Russian defense ministry officials said the country used a new hypersonic missile in an attack on Ukraine on Friday, marking its first use in combat.
The hypersonic missile, called Kinzhal (“Dagger” in Russian), was used in an attack on a large underground warehouse in southwestern Ukraine, according to Bloomberg News, which cited that Russia’s claim had yet to be independently verified.
Hypersonic missiles are weapons designed to fly at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound, or Mach 5, which is about 3,800 mph (6,100 kph). Their speed and ability to maneuver themselves to a target makes them extremely difficult to track and shoot down. The United States, Russia, China and North Korea have been developing hypersonic weapons, some of which are launched into space, in pursuit of long-range flight and maneuverability.
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Russia’s Kinzhal hypersonic missile, is an air-to-ground weapon carried on Russian MiG-31K fighter jets and has a reported range of 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers), according to a Tass report in 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the country is also developing a hypersonic incontinental ballistic missile called Avangard that will travel at Mach 20 to reach targets around the world.
North Korea claims to have tested its hypersonic missile this year. Last August, China reportedly launched a hypersonic missile test on a Long March rocket, with the U.S. military testing hypersonic technology in a series of small rocket launches in October.
Aerospace companies are also pursuing hypersonic technology to develop faster jets for air travel.
Stratolaunch is building a hypersonic research plane called Talon that is designed to fly up at speeds of Mach 6 and be launched from Roc, the world’s largest plane that Stratolaunch built for mid-air rocket launches. Talon will serve as a testbed for to develop new hypersonic technologies for use in the government and commercial sectors.
Another company, Hermeus Corp., is developing a hypersonic plane called Quarterhorse to travel at Mach 5 or above for air travel. It unveiled its first full-scale prototype in November.