Russian Hypersonic Missiles Target Ukrainian Su-24MR Aircraft Firing Storm Shadow ALCMs On Its Military

Russian military reportedly fired Kinzhal hypersonic missiles to target the Ukrainian Su-24 fighter jets, days after Kyiv’s forces launched an unprecedented attack on Crimea using the UK-supplied Storm Shadow long-range missiles.

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On July 26, Russia launched a massive missile attack on Ukraine, with the majority of the missiles, including four of the country’s hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, being directed towards the Starokostiantyniv airbase (Khmelnytskyi Oblast), which is home to the Su-24M fighters of the Ukrainian Air Force.

The Commander of Ukraine’s Air Forces, Mykola Oleshchuk, said that the air defense of Ukraine had destroyed 36 hostile aerial targets.

The barrage of Russian missiles is believed to have targeted the Su-24M as these fighter jets are the carriers of UK-supplied Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM) increasingly used to attack Russian territory.

It is currently unknown whether any of these targets had impacted the Starokostiantyniv base housing the Su-24M fighters. The Spokesperson of the Ukrainian Air Force, Yuriy Ihnat, informed that the missiles were launched from the direction of the Caspian Sea and flew into Ukraine from the southeast.

First, the missiles were directed toward Kharkiv, followed by Dnipro, and then to the Kirovohrad Oblast. After changing direction several times, the missiles were eventually diverted toward Starokostiantyniv in the Khmelnytskyi Oblast. The Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine Suspilne reported that explosions were heard in Khmelnytskyi Oblast.

The debris from the missile attack ended up on the property of a private residence in Starokostiantyniv. According to Serhiy Tiurin, chief of the Khmelnytskyi Military Administration, no one was hurt, although a car was damaged by falling missile debris. He thanked Ukraine for its air defenses “fending off the attack.”

Tiurin’s statement implied that the Kinzhals failed to accomplish their objective. According to reports, Russia’s rocket troops began preparing for the assault on the Starokostiantyniv airbase in 2020.

File:Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-24MR.jpeg - Wikimedia Commons
Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-24MR – Wikimedia Commons

The attack comes days after Ukraine breached boundaries and used the Storm Shadow long-range missiles to hit Crimea last week. The missiles reportedly struck a Russian ammunition depot to the south of the airfield in East Crimea.

The UK transferred the first lot of the 250-kilometer range Storm Shadow cruise missiles in May 2023 to provide long-range strike capability to Kyiv’s forces. Although Moscow claims to have shot most of these missiles down, the ones that managed to get through have wreaked havoc on the country’s assets.

Until the recent Storm Shadow attack on Crimea, Ukraine used locally-manufactured air and maritime drones to strike targets in Crimea. However, Ukraine thrice struck Crimea with Storm Shadow missiles since the initial attack. None of these attacks have been officially acknowledged by the Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD).

For lack of 100% air defense protection against the Storm Shadow missiles, military watchers speculate that Russian forces have likely decided to strike the carriers of these missiles, the Su-24 bomber aircraft, to decimate Ukraine’s long-range missile firing capability.

Moreover, the allegations about Russia aiming its cruise missiles against the Ukrainian airfield housing the Su-24M fighter jet is part of a more significant pattern. Some Russian experts and officials have stated on multiple occasions that Moscow’s troops would annihilate Western fighter jets supplied to Ukraine on the ground itself.

Russia’s Kinzhal Missile Onslaught Continues

The Ukrainian Air Force reported that Russia launched Kinzhal cruise missiles on Kyiv, Khmelnytskyi, and Kirovohrad oblasts. Soon after, spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said that Russian cruise missiles were shot down over the oblasts of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and the city of Dnipro by Ukraine’s air defense.

A MiG-31K armed with Kh-47M2 Kinzhal
The Kinzhal hypersonic missile being carried on the belly of a MiG-31 fighter-bomber of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS)

Fired by MiG-31, the Kinzhal is believed to reach speeds greater than Mach 10 and travel distances in the range of 1,500 to 2,000 kilometers while carrying a conventional or nuclear payload.

Since the weapon moves so quickly, a plasma cloud is created in front of it that traps radio waves as it moves. This makes it incredibly difficult for radar systems to detect the hypersonic missile.

President Vladimir Putin, who introduced the Kinzhal as one of Russia’s “next generation” weapons in 2018, has emphasized its superiority and projected it as a formidable component of its military arsenal.

However, once known to be invincible, the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles have lost their sheen in the ongoing Ukraine war. In May this year, Ukraine announced that it successfully intercepted six Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missiles overnight and destroyed the entire barrage of hypersonic missiles fired using the Patriot missile defense system.

These claims were made in response to an overnight missile assault in which Russia reportedly launched 18 missiles at Ukraine. Ukraine’s Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Oleksii Reznikov, tweeted, “Another unbelievable success for the Ukrainian Air Forces! Last night, our sky defenders shot down six Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missiles and 12 other missiles.”

The head of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, claimed successfully thwarting all incoming missiles. Zaluzhnyi reported that all six Kinzhal missiles fired from MiG-31K aircraft were successfully intercepted by Ukrainian forces and shot down.

In contrast, during an overnight strike on Ukraine, Russia claimed to have successfully destroyed a US-made Patriot defense system in Kyiv using the hypersonic Kinzhal missile. While the Ukrainians refuted these claims initially, it was later admitted that the system was slightly damaged and not destroyed.

Russia continues to bombard Ukraine with its Kinzhal hypersonic missiles more than two months after this incident.