Tag Archives: Air-launched cruise missile

Russia Test Fires New Kh-47M2 Kinzhal Hypersonic Missile

First “Kinzhal” Fired from MiG-31 in Southwest Russia Hits Target According to Russians. But it’s a modified Iskander SRBM.

The Russian Aerospace Forces have conducted the first successful test firing of the air-launched Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile according to state sponsored media outlets.

The missile, supposedly named Kh-47M2 and referred to as the “Kinzhal”, was fired from a modified MiG-31BM (NATO reporting name “Foxhound”) over Southwest Russia. A report published on Facebook by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the “unique” MiG-31 that fired the missile had been “modernized”. Rogozin did not specify what modifications or “modernized” meant.

In video and still photos portions of the weapon seen in the test launch are obscured by imaging software, presumably for security purposes.

The official news release from the Russian Aerospace Forces read in part, “MiG-31 jet of the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted a test launch of hypersonic aviation and missile system Kinzhal in a set district. The launch was successful, the hypersonic missile hit the designated target at the field.”

Kinzhal is claimed to be a strategic air-to-surface strike missile. The missile is claimed to have maneuverable flight characteristics not typically seen in hypersonic, solid fuel missiles. Observers of Russian missile programs have voiced skepticism about Russia’ performance claims however. According to Russians and reference sources the Kinzhal missile has a top speed of Mach 10 and maintains some ability to maneuver throughout its performance envelope including at hypersonic speed. If accurate, these capabilities could make the Kinzhal difficult to intercept by anti-missile systems. The missile is reported to have a range of 1,200 miles (approximately 2,000 kilometers). This, added to the reported 1,860-mile unrefueled range of the MiG-31BM long range, supersonic interceptor, gives the Kinzhal potentially intercontinental strike capability. The missile is also reported to be nuclear-capable and able to hit ground as well as naval targets.

Still photos of the MiG-31 Foxhound released by the Russian Aerospace Forces were obscured over some areas of the new Kinzhal missile. (Photo: Russian Aerospace Forces)

Writer and analyst Kelsey T. Atherton wrote in Popular Mechanics, “Don’t believe the hype about Russia’s hypersonic missile” back in June, 2017 when discussing Russia’s Zircon missile, a sea launched hypersonic missile. The War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway compared the new Kinzhal with Russia’s existing Iskander short-range ballistic missile in his analysis.

This first Russian Kinzhal test comes several months after the Indian Brahmos-A hypersonic missile test from November 22, 2017. The reported performance of the Indian Brahmos was a top speed of Mach 7 and a range of 290 kilometers. The Indian hypersonic missile was launched from a modified Sukhoi Su-30MKI. The Indian hypersonic missile project was completed in close cooperation with the Russians.

A screen grab from the video released on YouTube details the new Kinzhal missile. (Photo: Russian Aerospace Forces/via YouTube)

Hypersonic cruise missiles have the capability to defeat or degrade the effectiveness of most current surveillance and anti-missile systems because of their speed (and, in the case of this new Kinzhal, claimed capability to maneuver). The choice of the aging MiG-31, that would probably launch the Kinzhal from +60,000 feet at supersonic speed, is aimed at giving the tactical ballistic missile much more reach than it would have if launched from the ground: indeed, during the Cold War, the long-range high-altitude interceptor was supposed to be used as launch platform for anti-satellite weapons that could destroy targets in near space. Capable to carry up to four long-range R-33 missiles and four short-range R-77 missiles, not only was the MiG-31BM expected to carry a weapon able to shoot down space satellites; it was also intended to be used as a “cruise missile interceptor”: the Foxhounds have been involved in tests to intercept cruise missiles, previously Kh-55 and more recently Kh-101, for years.

While the Kinzhal appears to be an air-to-ground missile the pairing of this nuclear capable hypersonic missile recalls the much older AIR-2 Genie nuclear armed air-to-air missile with a 1.5 kiloton warhead. The AIR-2 Genie and earlier versions of the same missile were deployed by the U.S. Air Force from 1957-1962.

In remarks from an earlier state of the nation address at the beginning of March, Russian President Vladimir Putin told media that the Kinzhal has been “operational” prior to this test launch. Russian media also said there had been “250 test flights” to validate the operational status of the Kinzhal prior to this test launch. There was no mention if the missile or any more of the modified MiG-31s are operationally deployed yet.

According to defense journalist Babak Taghvaee, six MiG-31BM interceptors have already been turned into launch platforms and they are based at Akhtubinsk:

In contrast with the Russian claims, while traveling to Oman, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters that nothing Russia demonstrated changed the Pentagon’s perspective.

“I saw no change to the Russian military capability and each of these systems that he’s talking about are still years away, I do not see them changing the military balance. They do not impact any need on our side for a change in our deterrence posture.” Indeed, the missile seems to fuel the propaganda machine more than it actually changes the strategic balance. However, it’s a development worth following, especially if we consider the maritime strike capability that an air-launched ballistic anti-ship missile brings in the game.

Russia’s firing of the Kinzhal joins not only the Indian hypersonic missile tests from last year but also the Chinese DF-17 hypersonic glide missile tests and the U.S. tests of hypersonics being conducted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

Interesting video shows Il-78 tankers refueling a Tu-160 strategic bomber over the Caspian Sea

Watch this Il-78M Midas refueling a Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bomber over the Caspian Sea.

As we have already explained, beginning on Nov. 17 the Russian Air Force Strategic Bomber fleet, has started pounding Islamic State (as well as rebel forces) in Syria.

On Nov. 20, for the first time ever, two Blackjacks carried out a 13,000km round trip war mission taking off from a deployment base in Kola Peninsula: they flew off Norway and UK, around western Europe, entered the Mediterranean Sea via Gibraltar and, after meeting the Su-30SMs departed from Latakia, launched some ALCMs (Air Launched Cruise Missiles) against terrorist targets in Syria. Then, they entered the Syrian airspace and returned home via the eastern corridor: Iraq-Iran-Caspian Sea.

Two Il-78M tankers were also part of the mission supporting the strike force refueling the Tu-160s on their way back home.



Russian MoD video shows Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22 bombers (with Su-27 escort) bomb ISIS in Syria

Interesting footage of Putin’s heavy bombers at work.

Early in the morning on Nov. 17, the Russian Air Force launched 25 heavy bombers against ISIS ground targets in Syria.

The aircraft, 5 x Tu-160 Blackjack, 6 x Tu-95MS Bear and 14 x Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers flew round trip missions from airbases in Russia to drop a variety of weapons: both air-launched cruise missiles, like the KH-555 whose remains were recovered in Syria, and free fall bombs, like those dropped by the Backfires, in the somehow old-fashioned carpet bombing (while being escorted by some Su-27s).

Actually, the show of force of the Russian Air Force was also an opportunity to test some new “hardware” as the new KH-101 low-observable cruise missile.

Here’s what seems to be the wreckage of a KH-101.

Actually, the video released by Moscow also contains old footage, as the bomb bay clip of a Tu-160 launching a KH-555 that we already published some days ago.


25 Russian long-range strategic bombers in action over Syria for the very first time

Russian Air Force heavy bombers made their first appearance over Syria yesterday night.

It looks like Moscow stepped up its military effort in Syria even before the intention to intensify the air strikes was announced by Putin on Nov. 17.

As initially reported by Reuters, a US official has confirmed that Moscow has conducted a significant number of strikes in Syria using both sea-launched cruise missiles and long-range bombers.

The Russian MoD said 25 long-range bombers took part in the raid: 5 x Tu-160s, 6 x Tu-95MS and 14 x Tu-22M3.

According to one our sources who wishes to remain anonymous, the long-range bombers the Russian Air Force has used against ground targets in Syria early in the morning on Nov. 17 were Tu-22M Backfire strategic bombers.

The aircraft were allegedly launched from Mozdok airbase, in Ossetia, where as many as 6 Tu-22s were spotted on a recent deployment.

Remains of a KH-555 missile wreck were found in Syria: considered that this type of air-launched missile is mainly carried by Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers (Tu-22s have been tested with the KH-555 but full integration is not completed or at least unknown), the long-range bombers that launched the attack on ground targets using those missiles may have been the Tu-95s or Tu-160s flying alongside the Backfires.

We will provide more details as soon as they become available.

Image credit: Dmitriy Pichugin


Interesting bomb bay video shows Russian Tu-160 strategic bomber dropping KH-555 cruise missile

Something you don’t see too often.

Filmed from inside the bomb bay of a Russian Air Force Tu-160 Blackjack, the video below, released by the Russian MoD, shows the strategic bomber launching what appear to be a KH-555 air-launched cruise missile.

The KH-555 is a conventionally armed variant, with an improved guidance system and warhead, of the KH-55 (NATO reporting name AS-15 “Kent”), a cruise missile with a range of up to 2,500 km (1,350 nm) (and ability to carry nuclear warheads).