” stated Al
Santoli, national security advisor to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R.-Calif.
“This is an example of the criminal abandonment of essential military
research and development by the Clinton administration,” he said. “The
Clinton administration is responsible for this lapse in critical
research. We have known about the Sunburn for years. We could have,
and should have, developed a counter before this.”
“The Sunburn sales are most damaging to the U.S./Russian relations,”
added Santoli. “As long as communist China is the Clinton
administration’s ‘strategic partner,’ the Sunburn missiles will continue
to be a threat.”
Santoli also noted that Rohrabacher recently introduced a bill that
would withhold debt re-scheduling with Russia unless the Russian
military discontinues sales of the Sunburn missile to China.
“We have to be very concerned about the new Russian bi-polar turn
toward China,” Santoli told WND. “We urgently need to develop a defense
against these deadly missiles. If the Navy purchase helps develop a
defense, then so much the better,” he said. “If the communist Chinese
launch an invasion of Taiwan, then the number one threat to our aircraft
carriers is the Sunburn.”
Santoli is not the only defense analyst who is concerned about the
new Sunburn missile. According to two top China experts, the Sunburn
missiles and the new Russian destroyers are a significant threat to the
“Recently, the PLA Navy took delivery of its initial Russian
Sovremenny-class destroyer. A second one will arrive in the fall, and
there are ongoing negotiations for perhaps four more,” said Edward
Timperlake and William C. Triplett, in an article published April 13 in
the Washington Times.
Triplett, a former China analyst at the CIA, and Edward Timperlake, a
former Republican foreign policy aide in Congress, teamed up to write
two books, “Year of the Rat” and “Red Dragon Rising.”
“These ships were designed to be aircraft carrier ‘killers,’ as the
PLA’s principal newspaper noted on March 22. More ominously, the PLA’s
paper quietly confirmed that the SS-N-22 missiles carried aboard the
Sovremenny can be ‘nuclear capable,’” noted Timperlake and Triplett.
Last July, defense analyst Richard D. Fisher also wrote an evaluation
of the Russian-built Sunburn missile being sold to China. Fisher, a
former defense analyst for Rep. Chris Cox, R -Calif., now working for a
Washington-based think-tank, says the U.S. Navy cannot stop the Sunburn.
“The Raduga Moskit (Sunburn) anti-ship missile is perhaps the most
lethal anti-ship missile in the world,” wrote Fisher in a review of the
“The Moskit combines a Mach 2.5 speed with a very low-level flight
pattern that uses violent end maneuvers to throw off defenses. After
detecting the Moskit, the U.S. Navy Phalanx point defense system may
have only 2.5 seconds to calculate a fire solution — not enough time
before the devastating impact of a 750-lb. warhead.”
There is evidence supporting Fisher’s allegations that the U.S. Navy
cannot stop the Sunburn. The only U.S. missile capable of duplicating
the Sunburn’s blistering low-level performance is the Allied Signal
Vandal. Vandal target drones reportedly penetrated U.S. Navy Aegis air
defenses during trials. The Vandal program has been canceled by the
The move by the U.S. Navy to seek the Sunburn was first reported
April 17 by Aviation Week & Space Technology in an article titled
“Sunburned.” The Aviation Week article incorrectly noted that the deal
would be similar to an earlier Navy effort in which it had “Boeing buy
an air-launched version of the SS-N-22, the Ma-31, for use as an
WorldNetDaily has covered the U.S. Navy Ma-31 program,
a target version of the Zvezda Kh-31A, NATO code-named AS-17 Krypton,
supersonic missile. The sales of the Ma-31 to the U.S. Boeing Company
are part of an ongoing deal between Boeing and Zvezda-Strela State
Scientific-Industrial Center to deliver 2000 Ma-31 missiles over a
Zvezda Ma-31 target cruise missile. Illustration by
The Zvezda Ma-31 is not related to the SS-N-22 Sunburn, which is made
by the Raduga Machine Design Bureau in Russia. According to official
U.S. Navy sources, the 1,100-pound Ma-31 does not replicate the massive
9,920-pound Sunburn. According to official U.S. Navy statements, the
Ma-31 missile can fly “only 16 miles on the deck” and cannot duplicate
the Sunburn’s performance of over 50 miles at low level.
However, the Zvezda missile deal with Moscow is reportedly flawed.
The Ma-31 deal included an alleged kickback of over $200,000 per missile
for the Russian Generals.
The Ma-31 purchase also left the U.S. Navy without a means to
simulate the Sunburn anti-ship missile threat. The updated U.S.-made
Vandal target drone, re-named the Sea Snake, was canceled last year by
the Clinton administration in favor of purchasing the
inadequate Zvezda MA-31.
U.S. Navy F-4 Phantom firing a Zvezda Ma-31 target cruise missile during
The Sunburn sale comes after the Clinton administration denied the
sale of Aegis missile ships to Taiwan. The Clinton administration denial
of the Aegis missile system leaves Taiwan with no defense against the
Sunburn-armed Sovremenny 956A warships now being deployed by China.
According to the U.S. Naval Institute, the first of two 8,480-ton
Russian navy project Sovremenny 956A destroyers for China was originally
built for the Soviet navy as the Vazhnyy in 1988. The ship was launched
in May 1994 and renamed the Yekaterinburg before work was halted.
In 1996, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy negotiated to buy
the Yekaterinburg and another 956A class destroyer named the Alexandr
Nevskiy. The Yekaterinburg has been delivered to the Chinese navy and is
currently deployed across the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese navy is
scheduled to acquire the second type 956A destroyer by the end of 2000.
“It is our judgment that in the event of hostilities over Taiwan,
China will declare these ships to be ‘Strategic Nuclear Assets’ in
defense of their homeland,” concluded Timperlake and Triplett. “When a
‘Strategic Nuclear Asset’ is threatened, the world is on the edge of a