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Russian Strategic Cruise Missiles
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Navaho vs Burya

Navaho vs Burya
Credit: © Mark Wade

As in America, in the 1946 assessments of German military technology, the technical problems of the intercontinental ballistic missile seemed far less than a high-speed cruise missile for the same mission. The Soviet Union developed several such missiles, counterparts to the American Navaho. As in America, it turned out that the ICBM was ready before the cruise missiles were - the navigation and propulsion issues of Mach 3 intercontinental flight were much more difficult than those for Mach 22 ballistic flight. As in America, the projects were cancelled, although they contributed greatly to the national technological base.

AKA: Soviet Strategic Cruise Missiles.

Tsiolkovskiy pointed out in 1929 that the altitude of an aircraft does not have to be limited to the atmosphere if rocket propulsion was used. This article inspired numerous Soviet designers, and led to development of experimental and military rocketplanes in the Soviet Union during the 1930's and 1940's. German developments of rocketplanes, air-breathing cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles during World War II resulted in a reconsideration of some of Tsiolkovskiy's conclusions, however.

Initially German engineers studied similar concepts, such as the Saenger-Bredt antipodal bomber. This futuristic missile would use a rocket sled for initial acceleration of a 100 metric ton manned vehicle. The winged rocket second stage would fly a suborbital trajectory half way around the world, skipping off the earth's atmosphere like a stone skipping across the water. A one metric ton bomb would be dropped an American city, and the spacecraft would finally glide to a landing at an Axis-controlled airfield in the Pacific on the other side of the world. A similar two-stage trans-Atlantic missile, the A-9/A-10, was designed by Werner Von Braun's team at Peenemuende. However further work late in the war indicated a Mach 3 ramjet cruise missile second stage was a superior technical solution compared to the pure rocket. However a ramjet must be moving at a speed near its cruise velocity design point before it can be ignited. Therefore a rocket first stage was still required to get the cruise missile up to ramjet ignition conditions.

In both America and Russia design studies by captured German rocket engineers were commissioned for a high altitude cruise missile based on the Peenemuende work. In Russia, B Chertok of NII-8 took this preliminary design and elaborated it, including consideration of the key problem of long-range automatic astronavigation.

Von Braun's team in America had designed a similar Hermes cruise missile in New Mexico in 1946. This used a V-2 as the first stage. The Hermes concept was elaborated by North American Aviation into the Navaho cruise missile.

While these preliminary studies were underway the United States developed plans for delivery of nuclear warheads on the cities of the Soviet Union. These evolved through the Boiler, Frolic, and Half Moon plans, culminating in Plan Trojan in December 1948. Trojan foresaw attack of 70 Soviet cities with 133 atomic bombs. The number of nuclear-capable bombers rose from 60 in December 1948 to 250 in June 1950, and development of an intercontinental jet bomber, the B-52, was authorized in 1949.

Stalin's response to this threat was authorization to begin development of means of nuclear attack of the United States. Veteran aircraft designer Tupolev was tasked with development of an intercontinental bomber, while young rocket designer Korolev was to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile. After initial study Tupolev reported that it would not be possible to develop an intercontinental bomber using jet engines; his Tu-95 would use German-designed turboprops. However another designer, Myasishchev, claimed to be able to design an intercontinental jet bomber. Accordingly the Central Committee decree on 24 March 1951 created the OKB-23 Myasishchev design bureau.

Myasishchev managed to complete the first prototype 103M (M-4 Bear) bomber ten months after go-ahead (compared with four years for the B-52). The 103M represented a tremendous increase in Soviet technology: altitude was increased by 50%, range doubled, and takeoff mass was four times greater than any previous Soviet aircraft.

The United States had meanwhile pursued development of the B-52 intercontinental jet bomber and Navaho cruise missile while declining to develop ballistic missiles. This difference with the Soviet bomber/ballistic missile approach led Academician Keldysh of the Academy of Sciences to from a group that raised the question of Soviet development of a similar long-range unpiloted aircraft.


Keldysh Bomber Russian intercontinental boost-glide missile. Soviet version of the Saenger antipodal bomber intensely studied on Stalin's direct orders in 1946-1947. The final study concluded that, given the fuel consumption of foreseeable rocket engines, the design would only be feasible using ramjet engines and greatly advanced materials. This meant that development could only begin in the late 1950's, when such technologies were available. By that time the design had been superseded by more advanced concepts.

G-3 German aerodynamicist Albring designed the G-3 missile for the Russians in October 1949. This would use a rocket-powered Groettrup-designed G-1 as the first stage. The cruise stage would have an aerodynamic layout like that of the Saenger-Bredt rocket-powered antipodal bomber of World War II. Cruising at 13 km altitude, the supersonic missile would carry a 3000 kg warhead to a range of 2900 km.

MKR Russian intercontinental cruise missile. A wide range of MKR (intercontinental winged missiles) were studied in 1957-1960 in accordance with a decree of the General Staff. The trade-off studies encompassed long-range air-breathing aircraft, winged rockets, and aircraft launchers for air-breathing missiles.

EKR Russian intermediate range cruise missile. B Chertok of NII-8 took the preliminary German R-13 cruise missile design and elaborated it, including consideration of the key problem of long-range automatic astronavigation. By 1951 to 1953 Korolev's design bureau had prepared an experimental design, the EKR. I Lisovich had developed a prototype astronavigation system that met the necessary specifications, and solution of basic problems in use of steel and titanium hot airframe technology had been solved at VIAM (All-Union Institute of Aviation Materials) and MVTU Bauman Institute. An expert commission in 1953 examined the EKR design and felt that there were still many technical problems to be solved, most of which were better handled by an aircraft designer rather than Korolev.

RS Russian intermediate range cruise missile. Soviet Mach 3 manned air-launched ramjet aircraft, developed in 1954-1961, but cancelled before the first full-scale test article could be flown.

Buran RSS-52 Russian air-launched test vehicle. Hypersonic ramjet-powered research vehicle proposed by Myasishchev in 1958. This version of the cancelled Buran intercontinental cruise missile would have been air-launched at supersonic speed from a derivative of the M-50 bomber. It would then use its own ramjet to accelerate to hypersonic velocity.

Burya La-350 A government decree on 20 May 1954 authorized the Lavochkin aircraft design bureau to proceed with full-scale development of the Burya trisonic intercontinental cruise missile. Burya launches began in July 1957. The project was cancelled, but the team was allowed final tests in 1961 that demonstrated a 6,500 km range at Mach 3.2 with the 2,350 kg payload. In cancelling Burya the Russians gave up technology that Lavochkin planned to evolve into a manned shuttle-like recoverable launch vehicle.

KR Russian intercontinental boost-glide missile. The KR (winged rocket) was a three-stage unmanned boost-glide missile developed at the Tupolev's OKB-156. Work began in 1957. Two alternates were considered for the first stage: a conventional liquid rocket or a special manned aircraft launcher. The second stage was a conventional rocket. The final winged stage included a propulsion section and nuclear warhead. The glider would cut-off at an altitude of 50 km and a velocity of 20,000 km/hr. Planned-over target speed was 7,000 km/hr at 30 km altitude. Work on the project continued only about a year before it was abandoned in favor of the more conventional Tu-123 supersonic cruise missile. The KR would have had a gross weight of 240 metric tons, and delivered a payload of 3 to 5 metric tons over a range of 9,000 to 12,000 km.

Tu-130 Russian intercontinental boost-glide missile. Three-stage intercontinental boost-glide missile. Studied 1957-1960.

Tu-123 Russian intercontinental boost-glide missile. Exotic design for an intercontinental missile using a gas core fission reactor for cruise propulsion. Studied circa 1957.

M-51 Russian intercontinental cruise missile. Intercontinental cruise missile based on M-50 manned bomber. Subsonic cruise with Mach 2 dash into the target area.

Tu-121 Russian intermediate range cruise missile. Mach 3 intermediate range cruise missile, tested in 1958-1960 before cancellation.

Tu-133 Russian intercontinental cruise missile. Mach 3 intercontinental range cruise missile, cancelled in 1960 before flight tests began.

P-100 Russian intercontinental cruise missile. Family of sea- or silo- launched Mach 3.5 cruise missiles with ranges up to intercontinental distances.

P-205 Russian intermediate range cruise missile. Development of a family of long-range cruise missiles was begun in 1956 by Ilyushin. The P-205 was a land-based strategic cruise missile based on the P-20 antiship missile. The land-launch version was developed for the VVS in 1958-1960. There were two submarine projects for the missile, 627A and 653, both designed by OKB-143. Construction of the 627A submarine began at Severodvinsk, but the work on the submarine was cancelled in November 1961.

P-6 Russian intermediate range cruise missile.

Gnom Russian intercontinental ballistic missile. Gnom was a unique design which represented the most advanced work ever undertaken on an air-augmented missile capable of intercontinental ranges or orbital flight. Although cancelled in 1965 before flight tests could begin, Gnom was the closest the world aerospace engineering community ever came to fielding an orbital-capable launcher of less than half of the mass of conventional designs.

Meteorit Russian intermediate range cruise missile. Development of three variants of this cruise missile was authorized on 9 December 1976. The Meteorit-M strategic version would be deployed from 667M submarines with 12 launchers per boat. The air-launched Meteorit-A would be launched from Tu-95 bombers. The land-based version was designated Meteorit-N. The missile was also sometimes referred to by the code-name Grom. The first test launch, on 20 May 1980, was unsuccessful, as were the next three attempts. The first successful flight did not come until 16 December 1981. The first launch from a 667M submarine took place on 26 December 1983 from the Barents Sea. However all variants were cancelled in 1988 as a result of the INF Treaty.

P-750 Russian intermediate range cruise missile. IOC in 1988 est 1992+. SS-C-5 GLCM banned in INF.

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