Russia says it has fired at least two hypersonic missiles at targets in Ukraine and both apparently found their mark. Western analysts seem to agree with the Russian claim, meaning it’s likely the first use of this class of weapon in combat. The Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles were dropped by MiG-31 jets and destroyed a missile and aircraft ammunition depot and fuel storage facility. The Russians claim the Kinzhal flies at Mach 10 and is able to change course throughout its trajectory. That makes them hard to shoot down and the high speed of the impact makes them effective on fortified targets. They can also carry nuclear warheads.

Western analysts are more intrigued than concerned with the use of the weapons in Ukraine. The Kinzhals are not just hypersonic, they’re hyper expensive and their use on significant but relatively ordinary targets suggests a publicity stunt or an indication that the Russians are running out of regular missiles. Regardless of the reason, their use is adding impetus to the U.S.’s quest for similar capability. The first hypersonic weapon in the U.S. inventory will be ship borne, however.

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