Ukraine said it has shot down a Russian hypersonic missile over Kyiv using newly acquired Patriot defense systems. Ukrainian Air Force commander Mykola Oleshchuk announced the operation on Telegram on Saturday. He said that a Kinzhal-type ballistic missile was intercepted in an overnight attack on May 4. The unconfirmed claim would mark the first known case of Ukraine successfully intercepting what’s seen as among Moscow’s most modern missiles. Russia had previously boasted about the missile’s speed and capability. The Russian military say it has a range of up to 2000 kilometers (around 1,250 miles), with a speed 10 times that of sound. It is therefore difficult to intercept.
The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal (Dagger, NATO reporting name Killjoy) is a Russian nuclear-capable hypersonic air-launched ballistic missile. It is claimed to have a range of 2,000 km (1,200 mi) and Mach 10 speed. It can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads and can be launched by Tu-22M3 bombers or MiG-31K interceptors. It has been deployed at airbases in Russia’s Southern Military District and Western Military District. The missile is designed to hit NATO warships posing a threat to strategic missile systems in European Russia and to destroy NATO missile defense systems, ballistic missile defense ships and land objects close to the Russian borders. The “hypersonic” feature is shared with many older designs and does not represent any particular technological breakthrough.
The MIM-104 Patriot is a surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, the primary such system used by the United States Army and several allied states. It is manufactured by the U.S. defense contractor Raytheon and derives its name from the radar component of the weapon system. The AN/MPQ-53 at the heart of the system is known as the “Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target”, which is a backronym for “Patriot”. Starting in 1984, the Patriot system began to replace the Nike Hercules system as the U.S. Army’s primary High to Medium Air Defense (HIMAD) system and the MIM-23 Hawk system. In addition to these roles, Patriot has been given a function in the U.S. Army’s anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system. The system is expected to stay fielded until at least 2040.
The first Patriot battery delivered from Germany on April 19, 2023. A second battery, claimed to originate from the US, was delivered on April 27, 2023. It was not disclosed which missiles will be delivered with these batteries, although in a video released in late April, Ukrainian Air Force personel was shown operating a Patriot launcher loaded with PAC-2 missiles, with an explanation that different missile types can be loaded. The missiles are the latest contribution from Western allies, who have also pledged tanks, artillery and some types of fighter jets as Ukraine gears up for an expected counteroffensive. The system costs approximately $4 million per missile, and the launchers cost about $10 million each. At such a cost, it’s not advantageous to use the Patriot to shoot down the smaller, cheaper Iranian drones that Russia has been buying and using in Ukraine.