Russia uses Kh-101 cruise missile upgraded to fire thermal traps

KYIV, UKRAINE — We have witnessed continuous upgrades by the Russian arms industry since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. A large part of them become “on the move” and are due to the specifics of military operations. Since February 24, 2022, thousands of photos have been shared on the web. They give occasion to a part of the military experts to detect and analyze the changes.

Top 5 of the best and deadliest Russian cruise missiles
Kh-101 cruise missile, photo credit: Wikipedia

A photo of a Russian missile falling in Ukraine is one such occasion. On January 26, the Kh-101 air-launched stealth cruise missile landed in Ukraine. Several pictures were taken of the spot where the rocket fell. But a new module, previously non-existent, to the design of the rocket has attracted the attention of some experts.

Four pictures

We publish four pictures. Photo #1 shows an x-ray of the new module. At least three capsules with filling are visible on them. Unusual for this type of missile, especially for the design of the Kh-101. The three capsules, according to experts in the field, are thermal capsules designed for launch. It’s a thermal trap, say photo analysts.

Russia uses Kh-101 cruise missile upgraded to fire thermal traps
#1, Photo credit: Telegram

Neither Ukrainian nor other foreign experts can provide an exact answer when these nerve traps are fired. This remains unknown in the whole “equation” for now. Some argue that thermal traps are not triggered automatically. According to this theory, the thermal traps were released from the Kh-101’s hull at some point during the missile’s flight. This claim is supported by the lack of a missile launch detection system, as is standard practice in such configurations.

This is a turning point in the war. Moscow does not follow the same set plan but adapts according to the situation. The missile is evidence that the Russian armed forces are considering options to increase the effectiveness of the Kh-101. By this logic, we can assume that not only this missile received such an upgrade.

Thermal traps increase the effectiveness and performance of the missile during a missile attack. The Kh-101 is now clearly capable of engaging two targets with itself – the ultimate target, which must also destroy the enemy’s air defense. It is most likely and entirely possible that these thermal traps are intended to fool air defenses.

Russia uses Kh-101 cruise missile upgraded to fire thermal traps
Photo credit: Telegram

35 US-made chips into Kh-101

In May of last year, more in-depth reports began to arrive about the Russian missiles being used. The KN-101, also known as the AS-23A Kodiak, uses 35 American-made chips, it was revealed at that time of the year. Ukrainian intelligence then broke the news by showing pictures of the integrated circuits of a missile that failed to explode.

Russian Kh-101 stealth attack cruise missile uses 35 US-made chips

The Kh-1010 is a Russian stealth missile developed in the late 1990s. Its appearance was to replace the outdated Russian Kh-55 missile. The warhead of the Kh-101 is conventional. This missile has another version to uses a thermonuclear warhead also known as Kh-102.

The Kh-101 has a range of up to 5,500 km and a cruising speed of 190–200 m/s and a maximum speed of 250–270 m/s. An electro-optical system and a TV guidance system are part of the rocket’s equipment. The Kh-101 is most often launched by two types of bombers – the Tu-160 strategic bomber and the Tu-95 strategic bomber.

The Dnipro case

At the beginning of the year, the Kh-101 became even more famous among the general international public. On January 14, a rocket hit a residential building in Dnipro. Ukrainian officials initially claimed that the Russian missile was intercepted by their air defenses and debris caused the damage. A cursory glance at the photographs of the incident shows that no such damage was caused by the intercepted missile.

Russia 'aimed' a 1,000-kilogram warhead at a panel building
Photo credit: AFP

One of the versions at the time was that a Tu-22 bomber fired a Kh-101 missile at the residential building. Another version was that the missile was not a Kh-101, but an anti-ship missile. This version is convenient for the Russians because they can always justify “that there was a wrong launch”. The anti-ship missile radar is designed to search for a target in the open sea, where targets are generally few. Whereas in a densely populated area, the radar may activate immediately due to the buildings in the area and thus classify one of the many buildings as a target.


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