The massive R-37M missile is the latest version of a Soviet design first fielded towards the end of the Cold War. An article in the Daily Mail ascribes a top speed of 4,500 miles per hour to the missile.
At that speed, the long-range missile can reach its maximum effective range in less than three minutes. It is tipped with an active-seeking radar system that lets it hunt for its target with no need for guidance from its launch platform.
While it can shoot down enemy fighters, the R-37M is designed to take out large, important targets like troop transport planes, aerial tankers and Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) planes from beyond the range of escort planes. RT cited American AWACS as an example of possible targets.
The U.S. military has no equivalent weapon that can match the range or speed of the Russiam missile. (Related: Boeing says it’s working on creating a hypersonic jet that can fly passengers from New York to Tokyo “for lunch”.)
Russian defense officials stated that the R-37M will be fitted aboard Su-57 stealth fighters. Intended to be the equivalent of the American F-22 Raptor and the Chinese Chengdu J-20, the fifth-generation aircraft is wrapping up its development.
The Su-57 is expected to enter formal military service in 2019. Each unit will cost at least $152 million dollars. While the new fighter is capable of reaching speeds of 1,615 miles per hour, it is much slower than the missiles it will carry.
Back when the Su-57 wasn't even a mere glimmer in the eyes of Soviet engineers, said engineers developed the R-37 missile for the MiG-31 interceptor. The first generation came out in 1985; the AWACS-killing missile was 14 feet long and weighed 1,300 pounds.
The M version of the missile is leaps and bounds better than its progenitor. It also appears to have won the competition for the long-range missile of choice for the Russian military.
The R-37M is designed and manufactured by Russian defense company Vympel NPO. Its rival, the KS-172, was being worked on by NPO Novator.
The R-37M is one of the many upgrades to a Russian military that is shedding its Soviet-era bloat with lean and mean hypersonic technology. In September 2018, a new ship-killing missile called P-800 Oniks ("Onyx") was put through its paces in the freezing waters north of Siberia.
Oniks isn't a hypersonic missile like the R-37M, but it can reach speeds of Mach 2.5. And while the R-37M is designed to kill aircraft, the Oniks is intended to wreck advanced warships like the Aegis destroyers and cruisers of the U.S Navy.
During the military drills in Siberian waters, several Oniks missiles were fired at target ships. The tests were reported to be an explosive success.
Not content with rearming themselves, the Russians are also supplying their allies with their new weapons. They gave the latest radar jammers and a powerful S-300 system to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The S-300 is the land-based counterpart of the R-37M. It is a very capable surface-to-air missile that can reportedly detect and shoot down stealth aircraft that are hundreds of miles away. It out-ranges and outperforms its American Patriot counterpart by a massive margin.
Keep track of what could possibly be your first and only warning of impending hypersonic assault at WeaponsTechnology.news.