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UK intel: Russian missile debris found in Saratov Oblast suggests production issues

Missile debris found in Russia’s Saratov Oblast on 31 March was identified as a malfunctioning Russian Kh-101 cruise missile, highlighting production and reliability issues, per UK intelligence.
Missile debris found in Russia’s Saratov Oblast on 31 March 2024. Photo: Telegram/Zhest Saratov
UK intel: Russian missile debris found in Saratov Oblast suggests production issues

The UK Defense Ministry says the malfunction of a Russian Kh-101 air-launched cruise missile resulted in missile debris being found in a field in Saratov Oblast, Russia, suggesting issues with the production and reliability of this precision-guided munition that has been extensively used against Ukraine.

Kh-101 (NATO reporting name: AS-23a KODIAK) is a Russian-made advanced long-range subsonic cruise missile, launched from a strategic bomber. These missiles are the most commonly used in Russia’s missile attacks against Ukraine.

The British Defense Ministry wrote in its intelligence update on Ukraine put out on 09 April 2024:

  • Open source photographs from 31 March 2024 showed missile debris that had impacted in a field in Saratov Oblast, southern Russia. Initially thought to be pieces of a possible Ukrainian uncrewed aerial vehicle, closer inspection revealed the debris to highly likely be fragments of a Russian AS-23a KODIAK air-launched cruise missile.
  • It is highly likely the debris was the result of a malfunction of a KODIAK missile that was launched towards Ukraine earlier that morning. Saratov Oblast is a known launch box for Russian Long-Range Aviation bomber strikes and is the home of Engels Airfield, where several of the bombers are based.
  • The AS-23a KODIAK is Russia’s premier precision guided munition, with a range of approximately 4,000km. It has been used extensively against Ukraine, most recently targeting energy infrastructure across the country. The highly likely malfunction of such a prestigious missile indicates issues in its production, likely impacted by sanctions and being rushed to meet the demands of the conflict.

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