“Kinzhal” Missile: More & More Carriers, and Still No “Antidote”

It is believed that today Russia is ahead of the planet of the rest in the field of hypersonic weapons. There is probably reason to say so, but how long will it be possible to maintain first place, given that potential opponents have already started work on an “antidote”?

One of the hypersonic missiles that we actually have “in iron”, not in “cartoon”, is the “Kinzhal” Kh-47М2 system. According to available data, this is an aviation version of the operational-tactical missile system “Iskander“. “Kinzhal” not only flies at a speed reaching mach 10, but also actively manoeuvres, which classifies it as aeroballistic. The weight of the warhead reaches 500 kg, but the missile is capable of carrying a nuclear charge whose capacity reaches 50 kilotons. It is a formidable weapon designed to defeat both stationary objects and enemy surface ships, from destroyers to aircraft carriers.

The carrier currently used is the MiG-31K, which is an upgraded version of the fighter-interceptor “sharpened” [“Kinzhal” means “dagger” in Russian – ed] to launch just one “Kinzhal”. The combat radius of this high-speed aircraft is 800 kilometers, and the range of the missile is another 1000 kilometers. The total is 1,800, which is very good. Currently, “Kinzhal” is on experimental combat duty in the Southern Military District, covering the Black Sea, Azov Sea, and Caspian Sea.

The Russian Defence Ministry decided not to limit itself to just the MiG-31K, hanging “Kinzhal” under Tu-22M3M, and in the future – under Su-57. After modernisation, the Tu-22M3M again became a truly long-range bomber, as the possibility of refuelling in the air was returned to it. For each such aircraft engineers will be able to install 4 aeroballistic missiles, but this is not all. A real “aircraft carrier killer” is created via an additional three Kh-32 subsonic missiles, with a long range of 1,000 kilometers. The bomber’s combat radius, after the return of its refuelling probe, has increased dramatically from 2,500 to 8,000 kilometers, allowing Russia to reach much further.

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Finally, the “Kinzhal” may also appear on our fifth-generation Su-57 fighters. The combat radius of these multipurpose aircraft is 1100 kilometers. The presence of an aeroballistic missile on the wings makes modern fighter jets an even more formidable weapon.

This variety of hypersonic missile carriers is impressive. The most important thing is that there is enough money for everything. What about potential opponents?

The mysterious American defence agency DARPA introduced the “Glide Breaker” missile system. Thanks to it the Pentagon intends to shoot down not only “Kinzhal”, but also “Avangard“. No details of the project are known, but it is reported that this flying machine should shoot down Russian missiles “like a bullet”. However, it is not quite clear how it will do this against an actively manoeuvring object moving at enormous speed.

The same questions arise for the Israeli Hetz-3 missile system. Tel Aviv believes that it will be able to shoot down “Kinzhal” and “Avangard”, even flying at hypersonic speed. During an exercise the Hetz-3 system was able to hit a “Sparrow” missile moving at a speed of mach 4. However, it is unclear how the Israelis are going to shoot down much faster, yet so highly manoeuvrable targets as Russian hypersonic missiles.

However, sooner or later, similar technologies should appear. Then the arms race that started will require new solutions from the Russian military-industrial complex. It is important that the domestic scientific and production base allow to quickly meet these challenges.

Sergey Marzhetsky

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