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The ‘Sunburn’ – Capable and Versatile Hormuz Weapon

Editor’s Note – We can only hope that top military leaders get the memos and in case of poor distribution, we must ensure they read Business Insider or the Wall Street Journal each morning before they meet in war-gaming sessions. For decades, Iran has been the recipient of weapons provided by their ‘Sugar Daddies’ in Moscow.

Russia has been generous with the Sunburn missile which Iran appears to possess in the thousands. With a range of 90 miles, the Russian SS-N-22 Sunburn is likely to be one of the weapons of choice for Iran for impeding shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. This is an versatile weapon and may be launched using various methods. The question at hand is how elastic are the counter-measures of the West, or more precisely, the United States in any offensive posture.

Iran’s Arsenal Of Sunburn Missiles Is More Than Enough To Close The Strait

Russ Winter, The Wall Street Examiner

Russian SS-N-22 Sunburn missile in use by Iran

Business Insider

Any good armchair general with a good search engine and time on their hands can figure out in a hurry that the song and dance about Iran being unable to close the Strait if Hormuz for long is just a plain crock. Worse than a crock. Yet, this big Orwellian lie persists, so once again I have to set the record straight. Iran has the capability of not only closing the Strait for some time, but creating a world of hurt for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Iran possesses a build up of anti-ship weapons called Sunburn missiles, which it has procured from Russia and China over the last decade. These are top-notch weapons developed by the Russians as a low-cost challenge to the expensive, tech-heavy weaponry of the U.S., and specifically the aircraft carrier task force. A conflict, which I now assign a high probability to [see Scenario for an Israel Attack on Iran], is going to be a huge test of a global-naval doctrine that Russia and China will watch with tremendous interest. That’s why I think they have armed Iran to the teeth. The big question: How many of these weapons does Iran have? I would suggest thousands, and that this is the real show.

Given that U.S. crony logic seems to be about squandering money on weapons in the military-industrial complex, I fear for young sailors and marines on the 5th Fleet. Don’t get me wrong, the US Navy is professional, but the Strait doesn’t allow for the normal defense in depth available in open seas, in fact it offers the Iranians a cross fire setup or triangulation (see map of Strait below) . If you read discussions on various military sites, there is a lively debate on American ship defense system like the Aegis. However, almost nobody claims this to be fully protective against ship strikes. And an oil tanker, no way. It is important that the US is working on new generation lasar defense to counter these missiles, however they are still in development. This puts added pressure for Iran to have this fight now, not later. The following is from ”Russian Military Equality Network. (I have cleaned up the English a bit]

U.S. Navy Pacific Commander Admiral Timothy Keating said that due to lack of sufficient funds for the procurement of simulated target missile defense system, the U.S. Navy can not now afford to fight “the club” category of supersonic anti-ship missiles. It is reported that the U.S. military that is used to simulate the “club” missile target missile is still being developed, and is expected to be put into use in 2014.

The Strait of Hormuz separates the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean

The Sunburn is perhaps the most lethal anti-ship missile in the world, designed to fly as low as 9 feet above ground/water at more than 1,500 miles per hour (mach 2+). The missile uses a violent pop-up maneuver for its terminal approach to throw off Phalanx and other U.S. anti-missile defense systems. Given their low cost, they’re perfectly suited for close quarter naval conflict in the bathtub-like Persian Gulf.

The Sunburn is versatile, and can be fired from practically any platform, including just a flat bed truck. It has a 90-mile range, which is all that is necessary in the small Persian Gulf and 40-mile-wide Strait of Hormuz. Fired from shore a missile could hit a ship in the Strait in less than a minute. It presents a real threat to the U.S. Navy. Tests using the Aegean and RAM ship defense technology stops the Sunburn 95% of the time, but such testing was done in open seas, not a bathtub. The payload hit with a 750-pound conventional warhead can be witnessed at 1:53-1:57 in this video. Not enough to sink a carrier, but it could take down smaller capital ships and crew.

You don’t have to be Hannibal preparing for the Battle of Cannae to see that the Strait is a potential shooting gallery. Without a doubt, Iran has plotted and mapped every firing angle and location along the Gulf, their home-court coastline. This is going to put enormous interdiction pressure on U.S. warplanes to spot and destroy platforms, which may be as simple as a flat-bed truck. In reality, Iran has dug in from Jask in the east to Bandar in the west and can easily cover any ship, commercial or military, traversing the narrow Strait.

Equally disturbing is Iran’s missile range for the entire Persian Gulf. Bahrain itself could be hit by the longer-range version of the Sunburn, the Onyx. Is the U.S. (which has three aircraft carrier groups in play currently) going to stick around or clear out to the Oman Sea, leaving control of the oil lanes to Iran? Or will they stay and slug it out with the Iranians? If so, at what cost? Iran’s strategic advantage may mean some losses for the 5th Fleet, if this gets played out on Iran’s home court.



Posted by on February 8, 2012. Filed under Iran. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

8 Responses to The ‘Sunburn’ – Capable and Versatile Hormuz Weapon

  1. Ade

    have any of our political leaders ever considered that trade, friendly relations and tourism might be a good foreign policy.

  2. john

    we are with you IRAN, hope you become victorious and stop these nazis, isreal, usa and nato

  3. Frank

    I cannot agree with John, above, but nonetheless, a lot of what America has done in the 70+ years of Israel’s existence made 9/11 inevitable—-I say this because America has been Israel”s financial and military guarantor throughout this time period. Without getting into the whole discussion of why bad things happen to endogamic, arrogant and self-interested Jews, leave it be said that the next time Israel starts a war and expects young Americans to die for it and its policy of expansion into Arab territories, we should sit this one out. It is inevitable that the US is going to be blamed for this, but if we allow Israel to start it and take some credit, we may be able to back away from having backed the wrong horse for all these decades. Israel ought to get out of the “conquered territories”, stop those insane “settlements” and go back to its 1967 borders.

    Underlying EVERYTHING is the question of why the Jews needed a homeland in the first place. Hubris has its own rewards—the Greeks knew this—and I’m sure that the Jews do, too—although they are reluctant to admit it publically. A friend of my father reportedly said in 1949—“This (the crreation of Israel) will be the end of human civilization, ultimately.” I fear he was right.

  4. Socrates

    It is difficult to understand why the US goes along with the Israeli extremism. The US has so much to loose with this difficult friendship, Israel a country invented by the West. They created a monster and now this monster is out of control. Obama knows very well that Natanhaju is a fanatic who always get his way; this time is not Palestine a country that is all alone. Iran is different, is more powerful and has very close ties with Russia and China. I don’t see Russia and China looking the other way while Israel is bombing Iran and, if Israel wants to nuke Iran then, Russia will wipe out Israel then I don’t want to see what is coming after that.

  5. Yacov Porat

    After reading your responds I am sure Israel must attack right now.
    To Live out this issue to people and media like you will give finally the results what you and your parents and the church and the Muslims wanted so much all long the history: destroy Jews!
    It is too complicate to explain shortly, but the anti-samisen is continues nonstop.
    Jew in all 2000 years of history did not claim or kill people for their religion!
    Jew did not force any one to change his religion
    Israel did not force wars against our neighbors – vice versa!
    Israel gave back occupied territories 3 times to our enemy and now they and you want 4th time
    Like it is a game of children and not a real war which we loosed dozen of thousands of young solders – but not even one American solders!!! The American did not for us yet!
    We are sitting on our land which we buy, or which does not belong to any person.
    We deserve after 2000 years to have our homeland with peace.
    After 6 million mascaraed on 1945 our Prime Minister David ben gurion said: “no more”
    And behoove of all my family which was Bearn by the germen and with the support of all the human mankind, I hope Iran will get a hit which will explain to you
    And all Anti-Semitic on the world: “no more”
    We are not going to be destroyed this time and not ever
    Those threat that “sunburn” missals are something which will stop America from war are those who Do not see and do not talks at all that the Museum world already declare war
    And we Israel are the first to be hit (re: the small Satan and the big Satan)
    With America or without America it will do what it must do.
    And if the world will goes to new darkness age it is your problem since you let this situation
    To arrive to this point.
    And by the way, Israel has enough atomic bombs to stop human being exist at all, just consider it and let us live in peace
    Yacov porat

    • Massudo

      You have enough atom bombs to shove them you know where.

      Do you really think the west feels sorry for you for the Holocaust LIE.

      Hi Hitler!

      Hitler was the creator of israhell.

      You out of control BEAST!

  6. C Caldwell

    I had thought to comment on your article, but the comments above are filled with hatred and venom, m ideological and religious. I wonder if they understand the survivabilty of they propose?

    In any event, Iran’s ownership and deployment of hundrede or thousands of Sunburn and Yakhont missiles, launched from flatbed trucks, fishing trawlers, planes, and oil platforms would make a carrier group ‘sitting ducks in a shooting gallery’.
    Regardless of ECM countermeasures, systems can be ‘overwhelmed’.

    The actual shipping lanes are only 6 mi wide, and come within 7 mi of the Iranian coast. Then they must traverse about 40 miles parallel to the coast in a slow arc, flanked by Iran, any time they enter or leave the straits.

    No amount of bravado will alter the results of multiple impacts if 750kg warheads striking the carriers at mach 2.3 speeds.

    If the figure is accurate, 95% efficacy may not defeat 100 missiles,

    If Iran and the US go to war, there will be nothing left for the misfortunate winner of the conflict, nor anyone else.

  7. Greg

    Wow, with the exception of Mr. Caldwell, the comments above ranged from racist to ignorant of history to downright idiocy. That being said this is an interesting issue and I have long felt the US has allowed itself to fall behind (but not too much) in naval warfare, as it has been focused so much on land based assymetrical and COIN warfare over the past 11 years. I couldn’t agree more with the asessement that the chinese will be watching this potential conflict with great interest, as it gives them a chance to test their equipment in real world conflict with little or no blowback, especially considering that America will have an emasculated foreign policy for the next 4 years due to it’s unfortunate mistake in re-electing the most clueless idiot to rule a nation in modern times. While this is not mentioned directly, it certainly is not lost on any of the potential adversaries the US will likely face in the next 5-10 years, so I would think that if Iran (and no doubt at the urging of china) were going to push the envelope and drive this situation to confrontation, now would be the time. As I am no longer on active duty, I won’t be there to “play” but I will watch this with great interest.

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