The Russian Aerospace Forces have successfully tested the air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missile, according to state-sponsored media outlets.
The Aviationist reported that Kinzhal is claimed to be a strategic air-to-surface strike missile with advanced maneuverability in flight and a top speed of Mach 10. If these capabilities are accurate, it could make the Kinzhal “difficult to intercept by anti-missile systems,” according to the report.
The missile was test-fired from a modified MiG-31BM “Foxhound” jet over southwest Russia. A statement published on Facebook by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that the “unique” MiG-31, which fired the new missile, had been “modernized.”
While Rogozin did not go into detail on what advancements might have been made, photos and video of the test launch showed blurred out areas of the jet.
The official news release from the Russian Aerospace Forces said, in part: “MiG-31 jet of the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted a test launch of hypersonic aviation and missile system Kinzhal in a set district. The launch was successful, the hypersonic missile hit the designated target at the field.”
The missile is reported to have a range of 1,200 miles, and, coupled with the 1,860-mile range of the MiG-31BM jet, the system yields potentially intercontinental strike capabilities. The missile is also reported to be nuclear-capable and able to hit ground and naval targets, as well.
While Russia has been quick to outline much of its new military technology like the Kinzhal, observers of Russian missile programs and international officials have expressed some skepticism about the performance claims.
Back in June 2017 when discussing Russia’s Zircon missile, writer and analyst Kelsy Atherton wrote in Popular Mechanics: “Don’t believe the hype about Russia’s hypersonic missile.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also told reporters during a trip to Oman that nothing Russia demonstrated changed the Pentagon’s perspective.
“I saw no change to the Russian military capability and each of these systems that he’s talking about are still years away. I do not see them changing the military balance. They do not impact any need on our side for a change in our deterrence posture,” Mattis said.
However, in his remarks during a state of the nation address earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin told media that the Kinzhal has been “operational” even before this more recent successful test launch.
Russian media also reported that “250 test flights” had already been conducted in order to validate the operational status of the Kinzhal. There was no mention if the missile or any more of the modified MiG-31s are operationally deployed yet.