The Hypersonic era of warfare has now begun. On Saturday, the Russian Federation became the first country in the world to officially accept the use of hypersonic missiles in a conventional war during its offensive against Ukraine.
According to the reports, the missile was used to destroy a weapons depot in western Ukraine. “The Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Deliatyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
The weapon system deployed was stated to be ‘Kinzhal’, a nuclear-capable air-launched hypersonic ballistic missile that can be deployed via Russian Air Force’s MiG-31K and Tu-22M3 bomber aircraft.
However, it must be noted that this was not the first operational use of Kinzhal. In June 2021, it was reported that the system had been used against a ground target in Syria, launched from a MiG-31K from the Khmeimim Air Base. In fact, such strikes in Syria have been claimed multiple times. But these strikes [in Syria] were against an inferior hostile organization with no formal military, and thus the recent usage in Ukraine can be termed as the first conventional use of hypersonic weapons in modern warfare.
The Kinzhal has a claimed speed of Mach 10 and a range of 2,000 kilometers with an ability to perform evasive maneuvers, to lower the chances of interception by enemy air defense systems. Hypersonic weapons inherently give a distinct advantage of being immune to most modern air defense systems, whose interceptor missiles themselves are slower than the projectile they’re supposed to intercept. The Kinzhal [is claimed] to overcome any air defense system employed by NATO countries including the high-profile American systems like THAAD, Patriot, and Aegis.