Firing anti-ship missiles at ground targets is a chaotic strategy Russia may regret, expert says

russia attack
A plume of smoke rises above an infrastructure facility in the Holosiivskyi district during Russia's mass missile attack on, Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 9, 2023.Eugen Kotenko / Ukrinform / Future Publishing via Getty Images
  • Russia launched a new wave of missile and drone attacks on Ukraine on Thursday.

  • Among the weapons used were Kh-22s, old Soviet-style missiles designed to sink aircraft carriers.

  • Their use is an illustration of Russia's "kitchen sink approach," a missile expert told Insider.

Russia's military launched a fresh wave of attacks on Ukraine this week, which included firing at least 81 missiles and eight Iranian-made suicide drones at multiple cities across the country.

Russia used a mixture of weapons for its deadly strike, including the Kh-22: an old, Soviet-style missile designed not to demolish buildings, but to sink and destroy aircraft-carrier groups at sea.

Yurii Ihnat, a spokesperson for Ukraine's military, said Thursday the attack was "really large-scale" and the first time he's seen Russia "using such different types of missiles," CNN reported.

He said the Ukrainian military has "no capabilities to counter " weapons like the the Kh-22s, because it is wildly unpredictable and inaccurate when used against land targets.

The Kh-22, which has a 2,000-pound warhead, was also used in January when Russia blew up an apartment complex in central Ukraine, killing at least 40 people and injuring 80 more.

The use of the missile is a sign that Russia is resorting to a "kitchen-sink approach," Ian Williams, deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider in a call in January.

"We're seeing everything at the moment, we're just seeing a blend, we're seeing newer missiles, older missiles ... they really just want to hit something," Williams said.

He said the Kh-22 missiles are "basically being used as terror weapons," totally removed from their actual military purpose.

The Russians are using all kinds of projectiles to "flood the Ukrainian air space with a lot of crap, kind of confusing the air defenses a little bit, and overwhelming them," Williams said.

Ukraine's air defense, bolstered by Western equipment, has so far been notably successful in blunting Russia's attacks, other experts previously told Insider. But it can't stop everything.

Short-term thinking

Williams said using an anti-ship missile like this betrayed a "short-term approach" by Russia, which is degrading its ability to fend off other threats.

He said the Kh-22 missile is among "some of best things [the Russians] have to fend off the US Navy or a NATO naval force, yet they're using them up hitting apartments and warehouses."

"It's very short-term thinking. It's almost like: 'Throw whatever we can at them right now in whatever mode you want, and we'll deal with it later,'" he said.

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