Espreso. Global

New insights on Russian Kh-101 missiles: Kyiv warhead detonation analysis. Serhiy Zgurets' column

22 March, 2024 Friday

New details emerge on Russia's nighttime missile attack on Ukraine, including the capital. Meanwhile, Poland gears up for new threats linked to state-sponsored terrorism

Russian attack on Kyiv

On March 21, Russia launched another massive combined missile attack, in which 11 Tu-95 strategic bombers launched 29 Kh-101 cruise missiles. The main target of the attack was Kyiv, and as these missiles approached the capital at about 5 a.m., Russia launched two more aerial ballistic missiles from Iskander air defense systems. In the course of air defense operations, all Russian missiles were shot down.

Comparing the recent attack to a somewhat similar one on February 15, we note several differences. While the previous assault saw the use of 12 cruise missiles, half the number deployed in the recent attack, there were more ballistic missiles involved at that time. Additionally, North Korean missiles launched from the Voronezh region were utilized in the prior incident. Notably, it marked the first deployment of the Zircon hypersonic missile. During that attack, the enemy launched a total of 26 missiles, with half of them, 13 units, successfully intercepted by Ukrainian forces. In contrast, the recent onslaught consisted entirely of 29 cruise missiles and 2 aeroballistic missiles from Iskander systems. Iskander serves as a kind of ground-based Kinzhal, as it employs the same missile used in operational and tactical missile weapons launched from the MiG-31.

So, all of these missiles were shot down, and this is an extremely high figure, which indicates, first of all, the high efficiency of Ukrainian air defense, and no matter what the foreign media say, we have the means to shoot down Russian missiles, and the meeting in Ramstein shows that we will have missiles used to shoot down Russian targets in the future, as well as the promised supply of equipment for the systems that are at the disposal of the Ukrainian army.

Most of the Russian missiles were intercepted within the capital, resulting in damage to several high-rise buildings, including shattered windows due to the blast wave. Additionally, a transformer substation caught fire, but was subsequently extinguished. Furthermore, there were reports of damage to several vehicles and other infrastructure. Defense Express has obtained additional details and insights from its own sources, complementing the information provided by the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Regarding the Kh-101 missiles, analysis of the wreckage indicates that these missiles were manufactured between the third and fourth quarters of the previous year and in the first quarter of 2024. This underscores Russia's current strategy of utilizing all available resources for strikes, with missiles being transported directly from factories to air bases for immediate deployment against Ukraine. Unlike the versions used on February 15, these Kh-101 missiles lacked special heat traps, suggesting the use of standard variants in this recent attack.

The second important detail is about craters and explosions. Of all the missiles downed, 31 of them, only 5 had warheads that detonated. There are certain explanations why warheads usually do not detonate or explode, and we saw a number of photos showing craters that are the result of warhead detonation or explosion. There were five such cases identified: four involving Kh-101 missiles and one from an Iskander missile. Remarkably, these explosions occurred dangerously close to residential areas, with minimal distances observed. One explosion occurred approximately 30 meters from a residential area, while another occurred around 150 meters away. Similarly, the Iskander warhead explosion near Kiltseva Road happened within 150 meters of residential buildings.

These craters are significant, but the miracle is that none of these warheads hit the houses themselves, because if there had been such accidental hits, the consequences could have been much more tragic, especially given that the residents might have ignored the alarms and not gone down to the bomb shelters. In any case, we realize that this time, as always, we had not only air defense on our side, but also God Himself.

By the way, this attack influenced the behavior of our neighbors. This time, when the Tu-95 bombers took off, the Polish air force immediately raised F-16s to protect their airspace in order to avoid cases where the wreckage of Russian missiles was found on Polish territory. This then led to political confrontations in the military leadership of our neighboring country.

Poland's preparations for a Russian attack

Next, we will talk about the components of Poland's preparation for new threats and how Poland is transforming. The threats associated with Russia's actions are growing, and many Polish politicians, many former and current Polish military officers say that we need to prepare for a clash with Russia. In particular, the former Chief of the General Staff, General Andrzejczak, said just the day before yesterday that in two years, sooner or later, there will be military clashes between NATO countries, Poland and Russia.

"First of all, I must say that Andrzejczak was not the only one who said this. If I'm not mistaken, the head of the National Security Bureau also expressed such thoughts, and he also said that we have about two and a half, maybe three years before the moment when there is a threat that Russia will be able to attack Poland. In fact, we have this time to prepare. First of all, to raise Poland's defense capabilities so that this does not happen, so that our armed forces are so armed, prepared, and so that society, the whole country, is so prepared for this threat that such a war could not become a reality," emphasized Dariusz Materniak, director of the Poland-Ukraine Center.

Cooperation between Ukraine and Poland

Materniak believes that there are many myths in the relations between the two countries, and therefore it is difficult to talk about real cooperation in the defense sector.

According to him, the vast majority of Poles know that they have supplied a lot of different types of weapons to Ukraine, but only a minority understands and knows that there are certain projects of defense cooperation between Poland and Ukraine.

"We are talking about the production and sale to Ukraine of drones or ammunition, primarily artillery, which are primarily made for the needs of Ukrainian Armed Forces; about soldiers' training, which takes place in Poland, in Polish training centers. In fact, the majority of society does not know about this, and does not think that after this first important period in 2022, cooperation will continue," explains the head of the Poland-Ukraine Center.

He emphasized that Poland's security also depends on the outcome of the war that is currently taking place in Ukraine. It is important for Poland that Ukraine wins this war.

Contract for Krab howitzer purchase

According to preliminary data, the contract with the Polish manufacturer should be completed this year, meaning that all howitzers should be delivered by the end of 2024.

The head of the Poland-Ukraine Center said that no negative information about these agreements has been reported so far.

"This contract for Krab (Polish self-propelled howitzer of 155 mm caliber - ed.) for the Ukrainian Armed Forces has, so to speak, the highest priority when it comes to what is currently being implemented under contracts with this manufacturer. The same applies to the supply of 155 mm ammunition specifically for Krab, as well as the contract for the modernization and repair of German tanks. Even though we don't talk about it every day, these processes are happening and they benefit both Ukraine and Poland," he explained.

EU funds for the defense industry

The European Commission has decided to allocate EUR 500 million to increase the production of artillery ammunition in the EU to further assist Ukraine and replenish its stockpiles. Poland received EUR 2 million, which caused surprise in the expert community.

According to Materniak, Polish companies submitted only two applications for EUR 11 million, which is why the things unfolded this way. Only in 2022 did Polish arms manufacturers begin to actively develop their companies: "This year we have reached up to 25,000 pieces per year and this money that we will receive from the European Union will help in this process, but I must say that this is a path for at least several years to increase these capacities, to make them so large that they can meet the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, our armed forces and in the future our allies."

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