Weeks after the invasion of Ukraine first began, Russia has deployed a new superweapon in combat against Ukrainian forces — marking the first known use of hypersonic weapons in combat by any military.
U.S. government officials who spoke to CNN confirmed Russia’s use of Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. According to the officials, the launches were likely intended to test the weapons and send a message to the West about Russia’s military capabilities.
Hypersonic weapons can travel five times the speed of sound, or faster, and have lower trajectories than ballistic missiles. They are also capable of maneuvering and do not follow a parabolic arc, making them difficult for air defence systems to shoot down.
Russia’s Ministry of Defence publicized its use of the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles on Friday to target a military arms depot that stored missile and ammunition for use by Ukraine’s air force in the village of Delyatyn, outside Ivano-Frankivsk.
The ministry claimed that the strike marked the first use of the country’s nuclear-capable superweapons, per Russian state media.
President Vladimir Putin first revealed the system in the annual state-of-the-nation address in 2018. According to Bloomberg, the Kinzhal can carry conventional or nuclear warheads and flies up to 10 times faster than the speed of sound — more than two miles a second.
Besides Russia, China is the only other country publicly known to possess hypersonic weapons, which were tested last year. U.S. intelligence experts at the Pentagon assessed that the weapons were more advanced than any missile weapons the United States is currently fielding.
Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations warned that “we’re not as advanced as the Chinese or the Russians in terms of hypersonic programs,” noting that the U.S. has a lot of “catching up to do very quickly” as “the Chinese have had an incredibly aggressive hypersonic program for [the last] several years.”
Earlier in 2021 former director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe said that the Biden administration would be in for a shock when finally being brought up to speed on the advancements the Chinese military has made, Rebel News reported.