MOSCOW, Russia – Military analysts analyzed the characteristics of the Russian Bal and the American Harpoon RGM and compared various criteria that could influence the outcome of a potential battle.
Experts from the Russian weekly Zvezda note that the Bal system, which entered service in 2008, is installed on an MZKT-7930 all-terrain chassis, which allows it to maneuver quickly and take firing positions in coastal areas not previously prepared by engineers.
The Bal system is armed with Uran Kh-35 antinavio cruise missiles with flight range of up to 260 kilometers. The missile follows a programmed route, comparing it with the inertial system, and when approaching the target at a height of one to two meters above the sea activates the search radar.
The 670-kilogram high-explosive filling of the warhead can destroy any ship with a displacement of up to 5,000 tons. A missile is enough to carry an enemy warship to the bottom. In addition, the Bal system can fire salvoes or launch an isolated missile, which saves ammunition and eliminates the risk of enemy detection. Each Bal launcher has a reserve of 32 missiles.
Harpoon is placed in 4-chamber installations on ships, land and air vehicles and has been operational since 1977. In the classic version of the rocket, the 4.5-meter body contains a fragmentation ammunition with 221 kg mass.
That is less than that of its Russian counterpart, but that is enough to sink a ship.
Harpoon does not need roads. Its main places of action are the sea and the air, because it works directly perfectly from a ship or an airplane. At the start of the Harpoon production, a 4-carbon carbon fiber launch facility was created specifically for surface ships and launches.
The aviation version of the Harpoon missiles is compatible with most NATO combat aircraft. The Lockheed P-3 Orion antisubmarine turboprop or Boeing P-8 Poseidon jet are its typical carriers.
As for grounded launchers of the Harpoon missile, theoretically they exist, but in reality none of these launchers can be seen in the US or NATO armies. The American Harpoon, like the Russian rocket, flies to the target at an ultra-low altitude at a speed of 850 miles per hour. After the time specified by the operator, the active target search radar is activated in a 45 degree sector.
Depending on the target, the missile strikes directly at the side or maneuvers by 1.5 km then dips over the target, but in this case is vulnerable to antiaircraft defense. Its range, even in the new versions of the rocket, is far from the Russian indicators – only 220 kilometers.
“So the Bal coastal missile system, with its mobility, firepower and deployment speed, has become a true ‘jet hammer’ on the Russian sea coasts,” military experts say.
The large-scale modernization of Harpoon, announced by the Pentagon in 2008, still continues. According to the program, hundreds of missiles are being modernized. Of these, 800 are for terrestrial systems only.
Experts have concluded that traditional Harpoon missiles already have difficulty dealing with the requirements of modern warfare, even if the new modifications do not solve everything.
The high cost of more than 700 thousand dollars per unit is also a serious obstacle. The Russian Bal system is not only 3 times cheaper, it is also lighter and has a longer range.