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New Kinzhal hypersonic missile being tested by Russian Air Force.

| 2018

The Russian armed forces have already received the air-launched Kinzhal (Dagger) missile complex, President Vladimir Putin said last week in his State of the Nation Address.

New Kinzhal hypersonic missile being tested y Russian Air Force001 A Kinzhal hypersonic missile fitted on a RusAF MiG-31 fighter jet
(Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense)

On December 1, 2017 the latest Kinzhal went on test combat duty in the Southern Military District. Experts said the video shown during the president’s speech features an air-launched option of the ground operational and tactical Iskander missile. It has been upgraded for high-altitude supersonic launch. Still Kinzhal is a defense weapon, the Izvestia daily writes.

Experts believe Kinzhal can in several minutes break through any missile defense and destroy with high precision even reinforced concrete underground objects. "The most important stage in the development of modern arms is the creation of precision hypersonic air-launched missile complex which has no analogues in the world. Its trials have been successfully completed and last December 1 the complex went on test combat duty at airfields of the Southern Military District," Putin said.

He added the unique flight and technical characteristics of the high-speed carrier deliver the missile to the discharge point in several minutes. "The hypersonic speed of the missile exceeds the speed of sound ten times. It maneuvers on all stages of the trajectory and thus is guaranteed to overcome all existing and I believe prospective air and missile defenses and deliver nuclear and conventional charges to a distance of over 2 thousand kilometers. We called it Kinzhal," the president said.

A video featuring KinzhaL launch was demonstrated during his speech. It shows MiG-31 carrying under the fuselage an upgraded aero-ballistic missile of the 9M723 series of Iskander. Expert Dmitry Kornev said the front of the missile has a streamline shape with several tapers. The engine compartment has a characteristic barrel-like shape. Kinzhal is distinguished from the ground Iskander option by a different tail and smaller fins. The tail has a special cover plug which likely protects the engine nozzles at hypersonic speed. The plug is dropped after the missile is fired by MiG-31.

The first modernized 9M723 missiles on MiG-31 appeared in Internet some eight years ago. They were likely copied from the prospectus of a Russian defense company.

The video demonstrated during Putin’s speech showed the missile ascending by ballistic trajectory after the launch. It then sharply nosedives and maneuvers in the target area. It escapes adversary air defense and provides precision aiming. The missile can hit both stationary and mobile objects.

"The MiG-31 operates as the first stage at the hypersonic speed and increases the range and speed of 9M723 several times. After the launch, ascent and nosediving the missile develops hypersonic speed and the necessary power for maneuvering. Although 9M723 is aero-ballistic it has a complicated trajectory at the final stage. The available power provides for complicated maneuvers." Kornev said.

The missile has several units to overcome air defense - dummy targets and jamming generators. 9M723 can have optical and electronic homing warheads. The former detects the target and compares the image in its memory with what the camera sees. It is better for the destruction of stationary targets. The latter seeks targets by reflected radar signals. It is designed to destroy moving targets, including warships.

"9M723 has been fully tested and streamlined. It has homing warheads, systems to overcome missile defense and maneuvering ability," expert Dmitry Boltenkov said.

"At least 7-10 years are necessary to create such a missile from scratch. Another 2-3 years will be necessary for test trials. Kinzhal designers did it all in eight years. It is clear why MiG-31 was selected as the carrier. It has a high lifting power and mighty engines. It can develop supersonic speed and launch a five-ton 9M723 missile. In late 1980s MiG-31 was used to test antisatellite weapons," he said.

Expert Vladislav Shurygin said despite all unique capabilities Kinzhal is a defensive weapon. "In case of aggression it destroys the critically important infrastructure of the adversary in order to prevent cruise missile strikes from warships. It destroys ammunition dumps, airfields, and command posts. Kinzhal is a good response to the US deployment of a missile shield in Europe," he said.

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