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kinzhal hypersonic missileCHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE – There are confirmed reports in the media that the Russians have begun to fire hypersonic missiles at selected targets in Ukraine.

Last night one of these weapons struck an underground ammunition depot in the western sector of the country.

These missiles can travel at speeds exceeding 10,000 kilometres per hour and there currently is no known defence against them.

They are too fast for existing anti-missile systems although it is likely a new generation of directed energy ordnance will eventually be able to intercept them.

At about US$100 million (K350 million) each, these immensely expensive weapons are usually reserved for very high value targets such as aircraft carriers or important military establishments.

A hypersonic schematicAt the moment, Russia is one of a handful of major powers with an inventory of hypersonic weapons, so their use represents a significant escalation of the Ukraine conflict.

This development is a logical, if desperate, response to Russia's inability to significantly diminish the fighting capacity of the Ukraine military.

And it is symptomatic of increasing anxiety in the Russian leadership that events are slipping further out of their control.

In an already grossly unequal 'David versus Goliath' struggle, the use of such a weapon has to be viewed more as a terror tactic than a major strategic development. It emulates the Nazi's use of V1 and V2 rockets towards the end of World War II.

I have no doubt that this new weapon will terrorise many Ukrainians but equally it is likely to harden the resolve of the military to strike back hard and often.

This was the response to the Nazi 'super weapons' after the V1 rockets (colloquially known as ‘doodlebugs’) began dropping on targets in and around London in mid-1944.

sledgehammerAnd so this hideous war goes on, with Putin willing to use the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in his arsenal in an effort to snuff out Ukrainian resistance.

While harm will no doubt be done, I am sceptical about whether the performance of the Ukraine military will be significantly degraded.

Using the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut is rarely a useful strategy, in warfare as in life generally.

Comments

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Lindsay F Bond

It ain’t over till that crass fella shrinks from (whatever his motivation) of appalling politics and inhumane ethics.

Chris Overland

Thanks for your comment Stephen.

As I understand it from a variety of sources, the Ukrainians are literally bristling in sophisticated anti-tank and short range anti-aircraft missiles. This is one very important reason why they have succeeded in stalling the Russian offensive in most areas.

In addition, the USA is shipping them a number (thought to be around 100) 'suicide' drones, which are effective at killing tanks and artillery at ranges of up to 8 kilometres or so.

It is rumoured that some of the eastern European states that were part of the former Soviet Union, are covertly shipping them former Soviet era high altitude anti-aircraft missiles systems. These systems are familiar to Ukrainian soldiers whereas some of the west's modern systems would require fairly extensive training before they could be used, including Israel's Iron Dome system.

It has been made very clear to Russia that western weapons will continue to flow to Ukraine regardless of their wishes.

This has possibly been accompanied by not very veiled threats that Russian attempts to interdict NATO supply convoys will trigger retaliation from NATO, perhaps in the form of imposing some sort of no-fly zone over the southern borders of Ukraine.

Thus far at least the Russians have not attacked NATO convoys or aircraft presumably because they could not cope with any escalation in the war, at least using conventional weaponry.

Putin is in a very bad situation now: he cannot win this war and cannot afford to lose it either. Hence the resort to what the Germans called 'Wunderwaffe' (Super Weapons) like the hypersonic missiles.

This will not save him any more than it did Hitler because, as you have rightly observed, there is no strategic advantage in them. The only thing super about them is there cost really.

Stephen Charteris

And like the V1 and V2 it is hard to imagine that this weapon armed with a conventional warhead provides a strategic advantage in this conflict. A destroyed building is just that, whether the payload is launched via an artillery battery or hypersonic missile.

It certainly does begin to look like Hitler in his final hours in a bunker pondering turning a lost cause around through the arrival of some wonder weapon. Which or course the Americans were on the verge of testing.

I hope the Ukrainian defenders have the support they need to make street fighting and vehicle movement in a rapidly thawing countryside unsustainably costly in equipment and men for the Russians. If enough bodybags are returned to Russian mothers with the flower of this generations youth, it may just precipitate another Ceaucescu moment for the monster in the Kremlin. He deserves nothing less.

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