25 years of service of Russian Kh-29 missile
Early Su-30MKK launching kH-29T missile. Photo KNAAPO Konsomolsk
One of the most successful Russian Kh-29 missile was accepted to service in 1980 and is still in use as one of the most widely spread air-to-ground Russian missile. The missile could be carried by modernized Su-27SM and is the main guided air-to-ground weapon of Su-24M, primary Russian ground attack aircraft. The missile is also used by Belarus (also on modernized MiG-29BM), Ukraine, Bulgaria (on Su-22M4), Poland (on Su-22M4), Slovakia (on Su-24M4), India (on Su-30MKI), China (on Su-30MKK). It was also used by East Germany and Czech Republic.
The development of the missile started in 1975 in KB “Molnia” in Moscow (previously OKB-4) lead by Matius Bisnovat, while the direct development was lead by Georgiy I. Khokhlov. The team had already developed some successful air-to-air missiles: R-8, R-4 (K-80) and R-40 (the latter was the main armament of MiG-25PD. The “Izdelye 64” (“product 64”), which latter became Kh-29 was to be the first air-to-ground missile developed by the team. However in 1976 a decision was taken that KB “Molnia” would be merged with some other entities to form NPO “Molnia” and the new company was tasked to develop Soviet space shuttle (Buran). In 1977 Matius Bisnovat died and all the missile works were passed to KB “Vympel” (former OKB-134) from Tushino, near Moscow. In the new design bureau the program was lead by G. Khokhlov, and since 1981 – by Genadiy Sokolovskiy. In 1994 Sokolovskiy became the directot of the development center FGUP GosMKB “Vympel” reorganized from the formed design bureau and the farther development of the Kh-29 was then lead by Avangard L. Kegeles. Since May 2004 the OAO Korporatsya Takticheskoye Raketnoye Vorozhuneye (Corporation Tactical Missile Weapon) was formed and the FGUP GosMKB “Vympel” became a part of the corporation, as the design and development facility. In the KB “Vympel” the direct works on the missile development were lead by L.N. Kheyfer.
The first firing of the missile took place in 1976. After extensive trials the missile was accepted to service in 1980, in two versions: semi-active laser guided Kh-29L and TV-guided Kh-29T.
Kh-29T of the Russian Air Force. Photo Michal Fiszer
Initially the Kh-29L (“Izdelye 64L”) and Kh-29T (“Izdelye 64T”) were produced by Leningradskiy Severny Zavod (Leningrad Northern Factory), and in 1982 the production was passed to BAPO “Iglim” in Baku. After dissolution of the Soviet Union, the production of the missile was again taken over by Leningradskiy Severny Zavod. The production was ended around 2003, but the exact number of missile produced is unknown. The missile will remain in service for next several years.
The Kh-29 missile was built from five main elements. In front is the semi-active laser seeker 24N1 developed by NPO “Geofizyka” from Moscow. It is exactly the same seeker, which is used on smaller Kh-25ML missile. Behind the seeker there is missile control unit, which controls small all moving surfaces in the front and the control surfaces on the larger wings mounted in the rear part of the missile. In the middle of the missile is the warhead of 317 kg weight, from which the explosive is 116 kg. The warhead is especially shaped for penetrating concrete and according to official data it can penetrate up to 1 m of concrete behind the 3 m of soil layer (before the explosion). After launch the missile climbs to about 5000 m, so the attack comes almost vertically. The fuze can be set either on the immediate explosion (for attacking such objects like bridges) or for short delay (for penetration of bunkers or other reinforced installations). In the missile rear a solid state rocket motor is mounted. It is PRD-228 working for 3.2-6.2 s and giving a thrust of 228 kN (51,500 pounds), which gives the missile the average speed of about Ma=1.2. In the very end of the missile there is a gas bottle for powering the controls.
Kh-29L missile belonging to 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing of Polish Air Force (Su-22M4), photo taken in 1991.
Photo Michal Fiszer
The missile can be fired from the distance from 2-3 km to 7-8 km and from altitudes from 200 m to 10,000 m, at the speeds between 600 and 1250 km/h. From altitudes of 200-500 m it is launched from horizontal flight, from altitudes 800-2000 m from shallow dive and from 1500 to 4000 m (optimal altitudes) is launched from more step dive. The launch altitude above 5000 m is purely theoretical capability, without serious tactical use. The missile weights 660 kg and has a length of 3875 mm. The wing span is 1100 mm and the diameter body of 380 mm.
The version Kh-29T is equipped with Tubus-2 TV seeker, developed by NPO “Impuls” from Moscow, working in visual waveband (0.4 to 0.95 μm). The missile before launch passes the picture to the screen in the cockpit and after launch is of “fire-and-forget” type. It is slightly heavier (680 kg) and flies a little bit slower. The maximum distance of launch is 8-10 km and the minimum distance is 3 km. The remaining data is the same.
In late 90s the the OAO Korporatsya Takticheskoye Raketnoye Vorozhuneye offered also Kh-29TD version (known as Kh-29TE for export) with some improvements to the seeker and the control system, with the range increased to 12-14 km. Probably some missiles of this version were produced in late 90s and early next decade.
Su-22M4 of Polish Air Force taking off with a Kh-29T missile.
Photo Waclaw Holys
Kh-29 was reliable weapon (I personally fired Kh-29T from Su-22M4 of Polish Air Force hitting the target at Drawsko Pomorskie shooting range), achieving 5-8 m of accuracy, which does not make much different at more than 100 kg of explosive. The missile is carried on the AKU-58 catapult-rail, which actually drops the missile down from the aircraft. When the missile is about 3 m below the aircraft, the steel wire connected to the aircraft release the safety pin, which ignite the missile’s engine. It is done to avoid blocking the missile on the rail of launching aircraft (more than 50,000 pounds of thrust!) and to avoid sacking the missile fumes to the aircraft’s air intake. Interestingly, the missile has a big fire “tail” for the first few seconds of flight, but than almost disappear from the pilot’s view, with only thin (almost invisible) trace of white smoke. The explosion is however impressive and really destructive.