Russia produces 10 Kinzhal air-launched missiles every month

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Undoubtedly, the focus in May is the duel between Russia’s Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile and the US-supplied Patriot anti-aircraft missile system to Ukraine. At least according to both countries, these two weapons platforms met on May 16th.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

According to sources, Moscow has increased Kinzhal production. This happened long before May 16th. In May, Russia had 80 Kinzhal missiles, while in January it had 50 of these missiles. This means that in February, March, and April, Russia produced 10 missiles each month. The assessment of Russia’s availability of the Kinzhal in January and May was made public by Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.

Before May 16, even before the start of Russia’s “military special operation” [the official Moscow term for its military presence and actions in Ukraine], Moscow was said to have the capacity to produce two Kinzhal missiles every month. If the new analysis is confirmed, it means an increase in production of at least five times.

Is it true?

At the moment, the only information available to is Mr. Reznikov’s public statement. Some experts suggest that his claim about the Russian quantity of Kinzhal in January and May was due to new intelligence from domestic intelligence. However, such reasoning is an alternative to the true, which for the moment remains hidden from us.

Photo credit: Defense Express recalls that there are confirmed data on the first use of the Kinzhal ballistic missile. This happened on March 18, 2022, when the Russian Aerospace Forces [VKS] struck a large underground warehouse in western Ukraine. recalls that currently, only the MiG-31K deploys this air-launched ballistic missile. It has been known since at least 2017 that this particular interceptor is the bearer of the Kinzhal.

Deeper into manufacturing capabilities

An increase in Kinzhal production is quite possible though. This is due to several known facts.

First, the factories operate in wartime. Second, Russia over the years has produced many 9M723 missiles that are launched from the Iskander ballistic missile system. I.e. these systems therefore go into service quickly because they have ready-made missiles produced in the last two decades. Thus, Kinzhal becomes a priority production at the expense of 9M723.

Photo credit: MoD of the Russian Federation

There is also a third fact – the MiG-31. Russia has a large quantity of this interceptor. I.e. Russia can quickly and continuously deliver MiG-31s, and their armament requires the Kinzhal. FYI – just over 500 MiG-31 interceptors are said to have been produced. At least half are in Russia’s inventory. However, it remains unclear how many of them are operationally ready or usable.

Is the missile hypersonic?

Russia claims to have destroyed the Patriot air defense system. Ukraine claims that the system is not destroyed but partially confirmed [according to sources, it has already been repaired, but this information remains in the realm of conjecture]. Ukraine also claims that before its Patriot was damaged, the system shot down at least six Kinzhal missiles.

Photo credit: South Front

Each of these claims remains in the realm of conjecture, due to the propaganda information from both sides of the war – Russia and Ukraine. Propaganda is one of the main weapons during a war. That is why it is highly naive to trust Ukraine or Russia.

The Patriot is a system whose PAC-2 or PAC-3 SME interceptor works by body-to-body interception. This means that at a certain ballistic height, the interceptor hits the anti-missile body at an angle. Most often it is 45 degrees.

The PAC-2 cruises at Mach 2.8, but intercepts at less than its maximum speed depending on interception altitude. The PAC-3 travels at a maximum speed of Mach 4.1, and the same condition of the PAC-2 applies to this missile. The Kinzhal missile moves at a higher speed using the energy of a fast-flying fighter jet. The Kinzhal’s maximum speed is Mach 10. All speed claims for the three missiles described are from the official data of their manufacturers. I.e. statements.

Facts and assumptions

When we know how the American PAC-2/PAC-3 SME interceptors work, their speed, and the speed of the enemy Kinzhal missile, it is very difficult to explain how a slower-moving body can hit a faster-moving body at an angle. We are not saying that it is impossible, but that it is very difficult.

Photo credit: ABC News and Telegram

If Russia’s claims that Ukraine has not shot down a single Kinzhal are true, that means the missile is also supersonic. If Ukraine’s claims are true that six Kinzhal were shot down on May 16th, that means the Kinzhal is not supersonic.

Why is it hard to believe that the Patriot is capable of taking down Kinzhal? Even before the war, many experts, especially from the USA, claimed that “there is no air defense system in the world that can oppose hypersonic missiles”. Also, again before the war in Ukraine, the Patriot [and more advanced than Ukraine upgrades] failed in both Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

In both countries, certain sites [Aramco for SA and the Green Zone for Baghdad] were attacked with missiles [not hypersonic, not even cruise] that the Patriot missed with a 50% success rate. I.e. of six missiles fired, three were intercepted, and three missed.

A possible explanation

Knowing all this, the question remains – how, in two minutes, the soldiers of an anti-aircraft missile battalion, trained for only a few weeks [a year and a half are the training in the US for a military unit for the Patriot] on a system to which they had not had access until now, were able to shoot down six hypersonic missiles?

The answer is most likely on the other side of the conflict. If the missiles were down, that most likely means that the Kinzhal is not a hypersonic missile.


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