Espreso. Global
Review

All about Kh-59 missile, which Russia uses to replace high-quality weapons during massive attacks

11 March, 2024 Monday
18:00

Over the past year, the Ukrainian Air Force’s daily reports have been full of references to attacks by Shahed drones and cruise missiles. Most often, these are Kh-59 missiles

What's in the text:

  • What is Kh-59 and how they were created;
  • Modernization of Kh-59 missiles;
  • Technical characteristics of the Kh-59;
  • Kh-59 in the Russian-Ukrainian war.

What is Kh-59 and how they were created

The Kh-59 Ovod (Russian: "овод" - a gadfly) is a Soviet and Russian subsonic precision air-to-surface missile of medium range. It is designed to destroy important enemy ground and surface targets covered by air defense. This weapon was supposed to provide high accuracy without jeopardizing enemy air defense of the carrier aircraft. The missile targets are visually detected by the operator during the day and in simple meteorological conditions.

The development of the Kh-59 guided missile was carried out by the Raduga design bureau located in the Moscow region. Missile testing was completed in 1979, and the following year a complex consisting of a Su-24M aircraft, a control container, and two Kh-59 missiles was adopted. The Ovod was also used to equip Su-17M single-seat fighter-bombers. As of today, the Kh-59 cruise missile for tactical aviation can be used by Su-24M, Su-25, Su-30, Su-34, Su-35, and Su-57. Missile carriers launch them at a speed of 600-1100 km/h.

The initial version of the missile had a launch range of 40-45 km and a warhead of about 150 kg. The missile also had restrictions on its use in adverse weather conditions, such as fog, rain, or strong winds.

The same problem remained with the modernized version with a twice as solid warhead and a range of more than 100 km. This is how the Russians used the Kh-59M missiles in the 1990s in Chechnya, trying to destroy opponents' shelters and warehouses in the mountains. The climate of the North Caucasus, however, severely limited the use of these weapons. Due to fog and low visibility, the Russians were unable to target snow-covered gorges and forested mountains. For example, in the entire month of December 1994, Chechnya had only 2 days of clear weather.  As a result, after four launches, the use of Kh-59 missiles was abandoned.

Photo: from open sources

Modernization of Kh-59 missiles

Immediately after the collapse of the USSR, Russia began work on modernizing the Kh-59 missile. The new version had a longer range (115 km), a better engine, and was designated the Kh-59M.

Interestingly, the guidance system was manufactured at the Lviv-based Tekon-Electron enterprise. The image of the terrain from the missile's television camera was transmitted to the screen of the operator, who acted as a navigator, controlling the missile's flight. Having identified the target, the operator held it in the crosshairs on the screen. The circular probable deviation with this guidance was 2-5 meters.

The Kh-59M was used as the basis for the Kh-59M anti-ship missile, which was first demonstrated in 2001. It is equipped with an active homing radar warhead and has a range of 285 km. 

In 2009, the Kh-59MK2 missile was introduced. It included satellite navigation, an inertial system, and an electron-optical homing head with a target and landmark recognition system.

Before the full-scale invasion, in 2021, the Russians presented another modernization of the missile, the Kh-59MKM version. The missile is equipped with a penetrating warhead and is designed to hit stationary ground targets at known coordinates. Defense Express observers called this weapon a “budget solution.”

The Kh-59MKM missile has a launch weight of 930 kg and is equipped with a turbojet engine. The flight altitude ranges from 15 m to 2000 m, and the maximum range, according to the manufacturers, is already 285 km.

Technical characteristics of Kh-59

Photo: from open sources

Most often, Russian forces in Ukraine use Kh-59MK2 missiles, and in case of shortage, older versions (Kh-59M/M2). Their characteristics are as follows:

  • Length - 5.7 meters,
  • Wingspan - 1.3 m,
  • Diameter - 0.38 m,
  • Starting weight - Kh-59M 930 kg, Kh-59MK2 up to 900 kg,
  • Warhead - penetrating 320 kg, cluster 280-283 kg,
  • Circular probable deviation - Kh-59M 2-3 m, Kh-59MK2 - 3-5 m,
  • Speed - 900-1050 km/h,
  • The minimum launch range is 10-15 km for the Kh-59M,
  • Maximum launch range - Kh-59M 115 km, Kh-59MK2 285 km,
  • Launch altitude - 200-5000 m (for Kh-59MK2 - up to 11000 m).

Kh-59 in the Russian-Ukrainian war

The first use of the Kh-59 in Ukraine was on April 4, 2022. At that time, the elevator of an agricultural company in the Mykolaiv region came under a missile attack, and the grain storage facility was paralyzed. Defense Express considered it significant that the Russians managed to hit only a large stationary target with these missiles, which did not have air defense cover.

Photo: from open sources

Subsequently, in the spring of 2022, Russian troops reached an average pace of 10 Kh-59 missiles launched in the direction of Ukrainians (about half of the missiles were of this type). They actively attacked the Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions. In addition, the Russians fired Kh-59 missiles at targets in Poltava, Kirovohrad, Mykolaiv, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, and the port of Odesa.

Initially, the invading Russian forces used the Kh-59MK2 most actively, considering it a cheap alternative to the expensive Kh-101 and Kh-555. However, their range of 285 km allowed them to be used only in frontline areas, preventing them from firing on the entire territory of Ukraine. However, high accuracy (3-5 meters) and a powerful warhead make these weapons quite effective. Gradually, the stock of Kh-59MK2s was exhausted and the Russian troops switched to Kh-59Ms with a range of 115 km.

Some of the targets hit by the Russians were openly surprising. For example, in August 2022, the Kh-59 missile fired from a Su-35 fighter jet hit a public restroom on the outskirts of Novovorontsovka, Kherson region. And in the spring of 2023, a monastery of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate was damaged.

Quite quickly, the Russian army's stockpile of about 800 missiles was exhausted. The Russians are trying to replenish their stockpile of weapons. To do this, they launched a plant in Smolensk and the Kh-59 attacks resumed. Instead, the Ukrainian Armed Forces attacked the Smolensk plant. According to the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, a total of four strike drones were launched at the target, three of which hit the target (75%).

In 2023, the Russians switched to a new tactic, combining Kh-59 missile attacks with massive Shahed attacks. The relatively low speed (about 1000 km/h) and altitude of the missiles (50-300 m) allow these missiles to be destroyed by S-300PT/PS and Buk-M1 systems, as well as by MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters, not to mention NASAMS and Patriot.

Tags:
Read also:
  • News
2024, Sunday
14 April
17:55
Zelenskyy comments on impact of aid slowdown to Ukraine
17:25
Russian forces push west of Bakhmut, targeting Siverskyi Donets-Donbas Canal, Chasiv Yar
16:56
Russia shells Kherson residential neighborhoods overnight, hitting high-rise building
16:26
Scholz kicks off three-day China tour to discuss China's support for Russia
15:56
Russian forces use drone to drop explosives on civilian truck in Sumy region, killing driver
15:30
OPINION
Iran-Israel conflict: Impact on Tehran's relations with Moscow
15:00
Russia develops deportation method for Russian passport holders in occupied territories
14:30
Reign of unchecked terror: Kovalenko on how rogue nations thrive
14:03
Exclusive
Ukraine's new UK minehunters will dock Black Sea only after hostilities end — Ukrainian Navy Reserve Captain
13:30
OPINION
No point to rush for Putin
13:00
Iran's strikes on Israel echo Russian tactics in Ukraine – ISW
12:30
Exclusive
"A woman must be self-sufficient and rely primarily on herself" - paramedic Yevheniya Kolesnichenko
11:50
Russia loses 900 soldiers, 34 artillery systems, and 24 armored vehicles in one day – General Staff
11:20
Russian army kills two civilians in Kharkiv region village
10:42
Updated
Ukraine strikes Russian Center troop group command post in occupied Luhansk
2024, Saturday
13 April
20:00
Exclusive
Ukraine needs energy 'Ramstein', special official, more solar and wind power plants: former energy minister explains top priorities
19:45
OPINION
Mobilisation, demobilisation and reservation: three problems of current war
19:25
Russia aims to level Donetsk region to ground: guided bombs dropped on 5-storey building in Ocheretyne
19:04
Ukraine has 500 defense enterprises employing almost 300,000 people - Zelenskyy
18:35
"Republicans are killing Ukraine": Stephen King on delay of US aid to Kyiv
18:00
Germany to hand over third Patriot system to Ukraine
17:36
Air defense missiles are in deficit: Ukraine's presidential adviser explains why Kyiv seeks help
17:07
Situation escalates: Syrskyi to reinforce problematic defense areas in eastern Ukraine
16:40
Exclusive
All Ukrainians may be forced to take up arms: former General Staff spokesman on drafting women
15:40
Russia disperses forces between Robotyne and Verbove: new Russian tactics in Zaporizhzhia sector
15:10
Ukrainian army controls Bohdanivka, intense fighting continues for this village — Defense Ministry
14:39
Review
No space for maneuvers: how to stay with electricity when there are no thermal power plants left in Ukraine
14:02
Review
Russia's attacks on energy sector, use of Kh-69, comparison of battles in Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Chasiv Yar. Weekly military review
13:30
Second anniversary of Moskva cruiser destruction: Navy spokesman reveals details of special operation
13:00
Updated
Ukrainian army eliminates 1,030 Russian soldiers, 23 tanks, 47 armored vehicles per day - General Staff
12:28
Ukraine is in active talks on two Patriot and one SAMP/T, Kuleba says
12:00
Ukraine needs air defense systems to protect its defense industry - ISW
11:31
Ukrainians may have up to 5 million weapons, almost all of them registered - Interior Ministry
11:00
British POW, who fought Putin’s troops in Ukraine, wins lawsuit against Russia
10:30
Ukraine negotiates with Poland, Romania, Spain on air defense systems supply
2024, Friday
12 April
21:40
Review
Victorious news of 779th day of war: former SBU officer’s car blown up in Moscow, Netherlands allocates €1bn in military aid to Ukraine
21:20
Ukrainian forces repel most Russian attacks in Bakhmut sector over last day - General Staff
20:54
Exclusive
Which countries have Patriot air defense systems Ukraine needs: expert tells
20:35
Exclusive
Mass, cheapness win in war of attrition: expert on dynamics of technical changes at front
20:15
Ukrainian forces target Russian UAZ-469, dugout, trailed howitzer, ATGM
More news