“If you notice, they’ve just launched their hypersonic missile [in Ukraine], because it’s the only thing that they can get through with absolute certainty. It’s – as you all know, it’s a consequential weapon. And – but – with the same warhead on it as a – as any other launched missile. It doesn’t make that much difference, except it’s almost impossible to stop it. There’s a reason they’re using it”, Biden said, speaking at a business forum in Washington on Monday.
Russia became the first country in the world to achieve modern hypersonic capability after putting the Kinzhal (“Dagger”) nuclear-capable air-to-ground missile system into service in late 2017. China followed suit with the DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle in October 2019. The US is working on a half-dozen hypersonic weapons, but has yet to field any.
US President Joe Biden has acknowledged the capabilities of Russian hypersonic missiles and commented on their use in Ukraine.
The president’s comments followed a pair of Kinzhal missile strikes Friday and Saturday targeting weapons and fuel depots in western and south-central Ukraine. The first strike targeted a fortified underground missile and ammo depot in Delyatin, Ivano-Frankivsk region. The facility was built in the Soviet period and designed to withstand a nuclear blast. The second strike destroyed a fuel and lubricant base in Konstantinovka, Nikolaev region which the Russian military said served as the main supply base used by Ukrainian ground forces in southern Ukraine.
First introduced into service in December 2017 and carried on board MiG-31K jets or Tu-22 and Tu-160 bombers, the Kinzhal has a range of over 2,000 km and a top speed of up to Mach 12 (14,700 km per hour). It is also said to have the capability to manoeuvre in flight, making it next to impossible to intercept using any currently existing air defences.
The Russian military has reported on the destruction of over 90 percent of Ukraine’s air defence capabilities in the course of its ongoing military operation in the country. The United States and its allies have sought to shore up Kiev’s air defences using S-300s and other Soviet-era systems. On Saturday, Reuters reported that Washington and Ankara discussed the “unlikely possibility” of Turkey handing over its recently acquired S-400 systems to Ukraine.