Why the West Downplays the Hypersonic Capabilities of Russian Kinzhal Missiles

A Russian technician adjusts the hypersonic missile to be fired in Ukraine (REUTERS) (RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY/)

In his speech on March 1, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin presented six “new generation” weapons. One of them was the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal (“dagger”, in Russian), a hypersonic ballistic missile capable of flying at more than five times the speed of sound. This rocket was used by Russian troops in Ukraine to carry out attacks in the Odessa and Ivano-Frankivsk regions.

More than two months after the beginning of the invasion on February 24, the Moscow regime did not achieve the expected results. For this reason, the Western powers consider that Putin uses this type of weaponry to show military muscle. Nevertheless, specialists also warn that there is some hype about these hypersonic missiles.

The Kinzhal it has the ability to fly at Mach 5 or five times the speed of sound in some versions and up to Mach 10 in others, being able to reach up to 12,350 kilometers per hour. Starting from Mach 5, the speed is already considered hypersonic.

In addition, it can carry a 1,000-kilogram conventional bomb or a nuclear warhead and has a fire range of up to 2,000 kilometers, the distance between Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile or São Paulo.

Chain CNN clarifies that essentially all missiles are hypersonic, as almost any warhead launched from a rocket miles into the atmosphere will reach this speed towards its target. This means that it is not a new technology.

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

A Kh-47M2 Kinzhal carried by a Mikoyan MiG-31K.
A Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missile carried by a Mikoyan MiG-31K (Vadim Savitsky/)

The Russian Army has one HGV in its arsenal: the Avantgarde system. In the same 2018 speech, Putin claimed that it is “virtually invulnerable” to Western air defenses.

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 HGVs. Their main advantage is that they can be launched from MiG-31 fighter planes.giving it greater range and the ability to attack from multiple directions, according to a report last year by 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 characteristics of maneuverability that a hypersonic missile is supposed to.” “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 needed, “adds the Spanish newspaper.

The Iskander, for example, also consists of a ground-to-ground ballistic missile that is hypersonic, reaching a speed of 5,900 kilometers per hour. But it is not usually considered that way because it is not capable of gliding in the upper layers of the atmosphere. That rocket makes a parabola and falls on its target.

For The worldeven if the Kinzhal was hypersonic, its use in the war in Ukraine makes no sense from a military point of view. “Ukraine has hardly any anti-aircraft means with which to defend itself against missile attacks, although, in all likelihood, the US informs it of all missile launches by Russia, so that it can be as prepared as possible. You don’t need hypersonic missiles to bomb Odessa”, he explains in an article published this Wednesday.

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The Putin regime, on the other hand, claims that its deadly Kinzhal rockets cannot be stopped by Western missile defense systems. “Maneuvering the missile at speeds that exceed several times the speed of sound allows it to reliably evade all air and anti-ballistic missile defense systems that exist or are being developed,” Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Force said in 2018. , Sergei Surovikin.

Weapons specialists and the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom, however, they downplayed Russia’s hypersonic capabilities and the degree of importance of their use on the battlefield.

The British Ministry of Defense said that Moscow probably deployed the Kinzhal to “lessen the lack of progress in Russia’s ground campaign.” While Lloyd AustinUS defense secretary, considered that Putin is “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 will continue to do so, but I don’t think that will change the rules of the game,” Austin said in an interview with the network. CBS.

The devastation caused by a Russian bombardment in Odessa (State Emergency Service of Ukraine via REUTERS)
The devastation caused by a Russian bombing in Odessa (State Emergency Service of Ukraine via REUTERS) (STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE OF UKRAI /)

Russia has been pursuing hypersonic weapons since the 1980s, but has stepped up its efforts in response to the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and US missile defense deployments on US soil and in Europe. according to a report by the US Congressional Research Service published on March 17. In addition to the Kinzhal, Moscow is working on two other hypersonic weapons programs: the 3M22 Tsirkon (or Zircon) and the Avangard.

Last Monday, Russian forces fired three Kinzhal missiles from a Tu-22 strategic aircraft in the Odesa region, in an attack in which two people were injured and at least five buildings that are part of the tourist infrastructure of this city were destroyed. .

Later, they launched another seven missiles from the air that hit a shopping center and a warehouse. One person was killed and five were injured in the attack on the mall, the army said.

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