A Game-Changing Weapon

Russia markets a cruise missile that can be launched from cargo.

The Russian company Concern Morinformsystem-Agat is marketing a deadly new weapon, one that can allow a rogue state to overcome the technological superiority of Western militaries. The system can even be used to carry out devastating attacks on the U.S. homeland with little means of defense.

The system, as seen in its promotional video, allows a weak nation to strike the land and sea targets of a superior force by placing cruise missiles into any type of 40 foot container. The video uses a ship, truck and train as examples of potential launching platforms. This means that once this weapon is sold, any of these transportation vehicles have to be seen as missile pads.

The West normally relies upon advanced surveillance to detect and monitor such pads so that prior notice of a launch can be achieved, allowing for the site to be destroyed before the missile takes off or the missile to be intercepted. This warning allows for preparations for impact to be undertaken and retaliatory measures to be evaluated. By concealing and launching the missiles from cargo containers, there is absolutely minimal time to react, as effective surveillance would require following every truck, train or ship.

In addition, these vehicles can cross borders, making it more difficult to identify the perpetrator of an attack and impossible to predict where an attack might come from. The missiles might from a shipping vessel off the coast or a truck that crossed via the Mexican border. With a range of 220 kilometers, or about 136 miles, they can either be fired from a safe distance from the border or the distance can be minimized by getting close to the target by being hidden.

The affect of such an attack would be devastating. Military targets like aircraft carriers could be destroyed, or a key piece of infrastructure could be disabled. The U.S. would have to begin checking all the ship cargo entering via the ports and the trucks entering the country, dramatically slowing down commerce while leaving open the possibility for further attacks. This weapon is just as much a psychological and economic weapon as it is military.

It is clear that the weapon is meant for anti-American clients. In the promotional video, the military forces preparing to attack include high-tech warships and aircraft, a way of not-so-subtly pointing out to prospective customers that the system can allow them to stand up to Western aggressors. The words of a spokeswoman for the Russian company make it obvious that the Club-K system was made with enemies of the U.S. in mind.

“…not every country can afford expensive toys…But nobody has the right to deprive these countries of the opportunity to have the power of sovereignty. Moreover, the potential aggressor should keep in mind that he can suffer unacceptable damage,” she said.

The company maintains that the system is designed to be one of the “effective countermeasures against state terrorism.” The company can only be referring to the United States and Israel. Their goal is to help countries like Iran, Syria and Venezuela gain the means to alter the balance of power and deter any aggressive action against them.

The Telegraph touched on this, writing that “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.” For a minor cost of $10-20 million, these countries can make the consequences of military action against them so high that they can mostly act as they please.

Concern has been voiced that the weapon could fall into the hands of terrorists. The missiles use satellites for their precision targeting, so the idea that Al-Qaeda or another terrorist not acting as a saboteur on behalf of a state could use them is far-fetched. However, that does not mean that a rogue state couldn’t use such terrorists as proxies and use their own satellites to guide the missiles.

The Russian company dismisses this concern, saying that arms exports regulations mean that the weapon will only be given to a responsible state. This is a laughable rebuttal, as Russian arms form an important part of every rogue state’s arsenal and Russia is not deterred by the fact that their assistance to those rogue states indirectly helps terrorists.

In September 2008, Israel’s top information security official in the military claimed that the information given to Syria by Russian intelligence-gathering ships and listening posts in the Golan Heights was being used to help Hezbollah.  Russia doesn’t even have Hamas or Hezbollah on their list of terrorist organizations. It is quite possible that Iran and Syria will use terrorist operatives to carry out an attack with the weapon, as could Venezuela. North Korea could buy it and sell it to countries around the world. The more countries that possess the Club-K, the more likely it is to be used in an offensive fashion as it becomes more difficult for the victim to pinpoint the source of the attack.

Luckily, there is still time to stop the weapon from being sold. The system has not yet been assembled, and is just being pitched for buyers so that funding can begin its construction and testing. Russia is influenced by international pressure, as their consistent delays to deliver the S-300 air-defense system to Iran shows. The West needs to come together to demand that the Club-K does not leave the borders of Russia and prepare to intercept it as soon as it does.