Russia claims to have used its Kinzhal hypersonic missiles for the first time invasion of Ukraine – perhaps heralding a new era in which these super-fast weapons could dominate warfare.
Russia announced on Saturday (March 19) that it had used the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile system – its name means “dagger” in Russian – to destroy an arms depot in western Ukraine, according to a Reuters report News agency, which quoted the independent Russian news agency Interfax.
Russia’s state news agency TASS reported The missiles have been used in “experimental” combat duty with a squadron of Mig-31K fighter jets in southern Russia since 2017.
But the Interfax report states that this was the first time the Kinzhals had been used in combat in Ukraine; Russia has never admitted using the missiles elsewhere.
A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, reportedly said in a news conference that the missiles destroyed an underground depot housing Ukrainian missiles and aircraft ammunition. “The Kinzhal air missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse with missiles and missile ammunition in the village of Deliatyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region,” the Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday. according to the Agence France-Presse news agency.
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And a spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force on Friday confirmed a Russian missile attack on the Ivano-Frankivsk region of western Ukraine but gave no further details, Reuters reported.
On Saturday, Russia’s Defense Ministry released video of the alleged destruction of Ukraine’s arms depot by a “high-precision missile attack.”
▫️Destruction of a weapons depot of the Armed Forces of Ukraine by a high-precision missile attack. We can see the exact hit of an underground hangar with guns and ammo. pic.twitter.com/sKTF46Tdb0March 19, 2022
The hypersonic Kinzhal missiles are one of several high-tech weapons unveiled by Russia in 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called them an “ideal weapon” and they have been used on Russian aircraft such as the Mig 31K.
Their payload of around 1,000 pounds (480 kilograms) is usually a high-explosive warhead, but the Kinzhals can also be armed with nuclear warheads of the same size – equivalent to between 100 and 500 “kilotons” of explosive TNT.
Russian media sources report that the Kinzhal missiles are rapidly accelerating by more than four times speed of sound (3,000 mph or 5,000 km/h) shortly after launch and reach as fast as 12 times the speed of sound (9,200 mph or 14,800 km/h) with a range of up to 1,800 miles (3,000 km).
(Anything faster than Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, is considered “hypersonic”; physical changes in supersonic airflow become significant at such speeds, and therefore present a challenge for aerospace engineers.)
The idea behind the design is that the Kinzhal missiles fly so fast that tracking and intercepting them is almost impossible. They are also designed to perform sharp maneuvers in flight at supersonic speeds, allowing them to evade enemy missile defenses.
The very high speed of the missiles also makes them better able to penetrate heavily armored targets, such as the underground weapons depot in western Ukraine that was reportedly the target of the recent attack.
Several nations have developed hypersonic missiles, including the United States and China.
But the Chinese hypersonic missiles seem to be experimental, accordingly National Public Radio; and the US has no plans to deploy hypersonic missiles before 2023, according to the Arms Control Association reported.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Kinzhal hypersonic missiles could drastically change the balance of power in the Pacific, they say an article from 2018 in The Diplomat magazine.
While China’s hypersonic air-launched missiles appear designed to attack aircraft carriers in the South and East China Seas, Russia’s Kinzhal missiles pose a greater threat because they are larger and travel at higher speeds – their own kinetic energy alone, regardless of their warheads, can be powerful enough to disable or destroy large warships.
The article notes that the deployment of the Kinzhal missiles in Russia’s Far Eastern region could have “significant implications for the balance of power in the Pacific” as Russia’s jets could strike US warships at a range of up to 2,200 miles (3,500 km) from its Coastal.
Military experts praise the speed and power of the Kinzhal missiles as particularly threatening; However, one analyst says the main benefit is psychological rather than strategic.
“Basically, it doesn’t change the battlefield, but it certainly has a psychological propaganda effect to scare everyone,” said Russian military analyst and journalist Pavel Felgenhauer said Euronews after the last attack.
Originally published on Live Science.
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