Ten Russian MiG-31 fighter jets adapted to carry the new Kinzhal hypersonic missile “have gone on test combat duty,” Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said.
“It is a cutting-edge weapon, namely a hypersonic long-range missile capable of overcoming air and missile defenses. It is invincible, having serious combat might and potential. The MiG-31 is its carrier as the jet is the most fitted for accelerating this missile to required speeds,” Borisov said in an interview published on the Zvezda TV channel website on Saturday, Tass reported.
“In support that it is not something exotic, [I’ll say] today 10 jets have gone on test combat duty and are ready for use depending on the situation,” Borisov said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on March 1 that the Kinzhal had entered trial service with the Russian Air Force. The 2,000-km range air-launched hypersonic missile is capable of delivering a nuclear or conventional warhead.
Later in March, the Russian Ministry of Defence published video it said was the Kinzhal being test-fired.
Things that travel faster than Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound or 6,125 km/h or 3,806 mph – are considered hypersonic, and Putin said the Kinzhal is capable of flying at Mach 10 and of manoeuvering at these speeds, making it very difficult to ballistic missile defense systems.
According to Tass, Kinzhal hypersonic missile systems have been on experimental and combat duty since December 1, 2017. Initially, the MiG-31BM was designated as the aircraft to carry Kinzhal, but Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu later said that the MiG-31K had been chosen.
Russia is not the only nation developing hypersonic missile technology. On April 18, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $928 million contract to develop a hypersonic conventional strike weapon for the U.S. Air Force that will be integrated on both fighter and bomber aircraft platforms, and China reportedly has a similar system.