How Russia’s hypersonic Kinzhal missiles compare to Ukraine’s Patriot and Iris-T defences, explained
The battle in the skies over Kyiv this morning showcased one of the first clashes between Russia’s most advanced missiles and the best of the West’s air defence systems – with inconclusive results.
Ukraine’s military claimed to have destroyed all incoming missiles, including the hypersonic “Kinzhal” with a mix of US-made Patriot, German Iris-T, and domestic air defences.
But Russia claimed to have destroyed a Patriot system with a missile, and Russian media circulated videos purportedly showing impacts from missile strikes.
Ukraine has previously said it lacks the capability to shoot down hypersonic missiles and it was unclear how Western systems would fare. But earlier this month, Ukraine paraded what officials said was a Kinzhal brought down by new defences. Russian media disputed the claim.
Explaining how the missile could be intercepted, Dr Marina Miron of the defence studies department at King’s College London told i: “The weakness is the launch vehicle, not the missile itself. If you can track the jet, you might have enough time to intercept the missile because you can calculate the trajectory.”
“The Kinzhal decreases in speed as it descends so there is a small window of opportunity to intercept it. A missile is fired from the Patriot to meet it and on the way it explodes, creating a barrier of explosive fragments through which the Kinzhal would fly, leading to its destruction.”
Patriot: Can track 50 targets at once and fires missiles with a range exceeding 40 miles. Most effective against aircraft and cruise missiles.
Iris-T: German model with capacity for eight missiles and has a range of 25 miles. Advanced imaging software can navigate interference.
Nasams: Norwegian system with a range of around 20 miles is compatible with a range of missiles.
Kinzhal: Air-launched ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear or conventional warheads with a range of around 1,200 miles and a top speed of Mach 10, around 7,500mph
Kalibr: GPS-guided cruise missile with a range of around 1,500 miles can manoeuvre in-flight to evade intercepts.
Iskender: Ballistic missile system with a range of around 600 miles with a typical warhead weighing half a ton.