Even without a nuclear warhead, Kinzhal missile still has enormous advantage thanks to its high speed, making modern defense systems difficult to intercept.
The Kinzhal missile system consists of two parts: The carrier and the missile. The carrier is the MiG-31, the world’s only heavy supersonic interceptor today. Its maximum takeoff weight can reach 46 tons, a maximum range of 3,300km and a combat radius of 720km.
As an advanced interceptor, the biggest advantage of this aircraft is that the service ceiling can be up to 24,000 meters (among the highest in the world) and can reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.83. MiG-31’s predecessor, the famous MiG-25, could still reach speeds above Mach 2 with 2 tons of weapons.
The missile first stage is probably shared with 9K720 Iskander and the guidance section is specifically designed for this missile. The Iskander’s range is only 400km, even if the warhead’s mass is reduced, it will hardly reach 480km. The Kinzhal missile, thanks to the MiG-31 providing altitude and initial speed, the missile’s range reaches 2,000km.
Kinzhal can reach top speeds above Mach 10. It is designed to target US and NATO warships among other important targets. It is allegedly designed to overcome any known or planned US air or missile defense systems including MIM-104 Patriot, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and Aegis Combat System. Even without a nuclear warhead, the Kinzhal missile’s conventional warhead, with a mass of 1 ton, makes it an extremely formidable strike weapon.
Kinzhal is capable of attacking fixed and movable targets such as aircraft carriers. The missile accelerates to hypersonic speed within seconds of launch and performs maneuvers at all stages of the flight trajectory to evade enemy missile defenses.
The Russian military is believed to have deployed MiG-31 interceptors and Kinzhal missiles in Kaliningrad. From here it could strike anywhere in Europe. This is exactly what Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu calls “non-nuclear deterrence”.