Why Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missile is currently on ‘pause’ mode

MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Despite the colossal effect of the actual use of the newfangled hypersonic missiles, the Russian Ministry of Defense decided to limit itself to a few launches of the Kinzhal [Dagger in English] hypersonic missile. Has the technology and resources spent not paid off? Perhaps their power is seriously exaggerated? If is that so, how is Kinzhal doing, and when to use it again?

Russia`s Kinzhal Hypersonic Missiles Will Be Involved for the First Time at Aviadarts Competition
Photo credit: Sergei Bobylev

The number of applications of the latest hypersonic missile in Ukraine is really not large. Maybe a dozen launches. But even on this modest basis, many conclusions can be drawn. First, Kinzhal is really very, very fast. There are materials on the web where you can clearly see how the rocket flies in the so-called plasma cloud. This cloud is formed as a result of huge air resistance. We won’t delve into the physics, just say that the ammunition somehow manages not only to withstand colossal loads but also to aim accurately.

Speed and distance

From open sources, it is known that the speed of the rocket varies between Mach 10-12. I.e. translated into familiar numbers, it looks like this – 11900-14300 km/h. The notorious Patriot is not too durable for this missile. The same can be said for the Russian S-400. Kinzhal is an extremely difficult target.

The second validated parameter is the range. According to the Ministry of Defense, the missile can travel up to 2,000 kilometers if launched from the MiG-31A. In practice, it can fly over the entire territory of Ukraine.

The MiGs are far from the only ones that the Russian Ministry of Defense has already tested. There is a documented case in which at least one Tu-22M3M participated in flights, and at the same time carried 4 Kinzhals. Whether it is worth trusting this statement is a question, but there is a fact of such work, and this machine is likely capable of hypersonic launches.

Myth or fact

The Kinzhal missile is not used due to low production quantities. It is supposed that his number did not exceed three or four dozen. This means that it would be extremely wasteful to use. Especially when there are countries nearby that are members of NATO and are ready to join the conditional “game” at any moment.

MiG-31K with installed Kinzhal hypersonic missile lands in Kaliningrad
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The theory of few produced Kinzhal is interesting, but it rests on a rather stupid fact – a limited number of carriers. Experts suggest that there is no point in making these munitions yet. The reason – the program for re-equipment of old MiGs has been extended over time. The future of the Tu-22M3M is also unclear. In general, the dispute is serious.

Why is Kinzhal in pause mode?

Other sources figure 150 Kinzhals were produced. But here the principle is exactly the same – they calculated the maximum number of MiGs suitable for modernization in conservation and ready. In general, no one knows how many of these missiles Russia has.

But the reason for their extremely limited use is known for sure – it is the banal decentralization of enemy troops, equipment, and other reserves. That is, there are simply no targets where there is a high concentration of everything that needs to be hit. And if there is, it is perfectly tolerated by the Iskanders, whose ammunition is clearly “riveted” more and is several times cheaper.

When will Kinzhal be used again?

So when will the Kinzhals be used again? This is an interesting question, but now let’s try to understand some limits. As many have already noticed, the second stage of conflict is coming. It is supposed to be a large-scale offensive. Signs of this crop up from time to time. For example, tests of the Poseidon torpedo, tests of the frigate Admiral Gorshkov with a Zircon missile in the Mediterranean, changes in personnel, etc.

There is even nuclear blackmail on the horizon, which was avoided in the fall. But it always exists and is part of the game. It is not to be underestimated. A certain number of MiG-31A and the A-50U attached to them are currently based in Belarus. Periodically they make sorties but do not make any launches. I.e. these flights closely resemble practicing actions, as needed. At the same time, they show the enemy that these MiGs are armed with the Kinzhal.

MiG-31K with installed Kinzhal hypersonic missile lands in Kaliningrad
Photo credit: South Front

Sources in Russia say that when Kinzhal’s time comes again, the senior officer staff of a particular Russian unit will be replaced. People highly specialized and competent in the use of the Kinzhal are expected to come. What we are witnessing now is mostly an internal political feud that prevents them from acting clearly and harmoniously.

First strike weapon

As a result, we can conclude the following – as conceived, Kinzhal is a missile for the first strike, which was demonstrated 11 months ago. There is no point in using it further. However, the probability of its reuse is increasing every day. It feels like the Kinzhals won’t be used to destroy warehouses and other such points this time around. Whether so – time will tell.


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