In order to increase Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic missile's range to almost 3,000 km, Russia will mount the weapon on its Tu-22M3 bomber (NATO codename: Backfire), which has an operational range of 1,000 km. The Tu-22M3 can also carry several Kinzhal missiles apart from increasing its range which will give Russia the ability to launch several of them at targets in a very short span of time. Russia has already test-fired Kinzhal hypersonic missile from the MiG-31 (NATO code: Foxhound) fighter jet.
"The Kinzhal is an air-launched missile system and, therefore, it is necessary to look at its range considering the combat radius of its carrier. For the Tu-22M3, aboard which the missile will soon be tested, the hypersonic missile’s target destruction range will equal over 3,000 km (the carrier’s combat radius plus the missile’s range0," Itar-Tass quoted a defence source as saying.
However, the exact range of the Kinzhal missile system is classified although it is rumoured to be more than 1,200 miles (approximately 2,000 kilometres). The missile is a solid-fueled air-to-surface strike missile and is considered to be highly manoeuvrable with the capability of destroying targets at sea too.
With a top speed of Mach 10, it is virtually impossible to be intercepted by any known anti-missile system currently in service or under development. The missile is 8-metre long, 1-metre wide and can carry a conventional or nuclear payload of 480 kg.
Kinzhal is based on and is a modified version of Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile, which too is highly manoeuvrable and can hit targets 500 km away.
But western experts and NATO commanders have doubts about Russia's claims regarding Kinzhal's capabilities. They say the Iskander-M reaches hypersonic speed only during the final phase of flight and since the Kinzhal is modelled on it, this air-to-surface missile will have similar features. Kinzhal is unlikely to be highly manoeuverable during the terminal phase, they say.