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Russia Showcases ‘Kinzhal’ Nuclear-Capable Air-Launched Ballistic Missile at Air Show

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Russia Showcases ‘Kinzhal’ Nuclear-Capable Air-Launched Ballistic Missile at Air Show

Two MiG-31K fighters, armed with Kinzhal missiles, took part in an airshow in central Russia over the weekend.

Russia Showcases ‘Kinzhal’ Nuclear-Capable Air-Launched Ballistic Missile at Air Show

A MIG-31K, armed with the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, flying in formation with a Tu-22M3 bomber in July 2018.

Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense

Two Russian MIG-31K interceptors, each carrying one Kh-47M2 Kinzhal (“Dagger”) air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM), for the first time took part in an airshow at the Dubrovichi testing range in the Ryazan Region in central Russia, as part of this year’s Aviadarts 2019 international competition on August 10, according to a Russian defense ministry statement.

The the Aviadats competition is part of the International Army Games, hosted by the Russian military, and involves the air forces of China, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

“During the Aviamix tactical episode that will be held at the Dubrovichi training range on August 10 as part of the Aviadarts 2019 international competition, the Kinzhal airborne missile system will be involved for the first time,” an August 9 defense ministry statement reads. “MiG-31 planes will interact with MiG-31BM interceptor-fighters to provide cover for attack aircraft in destroying a battery of a notional enemy’s surface-to-air missile systems.”

There is no indication that the MiG-31K fighter jets, modified MIG-31BMs, actually fired their Kinzhal ALBMs during the competition.

Last July, the Russian MoD released a video showing a Kinzhal launched from a MiG-31K. The MoD also last released video footage of a Kinzhahl test launch in March of the same year. That same month in 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin officially revealed the existence of this new ALBM that reportedly has been on “experimental combat duty” with the Russian Air Force since 2017. As I explained last year:

The nuclear capable Kh-47M2 ALBM is thought to be a variant of the ground-launched Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile. The Iskander, reportedly capable of reaching speeds of up Mach 5.9 in its terminal phase, is thought to have a range of about 500 kilometers.

According to the Russian MoD, following its launch, the Kh-47M2 ALBM can rapidly accelerate to Mach 4 and may reach top speeds of up to Mach 10 while performing evasive maneuvers. The MoD also claims that the new missile’s range is about 2,000 kilometers. (A recent report suggests that the missile’s range can extend to over 3,000 kilometers when fired from a Tu-22M3.)

All these claims are highly questionable, as a number of analysts have pointed out in the past.

The Russian MoD has also repeatedly claimed that the missile is invulnerable to existing air and anti-ballistic missile defenses. It has reportedly been designed to destroy enemy air defense systems such as land-based Aegis batteries. Ten MIG-31K interceptors have been modified to carry the new ALBM, according to the MoD.

The International Army Games 2019 are running from August 3 to 17. The games involve teams from 37 countries numbering over 5,000 military personnel.