TechRussia deploys advanced Ch-101 missile with cluster warheads

Russia deploys advanced Ch‑101 missile with cluster warheads

Kh-101 missile; illustrative photo
Kh-101 missile; illustrative photo
Images source: © Press materials | Ministerstwo Obrony Federacji Rosyjskiej

10:03 AM EDT, June 8, 2024

The Russian Federation Army has used the Ch-101 cruise missile with a cluster warhead for the first time, reports the Ukrainian portal Militarny. This marks the fourth modernization of this advanced weapon since the outbreak of the war with Ukraine.

The Russian Ch-101 missile is one of the newest designs in the Russian Federation's arsenal. Production began in 2010-2011 and continues to this day.

However, the design of the Ch-101 is constantly evolving. The first missile version had a primary optical system based on a single lens. Over the subsequent months of the war, it received further upgrades. In the second version, the Russians implemented an improved optical system with three lenses and an onboard system for defense against jamming.

Shortly after introducing the second version on the front, the Russians surprised the Ukrainians with another modernization. The third generation saw an improvement in the warhead, specifically – using a double warhead system instead of a single one.

Fourth version of the Ch-101 missile

Now, the Russians have started using the fourth version of the Ch-101, the specifications of which were determined thanks to the missile's shooting down and examination of the wreckage. This latest version confirmed the worst fears, as it is equipped with two warheads, one of which is a cluster warhead.

What does this change mean for Ukrainians? Primarily, the presence of a cluster warhead makes the missile even more deadly and capable of covering a larger area. This is due to the operating principle of this type of warhead – generally, "clusters" attack enemy positions by releasing numerous submunitions from the main body of the missile, which then fall over a large area. The problem, however, is that the falling submunitions do not always detonate immediately, posing a threat to civilians.

The Militarny portal explains that the Russians might have decided to install the second (cluster) warhead at the expense of reducing the fuel tanks of this subsonic missile, which accelerates to speeds of 620 mph.

Although the smaller amount of fuel directly translates to a reduced range, this is likely not crucial in the case of the Ch-101. In its basic version, it reaches up to 3,100 miles, generally allowing it to cover the entire area of Ukraine, even when fired from far away from the border. Therefore, the reduction in range is not critical, considering the distances separating Russian air bases from targets in Ukraine.

The Ch-101 is a valuable weapon due to its destructive power, which has been further increased in the latest version, and its high-precision ammunition. Its striking accuracy is estimated to within a few meters, thanks to the Otblesk-U guidance module, which verifies during the flight whether the image "seen" by the missile matches the image recorded before the ammunition was fired at the enemy.

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