Russia's firing new, long-range Kh-69 cruise missiles, war experts say, piling on the misery for Ukraine's dwindling air defense

  • Russian forces have deployed a new cruise missile, the Institute for the Study of War said.

  • The Kh-69 was used in an attack on a major power station near Kyiv this week.

  • The Kh-69 is a leap forward in Russian tactical munitions.

Russian Forces are deploying a new, long-range cruise missile, known as the Kh-69, as it steps up attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

The Washington DC-based think tank, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), noted in its Friday report that the new air-to-surface missiles were part of Russia's "continued efforts to improve strike packages and penetrate Ukraine's degraded air defense."

Russia has renewed its attacks against Ukraine's energy infrastructure in recent weeks, exploiting Kyiv's dwindling air defense systems.

"We need air defense systems and other defense assistance, not just turning a blind eye and having lengthy discussions," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a post on X.

The post was in response to a Russian missile attack overnight on April 11 that destroyed the Trypillia Thermal Power Plant. The plant is one of the primary energy suppliers to Ukraine's capital, Kyiv. The plant was hit by the new Kh-69 missiles, according to the Ukrainian military.

Employees work at a thermal power plant heavily damaged by recent Russian missile strikes in Ukraine
Employees work at a thermal power plant heavily damaged by recent Russian missile strikes in UkraineValentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

"ISW has not previously observed the Russian use of Kh-69 missiles in Ukraine," it said.

"Russian forces have reportedly launched Kh-69 missiles from 400 kilometers away from their targets, exceeding a previous estimated range of 300 kilometers and the 200-kilometer range of the most recent Kh-59MK2 variant," wrote the ISW.

Illia Yevlash, a spokesperson for Ukraine's Air Force, confirmed on Friday that Russia had launched the new missiles during its massive aerial assault on Thursday.

"This is an improved system of the Kh-59 version," Yevlash said.

"We are currently establishing what kind of missile it was, what type it was. These are fresh missiles with parts manufactured in 2023. That is, we can see that Russia is constantly trying to produce new missiles."

Yevlash said Russia was manufacturing the Kh-69 domestically, but that continued production relied on the ability to source key components from abroad. ISW analysts noted that while the Russian stockpiles and production capability of these Kh-69 missiles are unclear, "Russia is unlikely to be able to produce them at a significantly greater speed or quantity than its other domestically produced missiles."

The Kh-69 is Russia's latest cruise missile

Reports that Russia was employing the Kh-69 first appeared on Ukrainian Telegram channels in early February.

On February 7, a Ukrainian military blogger posted a photo on Telegram purporting to show the destroyed rear fins of a Kh-69. A Ukrainian war monitor account, which tracks Russian aviation activity, claimed that three Kh-69s were fired at Ukraine overnight on February 7-8.

In September last year, the UK-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank reported that the Kh-69 was still undergoing testing. It described the missile as an "air-launched land-attack cruise missile likely akin to the European Storm Shadow or Taurus KEPD 350 missiles."

Kh-69 on displayMike1979 Russia/Wikimedia Commons

According to The War Zone, the Kh-69 was developed by Raduga, part of Russia's Tactical Missile Corporation. The missile weighs around 1,700 pounds, has an operating speed of up to 621 miles per hour, and has the option of either a penetration or a cluster warhead weighing up to 680 pounds. The missile's shape offers some degree of reduced radar signature.

Russian forces can launch the missiles from Su-34 and Su-35 tactical aircraft rather than solely from strategic bombers.

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