Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Russia
Anti-Ship Missile Proliferation Act,” aimed at stopping Russia from
transferring what one defense expert calls “the most lethal anti-ship
missile in the world” to Communist China.
Referring to the legislation’s object — the Russian SS-N-22
(“Sunburn”) anti-ship missile — Rep. Dana Rohrabacher R-Calif., sponsor
of H.R 4022, said, “the SS-N-22 is the most dangerous anti-ship missile
in the Russian, and now the Chinese, fleet. Our Navy admittedly has
scant ability to defend against this 200-kiloton nuclear-capable
U.S. Navy documents show that the SS-N-22 Sunburn missile can
Rohrabacher added, “This resolution sends a strong message to Moscow
that in return for the generosity shown by American taxpayers to assist
the Russian people, the Russian government must respect U.S. national
security and the precious lives of our young men and women in uniform.”
The House action comes as Russia is preparing to deliver a second
Sovremenny-class destroyer to China, armed with the supersonic SS-N-22
Moskit missile, NATO codenamed “Sunburn.” The Sunburn was developed by
Russia to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers and Aegis-class warships. The
missile has a range of over 65 nautical miles and can be mounted on
ships or on land-based mobile platforms.
The new House legislation prohibits the rescheduling of any
outstanding bilateral debt owed to the United States by Russia until the
president certifies to Congress that the Russian Federation has
permanently terminated all transfers of Sunburn anti-ship missiles to
Russian warship fires the supersonic Sunburn missile during
“This gives Moscow a very clear choice,” stated Al Santoli, national
security adviser to Rohrabacher, “whether the Russians would like to
reschedule their massive debt or continue to sell weapons to China
intended to kill U.S. men and women in uniform.”
The bill now awaits action in the Senate where it is expected to
pass. The House action was also quickly greeted outside Capitol Hill
with approval by defense sources.
“This is leadership,” said Richard Fisher, a Senior Fellow at the
“The House has taken a stand to halt Russia’s enabling China to run
an arms race with America. Al Gore’s vaunted leadership on Russia
policy was simply oblivious to this real threat to American security.
The Sunburn is just the very tip of an avalanche of Russian arms and
military technology exports that are vaulting China’s military machine
into the modern age,” said Fisher.
1993 Wireframe sketch of Russian SS-N-22 “Sunburn” supersonic
In July 1999, Fisher wrote an evaluation of the Russian built Sunburn
missile being sold to China. He reported that the SS-N-22 might be
capable of a dive speed of Mach 4.5 that would help it evade U.S. naval
“The Sunburn anti-ship missile is perhaps the most lethal anti-ship
missile in the world,” wrote Fisher.
“The Sunburn 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.”
The Alexandr Nevskiy will soon become China’s newest warship.
China currently operates a single Sovremenny 956A warship across from
Taiwan. In 1996, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army navy negotiated
to buy the Russian destroyer Yekaterinburg and another 956A class
destroyer named the Alexandr Nevskiy. The Yekaterinburg was delivered
to the Chinese navy in August 1999, passing through the Straits of
Taiwan with a combined Russian/Chinese crew.
The Chinese navy is scheduled to acquire the second 956A warship by
the end of 2000. A July article published in
Janes Defense contained
photographs taken by German Navy aircraft of the new warship with its Russian shakedown crew performing in the Baltic Sea.
News reports of nuclear warheads on the new Chinese anti-ship
missiles were first published in WorldNetDaily in 1999. According to U.S. Navy documents, each Sunburn missile can be armed with a nuclear warhead equal to over 200,000 tons of TNT.
The Clinton administration has maintained that the Russian Sunburn missile sales to China are of no military significance. In August 1999, the State Department played down the transfer of the first Sunburn armed missile destroyer to the Chinese navy.
“We don’t believe that the purchase by China of the ship poses a significant threat to the U.S. military posture in Asia,” State department spokesman James Rubin said.
However, documents obtained from the government using the Freedom of Information Act show the Clinton administration attempted and failed to purchase Sunburn missiles from Russia. The failed administration effort — a secret project code-named “Ballerina” — used American business contacts inside Moscow to obtain the advanced cruise missiles directly from Russian naval sources.
In September 1995, U.S. Navy Principal Deputy Vice Adm. W.C. Bowes sent a letter to Adm. Felix Gromov, then commander-in-chief of the Russian navy, informing him of the intended missile purchase.
effort by the U.S. Navy to purchase the Sunburn reportedly failed due to
price concerns voiced by the Clinton administration.
In August, the Navy openly renewed its efforts to obtain the supersonic missile and publicly re-issued a contract to purchase the weapon from Russia.