CluB-K Missiles. Photo courtesy of Bill Sweetman/Aviation Week

Missiles In a Box And More at Russia’s Bizarro Arms Show

Cruise missiles disguised as shipping containers, space radars and anti-stealth sensors were some of the equipment seen at the recent MAKS air show

If you’re the leader of a small country preparing to go toe-to-toe with the United States military, it helps to hide your weapons before the U.S. comes a bombing. Even better, though, is hiding your weapons while still being able to use them. Hence why one Russian arms firm is advertising its own brand of cruise missiles neatly packaged inside a modular shipping container.

It’s pretty sneaky idea.

Instead of a conspicuous missile battery defending a coastline, the ability to sink or severely damage warships is hidden within a container that could otherwise be hauling cans of sardines or cheap televisions — as far as the U.S. Navy could tell. Before firing, the top of the shipping container pops open, and out comes a missile.

Known as the Club-K, and developed by Russian company Concern Morinformsystem-Agat JSC, the missiles-in-a-box were hauled out at the MAKS air show near Moscow in late August. It was also just one of the curious Russian weapons which made an appearance. The missiles, and other items, were photographed by aviation journalist Bill Sweetman in a slideshow for Aviation Week.

Club-K comes in two forms, both seen above. There’s one version which fires a variety of Novator 3M anti-ship and surface-to-surface missiles with varying ranges and warheads. Another version fires Kh-35 anti-ship missiles — those have a range of around 70 miles with a 320-pound warhead, shorter than the Novator missiles and similar to the U.S. Harpoon. “The blue color is probably no accident,” Sweetman notes.

This marketing video, set to an industrial-techno beat, visualizes the Club-K being used against a combined naval and ground invasion:

The Club-K has made appearances at Russian and Asian arms shows before, sometimes marketed as a weapon to stop an attack from an unnamed country that (wink) looks a lot like the United States. It’s pretty clear who the target market is. For a coastal nation on the verge of war with the U.S. — and thus on the verge of getting its missile sites and air force obliterated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force — a cruise missile packaged in an innocuous-looking blue modular shipping container could be a powerful disincentive. In other words, it’s a budget missile in a box.

Sweetman also spotted more weird tech. He encountered an S-350 Vityaz missile launcher. These are still in development, but should become some of the deadliest Russian surface-to-air missiles out there for sale. The S-300, which Russia sold to Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad but never delivered when Assad didn't pay, carries a mere four missiles to the S-350's 16 missiles and the S-350 has a more advanced fire-control radar plus locator.

There’s a lot of gear here designed to take on America. The shipping container missiles, for instance, come with optional radio-frequency sensor towers that can detect ships 250 miles away, as well as locating early warning AWACS planes — critical for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions — from a distance of 500 miles.

Oddly, the firm Almaz-Antey, which is known mainly for developing anti-aircraft systems, touted a camouflaged radar that’s supposed to be used by civilians to detect “space objects.” Why was it camouflaged? Technically, it could be used to track aircraft for Club-K’s missiles.

Speaking of detecting aircraft, the Russian arms industry is also touting radars that can detect stealth aircraft. Sweetman encountered a radar system called the 55Zh6ME, which might not look very impressive, but includes several radars including one giant active array which gives it extra sensitivity and farther range.

After the array detects an aircraft, it beams over the information to a centimetric radar with a “high track probability even against low-radar-cross section (RCS) targets.” The U.S.’s stealthy new fighters like the F-22 and F-35 will be in its sights, just to make sure all the bases are covered.

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