How are the Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missiles that Ukraine shot down defending kyiv

The mayor of kyiv, Vitalii Klitschko, shows remains of a Kh-47 Kinzhal missile, shot down by Ukrainian defenses (Reuters) (VALENTYN OGIRENKO /)

Ukraine said on Tuesday that shot down six Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missiles in a new night attack with missiles and drones against kyiv.

These types of missiles began to be used by Russia against Ukraine in March. In April, kyiv took delivery of its first Patriots, one of the most advanced air defense systems in the United States. And last week, Ukraine confirmed that it had shot down a Kinzhal for the first time.

This Tuesday, the Minister of Defense, Oleksiy Reznikov, celebrated: “Another incredible success of the Ukrainian air force! Last night our sky defenders shot down SIX Russian hypersonic missiles Kinzhal and another 12 missiles.

Kinzhal (“dagger” in Russian) missiles are more difficult to intercept than other types of missiles. Russian President Vladimir Putin himself presented this missile in 2018 and described it as an “ideal weapon”. for its difficulty to be intercepted.


The Kinzhal are airborne missiles that have a range of more than 2,000 kilometers and a speed ten times greater than sound (Mach 10), being able to reach up to 12,350 kilometers per hour. Starting from Mach 5, the speed is already considered hypersonic.

This high-precision missile can carry both nuclear warheads and conventional payloads.

According to a report cited by the Russian news agency TASSin July 2018, This type of weapon could reach more than 3,000 kilometers, if launched from a Tupolev Tu-22M bomber. This Russian dagger is a very difficult projectile to intercept due to its maneuverability. Its hypersonic feature allows it to change its trajectory in the air and swerve if necessary.

Putin’s army had previously used this type of missile in Ukraine. In August, he reported that they had been released three times, beginning in July. “And all three times he showed brilliant characteristics,” Defense Minister Serguei Shoigu celebrated at the time.

The Kinzhal missiles are part of a suite of new hypersonic weapons that President Vladimir Putin unveiled in 2018 in a bellicose speech in which he said that they could reach almost anywhere in the world and evade an anti-missile shield developed by the United States.

However, the chain CNN He noted that essentially all missiles are hypersonic, since almost any warhead launched from a rocket miles into the atmosphere will reach this speed toward its target. This means that it is not a new technology.

Remains of a missile shot down by Ukraine (Reuters)
Remains of a missile shot down by Ukraine (Reuters) (VALENTYN OGIRENKO /)

Military powers such as China, the United States, North Korea, and Russia itself are currently working on the development of a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV). Its particularity is that it is highly manoeuvrable, and that it can adjust course and altitude while flying at hypersonic speed, making it an almost impossible weapon to stop.

The Kinzhal, meanwhile, is a modified version of the Iskander missile, also used several times during the war in Ukraine. Both have limited maneuverability, but they are not HGV. Their main advantage is that they can be launched from MiG-31 fighter it greater range and the ability to attack from multiple directions, according to a report last year from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In that line, the newspaper The world argues that, more than hypersonic missiles, The Kinzhal are missiles “very fast, but they do not meet the maneuverability characteristics that are assumed for a hypersonic missile.” “The problem is that, when we talk about ‘hypersonic missiles,’ it is not enough that the missile goes very fast. It is also required to be able to evade enemy defenses, and change course when necessary, ”adds the Spanish newspaper.

A Kh-47M2 Kinzhal carried by a Mikoyan MiG-31K.
A Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missile carried by a Mikoyan MiG-31K (Vadim Savitsky/)
A Russian officer checks a MiG-31 fighter equipped with a Kinzhal missile (Defense Ministry/Reuters)
A Russian officer reviews a MiG-31 fighter equipped with a Kinzhal missile (Defense Ministry / Reuters) (RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY /)

Last year, weapons specialists and the US and UK governments downplayed Russia’s hypersonic capabilities and the degree of importance of their use on the battlefield. When they were deployed, the British Defense Ministry said Moscow was likely using them to “lessen the lack of progress in Russia’s ground campaign.” While Lloyd Austin, US Defense Secretary, considered that Putin was “trying to restore some momentum” in his invasion of Ukraine.

“I don’t see it as a turning point. I think Russia uses them to gain momentum. We have seen them attack towns, cities and civilians. We think they’ll keep doing it, but I don’t think that’s a game changer,” Austin said in an interview with CBS.

Russia has been pursuing hypersonic weapons since the 1980s, but has accelerated its efforts in response to the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and US missile defense deployments on North American soil and in Europe, according to a US Congressional Research Service report released last year. In addition to the Kinzhal, Moscow is working on two other hypersonic weapons programs: the 3M22 Tsirkon (or Zircon) and the Avangard.

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