- Russia claimed that it used a hypersonic ballistic missile to strike an underground weapons depot.
- It would mark the first time Russia has used the hi-tech missile since the Ukraine invasion began.
- Experts say Russia’s designation of the missile as a hypersonic weapon is misleading.
Russia claims to have used a hypersonic ballistic missile for the first time since it began its invasion of Ukraine.
Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that its Kinzhal missile destroyed an underground weapons depot in Ukraine’s western Ivano-Frankivsk region, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
The Russian defense ministry shared footage on social media which it claimed showed the moment the site was hit.
—Минобороны России (@mod_russia) March 19, 2022
Hypersonic missiles are sometimes described as ‘invisible’ as their speed, altitude, and maneuverability mean they are able to evade most anti-missile defense systems.
Russia has said that its Kinzhal – or Dagger – missile can reach speeds of 7672 mph, or Mach 10, and can travel distances of up to 1200 miles.
Putin has previously called the Kinzhal missile “an ideal weapon” that flies at 10 times the speed of sound, according to Al-Jazeera.
The Kinzhal is an air-launched ballistic missile that is believed to be based on the Iskander ground-launched ballistic missile.
Ukraine, in contrast, has limited, if any, ability to intercept incoming ballistic missiles that Russia has used against military bases and civilian areas during three weeks of the war.
Experts say Russia’s designation of the missile as a hypersonic weapon is misleading, as many ballistic missiles travel at speeds upwards of Mach 5.
Hypersonic weapons are generally understood to be more advanced weapons that use a system like a glide body to maneuver on an approach to a target, maximizing their chances to evade intercept missiles like those fielded by the US.
—Dr. Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) March 19, 2022
Dominika Kunertova of the Center for Security Studies in Zurich told the BBC that the use of a Kinzhal missile was not particularly significant.
“It’s a sign of showmanship. Even if it’s used we should consider it as an isolated moment because Russia doesn’t have a large number of these missiles,” Kunertova told the BBC.
Along with the Kinzhal strike, Konashenkov also claimed that Russia destroyed military radio and reconnaissance centers near the port city of Odesa using the Bastion coastal missile system, Interfax said.
Insider was not able to independently verify Konashenkov’s claims.
The British defense ministry claimed on Saturday that Russia is now pursuing a “strategy of attrition” as it has so far failed to achieve its original objectives in Ukraine.
—Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) March 19, 2022
Putin claimed in December that his country was the global leader in hypersonic missiles.
The US, China, and Russia are in an arms race to develop true hypersonic weapons that are able to terminally maneuver at speeds Mach 5 or greater, with the US focusing efforts on glide vehicles and cruise missiles with air-breathing engines.
There are reports that China is farthest along in this development, with US officials having reportedly tracked a missile in 2021 that appears to have launched something from orbit.