Defence experts are warning of a new danger of ballistic weapons proliferation after a Russian company started marketing a cruise missile that can be launched from a shipping container.
By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
Published: 6:30PM BST 25 Apr 2010
It is feared that the covert Club-K missile attack system could prove “game-changing” in fighting wars with small countries, which would gain a remote capacity to mount multiple missiles on boats, trucks or railways.
Iran and Venezuela have already shown an interest in the Club-K Container Missile System which could allow them to carry out pre-emptive strikes from behind an enemy’s missile defences.
Defence experts say the system is designed to be concealed as a standard 40ft shipping container that cannot be identified until it is activated.
Priced at an estimated £10 million, each container is fitted with four cruise anti-ship or land attack missiles. The system represents an affordable “strategic level weapon”.
Some experts believe that if Iraq had the Club-K system in 2003 it would have made it impossible for America to invade with any container ship in the Gulf a potential threat.
Club-K is being marketed at the Defence Services Asia exhibition in Malaysia this week.
Novator, the manufacturer, is an advanced missile specialist that would not have marketed the system without Moscow’s approval. It has released an emotive marketing film complete with dramatic background music.
It shows Club-K containers stowed on ships, trucks and trains as a neighbouring country prepares to invade with American style military equipment.
The enemy force is wiped out by the cruise missile counter attack.
Russia has already prompted concern in Washington by selling Iran the sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft missile system that would make targeting of Iranian nuclear facilities very difficult.
“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,” said Robert Hewson, editor of Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, who first reported on the Club-K developments.
“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 US.”
Reuben Johnson, a Pentagon defence consultant, said 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.”