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Analysis: Russia uses new hypersonic missiles in Ukraine which cannot be intercepted.

| 2022

Citing information published by the Russian Ministry of Defense on December 23, 2022, Russia's armed forces use for the first time in Ukraine new hypersonic missiles in combat operations including the Kinzhal air-to-surface and 3M22 Zircon ship-launched hypersonic cruise missile which cannot be detected and intercepted by Ukrainian air defense systems.
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Russia uses for the first time in Ukraine hypersonic missiles including Kinzhal air-to-surface and 3M22 Zircon ship-launched hypersonic cruise missile.

The Kinzhal KH-47M2 hypersonic missile system engaged in the combat operation in Ukraine has demonstrated high efficiency and invulnerability to the air defense systems deployed in Ukraine, Russia’s First Deputy Defense Minister and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov said.

Several countries are developing hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds of at least Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound). There are two primary categories of hypersonic weapons including the hypersonic glide vehicle and the hypersonic cruise missile.

A hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) is a type of warhead for a ballistic missile that can maneuver and glide at hypersonic speed. It is used on ballistic missiles to significantly change their trajectories. Conventional ballistic missiles follow a predictable ballistic trajectory and are vulnerable to interception by the latest anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems. HGV makes them unpredictable, allowing them to evade air defenses

The HGV is launched from a rocket before gliding to a target while the hypersonic cruise missiles are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines, or “scramjets,” after acquiring their target. A scramjet is a variant of a ramjet airbreathing jet engine in which combustion takes place in supersonic airflow.

Unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic weapons do not follow a ballistic trajectory and can maneuver en route to their destination. Due to their speed, maneuverability, and low altitude of flight, hypersonic missiles can avoid detection and modern air defense systems.

Russia has conducted research on hypersonic weapons technology since the 1980s, it accelerated its efforts in response to U.S. missile defense deployments in both the United States and Europe, and in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001.

Russia has developed three hypersonic weapons including the Avangard, 3M22 Tsirkon (also named Zircon), and Kh-47M2 Kinzhal.

Advangard HGV Hypersonic Glide Vehicle missile Russia 925 002
Russia Avangard Hypersonic Glide Vehicle Fact Sheet

The Avangard is a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV) that can be integrated into RS-18B/UR-100UTTKh SS-19, R-36M2, and RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) Using HGV, it gives effective unlimited range.

The Avangard features onboard countermeasures and will reportedly carry a nuclear warhead. It was successfully tested twice in 2016 and once in December 2018, reportedly reaching speeds of Mach 20.

Citing a Russian source, the Avangard hypersonic gliding vehicle is capable of flying through the dense layers of the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds of up to Mach 27 (about 32,000 kilometers per hour), performing direction and altitude maneuvers and overcoming any missile defense.

The high speed of the Avangard likely gives it far better target-penetration characteristics than lighter subsonic cruise missiles. The Avangard weighs about 2,000 kg and travels at Mach 20–27, giving it the equivalent of 17.5 tons of TNT in kinetic energy.

Zircon 3M22 SS N 33 naval anti ship hypersonic cruise missile Russia 925 001
Russia Tsirkon or 3M22 Zircon ship-launched hypersonic cruise missile Fact Sheet

The Tsirkon or 3M22 Zircon is a ship-launched hypersonic cruise missile capable of traveling at speeds of between Mach 6 and Mach 8. The missile is reportedly capable of striking both ground and naval targets.

The Zircon has an estimated range from 135 to 270 nautical miles (250 to 500 km) at low level, and up to 400 nmi (740 km) in a semi-ballistic trajectory. The average range of the missile is around 400–450 km. According to Russian media, the longest possible range is 540 nmi (1,000 km). Some internet sources even claim the range of the missile can reach 1,000 - 2,000 km, depending on the type of target.

The Zircon hypersonic missile is fitted with a warhead weighing 300 to 400 kg and carrying HE (High Explosive) or 200 kt nuclear charges.

On December 23, 2022, Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu announced the first delivery of Tsirkon hypersonic missiles to the Russian Navy. The Admiral Gorshkov frigate with top-notch Tsirkon seaborne hypersonic missile systems undergoes final preparations before sailing for a mission in the world ocean, said Sergey Shoigu.

Citing a Russian military source, the mobile launcher for Tsirkon hypersonic missile is able to fire Onyx supersonic missiles engaged by Bastion coastal complex, sea and underwater carriers. It can destroy sea and ground targets.

Kinzhal KH 47M2 is a maneuvering air launched hypersonic ballistic missile Russia 925 002
Russia Kinzhal KH-47M2 air-launched hypersonic ballistic missile Fact Sheet

The Kinzhal KH-47M2 is a maneuvering air-launched hypersonic ballistic missile modified from the Iskander missile. Russia reportedly fired Kinzhal from a MiG-31 interceptor aircraft in Ukraine9 and additionally plans to deploy the missile on the Su-34 long-range strike fighter and the Tu-22M3 strategic bomber.

The Kinzhal airborne missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles was used for the first time during military operations in Ukraine. The missile was used to destroy a large buried missile and aircraft ammunition depot of the Ukrainian armed forces in the settlement of Delyatin in the Ivano-Frankovsk Region in western Ukraine, which had previously served as a storage facility for Soviet nuclear weapons.

The high speed of the Kinzhal gives it better target-penetration characteristics than lighter, slower cruise missiles. With advanced maneuvering capabilities, high precision and hypersonic speed, some sources give it the name "carrier killer" due to its alleged ability to disable and possibly even sink a 100,000-ton supercarrier with a single strike.[24] With a mass of 2,000 kg and a speed of Mach 12. The Kinzhal missile has more than 16.9 gigajoules of kinetic energy or the equivalent of 4,000 kg of TNT.

On April 27, 2022, Russia announced the development of a new hypersonic-guided missile codenamed Gremlin. The missile will be smaller than Kinzhal. Its carriers are Tu-22M3 strategic bombers, Su-57, Su-30SM, and Su-35S fighter jets. Su-57 can carry Gremlin inside the fuselage.

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