Friendly fire? Russian hypersonic missile reportedly falls on Stavropol

An unidentified flying object crashed in the Russian city of Stavropol, about 350 kilometers (220 miles) from the Ukrainian border, on September 14, 2022.  

As the aircraft caught fire, rescuers arrived at the crash scene and attempted to control the flames. An explosion occurred and injured six people, including four local residents and one fireman. 

“In particular, a firefighter was burned while working at the scene,” reported the governor of the Stavropol Territory, Vladimir Vladimirov. “He has been hospitalized and is being treated by paramedics.” 

Russian media channels claim that the unknown aircraft was in fact a Ukrainian Tu-141 Strizh reconnaissance drone. Ukraine is currently the only known operator of the unmanned aircraft.   

Twitter users, however, point out the similarities between the wreckage of the aircraft and the Russian Kinzhal missile, notably the winglets and the separation mechanism of the weapon’s booster.  

What is the Kinzhal “hypersonic” missile? 

The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal is most likely based on the first stage of the 9K720 Iskander-M ground-launched missile, with the addition of a booster. Russia advertises it as an air-launched hypersonic missile that can be carried by the Tu-22M bomber or the MiG-31 heavy interceptor. According to official Russian sources, it has a top speed of either Mach 10 or March 12 (10 or 12 times the speed of sound). 

The presence of a booster on the wreckage indicates that the missile either misfired or was accidentally dropped by its carrier aircraft. 

Was it destined for Kryvyi Rih? 

The city of Kryvyi Rih, in central Ukraine, was threatened by floods after a Russian bombardment damaged hydraulic infrastructure on September 14, 2022, causing the water level of the river Inhulets to rise by a few meters.  

“At the site of the missile attack on Kryvyi Rih, everything is being done to eliminate the consequences of yet another Russian vile act,” President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech released on September 15, 2022. 

According to Valentyn Reznichenko, Governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast where Kryvyi Rih is located, the Karachunivske Reservoir dam was targeted by either air-launched Kinzhal or ground-launched Iskander missiles. 


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