What are hypersonic missiles “Kinzhal”

During the massive shelling of Ukraine on January 26, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation hit Kyiv and Zaporizhia with X-47 Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles, as told by the speaker of the Air Forces Yurii Ihnat. In order to understand why Russians brag about these weapons so much and whether it is worth being afraid of, it is necessary to consider the basic facts.

Kinzhal hypersonic missile and its carrier. Source: www.themoscowtimes.com

Russia attacks Ukraine with hypersonic Kinzhal

On March 19, Russia struck military targets near Ivano-Frankivsk for the first time using hypersonic weapons. According to the aggressor’s media (and these statements were soon confirmed by NATO intelligence), the territory of Ukraine was hit by X-47M2 Kinzhal missiles.

These are completely new hypersonic cruise missiles that have not been used by any country before. The X-47M2 is launched from an aircraft, which has to be specially equipped to carry such missiles. Despite the fact that the Russian army put the Kinzhal into service in 2017, today only modified MiG-31 interceptors can be their carriers.

Therefore, despite the tangible potential danger of a single missile, Russians will not be able to launch a lot of them. In addition, experts believe that the aggressor country has only few of these weapons.

Technical features of Kinzhal

The main thing to know about the X-47M2 is that its design is not fundamentally different from other cruise missiles. This is the same unmanned aerial vehicle that consists almost entirely of a jet engine, a fuel tank and small wings. It is designed for only one flight, at the end of which it must hit the target with a warhead.

The warhead in the Kinzhal is no different from other cruise missiles — the same 480 kg of explosives. Theoretically, a missile can also carry a small nuclear charge, but it is not known whether such an option is realized in practice.

The main difference between hypersonic missiles and conventional ones is their engine, which is capable of accelerating the missile to high speeds. Russian media report that the Kinzhal is capable of accelerating to a speed of 5,000 km/h in just a few dozens of seconds, after which its speed continues to increase. According to the aggressor’s data, it can reach 14,800 km/h. And the effective casualty radius is 3000 km.

However, these data have not yet been confirmed by independent experts. If the Kinzhal is really a full-fledged hypersonic missile, then there must be an interesting phenomenon around it. Due to the incredible friction, the air near the rocket body must turn into a plasma state.

Theoretically, this should create small additional radio interference, but also has a negative effect on the body of the device. In flight, the rocket should look as if it were in a fiery cocoon.

Advantages of hypersonic missiles

Despite all the claims of the Russians about the incredible effectiveness of the new weapon, experts are not inclined to overestimate its revolutionary nature. The only principle feature of the new missiles is their speed. It has two main consequences. The first is that the missile is extremely difficult to intercept.

The Russians say that the United States is not able to see their launches over Ukraine, but it seems that NATO still has a kind of a trump up its sleeve, such as the constellation of commercial satellites. They still do not fully understand its possibilities themselves. In any case, the only problem with hypersonic missiles is that they are difficult to hit. If you know in advance where to use air defense, there is a chance to bring them down.

The second consequence of the high speed of the missile — it is able to pierce any armor before the explosion. That is why they are primarily seen as a means against large ships and bunkers.

“There are no such means that can detect and shoot down such ultra-fast Kinzhal missiles. This is a missile flying a ballistic trajectory. The MiG-31 delivers it to the upper layers of the atmosphere, launches it there, and it is already flying and descending at a tremendous speed to the target,” Yurii Ihnat, the speaker of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Air Force, said on the broadcast of the national marathon.

Experts agree that the main effect of the new weapon is psychological. Hypersonic missiles are available in China and the United States. However, in both countries they remain experimental. In recent months, the Russians have used Kinzhal missiles several times against peaceful targets in Ukraine. The Patriot system can be an effective means of defeat. But only if additional means of intelligence are used.

According to www.space.com

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