Why Russia's missiles in Ukraine are failing to hit the target

Updated: Mar 26, 2022, 04:07 PM(IST)

Ukraine's outgunned military has put up unexpectedly intense resistance that has slowed Russia's advance.

Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missiles

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov recently said Russia would only use nuclear weapons in the context of the Ukraine conflict if it were facing an "existential threat" even as Putin's Russia last week fired its newest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles in Ukraine, destroying a fuel storage site in the country's south.

"Kinzhal aviation missile systems with hypersonic ballistic missiles destroyed a large storage site for fuels and lubricants of the Ukrainian armed forces near the settlement of Kostyantynivka in the Mykolaiv region," the defence ministry said.

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

Pentagon's chief however said the next-generation weaponry has not proved to be a "game changer".


'Dagger': Destroy high-value targets

According to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies(CSIS), Kinzhal has been deployed on a squadron of MiG-31Ks in the southern military district and the western military district is set to receive the hypersonic weapon in the near future.

The missile known as the "Dagger” is an Air-launched Ballistic Missile (ALBM) with a payload of 480 kgs. It has a range of 1,500-2,000 km and was reportedly put in service in 2017.

The Kinzhal is typically described as a weapon intended to destroy high-value ground targets, such as missile defence sites, CSIS said in its study.

(Photo courtesy: Russian Aerospace Forces)


'I would not see it as a gamechanger'

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said "I think the reason he is resorting to using these types of weapons is because he is trying to re-establish some momentum."

 "I would not see it as a gamechanger," Austin added.

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.

Russia has reportedly asked China for military and economic aid for its war, a claim Beijing denies.


Failure rate of Russian missiles

As a potential means of reinforcing its troops, Russia has been recruiting thousands of Syrian army personnel and allied militia fighters for possible deployment in Ukraine.

Ukraine has repeated a call to Western leaders to supply Kyiv with advanced weapons to fight Moscow's slowly advancing troops, one month after their invasion.

As Ukraine resists the superior Russian forces, Reuters quoting  three US officials with knowledge of the intelligence informed that United States assesses that Russia is suffering failure rates as high as 60 per cent for some of the precision-guided missiles it is using to attack Ukraine.

Reuters was however unable to independently verify the figures even as the US officials  did not provide evidence to support the assessment and did not disclose what precisely was driving high Russian missile failure rates.


Russia's air-launched cruise missiles

Citing US intelligence, three US officials said the United States estimated that Russia's failure rate varied day-to-day, depended on the type of missile being launched, and could sometimes exceed 50 per cent. Two of them said it reached as high as 60 per cent.

One of the officials told Reuters that intelligence showed that Russia's air-launched cruise missiles had a failure rate in the 20 to 60 per cent range, depending on the day.

Pentagon meanwhile said Russia is boosting air and sea military operations as it struggles to turn the tide of war in Ukraine, where the "dexterity" of the defense mounted by Kyiv is stalling the invasion.


Russian operations

President Vladimir Putin's forces have ramped up their sorties over and near Ukraine, flying more than 300 missions in the past 24 hours, with Kyiv likewise increasing their own air operations in a bid to deny Russia superiority in the skies

Few of the operations are dogfights, as Russia's military tends to fire air-to-ground missiles at Ukrainian targets from Russian or Belarusian skies.

In the northern Black Sea, Russia is exhibiting "increased naval activity" in its use of multiple warships that are contributing to the shelling around the key port city of Odessa.


Ukraine's counterattacks

Russia said it had destroyed the military site with Kalibr cruise missiles. Moscow claimed it was the largest remaining military fuel storage facility in Ukraine, saying it supplied troops in the central part.

Ukraine confirmed the strike, saying it had hit a village some 40 kilometres south-west of Kyiv

Kyiv's emergencies ministry said there was no threat of the fire spreading outside the oil depot

While Ukrainian forces have stalled the initial Russian advance and even launched some successful counterattacks, there are early signs that both sides are digging in for a long and bloody war that neither can easily win.


Kinzhal missile with Mach 4 speed, can reach Mach 10

Reports claim Russia has developed the Kinzhal missile system to likely target European infrastructure and to counter US's THAAD missile threat.

The Kinzhal can reportedly fly at Mach 4 speed (4,900 km/h) and can reach speeds of up to Mach 10 (12,350 km/hr). It is a missile which would be almost impossible to detect by European radars.

The missile had undergone trial in southern Russia in December 2017 as the country's defence ministry said "the hypersonic missile hit the preset target on the test site.”


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