One problem with Ukrainian air defence, according to Defence Express expert Ivan Kyrychevsky, in an interview with Ukrainian Radio, is that a Russian missile can change its trajectory up to ten times in an hour to find weak places in defence of Ukrainian towns.
As per Ukrinform, when talking about the attack on Kyiv on 30 August, Kyrychevskyi said that based on the official information, where rockets were shot down and where debris fell, it would be safe to say that the Russians were trying to hit transportation routes they thought could be used to send Western weapons, ammunition, and equipment to the Ukrainian Armed Forces for a counteroffensive. So, the Russian way of thinking is that the biggest transport hub in Ukraine could be hit.
Regarding the difference in tactics, the expert said it was a specific story this time. The Russians made sure that the “Shaheds” went first, which was when the Ukrainian defence was meant to step in. Second, the Russians sent out cruise missiles in two waves, and they did so very carefully. Some rockets were headed toward Lviv, but then, for some reason, they changed course and went to Kyiv. Maybe the Russians thought there might still be “blind spots” near the city where anti-aircraft missile systems didn’t cover, where they could attempt missile strikes.
According to the analyst, these findings indicate that sanctions against Russia are fruitless because the country has addressed reliability concerns. While the Russians had difficulty with some missiles missing their targets in the early weeks of the invasion, he said this issue was resolved due to technological improvements.
According to Kyrychevskyi, the Russians are even installing powerful onboard computers that allow for intensive manoeuvring in the air on their cruise missiles in defiance of sanctions. Before launch, this is loaded into the missile’s computer. They attach it to bombers already prepared for the attack.
The expert said that cruise missiles like “Kalibr” and air-launched missiles like “X-101” and “X-555” can carry a 400 kg warhead over a range of about 1500–2000 km. He said it’s unclear how well the X-101 fits the radar-invisibility claim, which the Russians said it did. If the Ukrainians shoot them, it means they can be seen.
He continued that the maximum course change rate during the flight seen is one alteration every eight minutes. Put another way, a missile’s direction can be altered roughly ten times an hour. Such missiles are built with onboard equipment that can operate for up to five hours. When one considers the maximum speed, approximately 700 km/h, and the maximum range, up to 2000 km, they can fly straight at maximum range for roughly three hours. Up to four hours if they manoeuvre and fly at full range, extending their path. The onboard technology is only intended to be used once to guide the missile to its intended target.
The expert highlighted that the Russians do not use the X-22 missiles as much as other cruise missiles. The Ukrainian Air Force has admitted that it has not shot down any X-22 missiles. The issue is that this missile has a supersonic flight speed of around 4000 km/h. Furthermore, upon approaching the target, it dives at a 45-degree angle. Even if the missile is intercepted at this point, due to its enormous kinetic energy, it will not divert from its trajectory and will hit the target, according to Kyrychevskyi.
Furthermore, it has been determined that Russians may convert up to ten X-22 missiles monthly into the X-32 upgrade. The X-32 is said to feature more sophisticated electronics, resulting in more accurate targeting. The limitation is that they cannot build new missiles from scratch and only have roughly 150 X-22 missiles remaining.
According to Mykhailo Skibitskyi, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Russia still has at least 575 missiles. However, as Kyrychevskyi pointed out, these 575 missiles do not include 150 X-22s. As a result, the predicted total is greater than 700 units. The Russians used 750 missiles during the strikes from October to March 2023. Furthermore, each month, Russia produces 110 long-range missiles.
The idea that if they use all of these arsenals, they will eventually be completely out of supplies is not a concern for the Russian government. They keep some reserves, said Kyrychevskyi. In Afghanistan, Soviet forces launched all of their Scud and Luna-M missiles that they had at the enemy, even though they required these missiles to deliver nuclear weapons in the event of a war with NATO. The analyst concluded that even if their missile stockpile might be close to zero, this has never been enough to stop them.