Russian Kh-69 missile sparks speculation on Su-57 Felon in Ukraine

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Initial reports suggest that Russian forces have, for the first time, deployed the Kh-59MK2 cruise missile in their ongoing engagement in Ukraine. Specifically designed for the Su-57 fifth-generation fighter, this missile can be launched from its internal weapons bays. 

However, a closer inspection of the remnants later indicated that the missile actually deployed might have been the Kh-69, revealing a significant confusion in nomenclature. The Kh-59MK2 was originally considered a slight advancement of the Kh-59MK, but it eventually became evident that the missile underwent significant upgrades, making it almost unrelated to its predecessors. 

To resolve this confusion, the Kh-69 classification was introduced. In Western terminology, this missile is referred to as the AS-22, although the same name is also used for the Kh-555, a missile with no connection. However, the actual usage of the AS-22 term isn’t conclusively clear.  

Photo credit: Telegram

The February 7 attack

Ukrainian sources claim the first deployment of such a missile occurred on February 7, but such declarations concerning the types of weapons used can be questionable, often including weapons designed for export and not actively used within the Russian Armed Forces

Three suspected Kh-69s were reportedly directed against Ukrainian targets on the night of February 7-8, leading to speculations about the potential involvement of Su-57s in precise attacks during that period. 

Photo credit: Rosoboronexport

If the Kh-69 version is indeed confirmed, this implies the Su-57 was its carrier, as this missile was specifically designed for this particular fighter aircraft. The older version, Kh-59MK2, could have been deployed by Su-30, Su-34 or Su-35. It’s plausible that another aircraft, perhaps the more common Su-34 strike fighter, could have been used for the initial battle tests before starting combat testing with the Su-57. 

Kh-59MK2 in Syria

Evolving from its initial field trials in Syria in 2018, the Kh-59MK2, designed as the Su-57’s main air-to-ground weapon, is perfect for taking out compact, reinforced targets at distances up to 300km. 

Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin

The missile carries a 320kg penetrative warhead and could also be armed with a smaller dispersing warhead designed for area-wide impact. Other potential warhead types include a stronger penetrator or a cluster munition carrier. 

Despite its subsonic speed and relatively smaller size, this missile covers a broad range and is known for its flexibility to alter its target mid-flight. The ‘Kh-69’ nomenclature has been widely used lately, likely referring to a version with variations in the warhead, guidance system, or one intended for export, recently displayed at the Dubai Airshow. 

News of the missile’s usage comes after the confirmation that Russia’s only Su-57 regiment has been equipped with a new, longer-range cruise missile derived from the Kh-101/102 that strategic bombers use and that large-scale deliveries of the Drel glide bomb intended for the fighter are set to commence in 2025. 

Photo by Artyom Anikeev

‘Possible’ Su-57

At about half the production cost of the canceled Soviet MiG 1.42 fifth-generation fighter from the early 2000s, the Su-57’s lower price does not undermine its advanced capabilities. The technical sophistication of its missiles stands out in the Russian aircraft, even if its stealth and avionic capabilities fall short compared to the American F-35 and Chinese J-20. 

Currently, no other fifth-generation fighter is known to deploy a missile in the same class as the Kh-59MK2. Considering that the Su-57s have been operational in Ukraine since mid-2022, there is a high probability that these missiles have been used before, but this was not documented by Ukrainian sources. 

Thus, the Su-57’s reputation as the most thoroughly battle-tested fighter of its generation increases, with its operations extending beyond simple air-to-surface strikes to include intricate air defense suppression and air-to-air confrontations beyond visual range.

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