Did Ukraine shoot down a Kinzhal hypersonic missile?

U.S. Marine Corps photo

Reports suggest that the Ukrainian military successfully intercepted a Russian Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic missile in the skies over Kyiv on May 4, 2023. 

Pictures shared by the Ukrainian website Defense Express show debris of a warhead that could match either the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal or the 9K720 Iskander-M ground-launched missile. 

So far, no official confirmation of a Kinzhal interception has been issued by Ukraine’s military or authorities. The Ukrainian Air Force said it would not comment on the reports, though it invited interested parties to refer to the original article “for additional up-to-date, operational and reliable information that the enemy will use in the war against Ukraine”. 

If the interception proved to be true, some suspect that the recent delivery of new air defense systems might have played a part. 

In April 2022, Ukraine received several Patriot batteries. According to Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk, commander of the Ukrainian Air Force, two divisions of Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems have been deployed. The Patriot systems were highly anticipated by the Ukrainian authorities due to their capacity to intercept ballistic missiles. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin commented on the delivery of Patriot systems to Ukraine, saying that they will only serve to prolong the conflict, adding: “We will always be able to find an antidote”. 

What is the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missile?

Russia advertises the Kinzhal 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 Mach 12 (10 or 12 times the speed of sound).

The Kinzhal is likely based on the first stage of the Iskander, with the addition of a booster.

Kh-47 hypersonic missiles launched by MiG-31 heavy interceptors were used in the invasion of Ukraine by Russia to target Ukrainian cities.   

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