Ukraine is in the process of developing a new missile variant for the Neptune (Neptun) cruise missile system, according to Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant General Ivan Havryliuk.
"Work is currently underway to create the so-called long Neptune. This is a new modification of the missile for the Neptune system," the lieutenant general told ArmyInform in an interview.
While details about the project are not disclosed, it is likely an adaptation of the R-360 rocket for the Neptune system redesigned to attack targets on the ground. Unofficial sources earlier suggested the possibility of a land-attack version of this anti-ship missile, with an estimated range of up to 400 km (compared to 300 km for the anti-ship variant) and a potential warhead weight of 350 kg (versus 150 kg). These figures are preliminary, and the specifications of the modified missile's final version may differ from the estimates.
Media reports from August indicate that only a few dozen of these missiles had been produced, potentially including both anti-ship and land-attack versions.
The modified Neptune missile is expected to utilize a thermal imaging homing system, enabling it to locate and lock onto a target based on a preloaded image. The missile would employ the same launcher as the anti-ship version.
Archive video: live firing tests of Neptune against a naval target
The investment in the Neptune project seems to be part of Ukraine's broader commitment to allocate significant financial resources — 175 billion UAH in the next year — towards "missile weapons and ammunition," as labeled in official documents.
Lieutenant General Havryliuk emphasized that "the lion's share of the financial resources will be directed to load up the production capacities of Ukraine's defense industry."
The Ministry of Defense previously noted that it anticipates over 190 billion UAH, contracted in the coming year, to remain with the domestic manufacturer rather than be paid to companies abroad.
The appearance of domestic long-range missile weapons is critically important for Ukraine because of the limitations imposed by foreign partners, not willing for their donated weapons to strike targets within the russian federation.
But as much as Ukraine needs own long-range missiles to meet strategic goals, the production capacity is also important, so much rests on how quickly the new Neptunes will be leaving assembly lines once the design is finalized.