Amid the Ukraine crisis, Russia has reportedly stationed a MiG-31K ‘Foxhound’ fighter jet armed with a Kinzhal hypersonic land-attack missile in Kaliningrad along the Baltic Coast.
As the West and Russia confront each other over the Ukraine crisis, both sides are mobilizing cutting-edge weaponry. However, Russia appears to have heightened the tensions by deploying
A video shared on social media shows the fighter jet armed with a Kinzhal missile landing at the Chkalovsk naval airbase in Kaliningrad, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.
The Kh-47 Kinzhal (“Dagger”) missile, which can be seen on the MiG’s belly, has an estimated range of 1,240 miles. The missile is capable of carrying either a 1,100-pound fragmentation warhead or a 500-kiloton nuclear warhead, which is 33 times more powerful than the Fat Man bomb used on Hiroshima.
It flies at nearly 10 times the speed of sound (more than 2 miles per second) and follows a flatter trajectory than a standard ballistic missile, giving air defenses little time to react. The Kinzhal is said to be competent in precision attacks as well as targeting moving targets with the help of a radar seeker.
In his State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly in March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed the project for the Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic missile platform. Putin praised the Kinzhal and other missile systems as “invincible” weapons capable of evading enemy defenses as he declared Russia’s superiority in the field.
The missile made its first public appearance during Moscow’s Victory Day parade in 2018. For the first time in June 2021, Russia deployed two interceptor aircraft capable of carrying the Kinzhal hypersonic missile to Syria for war games.
A Source Of Concern For Europe?
Russia has significantly increased its presence in the region. The EurAsian Times had earlier reported that Moscow has already deployed S-400 Missile Defense Systems in Belarus, where they will be assigned to combat duty as part of an integrated air defense plan. The region will undoubtedly become more turbulent as a result of the hypersonic missile’s arrival.
MiG-31Ks are not typically stationed at Russia’s Kaliningrad facility. Although it is defended by large ground forces and is home to Russia’s Baltic Fleet and nuclear-capable short-range Iskander missiles, the majority of the 50 aircraft stationed at the base are older Su-27 and Su-24 jets, with some newer Su-30SM and Su-35S jets on the way.
The latest reports about a MiG-31K would almost certainly be aimed as a strategic deterrence against NATO, which is throwing its weight behind Ukraine.
In a tweet, military analyst Rob Lee speculates that a Kinzhal fired over Kaliningrad’s airspace can strike most West European capitals, whereas Kaliningrad’s Iskander missiles can only target the northern outskirts of Berlin. Additionally, a Kinzhal unleashed from Kaliningrad’s airspace might strike these targets in 7-10 minutes.
Although Russia does have a huge number of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the deployment of Kinzhal, a shorter-range, dual-capable missile, poses a huge challenge to the US-led NATO.
The Kinzhal is required to be fired from a high-altitude aircraft moving at high speeds. This is the reason why the MiG-31, a Mach 3-capable air defense interceptor, was chosen to carry the missile.
Only 10 to 20 MiG-31Ks have been upgraded to fire Kinzhals. As a result, the activation of a Kinzhal-armed MiG-31K demonstrates how carefully the Russian military is preparing for a range of possibilities pertaining to Ukraine, including preventing NATO engagement.
A Russian MiG-31K armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missile during the Victory Day Parade in Moscow in 2018. (Wikimedia Commons)
The MiG-31BM was originally intended to carry Kinzhal hypersonic missile systems. The MiG-31K was later selected as a carrier for these missiles, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened NATO against crossing a “red line” in Ukraine, stating that Moscow would be forced to respond. He also indicated the possible deployment of hypersonic missiles.
“If some kind of strike systems appear on the territory of Ukraine, the flight time to Moscow will be seven to 10 minutes, and five minutes in the case of a hypersonic weapon being deployed. Just imagine,” Putin said.