Kh-47M2 Kinzhal Missile: Clarifying Misconceptions (2023)

The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile has emerged as a focal point of military discourse, touted as a Russian hypersonic air-launched ballistic missile with unparalleled capabilities. This analysis delves into the intricacies of the Kinzhal missile, scrutinizing various facets such as its technical specifications, purported hypersonic capabilities, cost implications, comparisons with other missiles, recent incidents involving the missile, and concerns from both Ukraine and NATO. Employing a neutral standpoint, we aim to dissect the facts and present a comprehensive understanding of this weapon system.

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal Missile Overview

The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal is a Russian hypersonic air-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear or conventional warheads. The name “Kinzhal” translates to “dagger” in Russian. So, Kinzhal Missile literally means “Dagger Missile” It has a reported range of 1,500-2,000 km (930-1,240 miles) while carrying a payload of 480 kg. The missile may reach speeds of up to Mach 10 (12,250 kph), making it a formidable tool in modern warfare. The fabrication of one Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic missile costs about US$10 million. The missile’s range is stated as 2,000 km (1,200 mi; 1,100 nmi) when carried by the MiG-31K and 3,000 km (1,900 mi; 1,600 nmi) when carried by the Tu-22M3. However, there are disputes regarding the missile’s actual speed and whether it truly qualifies as a hypersonic system.

SpecificationValue
TypeHypersonic air-launched ballistic missile
Range1,500-2,000 km (930-1,240 miles)
SpeedUp to Mach 10 (12,250 kph)
Warhead CapacityNuclear or conventional warheads
Launch AltitudeAbout 18 km (59,000 ft)
Fabrication CostApproximately US$10 million
Length8 m
Diameter1 m
Launch WeightLaunch Weight
Approximately 4,300 kg
Payload Capacity480 kg
Flight TrajectoryErratic, limiting interception
Propulsion SystemRocket engine

Cost and Complexity

The fabrication cost of a Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile is approximately US$10 million. The complexity of the missile, particularly its rocket engine which necessitates carrying fuel and oxidant, significantly affects its range. This expense sets it apart from regular cruise missiles, reflecting its advanced technology and engineering complexity.

AspectValue
Fabrication CostUS$10 million
Cost of Six LaunchesUS$60 million
Comparative ExpenseMore expensive than regular cruise missiles

However, the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal is notably more expensive than conventional cruise missiles, indicating its advanced and sophisticated nature.

Hypersonic Capability Analysis

The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal is presented as a Russian hypersonic air-launched ballistic missile, boasting a reported range of 1,500-2,000 km and speeds of up to Mach 10. However, experts question its true hypersonic status, noting that many ballistic missiles reach hypersonic speeds during their flight. This missile’s hypersonic feature does not represent a unique technological breakthrough, as it shares this characteristic with older designs.

AspectValue
Hypersonic SpeedUp to Mach 10
Flight CharacteristicsHigh maneuverability, complicating interception
Technological BreakthroughQuestionable, shared feature with older designs

Kinzhal Missle Comparison With Other Missiles

1- Kinzhal Vs Patriot Missile

The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile and the Patriot missile system have found themselves in a stark comparison, particularly during the recent conflict involving Ukraine. On May 4, 2023, Ukraine successfully utilized the U.S.-supplied Patriot battery to intercept a Russian Kinzhal missile, highlighting the Patriot system’s efficacy. The Kinzhal, a sophisticated Russian hypersonic missile, is purported to travel at astonishing speeds to evade air defenses.

However, its erratic flight trajectory and high maneuverability could present challenges for interception. Contrarily, the Patriot missile system, an advanced American-made defense mechanism, showcased its ability to intercept the Kinzhal, demonstrating its significance in countering such threats.

This successful interception not only highlighted the Patriot system’s effectiveness but also raised questions regarding the alleged hypersonic status of the Kinzhal missile, shedding light on the evolving dynamics of modern warfare and defense capabilities.

Here is a comparison table for the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile and the Patriot missile:

CriteriaKh-47M2 KinzhalPatriot Missile
TypeAir-launched ballistic missileSurface-to-air missile defense system
OriginRussiaUnited States
Range1,500-2,000 kmShort to medium range
SpeedUp to Mach 10Supersonic
Payload480 kgN/A
WarheadNuclear or conventionalN/A
Intercepted byU.S.-supplied Patriot batteryN/A
Success rate of interceptionAll six Kinzhal missiles interceptedN/A
CostMuch more expensive than regular cruise missilesN/A
Technical complexityMuch more complicated than regular cruise missilesN/A
CapabilitiesSophisticated Russian hypersonic missileAdvanced American-made missile defense system
DesignAir-launched ballistic missileSurface-to-air missile defense system
ManeuverabilityHighN/A
Flight trajectoryErraticN/A
Hypersonic statusAlleged hypersonic missileSupersonic missile
DevelopmentUnveiled by President Putin in 2018Developed by the United States
Use in Ukraine conflictFired by RussiaUsed by Ukraine to intercept Kinzhal missiles
ReputationDismantled the tattered reputation of advanced Russian weaponsN/A
Note: The Patriot missile is a surface-to-air missile defense system, while the Kinzhal missile is an air-launched ballistic missile. The comparison table is based on the interception of the Kinzhal missile by the Patriot missile system during the conflict in Ukraine.

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal Vs Zircon Missile

Here is a comparison table for the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile and the Zircon missile:

CriteriaKh-47M2 KinzhalZircon Missile
TypeAir-launched ballistic missileHypersonic cruise missile
OriginRussiaRussia
Range1,500-2,000 km500-1,000 km
SpeedUp to Mach 10Several times the speed of sound
Payload480 kgN/A
WarheadNuclear or conventionalN/A
Intercepted byU.S.-supplied Patriot batteryN/A
Success rate of interceptionAll six Kinzhal missiles interceptedN/A
CostMuch more expensive than regular cruise missilesN/A
Technical complexityMuch more complicated than regular cruise missilesN/A
CapabilitiesSophisticated Russian hypersonic missileNext-generation hypersonic missile
DesignAir-launched ballistic missileHypersonic cruise missile
ManeuverabilityHighHigh
Flight trajectoryErraticN/A
Hypersonic statusAlleged hypersonic missileHypersonic missile
DevelopmentUnveiled by President Putin in 2018Developed by Russia
Use in Ukraine conflictFired by RussiaAllegedly deployed by Russia in the conflict
ReputationDismantled the tattered reputation of advanced Russian weaponsLeading the race to develop new hypersonic weapons
Plasma cloudCovers the missile during flight, making it invisible to radarsCovers the missile during flight, making it invisible to radars
TargetAir-launched missileGround-launched missile
Test resultsIntercepted by Patriot missile systemSuccessfully tested by Russia
Speed of soundUp to Mach 10 (12,250 kph)Several times the speed of sound
Range of missile1,500-2,000 km500-1,000 km
ManeuveringHighHigh
Flight altitude18 km (59,000 ft)N/A
Plasma cloud featureValuable featureValuable feature
Note: The comparison table is based on the open source declassified information available in the search results. It is worth noting that the Kinzhal missile is an air-launched ballistic missile, while the Zircon missile is a hypersonic cruise missile.

3- Kh-47M2 Kinzhal Vs BrahMos Missile

Here is a comparison table for the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile and the BrahMos missile:

CriteriaKh-47M2 KinzhalBrahMos Missile
TypeAir-launched ballistic missileSupersonic cruise missile
OriginRussiaJoint venture between India and Russia
Range1,500-2,000 km290 km
SpeedUp to Mach 10More than 5 Mach
Payload480 kgN/A
WarheadNuclear or conventionalN/A
Intercepted byU.S.-supplied Patriot batteryN/A
Success rate of interceptionAll six Kinzhal missiles interceptedN/A
CostMuch more expensive than regular cruise missilesN/A
Technical complexityMuch more complicated than regular cruise missilesN/A
CapabilitiesSophisticated Russian hypersonic missileVersatile supersonic cruise missile
DesignAir-launched ballistic missileSupersonic cruise missile
ManeuverabilityHighN/A
Flight trajectoryErraticN/A
Hypersonic statusAlleged hypersonic missileSupersonic missile
DevelopmentUnveiled by President Putin in 2018Joint venture between India and Russia
Use in Ukraine conflictFired by RussiaN/A
ReputationDismantled the tattered reputation of advanced Russian weaponsSuccessful joint venture between India and Russia
Status of developmentIn serviceBrahMos II faces significant delays
Range of missile1,500-2,000 km290 km
Speed of missileUp to Mach 10 (12,250 kph)More than 5 Mach
ManeuveringHighN/A
Note: The comparison table is based on the open source declassified information available in the search results. It is worth noting that the Kinzhal missile is an air-launched ballistic missile, while the BrahMos missile is a supersonic cruise missile.

Military Involvement of Kinzhal Missile

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has witnessed the utilization of the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile by Russian forces. On May 4, 2023, Ukraine effectively employed a U.S.-supplied Patriot battery to intercept a Russian Kinzhal missile, showcasing the importance of advanced defense systems.

Ukraine further claimed to have successfully downed all six Kinzhal missiles fired by Russia on May 16, 2023. However, the Ukrainian military has acknowledged the limitations of their air defenses in countering the Kinzhal, a sophisticated hypersonic missile renowned for its capability to evade air defenses through rapid travel at speeds up to ten times the speed of sound.

Despite the Kinzhal’s alleged hypersonic status being questioned, it remains a powerful air-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear or conventional warheads, maneuvering across its flight path, breaching defenses, and striking targets at distances exceeding 2,000 km. Its deployment in the conflict has played a role in reshaping perspectives on modern warfare, challenging the effectiveness of existing defense mechanisms and fostering technological advancements in the arms race.

Concerns and International Reactions

The utilization of the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile by Russia has sparked significant concern and reactions from the United States and the international community. The US, in particular, has expressed alarm over the capabilities of the Kinzhal missile.

As early as 2018, the US State Department emphasized the threat posed to US national security by Russia’s development of hypersonic weapons, pinpointing the Kinzhal missile as a notable concern. This worry was further amplified in May 2023 when the US condemned Russia’s use of the Kinzhal missile against Ukraine, urging an end to the aggression.

In response to Russia and China’s advancements in hypersonic weaponry, the US has proactively developed its own hypersonic weapons, such as the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) and the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW).

Collaboratively, the US and its allies, including NATO, are striving to formulate a unified approach to counter the threat of hypersonic weapons, prominently featuring the Kinzhal missile. The alleged hypersonic status of the Kinzhal missile, its potential to evade air defenses, and its capacity to carry nuclear warheads have raised concerns, prompting the US to urge Russia to engage in arms control discussions aimed at addressing these mounting threats.

The international community is closely monitoring and strategizing responses to the evolving dynamics of hypersonic technology and its implications for global security.

Can Kinzhal Missiles be intercepted?

The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile presents a significant challenge for interception due to its high speed and maneuverability. Its ability to travel at speeds up to ten times the speed of sound and follow an erratic flight trajectory makes it a complex target for interception systems. The Ukrainian military, in particular, has acknowledged its incapability to shoot down Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, underscoring the difficulty in intercepting these advanced missiles.

However, there are nuances to consider. Analysts have raised questions about the Kinzhal’s true capabilities, especially during the final phase of its flight. Some doubts have been cast on whether it’s as maneuverable or as fast as initially advertised, suggesting that there may be limitations to its full potential.

Notably, the U.S.-supplied Patriot system successfully intercepted a Kinzhal missile, demonstrating that interception is possible. However, it’s crucial to recognize that the Patriot system was designed before hypersonic weapons were widely deployed, and there hasn’t been explicit public confirmation regarding its effectiveness against missiles flying at hypersonic speeds.

The designation of the Kinzhal missile as “hypersonic” has also been scrutinized. The Center for Strategic and International Studies highlighted that nearly all ballistic missiles reach hypersonic speeds at some point during their flight, adding a layer of complexity in determining the true extent of the Kinzhal’s hypersonic capabilities.

The Kinzhal missile’s high speed and maneuverability indeed pose challenges for interception. Despite successful intercepts, such as those by the U.S.-supplied Patriot system, the overall effectiveness of existing defense systems against hypersonic missiles like Kinzhal remains a subject of ongoing evaluation and development. In short, To stop the Kinzhal missile, intercepting its erratic flight trajectory and high maneuverability is essential.

Final Words

The analysis of the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile has brought to light a nuanced perspective, steering through a plethora of statistics, comparisons, and contextual considerations. While the Kinzhal missile’s purported hypersonic prowess captures attention, it’s essential to consider the concrete details and contextual realities that temper these claims. The landscape of modern warfare is continually evolving, and within it, understanding the dynamics of weapons like the Kinzhal missile is crucial for a balanced appraisal of global security scenarios. As developments unfold and technology advances, maintaining an informed and discerning perspective remains paramount in navigating the complexities of the global defense landscape.

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  • News Desk

    News Desk at EU Intelligence Publishes EU-focused current affair news on Politics, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Corruption, Lobbying, Military & War.

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