The SA-N-9 Gauntlet is one of Russia's more popular and successful anti-aircraft missile systems. It is derived fairly closely from the land-based SA-15 Gauntlet, though it appears to fire a different missile which carries a 24kg warhead and may have terminal IR homing. It is effective to a range of 10-20km depending on the target, and can be employed as close as 750m. Top speed is around Mach 3.5. The missile is extremely maneuverable, a combination of high-torque motors and thrust vectoring allowing turns of up to 20G (possibly more, details are somewhat hazy). Primary guidance is by command, using Cross Sword directors. This permits the missile to be fired at any target the Cross Sword system can track, which includes aircraft and missiles, its primary targets, but also small surface targets such as suicide small boats or surfaced submarines.

The actual launcher installation consists of an eight-round revolver-style cylinder that launches the missiles vertically. These may be fairly widely spaced, or packed very tightly together. From overhead, the launcher strongly resembles a scaled-down version of the non-armored SA-N-6 Grumble revolver VLS on the Slava class cruiser, but the launchers include an anti-fire cap on some classes. This weapon is employed on a number of classes, replacing the SA-N-4 Gecko as the short-range missile of choice. It was first deployed on the Udaloy class destroyer, with four VLS forward and two aft. The Neustrashimy class frigate has four VLS forward, and the Kuznetsov class aircraft carrier has four six-VLS clusters placed in a staggered parallelogram formation. The most numerous installation is on the two newest Kirov class cruisers, which have two sets of eight eight-round VLS forward, and an additional two banks of four VLS aft, for a total of 192 missiles ready to fire at any time!

Unlike the vertical launch systems employed by most western navies, Gauntlet is a cold-launched missile, fired from its launch tube by a sort of gun, and only igniting its rocket motor once clear of the tube. This is slightly more complicated, but removes the necessity to have a flame-hardened launcher and piping for flames and exhaust gases. In theory this can allow the same mass of fuel to achieve a marginally better range since the missile already has some significant velocity when the rocket ignites, but in practice the advantage is minimal.

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