Russia is set to test its Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic aero-ballistic missile onboard the Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic bomber, enabling Moscow to strike enemy targets from long-range with missiles capable of traveling Mach 10, putting much of Europe, Middle East, Asia Pacific, and North America at risk of a hypersonic attack.
This could be problematic for the Americans, as Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, recently warned the Senate Armed Services Committee that the U.S. is extremely vulnerable to future attack via hypersonic threats. Hyten even stressed we [U.S.] are falling behind in the technological know-how to defend the homeland from the danger, as Russia advances its hypersonic program.
While the Americans are behind the hypersonic curve, Russia has spent the last six months air-launching the Kinzhal hypersonic missile from the Mikoyan MiG-31 supersonic interceptor aircraft.
Speaking to the state-run news agency TASS, retired Lt. General Mikhail Oparin, former commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces Long Range Aviation branch said the Russian Air Force is planning to test the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missile onboard the Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic bomber, in a significant shift of aircraft type — that could strike fear in NATO officials.
The supersonic bomber “suits perfectly” for Kinzhal hypersonic missiles’ trials by its mass and volume characteristics, Oparin told TASS. “The MiG-31 has higher supersonic speed than the Tu-22M3 but now that a possibility has emerged to test the missiles aboard a long-range plane, this has to be done. This will raise the combat potential of the Aerospace Force and add might to it,” he emphasized.
Though the supersonic bomber is capable of reaching Mach 1.88, it does not share the same acceleration, speed or altitude capabilities of the MiG-31K. Even with one hypersonic missile, the MiG-31 can travel Mach 2.35 with a service ceiling of about 67,500ft. It is rumored that the supersonic bomber could carry 2 to 4 hypersonic weapons, which would be a dramatic increase from just one with the MiG-31K.
“The tests are needed to see whether it [the supersonic bomber] will be capable of accelerating the missile and to get the results,” Oparin said. “For long-range aircraft pilots, the missile is sooner of the tactical scope but at the same time it has clear advantages by its capabilities of breaching enemy anti-ballistic missile defenses.”
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin used his state-of-the-nation speech in March to deliver a stern warning to the U.S. that Russia possesses hypersonic weapons that can render NATO’s U.S.-led missile defense system completely “useless.” Russia has been extremely vocal about its hypersonic program. Officials claim the Kinzhal has a range of roughly 1,200 nautical miles and can defeat most Western missile defense shields.
Underwater drones, hypersonic warheads, balls of fire, “menacing" ICBMs - peak of Putin speech was weapons rhetoric despite slow buildup on social probs, infrastructure. pic.twitter.com/8sJWcFPPdl— Tom Parfitt (@parfitt_tom) March 1, 2018
“The Kinzhal high-precision hypersonic aero-ballistic missile that flies at Mach 10 is already in service with our army in the Southern Federal District, as I have already said,” Russian President Vladimir Putin reemphasized last month during a televised call-in show in June. “If anyone doubts this, they can look and see, we made a point of demonstrating the launch of this missile.”
Экипаж истребителя МиГ-31 Воздушно-космических сил #ВКС выполнил практический учебно-боевой пуск гиперзвуковой ракеты высокоточного авиационного ракетного комплекса #Кинжал в заданном районе. Пуск прошел штатно, гиперзвуковая ракета поразила заданную цель на полигоне pic.twitter.com/xLguUwGrQW— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) March 10, 2018
It is apparent the Kinzhal hypersonic missile has been deployed in a limited capacity, but eventually, it seems, the missile that can travel at Mach 10 and defeat NATO missile shields, could become more widely integrated into other Russia strike platforms such as Tu-22M3, Tu-160, and even the Su-30SM. Meanwhile, the Americans have yet to deploy a hypersonic missile.