I was watching a video on a Soviet submarine armed with the P6 cruise missile: The video mentions "It could use the lead missile in the group to find targets and share targeting data" and that the Tu95 Bomber could send target data to the submarine that was launching the missile.

In general, Soviet electronics and computer technology were not ahead of the west, so that seems like an interesting capability for development work in the late 50's and early 60's. So, what data link protocol was used between the bomber, the submarine, and the missiles? Were they all using the same data format? OR was there one technology for communicating from the bomber and some steps to convert the data for the missile? Is "data" too abstract a word for the electronics in a 1960's cruise missile and was it some sort of analog signal that couldn't transfer arbitrary data?

  • Weak sauce. Real submariners use torpedoes to sink the heavy before it knows it's being attacked.
    – Brian H
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 19:44
  • @BrianH the original P6 was meant to attack shore targets like cities and harbours. Those can be rather hard to torpedo :) Though the Soviets did develop (and are fielding a new version now) nuclear tipped torpedoes that can quietly swim into enemy ports, lay on the bottom for a while and go boom when a timer goes off or they detect tampering.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 12:38

1 Answer 1


Not much of an answer, only what I know.

That missile was fitted with various means of control and guidance over its long use (>40y) - in fact, as it's still in use today by some navies as P-35.

Before going into details it's important to understand that it was designed to attack a carrier group and here if possible the carrier itself. So a fairly large target with a massive radar signature in an almost 'flat' surrounding with nothing but the target (group).

The very first (early 1960s) version didn't have any real kind of 'data' link, at least not in a sense like we would call it today. It's main control was an inertia system. The guidance system was feed a vector and a distance. This was done locally from SIGINT data received from a TU-16 or TU95. The starting sub was roughly pointed in that direction as well. The missile was started and climbed to high altitude, heading toward the target. After droping the start rockets and reaching cruise speed an analog TV link was established with the sub. The transmitted radar information was used to guide and at some point lock the final target and let go. Now the cruise missile dropped to low altitude and followed the locked direction.

In later versions this TV link could be hand over between the submarine and a TU-95 long range targeter. The TU-96 was a special version equipped with a long range target radar. The advantage of using that TU-95 was it's higher energy and ranging. When feed from the airplane, the analogue radar data was send toward the cruise missile and insed as input much if it was taken from the onboard radar. This allowed to drop to low (safe) altitude quite early - if necessary. At some point again (or whenever jammed) it reverted to on board radar for the final aproach.

Next to all of this was done analogue. So 'data' has to be understood in a broader sense than we would today.

Of course, the P6 and it's offsprings has had many updates in electronics in more than 40 years of service, so today's versions can be assumed as fully digital.

  • "Not much of an answer, only what I know." really too modest. Great answer Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 20:05
  • mind that the main use of the original P6 was to attack shore targets with nuclear warheads, the anti-carrier mission was a later addition. Midcourse guidance for that first mission was mostly to correct for errors in the original launch coordinates programmed into the missiles
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 12:39

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