‘Kh-69 is worse than Kinzhal’ says Ukraine on today’s RuAF attack

Recently, we witnessed a significant military event when Russian fighter jets targeted and subsequently obliterated Trypilska TPP, a robust thermal power plant south of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. 

From the Ukraine side, it has been reported that their air defense system failed to intercept any of the six Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missiles launched. While they claim to have downed 18 missiles along with 39 drones, a staggering total of 82 different types of missiles were reported to have been launched by Russia today.

The investigation into the debris site at Trypilska TPP has unearthed some intriguing findings, most notably remnants of a Kh-59MK2 missile, or its export variation, the Kh-69. As sources from Ukraine suggest, “The devastating assault on the Trypilska TPP employed the new Kh-69 cruise missiles, a strategy that enabled the complete decimation of the most formidable power station in the Kyiv area.”

Su-57 gets a Kh-69 missile for hitting railway stations and hubs
Photo by Giovanni Colla/Daniele Faccioli

Kh-69’s range

Furthermore, according to additional details gathered, the estimated launch distance of these missiles was set at 400 km, shattering previous estimates of the Kh-69’s range of 300 km. This revised figure is now recognized as the benchmark for the subsequent upgrade, the Kh-59MK2. 

Reports of the Kh-69’s deployment against Ukraine first emerged around February 2024, despite a few sporadic instances potentially occurring as early as 2023. Over time, these informal accounts gained credibility and were validated by an in-depth analysis conducted by the Kyiv Scientific – Research Institute for Forensic Expertise [KNDISE] on the remnants of Kh-69. 

To clarify, the Kh-69 is a subsonic cruise missile originating from Russia, designed exclusively for tactical aircraft. The Su-34 and Su-35 jets are known to be capable of launching it, and it is also expected to be the primary cruise missile for the Su-57, planned to be stowed in its internal weapons bays.

Initially, the specified range for the missile was pegged at approximately 290 km. However, its practical application reveals a far more extensive reach. According to the official data, the warhead weighs around 310 kg. The Kh-69 uses a guidance protocol similar to the Kh-101 – a navigation satellite with anti-jamming Comet-M antennas and inertial support. One unique aspect of the missile lies in its capacity to fly at a super-low altitude of just 20 meters, outperforming even the Kh-101. 

Kh-69 is worse than Kinzhal

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

Interestingly, the use of the Kh-69 missile by Russia to target the Trypilska TPP is viewed as an alarmingly significant development, despite the missile’s subsonic speed and smaller warhead compared to the so-called “hypersonic” Kh-47M2 Kinzhal. 

There are two main reasons for this. First, the effectiveness of the Kh-69 strike indicates its potential to successfully infiltrate the seemingly depleted Ukrainian air defense. Second, the deployment of this missile from tactical aircraft like the Su-34 or Su-35 eliminates the tell-tale signs of large-scale missile launches, such as the takeoff of Tu-95MS and MiG-31K strategic bombers.

Furthermore, due to its launch from Su-34 or Su-35, there is the potential for broader deployment thanks to a larger number of carriers. However, this situation is likely to occur only when Russia begins mass-producing the Kh-69, as currently, there’s no information available regarding its stockpile. Interestingly, thorough examinations of the rocket in February revealed serial numbers, indicating that it was manufactured toward the end of 2023. 

Kh-69’s range is a problem

What’s fascinating is that the 400 km range of this missile is sufficient to target a substantial number of sites within Ukraine’s borders. This is accomplished by strategically deploying tactical aviation, which manages to keep a distance of about 50-70 km to the border or frontline. 

Now, the diagram merely represents potential launch points. It does not take into account the possible use of Belarusian airspace by opposing forces. Should Russia resort to the use of its ally’s airspace, as it did in 2022, the entire Ukrainian region, excluding the Zakarpattia Oblast, could fall within the target area.

'Kh-69 is worse than Kinzhal' says Ukraine on today's RuAF attack
Photo credit: Defense Express

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