With Ukraine’s counteroffensive in full swing, Russia will need its best weapons to support its frontline positions.
Over the last 18 months of warfare, Russian forces have turned to a variety of homegrown systems, but many of the weapons in Moscow’s stockpiles have fallen short of expectations. Russia has lost nearly half of its arsenal of more advanced main battle tanks, as well as some of its best airframes.
However, Russia still possesses five weapons of war that are quite formidable and could lend to the country’s aggression against Kyiv.
Touted by the Kremlin as the best on the planet, Russia’s S-400 Triumf air defense system is a mobile surface-to-air missile system (SAM) designated by NATO as the SA-21 Growler. This SAM was first conceptualized in the late 1980s, although budget restrictions following the collapse of the Soviet Union hampered the Russian Federation’s attempt to design a new system from scratch. The S-400 is largely derived from its predecessor, the S-300, and the two systems share many design features such as missile storage containers and radars. Capable of engaging a variety of targets, including unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles, and airframes, the Triumf is a coveted system.
Russia’s Hypersonic Kinzhal Missile:
The Kinzhal is one of the half-dozen next-generation weapons debuted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018. With a reported range of up to 1,240 miles, a maximum speed of Mach-10, and a payload potential of 480 kg, Russia claims the Kinzhal is an invincible weapon. Details surrounding the missile are murky, but analysts believe the Kinzhal is derived from the ground-launched 9K720 Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile. Kinzhals were first deployed to Syria in 2021 and have been used in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Kyiv has claimed to shoot down many of these supposedly invincible missiles, but they are nonetheless some of Moscow’s most advanced projectiles.
Tsirkon Ship-Launched Hypersonic Missile
Another hypersonic missile that Russia could use in Ukraine is the Tsirkon. Also dubbed Zicron, this hypersonic cruise missile was another of the platforms Putin unveiled in 2018. Russia claims this missile can fly at Mach-9.0 with a range of about 1,000 km. A versatile missile, the Zicron can be launched from several platforms, including ships, submarines, and ground-based launchers. Notably, the missile can be fitted both with conventional and nuclear warheads.
One of the most brutal platforms in Russia’s arsenal are thermobaric weapons, the so-called vacuum bombs. These two-stage munitions can be launched in rocket or artillery shells and create devastating explosions. As explained by NBC News, “the first explosive charge spreads an aerosol akin to vaporized gasoline over the area. A second charge then ignites the aerosol fog, creating a huge blast, flames, a large pressure wave and a vacuum as oxygen from the surrounding air is sucked up.” Russian forces have deployed these bombs in Ukraine for a year and a half.
While landmines are not technically the most advanced weapons used by Russian forces, their impacts could devastate Ukraine for years to come. Extensive minefields filled with unexploded ordnance linger in swaths of Ukrainian territory. Once the war is over, civilians will continue to live with the danger of setting off these mines. In fact, Russian-created minefields in Ukraine are considered to be the largest seen anywhere since the Second World War.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.