One more step in the war. Russia said on Saturday that it had hypersonic missiles in Ukraine. The use of these devices would be a first in the conflict and in the midst of the global race to acquire these weapons described as “invincible” by Vladimir Putin.
“On March 18, the Kinjal aeronautical complex with its hypersonic ballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse of missiles and ammunition of the Ukrainian army aviation in the locality of Delyatin, Ivano-Frankivsk region” in western Ukraine, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
Difficult or impossible to intercept
Russia had never previously reported the use of this ballistic missile in the two conflicts where it is belligerent, Ukraine and Syria. It has been deployed many times during exercises since the first successful test in 2018. “It is likely that we wanted to use the Kinjal in combat conditions, it’s a world first”, reports to AFP Vasily Kashin, military analyst and director of a research center at the Moscow Higher School of Economics.
This type of missile challenges anti-aircraft defense systems, according to Moscow, because its speed – up to Mach 10, or 12,000 km / h – and its maneuverability make it difficult or impossible to intercept, even if some Western military experts have believed that Russia could exaggerate the capabilities of this air-to-ground weapon.
On the other hand, the target struck on Friday, an underground warehouse, seems ideal for the Kinjal – Dagger in Russian – according to Vassili Kashin. “Such infrastructure is difficult to destroy with conventional missiles. The hypersonic missile has a greater penetration capacity and destructive power due to its very high speed, ”he notes.
For the Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer, the use of the Kinjal does not give Russia a strategic advantage in Ukraine, on the other hand the psychological effect is certain, Moscow deploying one of its destructive jewels there. “Basically, it doesn’t change the battlefield, but it certainly has an effect in terms of psychological propaganda, to scare everyone,” he said. Because “Kinjal” missiles and “Zircon” cruise missiles – fired from surface ships and submarines – belong to a family of new weapons developed by Russia and which Mr. Putin describes as “invincible”. .
The crown jewel of the army is the Avangard hypersonic glider. Able to carry a nuclear charge, it flies up to 33,000 km/h and changes course or altitude unpredictably, making it almost impossible to intercept.
Successfully tested in 2018, the Kinjals hit all their targets during trials at a range of up to 1,000 km to 2,000 km, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. But this range is multiplied, because they arm the aviation, in particular of the Mig-31.
Moscow has developed this type of armament to have weapons capable of evading defense systems such as the American missile shield in Europe. Their use in Ukraine also comes at a time when the Russian army, despite its announcements, does not yet seem to have complete control of the sky, with the Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense still managing to inflict losses on Moscow.
Russia is the first country in the world to have developed hypersonic weapons. These are the pride of the Russian president, who regularly boasts of their existence as proof of his country’s military superiority. Their commissioning has led other countries to accelerate their hypersonic programs, leading to an arms race in this area.
North Korea said it was developed and tested, as was China, which took Westerners by surprise with the test of a hypersonic glider capable of traveling at a speed greater than Mach 5 – more than 6,000 km/h – which circled the Earth in orbit before descending towards its target. “We are the first to have deployed these armaments, the Chinese have also done so recently. But the United States does not have this weapon for the moment”, notes Vassili Kashin.