Facing a stagnate economy and international economic sanctions, Russia is focusing on high profile endeavors meant to pile up headlines rather than kill counts. Programs like their 5th generation Su-57 multi-role fighter, their advanced T-14 Armata battle tank, and their ground fighting infantry drone Uran-9 have all seen more action on op-ed columns and analysis pieces than they likely ever will on the battlefield. Russia has actively moved to bolster this effect by running what amounts to propaganda press releases in state-owned outlets like RT, Sputnik, and Tass. This week is no exception, with countless Russian owned outlets releasing a barrage of stories about Russia’s latest fighter-launched anti-ship missile, the Kh-35U.
These stories weren’t just a collection of quotes regarding their anti-ship missile’s capabilities—they were all accompanied by this video produced by the Russian Ministry of Defense complete with quick cuts and electric guitar soundtrack that combines very little verifiable information with the excitement of FLIR footage of exploding ships. Say what you will about Russian information operations, they know the market they’re pandering to.
The footage reportedly shows a barrage of Kh-35U anti-ship missiles being fired at a formation of eight unmanned vessels in the Pacific from Su-34 long-range strike fighters.
“As part of the implementation of planned combat missions at the Pacific Fleet’s naval test range, Su-34 multifunctional fighter-bombers carried out practical launches of the newest guided anti-ship missiles Kh-35U,” the official Russian statement said. “All in all, eight launches were carried out, all missiles successfully hit targets.”
The missile has a reported range of about 155 miles, which beats out America’s fighter-launched Naval Strike Missile (it has a range of 100 miles). However, the footage alone does little to substantiate Russia’s claims of overwhelming success or capability. That said, there is also nothing in the footage to suggest their claims are inaccurate.
Recently, there’s been an increased emphasis on anti-ship weapons systems among the world’s three most powerful nations: Russia, China and the United States. China’s hypersonic anti-ship missiles, for instance, are the subject of significant concern within the U.S. Navy. Their blistering (and indefensible) speed and nearly 1,000-mile operational range have given U.S. officials much to think about.
The U.S. has also been developing a number of different anti-ship missile platforms and strategies with a renewed sense of urgency. The ongoing shift from anti-terror operations to conventional warfare necessitates new technology. Russia’s newest addition to their anti-ship arsenal may not represent a clear threat to American vessels for its operational range is still less than that of America’s intercept fighters.
This would seem to suggest that Russia’s fervent efforts to get this footage public has less to do with international posturing toward the U.S. and more to do with trying to drum up interest on the international markets. There are many nations in the world that might be interested in purchasing anti-ship weapons for purposes other than American deterrence. And Russia appears to be on the hunt for customers.