Russia’s Hypersonic Missile Attack Explained – The Russian military confirmed on Saturday that hypersonic missiles were used in Ukraine for the first time. The weapons were used to destroy an ammunition depot in the western region of Ukraine.
It comes as Russia struggles to take control of Kyiv and the invasion of Ukraine enters its fourth week.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that the military deployed the Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic ballistic missiles on Friday. He described how the weapons destroyed an underground warehouse that was used to store missiles and other aviation ammunition in the small village of Delyatyn, almost 400 miles to the west of Kiev.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense shared a video of the missile strike on the arms depo on Twitter.
“Destruction of a weapons depot of the Armed Forces of Ukraine by high-precision missile weapons strike,” the post reads.
▫️Destruction of a weapons depot of the Armed Forces of Ukraine by high-precision missile weapons strike. We can see the exact hit of an underground hangar with weapons and ammunition. pic.twitter.com/sKTF46Tdb0
— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) March 19, 2022
“We can see the exact hit of an underground hangar with weapons and ammunition.”
What is the Kinzhal “Dagger” Missile?
A hypersonic missile can be used to deliver both conventional warheads and nuclear weapons. This time, the missiles were used to deliver normal warheads in a more damaging and precise way.
The Kinzhal missile, also known as the “Dagger” missile, is one of a number of new weapons that were unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his 2018 State of the Union address. He revealed at the time that the new missile was capable of reaching speeds of Mach 10 and that it can travel as far as 2,000km. The missile is also designed to perform evasive maneuvers at all stages of flight, meaning that it can avoid anti-missile systems.
With its ability to avoid air-defense systems, Putin has described the missile as the “ideal weapon.”
Is It a Game-Changer?
James Acton, a nuclear policy expert from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the BBC that the missile is not necessarily a game-changer given that Iskander missiles, which have already been used in Ukraine, cause just as much damage.
“I don’t view it as that significant,” Acton said. “I don’t know how much of an advantage Russia is getting from using hypersonic missiles.”
Russia has reportedly fired more than 1,080 missiles since the invasion began on February 24.
“That is an astonishing number and a very significant fraction of Russia’s pre-war inventory,” Acton said. “They may very well be running short of accurate munitions.”
With munitions running low, Russia may soon resort to alternative lines of attack against Russia to break the Ukrainian military’s grip over Ukraine and other Western major population centers.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.