Why Zircon missiles pose greater challenge to Ukraine's Air Defense than Kinzhals?

Zircon debris after striking Kyiv on March 25, 2024
Zircon debris after striking Kyiv on March 25, 2024

Defence Express expert Ivan Kyrychevsky delved into why air defense systems find it more challenging to intercept Zircon missiles compared to Kinzhals, in an interview with Radio NV on March 27.

"Intercepting a Zircon is significantly more difficult than dealing with a Kinzhal," said Kyrychevsky.

"The Kinzhal, as experience shows, is merely an aeroballistic missile that can achieve speeds over five Mach, or over five thousand kilometers per hour, on a short flight distance. In contrast, the Zircon varies in speed from 4.5 to seven Mach during its flight, translating to five to eight thousand kilometers per hour."

Zircon missiles employ a "classic ramjet engine, typical for a hypersonic missile," noting that systems like Patriot or SAMP/T weren't designed to intercept hypersonic projectiles.

"In theory, on March 25, our air defense troops managed to do a technically impossible thing," Kyrychevsky said. "Ideally, it should have been a day of triumph, as our troops overcame such a sophisticated enemy 'wunderwaffe'."

Read also:

Russian strikes with Zircon missiles in Kyiv – what we know so far?

Explosions echoed through Kyiv almost simultaneously with the announcement of an air raid alert on March 25. Air defense forces destroyed two ballistic missiles launched from Crimea.

Ukrainian air defense forces probably shot down two Russian ZM22 Zircon missiles over Kyiv, Defense Express reported. This marked the second publicly known deployment of this missile type following a failed Russian attempt to strike Kyiv on Feb. 7.

Recent patterns indicate Russia is escalating its air assault frequency, aiming to pinpoint gaps in Ukraine's air defense. A notable instance was the downing of two suspected ZM22 Zircon missiles over Kyiv on March 25, marking the missile's second deployment after an initial use in February.

The enemy had stockpiled Zircon missiles in Crimea and would continue its targeted terror, especially against Kyiv, Southern Defense Forces spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk said on March 26.

Russia's use of Zircon missiles could indicate a shortage of other types of missiles, Air Force spokesman Illya Yevlash said on national television on March 27.

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