Ukraine’s ‘Neptune’ strike on the Russian Moskva vessel placed the country’s missile development capacity into sharp view. In the meantime, India successfully tested its supersonic BrahMos missiles, which it develops with Russia.
The Russian Black Sea fleet’s flagship, the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, was destroyed by Ukrainian rockets on April 13. While being hauled back to the harbour, the ship sank. While Russia first blamed the ship’s damage and loss on a fire on board, US defence sources later confirmed that Ukrainian missiles were to blame.
The Moskva was a Slava-class missile cruiser that was the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet’s flagship. According to reports, the cruiser was armed with 16 supersonic anti-ship missiles (SS-N-12 Sandbox).
It was a big ship, weighing around 11,500 tonnes, and sinking it would need a well-aimed Neptune anti-ship missile.
As surveillance capabilities that are networked with missiles based on air, land, and sea platforms have progressed, surface naval assets have become increasingly vulnerable to attack. The Russian attack’s accuracy is substantially improved by using a combination of GPS, laser guidance, and inertial navigation systems.
The Luch Design Bureau developed the Neptune Cruise Missile (R-360 Neptune), a Ukrainian anti-ship cruise missile. The Neptune anti-ship missile is based on the Soviet Kh-35 anti-ship missile, however it has a far longer range and superior electronics.
This weapon, which was introduced in March 2021, can strike surface warships and cargo boats with a displacement of up to 5,000 tonnes travelling in convoys or independently. This missile travels at a slower-than-sound speed of 671 mph and flies close to the water, especially as it approaches its target, boosting the chances of hitting the ship at the waterline.
To get to its target, it uses both inertial navigation and active radar. The missile’s inertial guidance informs it where it’s going, and active radar guides it to the part of the ship it’s supposed to attack.
It had a range of 62 miles (100 kilometres) at first, similar to the Kh-35, but this was substantially increased during subsequent tests, with the manufacturer claiming a range of 186 miles (300 kilometers). The Neptune is little larger than 16 inches (420 mm) in diameter and weighs more than 1,900 pounds (870 kg).
While the Neptune attracted the attention of security analysts, military observers, and specialists, India discreetly tested its own extraordinary missile, the ‘BrahMos,’ which it co-manufactures with Russia.
Is Neptune Better Than BrahMos?
Two BrahMos supersonic cruise missile types successfully demonstrated their potency in tests performed by the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force earlier this week, in a demonstration of might and competence.
While the Indian Air Force used a Sukhoi Su-30MKI to fire an air form of the famed missile that hit a decommissioned battleship with pinpoint accuracy, the Indian Navy used its guided destroyer INS Delhi to launch a naval equivalent.
As word of the protests spread on social media, some internet users drew a parallel between Neptune and the BrahMos missile.
A Twitter user in an interesting post said — “The Brahmos has 50x the kinetic energy of the Neptune, and twice the warhead capacity (150kg on Neptune Vs 300kg on Brahmos). Imagine the effects than of by a single Brahmos strike.” The tweet which received positive responses and a lot of traction among online military watchers also said that “If the Moskva (12,000T) reportedly has sunk with two direct hits from Neptune missiles, 1-2 Brahmos could theoretically disable a USN Super Carrier.”
Both missiles, though, are in a different league. The BrahMos is famous for its supersonic speeds of Mach 2.0-3.0, depending on cruising altitude, according to an analyst who desired anonymity. This increased speed not only makes it more difficult to intercept, but it also increases its firepower.
He went on to say that because of its supersonic speeds and ability to cruise along the ocean, BrahMos is similar to a stealth missile that can be detected but not intercepted. It has a ship-targeting inertial navigation system (INS) and a land-targeting INS/GPS. The BrahMos has a range of 300-500 kilometres, substantially more than the Moskva-killer Neptune, depending on the variant and launch platform.
BrahMos may carry a submunition warhead weighing 250 kg or a high explosive semi-armor-piercing payload weighing 200 or 300 kg. It can be fired from the ground, a vertical launch system, a ramp launcher, or the air (a capability that even Russia lacks).
Not to mention the fact that the BrahMos is nuclear-armed. The analyst determined that a full-throttle pre-emptive nuclear strike against foes can assure that their offensive potential is completely eliminated and that they are no longer a threat to India.
In terms of speed, weight, and payload capacity, the BrahMos, like many other Russian missiles, dwarfs the power and capability of Ukrainian Neptune missiles. The Indo-Russian BrahMos missile is far more lethal and advanced than the Neptune because of these features.
Neptune, on the other hand, may be quite valuable for a defensive country like Ukraine in terms of anti-access/area denial capabilities. Russia, for its part, has massed Kalibre and Iskander missiles towards Kyiv.
Having said that, despite the fact that Russia and India collaborate on the production of BrahMos missiles, Russia does not deploy the same weapons. According to some accounts, Russia has its own anti-ship missile, but not ground or air-launched versions.