Russian P-800 Oniks missiles may target US-UK warships in Red Sea

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There are growing concerns that Western warships, particularly those under the American coalition protecting commercial traffic in the Red Sea, may face attacks from Russian anti-ship missiles. Some Western media sources, citing an anonymous informant speaking to Middle East Eye [MEE], have highlighted this possibility. The specific threat involves the Russian cruise missile P-800 Oniks.

Reports suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin could intensify the “Western strategic dilemma” in the region by equipping the Iranian-aligned Yemeni Houthi movement with these advanced cruise missiles. However, Moscow has yet to make any official statements on the matter, despite media inquiries.

According to Newsweek, Moscow’s collaboration with the Houthis is part of its increasing alignment with Iran. This growing partnership is a strategic move by the Kremlin to forge stronger bonds with anti-Western factions following its large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

EU Aspides force lacks ships to protect Red Sea maritime traffic
Photo credit: Italian Navy

About P-800 Oniks

The P-800 Oniks, also known by its NATO reporting name SS-N-26 Strobile, is a supersonic anti-ship cruise missile developed by Russia. It is designed to engage various naval targets, including aircraft carriers, destroyers, and other surface vessels. The missile is known for its high speed and advanced guidance systems, making it a formidable weapon in modern naval warfare.

The P-800 Oniks has a length of approximately 8.9 meters [29.2 feet] and a diameter of about 0.7 meters [2.3 feet]. Its launch weight is around 3,000 kilograms [6,614 pounds], which includes the warhead. These dimensions make it a relatively large missile, capable of carrying a substantial payload over long distances.

Russian P-800 Oniks missiles may target US-UK warships in Red Sea
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The propulsion system of the P-800 Oniks is a solid-fuel rocket booster combined with a liquid-fuel ramjet engine. This hybrid propulsion system allows the missile to achieve supersonic speeds, reaching Mach 2.5. The solid-fuel booster provides the initial thrust to launch the rocket, after which the ramjet engine takes over for sustained high-speed flight.

P-800 Oniks capabilities

Technically, the P-800 Oniks is equipped with an advanced guidance system that includes inertial navigation, active radar homing, and electronic counter-countermeasures [ECCM]. The inertial navigation system provides mid-course guidance, while the active radar homing system allows the missile to lock onto and track its target during the terminal phase of flight. The ECCM capabilities help the missile to evade enemy electronic jamming and other countermeasures.

Rafael's NLOS missile successfully tested in the South China Sea
Photo credit: Rafael

The P-800 Oniks can be fitted with different types of warheads, depending on the mission requirements. The primary warhead is a high-explosive fragmentation type, designed to inflict maximum damage on enemy ships. There is also the option for a nuclear warhead, which significantly increases the missile’s destructive potential. The choice of warhead allows for flexibility in operational planning and execution.

The operational range of the P-800 Oniks varies depending on the flight profile and launch platform. When launched from a surface ship or submarine, the missile can achieve ranges of up to 300 kilometers [186 miles]. This extended range allows it to engage targets at considerable distances, providing a tactical advantage in naval engagements.

Reports that the missile has been acquired

Earlier this year, the Houthis agreed not to attack Russian or Chinese ships. In March, Houthi politburo member Ali al-Kahoum highlighted the growing partnership and knowledge exchange between Yemen, Russia, China, and the BRICS nations.

“This cooperation aims to weaken America’s and the West’s influence in the Red Sea region,” he said. The BRICS group originally included Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. It has since grown to include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Houthis currently have Russian-made P-800 Oniks supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles. They sourced these through Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. According to Russian news agency RIA Novosti, the group started developing its own hypersonic missile in March. “The missile force of the group successfully tested a missile that can reach speeds up to Mach 8 and uses solid fuel,” said an unnamed military source close to the Houthis to the news agency.

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