Ukraine’s assertion that a US Patriot defense battery took out one of Russia’s most modern ballistic missiles is a notable moment in the conflict, now in its 15th month.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian military have touted the Kinzhal, or Kh-47, as an example of Russia’s modernized missile arsenal, claiming that its hypersonic speed makes it extremely difficult to intercept.
The missile travels 10 times the speed of sound and has a range of some 2,000 kilometers (about 1,250 miles), and so can be fired far from the battlefield.
Putin has said the weapons could “overcome all existing and, I think, prospective anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems.”
Several Kinzhal missiles were launched at Ukrainian targets in March, but it’s not clear what damage they did or whether they all reached their targets.
Analysts have questioned the Kinzhal’s capabilities during the final phase of its flight, suggesting it may not be as maneuverable or as fast as it approaches a target.
A new line of defense: In April, Ukraine’s defense ministry said Patriot systems had arrived from the US, Germany and the Netherlands.
The addition of Patriot batteries was a welcome one for Ukraine, who had repeatedly asked for the air defense capability. But experts warned the systems would not be a game changer overnight, because of the significant training and logistical requirements that go along with them.
Today’s developments: If one of the new Patriot systems has now destroyed a Kh-47, as the Ukrainians say, it calls into question the capabilities of one of Russia’s new generation of weapons.
Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yurii Inhat said Saturday that the Russians “were saying that the Patriot is an outdated American weapon, and Russian weapons are the best in the world.”
“Well, there is confirmation that it effectively works against even a super hypersonic missile,” Ihnat said, adding that intercepting the Kinzhal is “a slap in the face for Russia.”