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.
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.
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.