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Ukraine Reports Russian Use of Hypersonic Missiles in Kyiv Attacks

According to Ukraine’s military administration, Russia has deployed five of its new hypersonic Zircon missiles in attacks on Kyiv since the beginning of the year. Additionally, Russia has launched 11 Kinzhal missiles, another type of hypersonic weapon known for traveling at speeds several times faster than sound. These reports underscore the increasing use and potency of advanced hypersonic weaponry in the ongoing conflict.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Hypersonic Weapon Overview
  2. Kinzhal Overview
  3. Zircon Overview

Hypersonic Weapon Overview:


  • Hypersonic weapons are fast, low-flying, and highly manoeuvrable, making them challenging for traditional missile defence systems to detect and intercept.


  • They do not follow a fixed, arched trajectory like ballistic missiles.
  • Can manoeuvre unpredictably during flight.
  • Operate at speeds faster than five times the speed of sound, approximately 760 miles (1,220 km) per hour at sea level.
  • The extreme speeds cause ionization of the air molecules around the missile, subjecting it to high atmospheric stresses.
Types of Hypersonic Weapons:
  • Glide Vehicles: Launched using rockets, they glide towards their targets due to the difficulties of achieving sustained hypersonic propulsion.
  • Cruise Missiles: Equipped with scramjet engines, these missiles use atmospheric oxygen to generate thrust, enabling them to maintain a constant speed and altitude.
Countries with Hypersonic Capabilities:
  • Advanced Capabilities: US, China, and Russia.
  • Research & Development: India, Japan, Australia, and France.
  • Claims: North Korea has claimed successful tests of hypersonic missiles.
India’s Hypersonic Weapon Development:
  • Current Status:
    • India is progressing towards integrating hypersonic weapons into its military arsenal.
  • Milestones:
    • In 2020, India conducted a successful test of its Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) powered by a scramjet engine.
  • Future Outlook:
    • The HSTDV serves as a foundational step in developing long-range hypersonic weapons.
    • Anticipated timeline: Four to five years for operational deployment of advanced hypersonic weapons.

Kinzhal Overview:

  • Type:
    • Air-launched hypersonic missile.
  • Specifications:
    • Range: 1,500-2,000 km.
    • Speed:
      • Rapidly accelerates to Mach 4 (4,900 km/h) post-launch.
      • Potential speeds up to Mach 10 (12,350 km/h).
    • Payload:
      • Capable of carrying a nuclear payload weighing 480 kg, which is 33 times the yield of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
  • Capabilities:
    • Designed to overcome air-defence systems due to its high speed, erratic flight trajectory, and manoeuvrability.
    • Its hypersonic speed and trajectory make interception challenging.

Zircon Overview:

  • Type:
    • Sea-launched hypersonic cruise missile.
  • Specifications:
    • Range: 1,000 km.
    • Speed:
      • Travels at nine times the speed of sound, making it exceptionally fast.
    • Engine:
      • Powered by a scramjet engine.
      • The scramjet utilizes the supersonic airflow and its compression to generate forward thrust.
  • Capabilities:
    • If Russian claims are accurate, Zircon could potentially bypass advanced air defence systems like the US Patriot due to its hypersonic speed, which reduces reaction time for defence systems.
    • Carries a warhead weighing approximately 300 kg.

-Source: Indian Express

May 2024