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Russia may intend to retrofit Kh-32 missiles with cluster munitions

Recently obtained documents indicate Russian intentions to upgrade Kh-32 cruise missiles with cluster munitions, known for causing high civilian casualties, Ukraine’s National Resistance Center reported.
Russia, Tu-22M3, X-32 missile
Russian Tu-22M3 with an X-32 missile before the first test launch in February 2021. Credit: open sources
Russia may intend to retrofit Kh-32 missiles with cluster munitions

Ukraine’s National Resistance Center (NRC) has reportedly obtained evidence indicating plans by Russian forces to equip Kh-32 cruise missiles with cluster munitions.

According to the NRC website, “concerned individuals” provided documents from the Dubnensky Machine-Building Plant, where the Russian military is said to be manufacturing missiles for future attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure.

The documents reveal that the Russian Ministry of Defense, in October 2023, tasked engineers with the modification of the Kh-32 cruise missiles to include a cluster munitions block.

“To date, there have been no recorded instances of the Russians using these particular missiles. However, we urge Ukrainians to respond promptly to alerts, as the enemy disregards international law and is ready to use more lethal weapons against civilians,” NRC statements read.

Cluster munitions are explosive ordnances that contain several hundred smaller submunitions rather than a single large explosive. These weapons are known for their potential to cause significant civilian casualties and long-term dangers due to unexploded ordnance.

According to Defense Express, the Russian forces used this type of cruise missile in May 2022 for a strike on Kramatorsk. Furthermore, British intelligence believes that it was a Kh-32 missile, not a Kh-22, that was used in the attack on the Amstor shopping center in Kremenchuk on 27 June 2022.

The Russian military claims that the Kh-32 missile, compared to the Kh-22, features a reduced warhead weight, supposedly allowing for an increased flight range of up to 1000 km. Additionally, it is purported that this cruise missile is equipped with a modernized liquid rocket engine. A crucial aspect of the Kh-32 is its use of a radar-homing head for self-guidance.

The only aircraft capable of carrying the Kh-32 guided missile is the upgraded Tu-22M3M bomber. Ukraine currently lacks missile defense systems capable of intercepting aerial targets traveling at speeds over 4 Mach, which includes the Kh-32 missile.

The potential modification of these missiles with cluster munitions, combined with their advanced guidance systems and increased range, represents a significant escalation in the threat level to Ukrainian civilian infrastructure and populations.

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