The performance during the ongoing war in Ukraine of Russia’s Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched ballistic missiles has so far failed to impress.

The UK Ministry of Defence published on Saturday an assessment focused on Vladimir Putin’s announcement Russia will start fighter patrols on the eastern Black Sea using MiG-31I interceptor aircraft armed with Kinzhal missiles.

Providing a possible reason why the Russian leader may have gone to the extent of mentioning which missiles were being equipped, the intelligence update read: “The specific mention of the Kinzhal missile and its capabilities by Putin was almost certainly for strategic messaging purposes, to demonstrate that Russia remains able to produce and operate newly developed weapons, despite the ongoing Ukrainian conflict.”

Providing a humiliating verdict on the performances of these missiles witnessed so far in Ukraine, the Defence Ministry then said: “The Kinzhal effectively remains in operational testing, with its performance in Ukraine to date being poor.”

The Kinzhal missiles are one of the six new strategic weapons unveiled by Putin in March 2018.

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Russia claims these missiles, capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads, have a reported range of 1,500 to 2,000 kilometres and can reach Mach 10 speed.

The UK Defence Ministry said of the Kinzhal: “It remains highly capable on paper, able to fly at hypersonic speeds and evade modern air defence systems, although there almost certainly needs to be significant improvement in how Russia uses it to achieve this potential.”

Russia is known to have fired Kinzhal missiles during the war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022 after the Kremlin ordered an unlawful invasion of the eastern European country.

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In mid-March last year, the Russian Defence Ministry claimed to have destroyed a weapon and fuel depot in Ukraine using Kinzhal missiles.

Among other attacks using this weapon, Odesa’s port was targeted two months later.

Over the course of the war, and as it received air defence systems from Western allies, Ukraine managed to shoot down several Kinzhal missiles.

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On May 16, Ukraine claimed to have intercepted six of these missiles fired at Kyiv over one night – a statement dismissed by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu who denied that many Kinzhal missiles had been fired at all.

Putin justified his decision to conduct fighter patrols in the eastern Black Sea saying there has been an uplift in the US’ maritime presence in the eastern Mediterranean.

Washington is among the Western nations to have moved some of its vessels closer to Israel in the wake of the Hamas’ attack on October 7 – which the Kremlin has not condemned.

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