Hypersonic missile capable Russian warplanes in Belarus, Ukraine warns

The missile has an effective range of thousands of kilometers and can hit its target within several minutes after launch.

 A Russian Air Force MiG-31 fighter jet releases Kinzhal hypersonic missile during a drill in an unknown location in Russia, in this still image taken from video released February 19, 2022. (photo credit: RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
A Russian Air Force MiG-31 fighter jet releases Kinzhal hypersonic missile during a drill in an unknown location in Russia, in this still image taken from video released February 19, 2022.
(photo credit: RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Three Russian warplanes capable of launching hypersonic missiles were spotted over the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Sunday, the Ukrainian National Resistance Center warned on Tuesday.

"Three MiG-31 supersonic fighters were spotted over Minsk, which can carry Kh-47M2 'Kinzhal' missiles and are capable of launching them at a distance of 2,000 km," said the Ukrainian body. "Russia relocated its planes to the airfield in Machulyshchy. These are not standard MIG-31, but a special modification named MIG-31K. Unlike standard MIGs, this model has an increased fuel supply and special communication equipment."

The Ukrainian National Resistance Center also explained that it was concerned the jets were in Belarus along with hypersonic weapons because on Sunday, "three Il-76 military transport aircraft of the Russian Air Force flew to the airfield 'Machulyshchi' from the Russian Federation."

Fighter jets equipped with hypersonic missiles moved to Russian enclave

In August, three fighter jets equipped with hypersonic missiles were moved to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad as part of "strategic deterrence measures," Russian state media reported at the time. 

A missile is launched during what state media report is a hypersonic missile test at an undisclosed location in North Korea, January 11, 2022, in this photo released January 12, 2022 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). (credit: KCNA VIA REUTERS/FILE PHOTO)A missile is launched during what state media report is a hypersonic missile test at an undisclosed location in North Korea, January 11, 2022, in this photo released January 12, 2022 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). (credit: KCNA VIA REUTERS/FILE PHOTO)

The hypersonic aeroballistic Kh-47M2 "Kinzhal" or "Dagger" is Russia's first hypersonic weapon platform.  The missile has an effective range of thousands of kilometers and can hit its target within several minutes after launch. Hypersonic weapons are highly maneuverable, allowing them to evade modern missile defense emplacements. The weapon is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The Kinzhal was reportedly used in combat for the first time in March when it was used to strike a military fuel depot near the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv.

In early August,  Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that a new naval hypersonic missile, the Zircon, would be put into service in the coming months. One military source told TASS that this could be as soon as September. The naval version of the Zircon was prioritized over the air-launched version due to backlogs in production. Eventually, the Kinzhal is set to be replaced with the Zircon variant.