Speed Reads

breaking the barrier

Russia uses hypersonic missiles in Ukraine

Russian forces used hypersonic missiles, which can travel at 10 times the speed of sound, in western Ukraine on Friday, NBC News reported.

"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," the Russian Defense Ministry announced Saturday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled the Kinzhal ("Dagger") missiles in 2018, but this is the first time Russian forces have admitted to using them in combat, according to The Moscow Times.

Michael Puttré, writing for Discourse, explained that hypersonic missiles "are more maneuverable and harder to detect than earlier high-speed weapons, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, and can travel at more than five times the speed of sound."

Russia and China have already added hypersonic missiles to their arsenals, while the United States and several other countries are working to develop them.

"[A] hypersonic weapon with a high-Mach speed and a great ability to maneuver would defeat any U.S. anti-missile system that depends on tracking inbound missiles flying on a predictable course," Puttré argued. Others, however, expressed skepticism as to whether hypersonic weapons were really so revolutionary.

Ryan Cooper wrote for The Week that "while a hypersonic missile would be nearly impossible to shoot down, that is already true of ICBMs," that "a realistic massed attack of multiple-warhead [ICBMs] would be impossible to defend against," and that even in the event of a successful hypersonic nuclear attack, the U.S. would retain second strike capability in the form of its nuclear-armed submarines.

Cooper argued that fear about hypersonic missiles is being whipped up solely because "the military-industrial complex needs a new bogeyman to justify the preposterously bloated and wasteful Pentagon budget."