Russia now producing 8x more AS-23 missiles since the sanctions

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a coalition of Western countries responded with significant economic sanctions. These sanctions have not been static; rather, they have evolved with new packages added almost every year from 2022 onward. The primary aim is to cripple Russia’s access to Western technology, thereby hampering its ability to sustain military production. 

Russian Kh-101 missile: from April folly to dual payload reality
Photo credit: Russian MoD

Experts continue to debate the effectiveness of these sanctions, but there are some telling statistics. For instance, media reports revealed that Russia produced only 56 AS-23 [Kh-101] missiles before the Ukraine invasion. Fast forward to 2023, and the same sources claim that Russian defense production has soared, churning out 420 AS-23 missiles in just a year. This represents an eightfold increase since the initiation of sanction packages in 2022.

Significantly, the AS-23 cruise missile was implicated in the July 8th attack on Kyiv’s “Ohmatdyt” children’s hospital. This tragic incident prompted media scrutiny of the missile’s production, which had already increased. Although signals about increased production surfaced last year, they drew less attention amid other pressing concerns. 

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

It’s important to highlight that media sources making these claims are not Russian and base their conclusions on observable evidence. Since 2022, numerous Ukrainian reports have indicated that when disassembled, Russian AS-23 missiles reveal components such as processors, chips, and semiconductors from Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United States.

However, there is another crucial yet underreported fact that might soon become headline news. This fact stems from a detailed analysis conducted by Ukrainian experts on a Russian missile recovered in Ukraine.  

In March, several Russian missile strikes suggested a significant shift in the integration of electronic components. Ukrainian sources report that Russia is increasingly replacing Western-made electronics with domestically produced alternatives. Inspections of missile navigation systems showed that Russian power units are now used in various cruise missiles, including the Kalibr, Kh-59, and Kh-101, as well as the Iskander complex and the P-500 anti-ship missile.

Russian Kh-101 stealth attack cruise missile use 35 US-made chips
Phoot: Twitter

The CH-99 navigation system in the mentioned missiles is crucial for this information flow. While it still uses some Western electronics, it increasingly incorporates Russian-made versions. Experts note that Russian electronics show considerable progress in replacing their foreign counterparts. 

What we’re seeing highlights the dual strategy of the Russian military-industrial complex—leveraging external resources while building domestic capabilities. According to estimates from Ukraine, this trend of “replacing with Russian components” has largely flown under the radar of many commentators.

However, BulgarianMilitary.com identified this trend as early as February 2023. We reported on a significant industrial acquisition supported by the government. Rosatom, Russia’s largest technological corporation in the nuclear energy sector, created a subsidiary called “Critical Information Systems” [NGO KIS]. Remarkably, they acquired 100% of the shares in a local microprocessor developer, MCST Elbrus AD. 

Russia acquired processor developer Elbrus through Rosatom
Photo credit: Yandex

In 2023, a key shareholder from MCST openly admitted that the prominent nuclear company was not commercially linked with MCST. Yet, industry experts noted that the state-run corporation was clearly operating under Russian government directives. This move suggests that the Russian government is taking steps to safeguard its vital asset, MCST. Analysts in Russia emphasize that this support from a state-owned entity marks a significant advancement for Russian photolithography equipment production and signals the emergence of new semiconductor plants. These developments are crucial in the context of ongoing sanctions.

Now, let’s focus on the materials used for producing the Kh-101 missile. The choices are varied, but the primary ones are titanium and aluminum. The Russian Federation stands out as one of the world’s leading titanium producers. Russia’s vast titanium reserves and cutting-edge production capabilities place it among the top producers globally. 

When it comes to aluminum production, Russia is also a major player on the global stage. The country hosts some of the largest aluminum companies, like Rusal, which ranks among the biggest aluminum producers worldwide. Russia’s extensive bauxite reserves and well-established production infrastructure reinforce its leading role in the global aluminum market.

Russia acquired processor developer Elbrus through Rosatom
Photo credit: Yandex

The strategic importance of titanium and aluminum production in Russia can’t be overstated. These materials are crucial for building advanced military equipment, including submarines. The availability of these resources within Russia enables the country to produce high-performance, durable, and technologically advanced military systems and missiles. 

Given Russia’s vast resources available for mining and manufacturing, despite a significant lack of domestic electrical components, Moscow is already on its way to overcoming this hurdle. Consequently, it’s no surprise that Russia can ramp up missile production, including the Kh-101.

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