US officials confirmed to CNN that Russia launched hypersonic missiles against Ukraine last week, the first known use of such missiles in combat.
Here's what we know about the weapon:
- Russia's Ministry of Defense said Saturday it had launched hypersonic missiles against a military ammunitions warehouse in western Ukraine on Friday.
- It said the missiles destroyed the structure in the Ukrainian village of Delyatin. CNN is unable to independently verify this claim.
- The defense ministry claimed it used its hypersonic "Kinzhal" missiles.
"On March 18, the Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse of missiles and aviation ammunition of Ukrainian troops in the village of Delyatin, Ivano-Frankivsk region," the ministry said.
Why were they used?
- US officials confirmed to CNN that Russia launched hypersonic missiles against Ukraine last week and were able to track the launches in real time.
- The launches were likely intended to test the weapons and send a message to the West about Russian capabilities, multiple sources told CNN.
What are hypersonic missiles?
- Traveling at Mach 5 speed or faster (five times the speed of sound), hypersonic missiles fly into space after launch, but then come down and fly on a flight path similar to an airplane.
- That low trajectory, coupled with high-speed and maneuverability make hypersonic missiles difficult for US missile defense satellites and radars to detect.
- The Pentagon has made developing hypersonic weapons one of its top priorities, particularly as China and Russia are working to develop their own versions.