"The Use of Emerging Disruptive Technologies by the Russian Armed Forces in the Ukrainian War" by Donatas Palavenis

Oct 4, 2022

The Russian Ministry of Defence, on 18 March 2022, reported that Russian forces had used Kinzhal hypersonic missiles[1] and destroyed an underground depot for missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Delyatina in Western Ukraine. US officials also confirmed the use of hypersonic missiles[2]. According to US officials, the launch aimed to test weapons and send a message to the West about Russia's military capabilities.


This article discusses available Russian hypersonic missiles and reviews other Russian military capabilities used in military operations in Ukraine that potentially use emerging disruptive technologies.


1. Russian hypersonic missiles


First of all, it should be mentioned that hypersonic weapons are considered one of the disruptive technologies used in warfare, alongside such technologies as artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, big data, quantum technology, biotechnology, and novel materials[3].


Hypersonic missiles fly at a speed of at least Mach 5 or five times the speed of sound. There are two categories of hypersonic weapons: the first, when the rocket carrier carries the hypersonic glider and detaches from the carrier during flight, and the second when the rocket itself is hypersonic and is driven by high-speed engines throughout flight. Unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic weapons do not follow a parabolic ballistic trajectory and fly at hypersonic speeds. They can manoeuvre freely en route to the target, making them more challenging to detect and destroy in flight[4].


Russia currently has two types of hypersonic missiles in use today and is developing a third type of hypersonic weapon to carry nuclear warheads: the Avangard, Kinzhal, and 3M22 Zircon. The Avangard is a hypersonic glider launched from a ballistic missile, such as the SS-19 Stileto, SS-9 Scarp, and SS-X-29 Sarmat. According to Russian news sources, Avangard began combat duty in December 2019. The Russian army's arsenal was supplemented by the air-launched hypersonic rocket Kinzhal in December 2017. The Kinzhal can be launched from the TU-22 bomber or the MIG-31 fighter. Zircon, meanwhile, is a hypersonic cruise missile that is currently undergoing testing and should be operational in 2023[5].


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