The Russian Ministry of Defense released a video early Saturday that it claimed showed a Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched ballistic missile hitting a Ukrainian missile warehouse about 300 miles southwest of Kyiv. The strike, if it did occur, would represent both the first known use of the Kinzhal in combat and yet another Russian attack on facilities in western Ukraine near the country’s borders with multiple NATO members. But there are elements of Russia’s claims that don’t quite add up and the implications of the use of Kinzhal in the conflict are limited, regardless.
Author’s Note: We have a major update to this story at the bottom of the page
The MiG-31-launched Kh-47M2 „Kinzhal“ or „Dagger“ missile — which Russia claims can be conventionally or nuclear-armed — first emerged as one of Russia’s ’super weapons‘ unveiled in a fiery speech from Vladimir Putin in 2018. The War Zone was subsequently the first outlet to identify it as a modified Iskander-M tactical ballistic missile adapted for air-launch. The MiG-31’s ability to reach high-speed and high-altitude prior to release gives Kinzhal a major boost in range and speed over its ground-launched cousin. It also can modify its trajectory outside of a traditional ballistic arc. This and its speed make it challenging to intercept. It’s also worth noting that we still don’t know if it also packs a similar decoy-launching capability as the Iskander-M was recently revealed to possess, which could also help it penetrate air defenses.