Crushing blow of Kh-101 strike on Ukraine’s hydroelectric lifeline

Reports from Ukraine on March 22 reveal that the Russian army executed the second-largest airstrike on Ukraine, with one of the hits landing on the Dnieper hydroelectric plant in Zaporizhzhia. This news has sent shockwaves through the international community. 

Social media feeds are flooded with video clips showing the precise moment of the missile’s impact. Based on information from Russian sources, the missile used in the attack on the hydroelectric power plant appears to be the Kh-101 cruise missile. Intriguingly, the missile jettisons submunitions thrice before its final impact, often deployed against ground-based air defense systems. 

What’s perplexing is the apparent lack of an interceptor’s trace from the ground. This raises urgent inquiries about the apparent shortfall in Ukraine’s defense of the Dnieper HPP. There is, however, a possibility that despite being activated, the air defenses failed to intercept this specific missile. 

Released images

Ukrainian sources have released post-strike images that unveil the extent of the damage. Judging by the immediate reports, the missile hit with highly accurate precision, annihilating the hydroelectric engines. This severe damage indicates the Dnipro HPP – the largest in Ukraine – is now essentially non-functional. 

Anatoly Kurtev, Secretary of the Zaporizhia City Council, delivered a distressing report: two residential houses in Zaporizhia have been leveled by the missile strike, and seven others partially destroyed. Overall, the city has seen damage to over 150 structures, including both private homes and multi-story buildings. Additional casualty reports from the Head of the Zaporizhzhia OVA, Ivan Fedorov, state that one person has tragically lost their life, and another eight have been injured. 

Crushing blow of Kh-101 strike on Ukraine's hydroelectric lifeline
Photo credit: Twitter

DTEK also under attack

The DTEK thermal power plant was on the receiving end of missile attacks, with the resulting damage to the equipment being extensive. “In one night alone, over 60 Shaheds and nearly 90 missiles of varying kinds were launched. The objective of these Russian terrorists is starkly evident for the world to see: they target power plants, power lines, hydroelectric dams, ordinary houses, and even a public transport bus. Russia is bearing down on the everyday life of the people. Our hearts go out to the kin and loved ones of those who fell victim to this reign of terror,” shared Zelensky. 

According to statements from Ukrainian authorities, the interception of 35 Kh-101 cruise missiles was successful. The Ukrainian Air Defense also neutralized 55 Shahed [Geran-2] suicide drones and a pair of Kh-59 missiles. Still, these claims seem inconsistent when compared with the videos surfacing from virtually every region where a missile was directed. 

Russian Izdeliye 111 missile was caught throwing decoy missiles - Kh-101 missile
Photo credit: Twitter

Kh-101

The Kh-101, a Russian air-launched cruise missile developed by the Raduga Design Bureau, is a strategic weapon known for its stealth capabilities and precision. Among its notable features are its ability to evade radar systems and its incorporation of a special composite material that absorbs radio waves, enhancing its stealth capabilities even further. 

Driven by a turbofan engine the Kh-101 can cruise at subsonic speeds. Its flight altitude capacity extends up to 10,000 meters, and it can operate at low altitudes to skirt detection. 

Kh-101 and Kh-102 cruise missiles
Photo credit: Reddit

What sets the Kh-101 apart is its array of guidance systems – it uses an inertial navigation system for initial guidance and a satellite navigation system for mid-course guidance. Terminal guidance is managed by a terrain contour matching system and an image matching system, ensuring that it strikes its target with admirable accuracy. 

One of the most striking features of the Kh-101 is its range – it can target objects up to 5,500 kilometers away. It’s the multiple weapon payload that makes the Kh-101 such an adaptable weapon in the Russian military’s arsenal. 

Ammunition used

Russia says it is mass-producing the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile
Photo by Alexey Kudenko

Reports from Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense recount the use of 12 Iskander-M ballistic missiles, five Kh-22 cruise missiles, seven Kh-47M2 “Dagger” aeroballistic missiles, and 22 S-300/S-400 anti-aircraft guided missiles in addition to the intercepted missiles on the day of the assault. Currently, no reports confirm the interception of these weapons.

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

On February 21, 2022, Russia stated that its border facility was attacked by Ukrainian forces, resulting in the deaths of five Ukrainian fighters. However, Ukraine quickly dismissed these allegations, labeling them as ‘false flags’.

Russian Su-34s bombed pro-Turkish positions in Idlib, Syria
Photo credit: Wikipedia

In a notable move on the same day, Russia announced it officially recognized the self-proclaimed areas of DPR and LPR. Interestingly, according to Russian President Putin, this recognition covered all the Ukrainian regions. Following this declaration, Putin sent a battalion of Russia’s military forces, tanks included, into these areas.

Fast forward to February 24, 2022, global headlines were dominated by a significant incident. Putin commanded a forceful military assault on Ukraine. Led by Russia’s impressive Armed Forces positioned at the Ukrainian border, this assault wasn’t spontaneous but a premeditated action. Despite the circumstances resembling a war, the Russian government refrains from using this term. They’d rather refer to it as a “special military operation”.

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