Russia has used one of its most modern ‘superweapons’ in combat for the first time, according to a report.
“US officials confirmed to CNN that Russia launched hypersonic missiles against Ukraine last week, the first known use of such missiles in combat,” CNN reported.
“The launches were likely intended to test the weapons and send a message to the West about Russian capabilities,” the network added.
Hypersonic missiles, which both Russia and China have been working on for years and have reportedly fielded, travel at around five to six times the speed of sound. They also have a much lower trajectory than traditional, slower ballistic missiles. They can also maneuver before striking their intended target, all of which makes them nearly impossible to shoot down with existing missile defense technology.
Bloomberg News highlighted information about the specific weapon that Russia claims to have used:
The Ministry of Defense said the military used Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles on Friday to target the site storing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Delyatyn, outside the city of Ivano-Frankivsk, according to an emailed statement. The claimed strike marked the first use of the nuclear-capable advanced weapons system in the Ukraine war, state news service RIA Novosti said.
The Kinzhal, which can carry conventional or nuclear warheads, flies 10 times faster than the speed of sound, or more than 2 miles per second, President Vladimir Putin said when he announced the system in an annual state-of-the-nation address in 2018.
The U.S. first began work on hypersonic missiles well before 2000, but could not make the technology work. However, during the Trump administration, the Pentagon redoubled its efforts after learning how advanced Russian and Chinese systems had become.
Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations, admitted last year that “we’re not as advanced as the Chinese or the Russians in terms of hypersonic programs,” adding that the U.S. has a lot of “catching up to do very quickly” because “the Chinese have had an incredibly aggressive hypersonic program for [the last] several years.”
Also, the U.S. still appears to be years away from deploying an operational weapon.
“While the Pentagon has pushed the development of new hypersonic missiles, the Army isn’t slated to field its first missile until 2024,” Politico reported. “The Navy is aiming to put its own version of the missile on a destroyer in 2025 and on Virginia-class submarines in 2028.”