Espreso. Global

Kh-22 missiles: number in Russia's arsenal, threat to Ukraine

13 November, 2023 Monday

On November 13, an air raid alert was declared in most parts of Ukraine due to the threat of the use of Kh-22 missiles. However, no missiles were launched

Defense Express, citing the Ukrainian Air Force, reports that it was either a training flight of Tu-22M3 carriers approaching the launch boundaries and/or the work of enemy electronic warfare systems to create a false threat.

The threat from Kh-22 missiles remains more than significant, although Russia uses them more than sporadically. In particular, the last report of their launch was back on August 15, when Russia launched 4 such missiles along with 24 air- and sea-launched cruise missiles during a combined attack. Prior to that, in July the enemy used 15 such missiles in combined attacks, 18 more in three launches in June, and 5 Kh-22 in April.

That is, 42 Kh-22s were launched between April and almost mid-November, but none were shot down. The latter can be explained by the requirement to use Patriot and SAMP/T class systems to intercept them, as stated repeatedly by the Air Force Command.

“At the same time, the archaic guidance system of these missiles, which typically use a radar homing head, allows them to hit only large objects, such as grain terminals, as in July in the Odesa region, or shopping centers, as in Kremenchuk in June 2022, or multi-story residential buildings, as in Dnipro in January 2023,” Defense Express writes. 

Aside from the general antiquity of the navigation system based on 1960s technology, the inertial system's low reliability and precision contribute to the overall antiquity of the guiding system. It produces an error that should guarantee arrival only in a standard "square" of 10x10 km. The latter was not critical for the USSR because the Kh-22 was designed to attack aircraft carrier groups with nuclear charges.

At the same time, the conventional warhead of the Kh-22 weighs 950 kg, which means huge destruction. In particular, in Dnipro, 46 people were killed when a Kh-22 hit a residential building.

“The Russian Federation also officially announced that it had "developed" a new version of the Kh-22 missile, which allegedly received a 1,700-kilogram warhead and a new guidance system. It is quite possible that this was due to the removal of the Soviet radar guidance head and the integration of a new system based on satellite navigation and an updated inertial system unit.”

Finally, we know of the Kh-32 production version of the Kh-22, which was already constructed in Russia based on Soviet innovations. It is distinguished by a substantially greater declared range of 1,000 kilometers as a result of increased fuel tanks at the expense of reducing warhead size and enhancing the guiding system.

At the same time, the Kh-22's range is frequently quoted as 600 km, and this applies not just to some versions of the Kh-22, such as the Kh-22PSI or Kh-22NA (with passive or simple inertial guidance systems), but also when utilizing a nuclear warhead, which is far lighter than a conventional warhead. As a result, values of 300 and, in some cases (Kh-22MA), 400 kilometers will be more significant.

“However, in order to guide a missile with a radar homing head, it needs to capture the target before launching, and the capabilities of the Tu-22M3 allowed it to spot a target such as a cruiser against the sea from 340 km away, and to confidently capture it only from 250-270 km,” Defense Express notes. 

That is, it would be more correct to consider the launch range of the Kh-22 with such a guidance system to be in the region of 300-350 km, which allows the Russian forces to strike most of Ukraine's territory from safe launch areas, except for the Volyn, Rivne, Khmelnytskyi and other regions of Ukraine to the west. But this does not apply to the use of possibly existing updated Kh-22s with new navigation systems and a different launch range.

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