New Russian weapon system hides missiles in shipping container

Defense Services Asia exhibition in Malaysia this week for $15 million.

Debka reports that at the Malaysian exhibition, the marketing film showed the Club-K being activated from an ordinary truck. The truck pulls up and the container roof lifts up to reveal four cruise missiles ready to fire. The operator then pushes a button and the missiles, which have a range of 350 km, are launched without further preparation.

Defense analysts say that potential customers for the Club-K system include Iran and Venezuela – and, in the words of the Telegraph, other “rogue bidders,” including terrorist groups.

Reuters quotes Robert Hewson of Jane’s Defense Weekly to say that “at a stroke, the Club-K gives a long-range precision strike capability to ordinary vehicles that can be moved to almost any place on earth without attracting attention. The idea that you can hide a missile system in a box and drive it around without anyone knowing is pretty new,” said Hewson, who is editor of Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons. “Nobody’s ever done that before.”

Hewson estimated the cost of the Club-K system, which packs four ground or sea-launched cruise missiles into a standard 40-foot shipping container, at $10-20 million. “Unless sales are very tightly controlled, there is a danger that it could end up in the wrong hands,” he said.

This Club-K is game changing with the ability to wipe out an aircraft carrier 200 miles away. The threat is immense in that no one can tell how far deployed your missiles could be,” Hewson told the Telegraph’s Thomas Harding. “What alerted me to this was that the Russians were advertising it at specific international defence event and they have marketed it very squarely at anyone under threat of action from the U.S.”

Reuben Johnson, a Pentagon defense consultant, told Harding the system would be a “real maritime fear for anyone with a waterfront. This is ballistic missile proliferation on a scale we have not seen before because now you cannot readily identify what’s being used as a launcher because it’s very carefully disguised. Someone could sail off your shore looking innocuous then the next minute big explosions are going off at your military installations.”

An official reached by telephone at makers Kontsern Morinformsistema-Agat declined to answer Reuters’ questions about the Club-K. He said the firm had no spokesman and he needed time to study written questions before passing a request to the firm’s management.

Russia is one of the world’s top arms exporters, selling a record $8.5 billion of weapons last year to countries ranging from Syria and Venezuela to Algeria and China. Its order book is estimated to top $40 billion.

Mikhail Barabanov, a defense expert at Russia’s Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), said that as far as he understood, the Club-K was still at the concept stage. “Potential clients include anyone who likes the idea,” he said. “It is known that the United Arab Emirates has shown interest in buying the Club.”

Barabanov said the Club-K used proven missiles from Novator, an established Russian maker of weaponry including anti-submarine, surface-to-air, and submarine-launched missiles.

One of the missiles on offer is a special anti-ship variant with a second stage which splits off after launch and accelerates to supersonic speeds of up to Mach 3. “It’s a carrier-killer,” said Hewson of Jane’s. “If you are hit by one or two of them, the kinetic impact is vast…it’s horrendous.”