• On Saturday, Russia said it had used its Kinzhal missile in combat for the first time.
  • While the Kinzhal is new to Russia it is not a new kind of weapon, as the Russians have claimed. 
  • A US official said Moscow’s use of a new missile suggests it are “desperate” to gain momentum. 

On Saturday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense released footage claiming to show its new Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile hitting a Ukrainian missile warehouse 300 miles southwest of Kyiv.

The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile was introduced in 2017 as one of Russia’s “super weapons.” This is its first known use in combat.

The Russians’ use of long-range missiles suggests a “desperate attempt by them to gain some momentum” because their forces are “stuck where they are,” a senior US defense official told reporters on Monday. 

In its announcement on Saturday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed the Kinzhal is a “hypersonic weapon,” but experts say that is not the case.

While the Kinzhal can travel at hypersonic speeds, a “hypersonic weapon” would also have to be capable of traveling at speeds in excess of Mach 5 — or about 3,836 mph — during terminal maneuvers, which this weapon is not capable of doing.

The Kinzhal more closely resembles an Iskander-M tactical ballistic missile that has been adapted for air-launch.

The senior US defense official also said Russia’s use of the Kinzhal is “a head-scratcher” because “there’s not a whole lot of if practicality to it.”

Russia has conventional ground-launched ballistic missiles that it could have used in this attack, and use of the Kinzhal could mean the Russians are running low on “precision-guided munitions,” the official said.

 

The British Ministry of the Defense echoed that assessment on Monday, saying that the use of the Kinzhal is “highly unlikely to materially affect” the outcome of Russia’s offensive.

Moscow’s claims about using the weapon are “highly likely intended to detract from a lack of progress in Russia’s ground campaign,” the ministry said.

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