TechRussia modifies missiles for more significant threat to Ukraine, British report

Russia modifies missiles for more significant threat to Ukraine, British report

Tu-160M, carrier of maneuvering missiles AS-23a
Tu-160M, carrier of maneuvering missiles AS-23a
Images source: © Licensor

9:07 PM EDT, May 8, 2024

Recent reports from British intelligence reveal that Russia has decided to modify its AS-23a cruise missiles, leading to significant operational changes. These modifications are expected to reduce the missile's range by half, yet paradoxically, they will become more menacing for Ukraine. Let's delve into the reasons behind this.

The alteration involves the Russian Air Forces' Long-Range Aviation (DA) equipping the AS-23a (NATO code: Kodiak) cruise missiles with a second warhead. This change aims to enhance the weapon's effectiveness, and it seems likely to achieve this goal.

Enhanced lethality of modified AS-23a cruise missiles

The latest adjustments will likely cut the AS-23 missile's range by half. However, the DA does not require the missile's full range for operations within Ukraine. The introduction of a second warhead aims to broaden shrapnel dispersion upon detonation. This strategy suggests the missile will be more efficient in targeting unarmored positions.

The British highlight that Russia has consistently worked on refining its arsenal since the onset of hostilities against Ukraine, focusing on making weapons more lethal and harder to intercept. For the Russian cruise missiles, a critical challenge has been their vulnerability to Ukrainian air defenses.

Originally capable of reaching up to 2,800 miles, halving the AS-23a cruise missiles' range does not compromise their ability to hit targets within Ukraine. Nevertheless, as the British elucidated, this modification is significant for increasing shrapnel spread upon impact.

Each missile weighs 5,291 pounds and measures nearly 24.6 feet in length. Once deployed, it can achieve speeds close to 621 miles per hour.

Aspects of Russian military innovation

Russia utilizes its strategic bombers to deploy the AS-23a cruise missiles, including the Tu-160, Tu-95, and Tu-95MS. The Tu-95 (NATO code: Bear H), frequently observed over Ukraine, is a cornerstone of the Russian strategic aerial fleet. These aircraft can fly at altitudes of up to 44,291 feet and remain airborne for up to 14 hours without refueling. They boast a range of approximately 6,524 miles and are powered by four Kuznetsov NK-12 turboprop engines, each delivering 20,118 horsepower, enabling the Tu-95 to reach a top speed of 515 miles per hour.

See also