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SS-N-22 Sunburn is a NATO reporting name that refers to no less than four different Russian anti-shipping missiles with substantially similar capabilities, all designed by the Raduga design bureau in the 1980s. The four missiles that this designation is known to refer to are the P-80 Zubr, its improved successor the 3M80 Moskit, the 3M82 Moskit and the P-270 Oniks. Zubr and both Moskit variants use nearly identical launchers when surface-launched. The main difference is that Moskit has an air-launched version while Zubr does not, being ship- and land-launched only. Both Moskits also have superior range to Zubr. Oniks is a submarine-launched version of the missile, though it is not known to be deployed on any current submarines.

This is Russia's first sea skimming antiship missile, and one of the few supersonic sea skimmers in use anywhere.(The others being the Russian Yakhont and the Indian Brahmos, plus experimental variants of the American Standard.) As such, this weapon has caused much fear and consternation in western navies.

All versions of the missile are approximately 9.5 meters long, with a wingspan of 2.1m unfolded. The P-80 Zubr is powered by a solid-fuel rocket motor. The others use a rocket booster, then switch to turbojet propulsion for their supersonic cruise phase. Zubr has an 80km range, while Moskit is good for about 120km (up to 160km air launched). All variants have a 300kg high explosive fragmentation warhead, with the option for a 100 kiloton nuclear instead. Its speed is the subject of much debate, and is often quoted as high as Mach 4. The missile's designer, Raduga, claims only Mach 2.5 during the attack phase of its flight, and as low as Mach 1.8 during low-altitude cruise. Its flight profile is semi-sea-skimming, maintaining a low (60-100m) altitude for the duration of its flight, then diving onto its target. The missile uses inertial guidance for the first phase of its flight then switches to active radar homing for the final phase. Unlike most anti-ship missiles, it is not believed to have the capability to fly an erratic course en route to its target. This has the effect of making the launch platform more vulnerable to counterbattery fire. When air-launched, a high-flying attack profile is available which extends the range by some 40km, at the expense of greater interceptability.

The AEGIS-killer myth

The SS-N-22 has a semi-deserved reputation as being an uninterceptible superweapon. This is because it is a sea-skimming missile, which makes it hard to detect until rather close range, and it is supersonic, which shortens an adversary's reaction time. It was, in fact, designed to counter the USA's AEGIS combat system and other systems like it - but in practice, it's only slightly harder to intercept. First, it flies at a much higher altitude than most other sea-skimming missiles, about 60 meters rather than the 5-10 meters that missiles like Harpoon, Tomahawk, Exocet, Penguin and Kormoran fly at. Second, although it pulls random evasive maneuvers during its final attack stage, it is still a large target with a huge RF and infrared signature. In tests, numerous air defense weapons including the AMRAAM, Standard, Evolved Sea Sparrow, Aster 30, SA-N-6 Grumble, SA-N-9 Gauntlet and Rolling Airframe Missile have intercepted either live SS-N-22 missiles, or drones replicating their performance. Its high speed does make gun-based CIWS like Phalanx and AK-630 decidedly less useful, however. In short, while dangerous, the Sunburn is not quite the AEGIS-killer that popular myth makes it out to be.

It is carried aboard Sovremenny class destroyers and Tarantul III missile boats as well as the single Udaloy II class destroyer, and can be launched by Su-27 Flanker fighter/attack planes. Russia and China have the surface and air-launched versions of this missile, while the land-launched variants have been exported to India and Iran as well. Iraq was rumored to have purchased some of these, but no evidence of that has come to light.

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