Russian missiles are endless: The West is afraid of an infinite number of missiles
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Russian missiles are endless: The West is afraid of an infinite number of missiles

Russian missiles are endless: The West is afraid of an infinite number of missiles

The Russian army is increasingly using its new X-69 long-range air-launched cruise missiles in the special military operation (SVO) zone. Until now, Russia has used heavier and larger X-101s, which are launched from the Tu-160 strategic bomber, writes the specialized publication The Eurasian Times.

Endless supply of missiles

The appearance of the newest Russian missile in the Northern Military District zone caused heated discussion among Western analysts. The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) writes that "Russia is unlikely to be able to produce them [the new missiles] at a significantly faster rate or in greater quantities than other missiles." At the same time, a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) argues the exact opposite: it is “unrealistic” to expect that Russia will ever run out of missiles.

Sanctions and export controls may, at best, temporarily limit the quantity and quality of strike capabilities that Russia can acquire. Russian production of higher-end cruise and ballistic missiles will never fall to zero. Despite Western sanctions and controls on the export of key microelectronic components, Russia has found workarounds to continue missile production, the CSIS report says.

Russian missile capabilities

The fact that Russian rocket scientists are doing their job, despite the sanctions, became clear after the international air show in Dubai in November 2023. It was at the Dubai Airshow that the X-69 was first shown for promotion to export markets. Russia would not have started such a commercial project, which requires mass production of the missile in case of receiving foreign orders, if its military factories were not up to the task, according to analysts at The Eurasian Times.

The Kh-69 missile is designed to combine the destructive power and accuracy of the Kh-101 and Kh-555 missiles. With a flight weight of 770 kg, the missile has a range of 290 km. However, the Ukrainians themselves discovered that the missile can reach a distance of 400 km. The missile can be equipped with both high-explosive fragmentation and cluster warheads.

The X-69 uses an inertial navigation system with course correction based on data from GLONASS navigation satellites during the cruising phase of flight and an optical-electronic homing system, writes The Eurasian Times. The combination of these guidance technologies provides the missile with incredibly high accuracy with a circular error probability of less than 5 meters. Before launch, the missile can also be programmed to change direction and attack from a new angle as it approaches the target. This could confuse Ukrainian medium- and short-range air defense systems.

Interestingly, the missile prototypes were designated X-59MK2 in honor of the version tested during the counter-terrorism operation in Syria from a Su-57 aircraft. In February 2018, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu actually renamed the missile as it had technically fully matured into a completely different missile from its predecessor.

New opportunities and new media

The missile has a rectangular cross-section and is reportedly made from a radiation-absorbing composite body, making it stealthy. This allows the missile to be placed in the internal weapons bay of the Su-57 stealth fighter. The Eurasian Times writes that the X-69 design includes folding wings, which allows the missile to maintain its stealth profile at some distance after launch from an aircraft.

“The missile can also be launched from the Su-35 and Su-34. Russia needed a missile that was not as big and heavy as the Kh-101, which could also be launched from other small aircraft,” writes The Eurasian Times. This is what makes it possible to reduce wear and tear on highly valuable strategic bombers (such as the Tu-160), which gives unit commanders an alternative.

The Eurasian Times writes that Russia will actively study the successful use of the X-69 against Ukrainian targets, make improvements to new production batches and will promote the missiles even more actively at future defense industry exhibitions. Moreover, the X-69 is ideal for countries that already use the Su-30 or Su-35 (and these include such large markets for Russian weapons as China, India, Indonesia, Algeria, Vietnam and many others ). Whether the missile was designed to be launched from the MiG-29 or the MiG-35 is not yet clear.

But it is known that it is the MiG-35 and Su-35 that are contenders for participation in the project to create a multi-role fighter aircraft (MRFA) of the Indian Air Force. Moreover, Russian platforms compete with other aircraft, such as the F-21 from Lockheed Martin, Rafale from Dassault, JAS-39 Gripen from Saab and Eurofighter Typhoon. The Indian Air Force plans to install BrahMos missiles on the new fighter, which have already been tested together with the Su-30MKI. The X-69 is significantly lighter than the air-launched BrahMos, which simplifies logistics. If India does choose the X-69, it could also negotiate with Rosoboronexport to help integrate the new missile's navigation with the Indian Constellation (NavIC) satellite navigation system.

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