RKV-500 missile that hit Kyiv was given by Ukraine to Russia

According to the Russian media, the material was published on the Ukrainian news portal, which caused great interest and discussion. The article claims that in the late 1990s, Ukrainian authorities handed over missiles and strategic bombers to Russia in lieu of paying a gas debt. Interestingly, fragments of X-55 missiles, which Ukraine supplied to Russia, were found after Russian strikes in Kyiv.

RKV-500 missile that hit Kyiv was given by Ukraine to Russia
Photo credit: Dzen.ru

According to investigative journalists, Ukraine then transferred to Russia about 1,500 X-55 missiles and eight Tu-95 and Tu-160 long-range strategic bombers worth a total of $275 million.

The remaining 11 Tu-160 bombers were destroyed with the help of US financial support under the Nunn-Lugar program. One of the machines was translated into non-working condition and placed in the Aviation Museum in Poltava.

Such accusations caused outrage in Ukrainian society and became the subject of discussion. Many see this situation as a betrayal on the part of the former Ukrainian authorities and to some extent on the part of the US, which supported the destruction of part of Ukrainian aviation.

It is important to note that it is not yet known whether the former Ukrainian authorities will be held criminally liable for the transfer of missiles and bombers to Russia. However, this investigation has raised important questions and speculation about the past actions of Ukrainian officials and international partners.

Top 5 of the best and deadliest Russian cruise missiles
Kh-55 cruise missile, photo credit: Wikipedia

What do we know about the RKV-500?

The RVK-500 missile, also known as the Kh-55, is a Soviet-era air-launched cruise missile that was developed in the 1970s. It was designed to be carried by strategic bombers, such as the Tu-95 and Tu-160, and had a range of up to 3,000 km. The missile was primarily intended for use against ground targets, such as military installations, command centers, and industrial facilities.

The RVK-500 missile has a length of 6.4 meters and a diameter of 0.51 meters. It weighs around 1,500 kg and is powered by a turbofan engine that allows it to reach speeds of up to 800 km/h. The missile is equipped with a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead or a conventional warhead that can weigh up to 410 kg.

The RVK-500 missile uses a combination of inertial guidance and terrain contour matching (TERCOM) to navigate to its target. The missile is pre-programmed with a flight plan that takes into account the terrain and other obstacles along the way. As the missile flies, it compares its actual position to the pre-programmed flight plan and makes adjustments to its course as necessary. Once the missile reaches its target, it can either detonate its warhead or use its kinetic energy to destroy the target.

RKV-500 design

Russia fired at Kyiv nuke Kh-55 with a removed nuclear warhead
Photo credit: Defense Express

Driven by a 400 kgf Ukrainian-produced, Motor Sich JSC R95-300 turbofan engine, this missile features pop-out wings, enhancing its cruising efficiency. Capable of launching from a range of altitudes, it maintains subsonic speeds when flying at lower levels, specifically under 110 m/300 ft.

Upon launch, the missile’s wings, tail surfaces, and engine spring into action. It employs a unique guidance system, intertwining an inertial guidance system with a terrain contour-matching guidance system. This system utilizes radar and pre-stored images within the onboard computer, enabling the missile to pinpoint its target with remarkable precision. 

Variations of the design can be seen in the original Kh-55 with its drop-down engine, the Kh-65SE featuring a fixed external turbojet engine, and the Kh-SD, which houses its engine within the missile’s body. The 2013 production models were upgraded with a more powerful 450 kgf Russian-made NPO Saturn TRDD-50A engine. 

In terms of nuclear capability, the Kh-55 is equipped with a TK66 warhead, packing a punch of 200 kilotonnes of TNT (840 TJ). This warhead weighs in at a hefty 130 kilograms (290 lb). The KTS-120-12 serves as the mass-size simulator for the warhead.

December 16, 2022

RKV-500 missile that hit Kyiv was given by Ukraine to Russia
Photo credit: Reddit

On December 16, 2022, a Kh-55 missile, equipped with a ballast warhead, veered off course during a launch over Belarus and descended unexpectedly in a forest located 15 km west of Bydgoszcz, Poland. 

The missile’s unexpected visit to Polish soil was detected by both Polish and allied radar systems, as disclosed by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. However, the missile wasn’t physically discovered until April 22, 2023, with the incident being publicly reported a few days following the discovery. 

The exact cause of the missile’s off-course trajectory remains uncertain. It is yet to be determined whether the missile’s unexpected landing near Bydgoszcz’s aviation repair works, a site actively involved in providing military aid to Ukraine, was a result of a technical malfunction of the aging missile or a deliberate act of provocation.


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