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Bad News: Putin Is Smashing Ukraine with Hypersonic Missiles

TOS-1A from the Russian Military.

On Thursday, the Russian military launched another missile salvo against Ukrainian cities across the country

Moscow launched at least 80 long-range cruise and other missiles, targeting Ukrainian critical infrastructure but mostly striking urban centers.

At least 11 civilians have been killed as the Russian government continues to use missiles and suicide drones to commit war crimes. 

The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the missile strikes were aimed against Ukrainian military infrastructure, military factories, and critical infrastructure that supports the Ukrainian military.

But the latest Russian missile strikes also featured hypersonic munitions

Russian Hypersonic Missiles Against Ukraine 

The strikes on Thursday were the first major missile attack against Ukrainian urban centers and critical infrastructure in almost a month and the largest in 2023. 

“The interval between waves of strikes is probably growing because Russia now needs to stockpile a critical mass of newly produced missiles directly from industry before it can resource a strike big enough to credibly overwhelm Ukrainian air defences, “the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.

Moreover, the latest missile attack was unusual in a few ways.

The Russian military launched an unusual number of air-launched hypersonic missiles during the attack.

According to the Ukrainian Air Force, Russia launched six Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic cruise missiles. 

Hypersonic missiles can travel so fast and follow such an unpredictable course that interdicting them is almost impossible. However, they are expensive and hard to manufacture. Indeed, hypersonic technology is only now taking off, and the U.S. military itself doesn’t have a hypersonic weapon ready—something that raises questions about the hypersonic qualities of the Russian munitions.

Missile Shortages 

In total, the Russian military launched the following missiles yesterday:

-28 Kh-101/Kh-555 cruise missiles 

-20 Kalibr cruise missiles 

-6 X-22 cruise missiles 

-6 Kh-47 “Kinzhal” cruise missiles 

-13 S-300 missiles 

-8 other guided air missiles 

The S-300 is a ground-to-air anti-aircraft munition designed to take out aircraft and drones at medium ranges. Using it against ground targets for supposedly precision strikes is ineffective at the least and possibly criminal—if you know that the target is within an urban center. The continuous use of munitions designed for other roles also highlights the extremely dire situation inside the Russian military. Since October, when Moscow started its large-scale missile strikes strategy, the Russian military has launched more than 1,200 ballistic and cruise missiles against Ukraine. But the Russian defense and aerospace industries can only manufacture a tiny fraction of that number (a few dozen) every month.

Though it sounds contradictory, the Russian missile attack against Ukraine was truly aimed at Russian domestic audiences. 

“Russian forces conducted the largest missile strike across Ukraine of 2023 so far on March 9, but the attack likely only served Russian state propaganda objectives,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed in an operational update of the war. 

The D.C.-based think tank added that Russian President Vladimir Putin “likely used these scarce missiles in fruitless attacks to appease the Russian pro-war and ultranationalist communities.”

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Expert Biography: 

A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.  His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.