Ukraine Flaunts Kinzhal Hypersonic Missile Shot Down By Kyiv; Russian Expert Says ‘You Can’t Hit A Target That’s Flying Faster’

Days after the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) had downed a Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missile using the PAC-3 Patriot missile defense system, a video of the wreckage of the Kinzhal and its fragments has gone viral on social media.

In the video, the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, could be seen flaunting the debris or fragments of the Kinzhal missile that the country’s air defense operators allegedly shot down on May 6.

“Through the Patriot systems, we have now been able to show what is possible with modern defense systems. This air defense makes our lives safer,” Klitschko could be heard saying.

The visuals of alleged Kinzhal debris surfaced on social media shortly after the Pentagon confirmed that Ukrainian forces shot down the missile. Brigadier General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s Press Secretary, confirmed on May 10 that the missile was shot down using a PAC-3 Patriot battery recently supplied to Kyiv’s forces.

While Klitschko and other Ukrainians took great pride in shooting down the missile, some Russian military experts dismissed the claims and alleged that the debris showed off by Ukrainians was not that of a Kinzhal hypersonic missile.

In a tweet, a military watcher and Russian commentator, Big Serge, said, “Ukraine presented “proof” that they shot down a Kinzhal, hoping perhaps that people will fail a basic shape recognition test.” Serge also posted a photo of the downed wreckage along with a Kinzhal integrated into MiG-31K to draw a comparison.

Several military observers and netizens have since pointed out that the missile’s wreckage presented as evidence by Ukraine does not look like the Kinzhal hypersonic missile. Serge said in a subsequent tweet, “The Kinzhal is also a full meter in diameter. Much bigger than the claimed wreckage.”

Pro-Russian social media accounts have mocked the visuals posted by Ukrainian officials. Some military experts pointed out that the wreckage passed off as the Kinzhal was a concrete-piercing BetAB-500SHP aerial bomb.

In another video that has been believed to be Ukraine’s evidence of a Kinzhal being shot down, an array of parts could be seen on the ground. A Twitter user pointed out that the biggest giveaway was that these parts were painted olive green, like a typical ground-launched missile. However, the Kinzhal is an air-launched missile.

Moreover, a Russian military expert Alexei Leonkov told local Russian media that it was impossible to shoot down a Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missile with an American Patriot missile defense system.

“You can’t hit a target that’s flying faster. That’s if you shoot it down on a head-on course. If you shoot down on a head-on course, the interceptor missile should fly 1.5 times faster than the “Dagger.”

The Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD) is yet to issue a statement of the claims made by Ukraine and confirmed by the United States.

Since the Kinzhal was commissioned into service, it has been projected as an invincible weapon system that travels at ten times the speed of sound and can penetrate all modern missile defense systems.

Moreover, there are concerns now that Russian troops would aim to obliterate the PAC-3 Patriot missile defense system, which has been credited with shooting down the Russian hypersonic missile. Even before the Patriot batteries were handed over to Kyiv by the Americans and Dutch, Moscow warned these systems would become legitimate targets for Russian attacks.

destroyed kinzhal missile
Alleged Kinzhal Missile

Will Patriots Be An Easy Target For Russian Attacks?

In December last year, as Washington was still finalizing plans to transfer the PAC-3 Patriot missile defense systems to Ukraine, the Kremlin issued a stern warning saying the advanced Western systems would become legitimate targets for the Russian military.

At the time, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned NATO against transferring the system, hinting that it would be viewed as an escalation. However, the United States and the Netherlands delivered the missile defense batteries to Ukraine last month, which have since been reportedly deployed in or near the capital Kyiv.

Moreover, military experts have warned that the Patriot systems are themselves vulnerable. “Operating a Patriot radar system gives away its location, making it an open target for Russian attacks. This means that Patriot is not a one-stop-shop for defending Ukraine’s military assets or its people,” writes Geoff LaMear, a fellow at Defense Priorities.

File Image: Patriot missile defense system

However, these assertions were countered by military expert Mikhail Khodarenko in an article published in a Russian-language media outlet. The expert admitted that the location of the Patriot’s starting position and the nature of the radar signal are both rather simple to ascertain.

However, Khodarenko argues that the typical combat employment of anti-aircraft missile systems and complexes goes as follows: air defense systems acquire information about an aerial target from sources of external target designation. Then, just seconds before anti-aircraft guided missiles are launched, multifunctional radars (illumination and guidance) are broadcast, and a target is captured for tracking.

Explaining how Patriot might not be an “easy target” for Russian attacks, Khodarenko explains, “Immediately after performing live firing, the anti-aircraft missile unit changes its starting position. The Patriot air defense system is highly mobile, and it takes only a few minutes to bring weapons from combat to a traveling position. Then a march is made to a new starting position.

Therefore, it is not so easy to find a Patriot anti-aircraft missile battery in the very vast territory of Ukraine. And the fighters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are not so frivolous to put such expensive anti-aircraft missile weapons under attack.”

The Ukrainian troops have used a similar tactic to protect the HIMARS from Russian strikes. In a video recently released by the Ukrainian MoD, a Ukrainian soldier named ‘Captain HIMARS’ shows how the HIMARS are kept safe inside the Soviet-era nuclear bunkers to protect them from Russian strikes.

Captain HIMARS also debunks Russian claims that several HIMARS has been destroyed in the ongoing conflict. He emphatically tells the camera that none of the HIMARS delivered to Ukraine has been destroyed.

Having said that, while there is an omnipresent threat of the Patriots getting struck by a Russian UAV or missile strike, experts believe it may not be a cakewalk for Moscow’s troops to locate and obliterate one accurately.

Now operational with the Ukrainian military, the Patriots are one of the most expensive military equipment delivered to Ukraine. Although some military experts have questioned its overall efficacy on the battlefield, Ukraine has reportedly deployed the system to protect against incoming ballistic missiles for which it had no defense until the Patriots arrived.

With the Ukrainian MoD and Pentagon confirming that a Patriot battery indeed shot down the “invincible” Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, the system’s significance has grown manifold on the battlefield. Needless to say, so has its vulnerability against a Russian revenge attack.