Raduga Kh-55

Raduga Kh-55

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The Kh-55 is a Soviet/Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n air-launched cruise missile
Cruise missile
A cruise missile is a guided missile that carries an explosive payload and is propelled, usually by a jet engine, towards a land-based or sea-based target. Cruise missiles are designed to deliver a large warhead over long distances with high accuracy...

, designed by MKB Raduga
MKB Raduga
MKB Raduga is a Russian aerospace company, concerned with the production of various missile systems and related technologies. It is headquartered in Dubna in the Moscow Oblast...

. It has a range of up to 3000 km (1,619.9 nmi) and can carry conventional or nuclear
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

 warheads. Kh-55 is launched exclusively from bomber aircraft and has spawned a number of conventionally armed variants mainly for tactical use, such as the Kh-65SE and Kh-SD, but only the Kh-101 and Kh-555 appear to have made it into service. Contrary to popular belief, the Kh-55 was not the basis of the submarine- and ground-launched RK-55
The Novator RK-55 Granat was a Soviet land-based cruise missile with a nuclear warhead. It was about to enter service in 1987 when such weapons were banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty...

 Granat (SS-N-21 'Sampson' and SSC-X-4 'Slingshot').

A Kh-55 production unit was delivered to Shanghai in 1995 and appears to have been used to produce a similar weapon for China.


In the late 1960s, the "Ekho" study conducted by the GosNIIAS
FSUE State Scientific Research Institute of Aviation Systems or GosNIIAS for short is a Russian R&D enterprise, providing a scientific support of aviation weapons systems development. Founded by the decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR on 26 February 1946 from some of the Mikhail...

 institute concluded that it would be more effective to deploy lots of small, subsonic cruise missiles than the much more expensive supersonic missiles then in favour. Work started at the Raduga bureau on an air-launched cruise missile in 1971, with a first test flight in 1976. The appearance of the US Air Force's AGM-86 ALCM
The Boeing AGM-86 ALCM is a U.S. subsonic air-launched cruise missile built by Boeing Company and operated by the United States Air Force. The missiles were developed to increase the effectiveness and survivability of Boeing B-52H Stratofortress bombers...

 in that year gave further impetus to the programme, with the Soviet Air Force issuing a formal requirement for a new air-launched cruise missile in December 1976. The longer-range Kh-55SM was developed a few years after the original went into service. In the late 1980s work began on a replacement missile with either conventional (Kh-101) or nuclear (Kh-102) warheads and greater stealth. It was designed by Igor Seleznyev of Raduga. The importance of advanced missiles as "force multipliers" increased as Russia's fleet of available cruise-missile bombers declined in the early 1990s. The failure of the ambitious Kh-90
The Kh-90 was Soviet cruise missile which was supposed to replace subsonic intermediate range missiles in Soviet inventory. The missile was an ambitious project since the target was to ultimately develop it into hypersonic missile...

A ramjet, sometimes referred to as a stovepipe jet, or an athodyd, is a form of airbreathing jet engine using the engine's forward motion to compress incoming air, without a rotary compressor. Ramjets cannot produce thrust at zero airspeed and thus cannot move an aircraft from a standstill...

 missile around 1992 led to a renewed emphasis on improving the Kh-55, in particular to achieve the <20 m accuracy required to hit infrastructure targets with conventional - as opposed to nuclear - warheads. First flight of the Kh-101 was in 1998, and evaluation trials started in 2000.

After the end of the Cold War and anti-proliferation treaties restricting the deployment of long-range nuclear missiles, the Russians made efforts to develop tactical versions of the Kh-55 with conventional warheads. First came the 600 km-range Kh-65SE (derived from the Kh-55) announced in 1992, then the 300 km-range Kh-SD tactical version of the Kh-101 for export, and finally the Kh-555. In 2001 the Russian Air Force are believed to have selected the Kh-101 and Kh-555 for development.

A 1995 Russian document suggested a complete production facility had been transferred to Shanghai, for the development of a nuclear-armed cruise missile. Originally it was thought that this was based on the 300 km-range Raduga Kh-15
Raduga Kh-15
The Raduga Kh-15 or RKV-15 is a Russian air-to-surface missile carried by the Tupolev Tu-22M and other bombers. Originally a standoff nuclear weapon similar to the US Air Force's AGM-69 SRAM, versions with conventional warheads have been developed....

 (AS-16 'Kickback'), but it now appears that it was the Kh-55 that was transferred to China.


It is powered by a single R95-300 turbofan
The turbofan is a type of airbreathing jet engine that is widely used for aircraft propulsion. A turbofan combines two types of engines, the turbo portion which is a conventional gas turbine engine, and the fan, a propeller-like ducted fan...

 engine, with pop-out wings for cruising efficiency. It can be launched from both high and low altitudes, and flies at subsonic speeds at low levels (under 110 m/300 ft altitude). After launch, the missile's folded wings, tail surfaces and engine deploy. It is guided through a combination of an inertial guidance system plus a terrain contour-matching guidance system which uses radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 and images stored in the memory of an onboard computer to find its target. This allows the missile to guide itself to the target with a high degree of accuracy, with a reported CEP
Circular error probable
In the military science of ballistics, circular error probable is an intuitive measure of a weapon system's precision...

 of 15 meters.

The original Kh-55 had a drop-down engine; the Kh-65SE had a fixed external turbojet engine, whilst the Kh-SD had its engine inside the body of the missile.

Operational history

The original Kh-55 entered service in 1984. The Kh-55SM followed in 1987. The conventionally armed Kh-55SE was flight tested on 13 January 2000, and first used in exercises over the Black Sea 17–22 April 2000. The Kh-555 is thought to have entered service in 2004, the first pictures of the Kh-101 appeared in 2007.

The Kh-55 can be carried by the Tupolev Tu-95
Tupolev Tu-95
The Tupolev Tu-95 is a large, four-engine turboprop-powered strategic bomber and missile platform. First flown in 1952, the Tu-95 entered service with the former Soviet Union in 1956 and is expected to serve the Russian Air Force until at least 2040...

MS ('Bear-H') and Tu-142M ('Bear-F'), and the Kh-55SM is carried by the Tupolev Tu-160
Tupolev Tu-160
The Tupolev Tu-160 is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing heavy strategic bomber designed by the Tupolev Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. Although several civil and military transport aircraft are larger in overall dimensions, the Tu-160 is currently the world's largest combat aircraft, largest...

 ('Blackjack'). Sixteen Kh-55's can be carried by the Tu-95MS16 (Tu-95MSM) variant, ten on underwing pylons and six on a MKU-6-5 rotary launcher.

The Kh-55 was also tested on the Tu-22M ('Backfire'). The Kh-SD tactical version was to have been carried by the Tu-95MS (fourteen missiles) and the Tu-22M (eight missiles); the Kh-101 is expected to be carried by the Tu-160 (twelve missiles), Tu-95MS16 (eight missiles), Tu-22M3/5 (four missiles) and Su-32 (two missiles).

The end of the Cold War left Ukraine with 1,612 Kh-55's, part of the armament of the 19 Tu-160's of the 184th Heavy Bomber Regiment at Priluki and the 25 Tu-95MS of the 182nd Heavy Bomber Regiment at Uzin-Shepelovka. It was reported that Ukraine demanded US$3bn for the return of the planes and their missiles to Russia. In October 1999 a compromise was reached that saw Russia pay US$285m for 11 aircraft and 575 missiles, whilst the rest were meant to be destroyed under a US-funded disarmament programme. However, in March 2005 Ukraine's prosecutor-general Svyatoslav Piskun said that in 2001, 12 Kh-55's had been exported to Iran in a deal allegedly worth US$49.5 million and six to China. It has also been reported that Iran has started producing the missiles locally and is working on a longer range version.


  • Kh-55 (NATO 'Kent-A', RKV-500A, Izdeliye 120) - original model with 2,500 km range.
  • Kh-55-OK - development name of Kh-55SM
  • Kh-55SM (NATO 'Kent-B', RKV-500B, Izdeliye 121) - with TERCOM
    Terrain Contour Matching, or TERCOM, is a navigation system used primarily by cruise missiles. It uses a pre-recorded contour map of the terrain that is compared to measurements made during flight by an on-board radar altimeter. A TERCOM system considerably increases the accuracy of a missile...

     (Terrain Contour Matching) navigation and extra fuel tanks to extend range to 3000 km.
  • Kh-101/102 (Izdeliye 111) - developed as a more stealthy replacement for the Kh-55SM in the late 1980s, the Kh-101 has a conventional warhead and the Kh-102 is nuclear. A propfan version with 5000 km range was cancelled in 2000. Accuracy is reportedly 6–9 m.
  • Kh-65SE - tactical version announced in 1992 with 410 kg conventional warhead and restricted to the 600 km range limit of the INF treaty.
  • Kh-SD (средней дальности Srednei Dalnosti - 'Medium Range') - 300 km range conventional version announced in 1995, possibly for export. Shared components with the Kh-101, range reportedly increased to 600 km with a high-altitude approach, but the Kh-SD was apparently shelved in 2001. An alternative active radar seeker was proposed for anti-shipping use.
  • Kh-555 (NATO 'Kent-C', Kh-55SE, Kh-55Sh) - conventionally armed version with an improved guidance system and warhead developed in response to the lessons of the NATO air offensive against Yugoslavia in 1999. It became operational in 2000.

It was believed originally that the RK-55
The Novator RK-55 Granat was a Soviet land-based cruise missile with a nuclear warhead. It was about to enter service in 1987 when such weapons were banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty...

 (SSC-X-4 'Slingshot' and SS-N-21 'Sampson') were land- and submarine-launched derivatives of the Kh-55, but it is now known that the Kh-55 is different from the other two as its motor drops down below the missile during flight.


: the Soviet Air Force
Soviet Air Force
The Soviet Air Force, officially known in Russian as Военно-воздушные силы or Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily and often abbreviated VVS was the official designation of one of the air forces of the Soviet Union. The other was the Soviet Air Defence Forces...

 deployed the Kh-55 as its original operator.: most scrapped or returned to Russia

Similar weapons

  • RK-55
    The Novator RK-55 Granat was a Soviet land-based cruise missile with a nuclear warhead. It was about to enter service in 1987 when such weapons were banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty...

     - so similar to the Kh-55 it was long believed in the West to be merely a sub-/surface-launced version
  • AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile - 1430 kg missile with 2400+ km range, Mach 0.73
  • AGM-129 ACM
    AGM-129 ACM
    * Missile of the same class** Ra'ad ** TAURUS KEPD 350 ** Storm Shadow -Notes:# Alleged violations of the Antideficiency Act in the Air Force’s procurement of advanced cruise missiles.FILE B-255831, Office of the General Counsel, United States General Accounting Office.# Union Calls for Strike by...

     (Advanced Cruise Missile - stealthy 1330 kg missile with 3700 km range
  • BGM-109 Tomahawk
    BGM-109 Tomahawk
    The Tomahawk is a long-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile. Introduced by General Dynamics in the 1970s, it was designed as a medium- to long-range, low-altitude missile that could be launched from a surface platform. It has been improved several times and, by way of corporate divestitures...

     - surface/sub- launched, but otherwise similar to the Kh-55
  • CJ-10
    CJ-10 cruise missile
    The CJ-10 is a land attack cruise missile currently in service with the Second Artillery Corps of the People's Republic of China. It is the first of the Changjian series of long range land attack cruise missiles...

    - Chinese land-attack cruise missile, believed to have incorporated elements from the Kh-55

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