Shortly before the start of the war in Ukraine, on February 24, the presence of MiG-31K fighters, a priori armed with the hypersonic missile Kh-47M2 Kinjal [ou Kinzhal]had been reported in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.
As a reminder, being part of the six “invisible” and “strategic weapons” that were revealed by the head of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, in March 2018, Kinjal [code Otan : AS-24 « Killjoy »] is an aeroballistic missile derived from the Iskander. Equipped with a 500 kg fragmentation warhead or a nuclear warhead, it can hit a target 2000 km away. Also, the deployment of the MiG-31K in Kaliningrad then brought most European capitals within range.
If at the time he had not said anything about this deployment, the Ministry of Defense ended up announcing on August 18 last year that three MiG-31K “equipped with Kinjal hypersonic missiles” had just been “moved to Chkalovsk airfield, Kaliningrad region “. And to specify that they would be kept on alert 24 hours a day.
Since then, Moscow and Minsk have decided to create a joint “regional military group” under the pretext of a “deterioration of the situation on the Union’s western borders [russo-biélorusse] “. And for this purpose, the Belarusian Ministry of Defense announced the arrival in Belarus of “9,000 Russian soldiers” and “about 170 tanks”. But according to the Gazeta.ru site, MiG-31s were also expected.
Of course, and while the battle of Kherson [sud] threatens, kyiv fears a russian offensive led from belarus… while ukrainian strategic infrastructure [électricité, distribution d’eau, etc] is now a regular target for Moscow.
Be that as it may, the information from Gazetu.ru has just been confirmed by British intelligence with supporting satellite images.
Latest Defense Intelligence Update on the situation in Ukraine – 1 November 2022
Learn more about the UK government’s response: https://t.co/ohQH7fYyqM
— Ministry of Defense 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) 1 November 2022
Indeed, in the update it published on November 1, the British Ministry of Defence [MoD] claims that at least two MiG-31Ks were deployed on October 17 at Machulishchy Air Base, located near MInsk in central Belarus. In addition, it reports the presence of boxes large enough to carry Kh-47M2 Kinjal missiles.
As the MoD points out, this is the first time this type of missile has been deployed in Belarus, “probably” to send a message to the West and underline Minsk’s growing involvement in the war.
Moreover, regardless of whether it is deployed in Kaliningrad or Machulishchy, the Kinjal missile always has the European capitals within range… The difference is undoubtedly due to greater room for maneuver for the MiG-31K. Furthermore, this move against Belarus provides only a limited advantage when it comes to hitting targets on Ukrainian territory. In any case, this is the estimate of the MoD.
Especially since the strikes carried out against Ukrainian targets with Kinjal missiles had no significant effect on the course of the war, as Colonel David Pappalardo noted in the latest issue of Vortex, Air & Space Force magazine.
“Russia announced on March 19 that it used its Kh-47M2 Kinjal airborne ballistic missile fired from a modernized MiG-31 against an ammunition depot in Ukraine for the first time. Again, the announcement essentially focused on the hypervelocity nature of this munition for purposes of intimidation and strategic reporting to NATO. However, the Kinjal is not a breakthrough weapon that gives Russia a significant operational advantage in the war in Ukraine. Rather, it is merely an adaptation of the Iskander M surface-to-surface ballistic missile, which has already been launched many times since the beginning of the conflict to produce similar military effects,” Col. Pappalardo wrote.
In reality, the strategic nature of the Kinjal is primarily due to the military burden it carries… whereas it can cover 2000 km in less than ten minutes, making it difficult to counter.