What is a Kinzhal missile? The hypersonic weapon Russia says it used for the first time in Ukraine

Russia claims to have destroyed a bunker storing missiles and ammunition

Zaina Alibhai
Sunday 20 March 2022 15:26 GMT
Moment Russian hypersonic missile ‘destroys Ukrainian weapons warehouse’
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Russia’s military has claimed to have fired a hypersonic ballistic missile to destroy a large weapons depot in Ukraine.

The defence ministry said the Kinzhal hit an underground system housing missiles and aircraft ammunition in Ivano-Frankivsk, western Ukraine.

The launch of the Kinzhal would mark the first time the weapon, also known as Dagger, has been used during the war.

Defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russia had also used the Bastion coastal missile system to destroy a military radio and reconnaissance centre in the southern port city of Odessa.

Ukraine’s Air Force confirmed a Russian missile strike in the Ivano-Frankivsk region but did not clarify the weapons used.

Elsewhere in the south, a 38-hour curfew was announced after two missile strikes killed nine people in the Zaporizhzhia region.

The Russian military also fired missiles in the western city of Lviv, where military veterans were giving dozens of civilians firearms and grenade training.

What is a hypersonic missile?

Hypersonic missiles are thought to be the next generation of arms as they can travel at exceptionally high speeds, more than five times the speed of sound.

The missiles are almost impossible to intercept (AFP)

Their speed, manoeuvrability and altitude are thought to make them difficult to track and intercept, rendering them almost unstoppable.

Until recently, hypersonic missiles have remained a closely guarded secret however President Vladimir Putin has made no secret of Russia’s investment in the weapons which he insists were only created in response to the US deployment of a strategic missile defence system.

How powerful is the Kinzhal?

The Kinzhal missiles are part of an array of “invincible” weapons unveiled by Russia four years ago, alongside Zirkon and Avangrad, which has both higher speed and range.

Carried by MiG-31K fighter jets, it can fly at 10 times the speed of sound - 7,672 mph - and can hit a target some 1,250 miles away.

For comparison, the US Tomahawk cruise missile - a subsonic long range missile system -  can travel at around 550 mph.

The Royal Navy and French Navy have been developing a hypersonic missile of their own since 2011 and it is expected to enter service in eight years.

Known as Perseus, the missile is expected to feature an agile airframe powered by a ramjet motor.

The Kinzhal can carry a nuclear warhead as well as a conventional one.

The missiles can be launched from MiG-31K jets (AP)

What other weapons has Russia used?

Whilst seemingly using the Kinzhal for the first time, Russia has used an array of weapons against Ukraine during the war.

Thermobaric launchers - also known as vacuum bombs - are considered one of the most brutal weapons to exist with its blast waves able to obliterate anything in their path.

Its military has been using a number of aircraft in its attacks, capable of firing guided air-to-ground missiles or dropping bombs.

Russia’s forces have been accused of using cluster bombs which open up during flight to release hundreds of smaller munitions.

Whilst Mr Putin has not revealed plans to use nuclear arsenal, it is believed he has some 6,200 warheads at his disposal

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