But US officials also “cannot independently confirm Russia’s claim,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s not entirely clear, so what we would assess is that it’s definitely possible.”
Russia’s claim about the hypersonic missile has drawn criticism from weapons monitors in recent days, and the senior DoD official described the weapon’s alleged deployment as confusing given the circumstances of its use.
Hypersonic missiles fly faster than five times the speed of sound and are maneuverable, making them difficult to shoot down. All ballistic missiles can reach hypersonic speeds, but the Russians claim the Kinzhal can also be guided in flight and change course to avoid air defenses. It is not clear whether this missile used that capability or whether it operated as a traditional ballistic missile.
“It’s a bit of a headache, to be honest, because it’s not clear exactly why — if it’s true — why would you need a hypersonic missile fired not that far away to hit a building?” said the official.
Russia’s use of a hypersonic missile could serve as a sign that its forces are “nearly running out of precision-guided munitions and feel they need to tap into that resource,” the official said.
It is also possible that Russia is “trying to send a message” to Ukraine and the West by using the weapon and “trying to gain some leverage at the negotiating table,” the official added. “But…from a military perspective, if it was a hypersonic missile, there’s not much practicality about it.”
More than three weeks after the invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces are still “looking for an opportunity to break out” and gain “some momentum” in the country, the official said. However, it is “very clear that the Ukrainians are showing no signs of stopping their resistance.”
As a result, Russian forces are engaged in an “almost desperate attempt” to make a profit and “possibly gain some influence” when it comes time to negotiate an end to the fighting, the official said.
Russian combat power is operating at “just under 90 percent,” and Russian forces have fired a total of 1,100 missiles since the invasion began, the official said.