Russia is using its newest and oldest missiles indiscriminately against Ukraine
- Russia has been lobbing missiles into Ukraine throughout its five-month war on its smaller neighbor.
- Moscow is using its whole inventory for that assault, firing Soviet-era and newer-model missiles.
Among the most important weapons in the Russian arsenal during its war against Ukraine have been its cruise and short-range ballistic missiles.
Those missiles can reach all of Ukraine, enabling Russia to strike important military infrastructure, especially in western Ukraine, where Western weapons and equipment are being delivered.
Russia has launched thousands of missiles its attack began in February. Although its inventory includes a number of modern missiles capable of precision strikes, Moscow is also lobbing older, less accurate Soviet-era munitions into Ukraine.
Many of the Russian missiles used in Ukraine have been launched from ships or submarines — the 3M-14 Kalibr cruise missile is easily the most well known.
Designated by NATO as the SS-N-30A, the "Kalibr" family of missiles includes anti-ship, anti-submarine, and land-attack variants that can be launched from ships, subs, and aircraft.
Kalibrs can conduct precision strikes using satellite navigation and have a range of 1,000 to 1,500 miles. They can carry a nearly 1,000-pound conventional high-explosive warhead and are often compared to the US-made Tomahawk cruise missile.
The Kalibr is one of the newest and advanced additions to the Russian missile arsenal, formally entering service in 1994. It first saw action in October 2015, when Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired 26 Kalibrs at targets in Syria some 1,100 miles away.
The Russian Navy has also been using the P-800 Oniks anti-ship cruise missile. Designated the SS-N-26 "Strobile" by NATO, it has a nearly 200-mile range and a top speed of about Mach 2. Its warheads range from 440 pounds to 550 pounds depending on its mission.
In service since 2002, Oniks missiles are mainly launched from ships and submarines. In 2015, the Russian Navy officially adopted the Bastion mobile coastal defense missile system, enabling Oniks launches from mobile ground-based platforms.
The Kalibr missile's precision has worried NATO commanders. The missile's circular error probability — the radius of the circle in which 50% of its strikes are likely to hit — is estimated to be less than 20 feet. For the Oniks, it's estimated to be less than 5 feet.
Russia's ground-launched SRBMs have had an extremely important role in the war, particularly the Tochka-U and Iskander-M missiles. Known to NATO respectively as the SS-21 Scarab and SS-26 Stone, they represent the past and present of Russian SRBMs.
The Tochka-U was introduced in 1989, improving on the Tochka missile that entered Soviet service in 1975. Fired from a mobile transporter-erector-launcher, the Tochka-U has a range of 75 miles and can carry a 1,000-pound high-explosive warhead, a fragmentation warhead, or a 100-kiloton nuclear warhead.
A Tochka-U's TEL takes 16 minutes to prepare for launch. It can be loaded with another missile in about 20 minutes. The TEL itself also features nuclear, biological, and chemical filtration systems for its crew.
Introduced as a replacement to the Tochka-U in 2006, the Iskander-M has a 250- to 310-mile range and can carry high-explosive warheads of between 1,060 pounds and 1,540 pounds. It can also carry thermobaric warheads, fragmentation warheads, nuclear warheads, or earth-penetrating warheads.
Iskander-Ms are launched from a TEL that can carry two missiles. The TEL itself, which can also be fitted with launch tubs for cruise missiles, is hardened against nuclear, biological, and chemical attacks.
The Tochka-U has a circular error probability of about 300 feet, while the Iskander-M has a CEP of 6 feet to 16 feet.
Russia has been denied control of the air over Ukraine, but it has continuously fired air-launched cruise missiles at Ukrainian targets. The newest of those missile, which the Russians are keen to boast about, are the Kh-101 cruise missile and Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missile.
The Kh-101 was introduced in 2012 and has a range 1,500 to 1,700 miles. It can carry a 990-pound high-explosive warhead or be outfitted with fragmentation or nuclear warheads. Satellite navigation and an onboard computer allow it to perform precision strikes with a CEP reportedly as small as 20 feet.
The Kinzhal is one of Russia's newest and most advanced weapons and one of the few hypersonic missiles in service.
Launched from a modified MiG-31 interceptor or strategic bomber, the Kinzhal has a range between 1,000 miles and 1,200 miles and can carry a warhead of more than 1,000 pounds. It can reportedly reach speeds of about Mach 10, and like other hypersonic missiles, it can maneuver in flight, making it virtually impossible to intercept.
The Kinzhal became the first hypersonic weapon to be used in combat on March 18, when Russian aircraft launched several of them at an underground depot in western Ukraine. Three more Kinzhals were reportedly used in strikes against Odessa on May 9.
Russia has also used less advanced Soviet-era air-launched missiles, namely the Kh-22 anti-ship missile — introduced in 1968 to take out aircraft carriers — and the Kh-55 cruise missile introduced in 1984.
The Kh-22 has a range of nearly 400 miles and a 2,000-pound warhead, while the Kh-55 has a range of over 1,500 miles and a 900-pound warhead. Neither are terribly accurate; the Kh-22's CEP is estimated to be more than 300 feet and the Kh-55's is estimated to be about 80 feet. An updated version of the Kh-22, the Kh-32, has improved range and payload.
Overall, Russian missile strikes have had a tremendous effect on the Ukrainian war effort. Videos of Kalibrs being launched from Russian surface ships and submarines, and of Kalibrs flying over Ukraine and hitting targets have emerged throughout the conflict.
Russian SRBMs fired from Belarus and Russia have hit military bases and airfields, while Tu-22M, Tu-95, and Tu-160 bombers have reportedly launched missiles at similar targets while flying over Belarus and the Black Sea to avoid Ukrainian air defenses.
The strikes have made it difficult for the Ukrainian Air Force to operate from airfields and have reportedly targeted Western weapon shipments. Ukrainian recruits are now training as far away as Britain to avoid being attacked.
Russia's missiles also routinely hit civilian areas — including a Tochka-U strike on a railway station in Kramatorsk on April 8 that killed 59 civilians (including seven children) and a Kh-22 strike on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk on June 27 that killed 20 civilians. Russian denials about both cases have been debunked.
Russia's use of less sophisticated missiles like the Kh-22 and Tochka-U, and the use of anti-ship missiles like the Kh-22 and P-800 against Ukrainian ground targets may indicate that Moscow is having difficulty replenishing its stocks of more modern precision weapons.
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