Nothing like having to look over your shoulder when you are just about to take a shot - President Obama had one of those aha moments on Monday when Russia's Moskva missile cruiser -- called a "carrier-killer" by NATO -- passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and headed toward the Mediterranean to command the Russian naval force
The cruiser is armed with the Russian P-500 Bazalt (SS-N-12 Sandbox) anti ship missile and P-1000 (Vulkan) Presently, the P-500 Bazalt remains only on surface ships, but it is still one of the most capable Russian naval weapons. For a long time it was underestimated in the West. Since the missile was similar in appearance to the P-6/P-35 series, it was not even recognized for a long time, especially as the main armament of Echo II submarines.
Development of the intended P-6/P-35 replacement was initiated on the very same day as the P- 120 Malakhit program (February 28, 1963). It was to be a surface-launched missile for both submarines and surface ships. To avoid any counterattack from a carrier group, the missile's range was to be 500 km, outside the usual operational radius of carrier-protection forces. At the same time, the guidance system and missile survivability were to be greatly improved and in line with evolving tactics.
For the first time, it was assumed that any attack on a carrier group would be of a massive character. The tactics of such an attack is described later, but it is worth describing some P-500 Bazalt features beforehand. The P-500 missile is similar in appearance to the P-6/35 and was powered by a liquid-fuel sustainer and solid-rocket booster. It has a speed of Mach 2 at high altitude and Mach 1.5-1.6 at low altitude. The flight profile of the missile varies from 30 to 7,000 m (low-low or low-high).
Guidance is based on a digital INS on a gyro- stabilized platform and an active-radar seeker, which periodically switches to passive mode. For the first time, the missile was equipped with a digital computer (Tsifrova Vichislenna Mashina, "digital computing device"). The guidance system was also equipped with a datalink to communicate between missiles in a salvo, with a salvo consisting of eight missiles launched at short intervals. Usually, one of the missiles flies high (5,000-7,000 m) to pick up the target, while the rest remain at medium to low altitude with their radar seekers switched to passive mode.
The leading missile then transmits targeting data to the others and allocates individual targets, with half of the salvo directed at the aircraft carrier and half at other ships in the area, one apiece. The onboard radar seekers are turned on at the last moment, just before reaching the target. If the lead missile is shot down, another one (in a programmed sequence) takes over and climbs to a higher altitude to continue directing the salvo. All the missiles have active radar jamming to disrupt any defensive action from fighters and shipboard air-defense systems. In addition, vital parts of the P-500 missile are armored to increase survivability.