Ukraine says Russia used advanced hypersonic missile for first time in combat

(CNN) — Ukraine says it has evidence that Russia fired an advanced hypersonic missile – which is almost impossible to shoot down – for the first time in the nearly two-year war, experts say.

The government-run Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise said in a Telegram post that debris recovered after the February 7 attack in the Ukrainian capital points to the use of the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile by the Russian military.

“Marks on fragments and fragments, identification of components and parts, and characteristics of the corresponding weapon type” point to the first use of Zircon in warfare, the institute, part of Ukraine’s Justice Ministry, said.

The publication on Telegram was accompanied by a video showing dozens of remains of the new missile.

Ukrainian officials reported that four people were killed and 38 others were injured in Kiev during the February 7 attacks, but no casualties were reported directly caused by the suspected Zircon missile.

Firefighters extinguish a fire after it was hit by Russian missile debris following a Russian strike at an apartment block in the Holosiivskyi district of Kiev, Ukraine, on February 7, 2024.  (Credit: Serhiy Loparev/Ukrainform/Nurfoto/Reuters)

Firefighters extinguish a fire after it was hit by Russian missile debris following a Russian strike at an apartment block in the Holosiivskyi district of Kiev, Ukraine, on February 7, 2024. (Credit: Serhiy Loparev/Ukrainform/Nurfoto/Reuters)

The missile’s launch platform is also not mentioned, although previous Russian state media reports have claimed it is deployed on a warship.

Experts say that if the Zircon lives up to what the Russian government says about it, it is a formidable weapon.

According to the US-based Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA), its hypersonic speed makes it invulnerable to even the best Western missile defenses like the Patriot.

The alliance claims that its speed is estimated at Mach 8 or approximately 9,900 kilometers per hour. Hypersonic is defined as a speed greater than Mach 5 (6,173 km/h).

“If this information is accurate, the Zircon missile would be the fastest in the world, making it nearly impossible to defend against based on its speed alone,” the MDAA writes on its website.

The site also highlights the missile’s plasma cloud as another “valuable” feature.

He explains, “During flight, the missile is completely covered by a cloud of plasma that absorbs any radio frequency rays and makes it invisible to radar. This makes the missile invisible to anyone on the way to its target. Can’t find out.”

Additionally, the MDAA indicates that the Zircon is “a hypersonic anti-maneuvering ship cruise missile” with a range between 500 and 1,000 kilometers.

In this image taken from a video released by the Russian Defense Ministry in 2022, a Russian Navy frigate launches a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile from the Barents Sea.  (Credit: Press Service of the Russian Defense Ministry/AP)

In this image taken from a video released by the Russian Defense Ministry in 2022, a Russian Navy frigate launches a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile from the Barents Sea. (Credit: Press Service of the Russian Defense Ministry/AP)

When the Russian Navy’s Admiral Gorshkov frigate set off on a combat mission last January, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted about the Zircon missiles aboard the ship.

“It has no analogues in any country in the world,” Putin said, according to a report by state media agency TASS. “I am sure that such powerful weapons will reliably protect Russia from potential external threats and contribute to ensuring the national interests of our country,” he said.

If Russia introduced the new weapon into the conflict, it could pose a problem for Ukrainian air defenses, which already struggle to fend off airstrikes from Moscow.

For example, in the February 7 attack in which Zircons were reportedly used, US Air Force data shows that three Iskander ballistic missiles and four Kh-22 cruise missiles fired by Russian forces were able to shoot them down. Survived the attempts. Ukraine.

Although air defenses have shot down Iskander missiles in the past, Ukraine is believed to have failed to intercept a single Kh-22 in the nearly two years of war. In December, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuri Ihnat said that Russia had fired about 300 Kh-22s so far in the war.

Ukrainian air defenses had some success during the 7 February attack, shooting down 26 of 29 Kh-101, Kh-555 and Kh-55 cruise missiles, all three Kalibr cruise missiles and 15 of 20 Shaheed drones. Shot down by Russia. But these are less advanced than Zircon.

Despite this, analysts have cautioned against exaggerating the impact of Zircon’s use on the overall war.



Since this is new and expensive technology, one wonders how much Russia has made.

Siddharth Kaushal, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in London, wrote to Admiral Gorshkov last year after it was reportedly deployed with Zircon missiles: “An important consideration would be to produce and deploy a Zircon-like system, especially on a large scale. Russia has the potential.” Since the program will compete for financial and other resources with priorities such as rebuilding Russian ground forces.

CNN’s Svitlana Vlasova, Maria Knight, Andrew Carey and Jack Guy contributed to this report.

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