Russian Sukhoi Su-34 “Fullback” fighter-bomber aircraft launched hypersonic guided missiles, “Kinzhal” at Ukrainian military positions in a “special operation.” This likely indicates a tactical shift by the Russian military, especially in the use of fighter aircraft in the conflict in Ukraine.
The Russian news agency TASS, which announced this development, also stated that it was the first time hypersonic guided missiles had been launched by Su-34 fighter aircraft. Previously, the task of launching the hypersonic guided missile “Kinzhal” was assigned to the MiG-31K fighter aircraft, a modified version of the MiG-31 designed for this purpose.
According to previous reports from Russian defense media, when launched by the MiG-31K fighter aircraft, the hypersonic guided missile “Kinzhal” had the capability to engage targets up to 2,000 kilometers away. It appears that the Russian Air Force is now also preparing Su-34 fighter-bombers for the task of launching these hypersonic guided missiles.
The Su-34 aircraft has successfully launched the hypersonic Kinzhal missile in a special operation. The crew of the aircraft that accomplished this will be awarded the state medal,” said a representative from the Russian Ministry of Defense, as reported by TASS.
The hypersonic guided missile “Kinzhal” is developed from the ground-based tactical missile “Iskander,” modified for air launch. It features a low radar signature and high maneuverability and is designed to target both land and sea-based objectives with its 500kg warhead.
The “Khinzal” hypersonic guided missile can reach speeds up to 10 times the speed of sound. Although it has been in operational status since 2017, the hypersonic guided missile saw its first combat use in the destruction of a Ukrainian ammunition depot on March 18, 2023.
Shortly thereafter, the “Kinzhal” hypersonic guided missile emerged as the world’s first operational hypersonic guided missile. The Ukrainian Air Force Commander stated that their forces had successfully shot down a “Kinzhal” hypersonic guided missile launched by a MiG-31 aircraft in May of this year.
The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed that the “Patriot” air defense system had successfully intercepted the “Kinzhal” hypersonic guided missile, but these claims were denied by the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Reports from Ukraine indicate that their air defense systems have started adapting to the threat of hypersonic missiles and claim to have successfully shot down six “Kinzhal” guided missiles.