March 22, 1999


The Pentagon, Virginia

The Navy has shot down a proposal to adopt a Russian missile. In March 1999, U.S. Navy officials decided against a contract between Boeing and the Russian Zvezda-Strela State Science and Production Center. The Russian proposal was to supply the Navy with up to 300 modified Kh-31A 'Kripton' (Mod 2) medium range air-to-surface anti-ship and anti-radar missiles over the next five years.

The titanium Kh-31 was built in 1988 by Zvezda-Strela for the former Soviet Union. In 1997, the U.S. Navy test fired four of the ramjet powered, titanium cruise missiles. In 1998, the Clinton administration gave Boeing/Douglas and Zvezda-Strela engineers additional funding to improve the Russian missile's range to over 100 miles.

In 1998, Zvezda and Boeing circulated reports of an agreement between Russia and the U.S. Navy to purchase up to 300 Kh-31s. According to Zvezda, Boeing was to convert the weapons into MA-31 supersonic aerial targets (SSST) for the U.S. Navy (Janes Defense Weekly 14 October 1998). According to Janes Defense, 28% of any sale would go directly into the bank accounts of the Russian Army Generals.

The U.S. Navy now plans to purchase no more than five MA-31 missiles from Boeing in 1999. According to a letter written by Undersecretary of the Navy, H. Lee Buchanan, the Navy plans to only fund $2.8 million for "a limited number of MA-31 targets."

Despite the Boeing claims of 50 to 100 nautical miles the real performance of the MA-31 is poor at best. According to the actual test results obtained from Boeing, the Russian MA-31 can fly only a mere 16 miles. In fact, one test conducted by Boeing recorded the MA-31 ran out of fuel and fell into the sea after traveling only 8 miles.

Navy plans not to purchase the MA-31 have also placed the extended-range option on hold. Congressional sources stated that they are "not keen on funding any option" that could be used by the Russians to improve the Kh-31 weapon version. One Congressional military attache stated "we intend to keep a close eye on this project."

The move is seen as a victory for U.S. aerospace workers, the U.S. taxpayer and national security. Vice President Al Gore was alleged to support the purchase of the Kh-31 by the Navy. There were reports that Gore made several promises to Russian Generals during his frequent visits to Moscow. The Russian maker Zvezda-Strela is backed by Gore supporters, Cassidy Associates and IBP International.

Cassidy Associates is a Washington D.C. based lobby firm that has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations to the Clinton/Gore campaign. According to FEC records, Cassidy Associates made over 2,500 political contributions between 1991 and 1998.

Cassidy Associates was also linked to the Ron Brown trade missions. Cassidy Associates sent Maely Tom, a radical-leftist and DNC donor, to the far east on a Ron Brown trade mission to Indonesia. The same mission included Charlie Trie, Pauline Kanchanalak and Nora Lum. Lum has already been convicted of illegal campaign contributions.

The other Zvezda supporter is IBP International, a firm based in London and McClean Virginia run by Gore backer Judith De Paul. IBP successfully lobbied NASA to select the Russian Tu-144 and Boeing/Douglas for high speed test flights. IBP also lobbied unsuccessfully for the Zvezda-Strela K-36 jet fighter ejection seat for NASA T-38 Astronaut trainer jets.

In many ways, the Zvezda Kh-31 represents why the Soviet Union lost the cold war. It is far too expensive for active service unless you also happen to have a 1980s Soviet Army budget. The Kh-31 is constructed almost entirely from titanium. The metal is expensive to form, and the missile requires special tools for maintenance. The cost of building, maintaining and firing the Kh-31 far exceeds its effective combat capability.


Simply put, a dent, ding or even the wrong tool can ruin the entire missile. The Kh-31 is not something that the Iraqi Army could pack in a truck and bury in the desert. The Kh-31 was originally developed to kill radars, either on the ground on in an airborne U.S. AWACS plane. It was the best the Soviet engineers could fabricate.

Several western missiles such as HARM, Phoenix, Sparrow, Shrike and AMRAAM are more capable in both range and accuracy for the anti-air and anti-radar modes. None use large quantities of titanium. The Kh-31 threat here is limited to the decaying Russian air force.


Recognizing the Kh-31 shortcomings, Zvezda modified the missile to an anti-shipping role. However, anti-ship missiles fly at only a few feet above the water to avoid detection. The Kh-31 was designed to fly at high altitude and thus, cannot travel very far in the thick air, close to the ocean surface. The Russian Navy selected the much larger Raduga 3M80 Moskit SS-N-22 "Sunburn" to serve the anti-ship role because it is designed to fly low, fast and far.

Anti-ship missiles in this class are the Talos/Sea Snake, the French ANF and the Russian SS-N-22 "Sunburn" and they are all much larger than the Kh-31. They are designed to fly in the thick air. Even the smallest of the three, the French ANF, is twice the size of the Kh-31. None of the real "threat" missiles use large amounts of titanium.


It is no surprise that Zvezda has been unable to re-sell the Kh-31 to any foreign buyer. China, asian and middle eastern customers have balked because of the difficult maintenance and handling requirements for titanium. Chinese clients have shown little interest because they cannot duplicate the missile. Middle eastern customers prefer the French Exocet and are awaiting the Mach 2 ANF. The Kh-31 "threat" does not exist.

Recent moves at Zvezda indicate the Russian missile bureau has decided to face market pressures and change product lines to subsonic anti-ship missiles. The recent sale of Zvezda Kh-35 "Switchblade" missiles to Algeria is a prime example. The "Switchblade" is a copy of the U.S. Harpoon subsonic anti-ship missile. Zvezda has also moved what few remaining engineers they have (that have not sought jobs at BMW Moscow) to a project in China, copying the subsonic U.S. "Tomahawk" missile.


The improved Kh-31, called the MA-31 target drone, was slated to become the Clinton pick for a long delayed Navy high-speed target program (SSST). The Clinton selection of the Russian missile raised many political and security questions. The move was also expected to force the closure of an Allied Signal production plant in Indiana that builds a superior product.


In March 1999, Softwar submitted an open request with the Navy to interview Undersecretary Buchanan, including a specific list of questions. Within days of the Softwar request, the U.S. Navy opted to delay the project. This author intends to continue to pursue this story.

The delay is reported to have a logical reason. The U.S. Navy is now reported to be seeking the "French solution." Navy officials are trying to reduce the project costs by favoring a U.S. defense contractor who is slated to team with French missile maker Aerospatiale, maker of the Exocet and ANF.

French and NATO Navies (such as the Royal Navy) will need a target drone that duplicates ANF. The joint Franco/American project could open the door between Europe and the U.S. for a wide variety of target drones for all NATO services. The move could also improve the strained relations between the U.S. and France.

France has sold the ANF predecessor, Exocet, to virtually every nation with sea power. Iraq, Iran and Argentina have successfully used Exocet in combat during its long term of service. In a perverse form of imitation as "flattery", China recently introduced its own illegal copy of the Exocet, the C.801 missile.


French officials are anxious to sell the Exocet follow-on ANF to a wide variety of customers around the globe, many of them hostile to U.S. national policy. The Exocet threat exists and the U.S. Navy has every reason to fear the proliferation of ANF.

Yet, several all-American firms are anxious to win the tiny Navy contract - which totals less than $100 million. Some of their innovative designs are legends of Area-51 UFO lore. These new and radical, low cost, options can imitate the French ANF, Sunburn or any other threat. They not only offer innovation but security against proliferation and investments that strengthen the U.S. industrial base.

The tiny price for such benefits puzzles me. We have certainly spent far more than $100 million investigating the many Clinton scandals. The Clinton scandal industry, both government and private, can take credit for much of the recent economic growth. The price of this key project is so small in Washington terms that most on Capitol hill scoff at even discussing it.

There is no question that the Navy, starved for funds by the many years of Clinton neglect, sought any answer that did not go on the books. Navy objections to a deal with Russia fell on deaf ears bent by political contributions. It was the added attention by the public, press and finally, the Congress that killed the MA-31 deal.

The extra attention may result in a tiny increase in budget from a President suddenly eager to look tough on defense. In fact, a mere $10 million could purchase the remaining 30 American Talos/Sea Snake missiles and provide our Navy with a badly needed stop-gap until the new SSST project is on line.

Either way, with France as an ally or alone, open competition in what was formally a "done" deal, is now generating the finest designs at the lowest cost. The troubled SSST project, once a political plumb that Clinton and Gore offered to corrupt Russian Generals, appears to be back on track. Our Navy, and perhaps the Navies of our trusted allies, can now patrol the troubled waters of the next century, knowing they are ready for any threat.




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