Hypersonics & missile strikes: Russia's assault on Ukraine in numbers

Updated: May 11, 2022, 08:24 PM(IST)

According to Pentagon officials, Russia may have fired  'between 10 and 12' hypersonic missiles since the Ukraine invasion began on February 24.

Russia's mammoth missile attack on Ukraine

According to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky Russian troops have fired 2154 missiles and flown 2770 times over the sky. In fact, the Ukraine president said as Europe celebrated its V-E day on May 8 and Russia marked its own celebration on May 9, Russia targeted 25 missiles at the Odessa region with most landing in civilian areas.

According to Pentagon officials, Russia may have fired  “between 10 and 12” hypersonic missiles since the Ukraine invasion began on February 24.

Russia pounded Odessa with hypersonic missiles on May 9 as the country was celebrating Victory Day over Nazi Germany in World War II.


Russia's nuclear targets

President Putin had put is nuclear forces on alert just days after announcing the special military operation. The Kremlin  warned of a "lightning fast" retaliation if the West directly intervenes in the Ukraine conflict.

According reports, the Russian forces also  practiced single and multiple strikes at targets imitating missile systems, airfields, defended infrastructure, military equipment and command posts.


'Potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons'

Amid Russia's renewed push in eastern Europe, the United States and its allies have ramped up supplies of weapons to Ukraine. Reports say Putin has faced calls from some in the Russian military to unleash greater firepower on Ukraine. 

Russia had earlier told the West that its arms supplies were a legitimate targets. Russia's foreign ministry had asserted that its forces will not use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

CIA director William Burns had said last month that given the setbacks Russia had suffered in Ukraine, "none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons."


Kinzhal hypersonic missiles: 'There have been multiple launches'

US Air Force General Tod Wolters told lawmakers that the Russian military has launched "multiple" hypersonic weapons into Ukraine.

"There have been multiple launches. Most of them have been directed at military targets,” Wolters told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Russia said earlier declared that it has fired its newest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles in Ukraine destroying a fuel storage site in the country's south.

The Russian defence ministry had said it had killed more than 100 members of Ukrainian special forces and "foreign mercenaries" when it targeted a training centre in the town of Ovruch in northern Ukraine with sea-based missiles


Russia also launched Kalibr cruise missiles against Ukraine

The Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missiles were fired from airspace over Russian-controlled Crimea. Russia also launched the Kalibr cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea targeting the depot.

Russia in fact added that the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles were used to destroy an underground missile and ammunition storage site in western Ukraine close to the border with NATO member Romania.

Russian analysts had said the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles in Deliatyn, a village in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains, was the first combat use of such weapons in the world.

However, Tod Wolters clearly stated that "multiple launches" of the  hypersonic weapons have been carried out in Ukraine.

The Russian defence ministry said that it also used long-range precision weapons against other facilities in Ukraine.


Not a gamechanger?

Russian forces fired the Kalibr missiles from the Black Sea to target a plant in the northern city of Nizhyn used to repair armoured vehicles, the ministry said.

"I think it was to demonstrate the capability and attempt to put fear in the hearts of the enemy. And I don't think they were successful,”  Wolters told US lawmakers.

Russia's claim it used a hypersonic missile in Ukraine was a way to reclaim war momentum, but the next-generation weaponry has not proved to be a "game changer," the Pentagon's chief.

Moscow said it fired two hypersonic missiles in Ukraine, and while US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would not "confirm or dispute" whether Russia used such weapons.

Ukraine's outgunned military has put up unexpectedly intense resistance that has slowed Russia's advance, stalling its forces outside the capital Kyiv and several other cities, making Moscow's supply lines vulnerable to Ukrainian attacks.


Ukraine-Russia war: Danger of nuclear conflict

Russia's use of the hard-to-intercept hypersonics was supposed to mark a dramatic escalation of its campaign to force Ukraine to abandon hopes of closer ties with the West.

With Putin and Russia under punitive Western sanctions, Moscow has reportedly asked China for military and economic aid for its war, a claim Beijing denies.

The Kinzhal missile was one of an array of new weapons Putin unveiled in his state-of-the-nation address in 2018.

Hypersonic missiles can be used to deliver conventional warheads, more rapidly and precisely than other missiles. But their capacity to deliver nuclear weapons could add to a country's threat, increasing the danger of a nuclear conflict.


Hypersonics race

Russia leads the hypersonics race followed by China and the United States, and several other countries are working on the technology.

Kashin, head of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies at Moscow's Higher School of Economics, said that compared to cruise missiles hypersonic weapons were more efficient at destroying underground storage sites.

Like the much slower, often subsonic cruise missile, a hypersonic missile is manoeuverable, making it harder to track and defend against.

Some experts have however said Russia might be exaggerating the abilities of its hypersonic arsenal. Military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer suggested that the use of the Kinzhal would change little on the ground in Ukraine.


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