According to The New York Times, multiple Ukrainian officials and one American official said Ukraine's air defense successfully intercepted six hypersonic Kinzhal missiles that were launched by Russia early this week. The interception serves as further proof of Ukraine's capability to neutralize one of the highly advanced conventional weapons in Moscow's arsenal. It also demonstrates Ukraine's ability to effectively defend against sophisticated missile threats, albeit, of course, with American assistance and weaponry.
During one of the most substantial aerial attacks since early March, Russia deployed nine Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea, along with three short-range ballistic missiles from land, and multiple drones, as reported by the commander in chief of Ukraine's Armed Forces. However, Ukraine's military stated that all of the drones and missiles were successfully intercepted and shot down, the Times reported.
According to Russia's Defense Ministry, at least one Kinzhal missile was employed in Tuesday's attack, with officials claiming that a Kinzhal had successfully targeted a Patriot air defense system.
Two U.S. officials confirmed that a Patriot system had indeed suffered damage in the attack, but they emphasized that the system remained operational and capable of countering all types of threats despite the damage inflicted.
The Times noted further:
It was not immediately clear how many Russian missiles were aimed at the capital, Kyiv, which local officials said was targeted overnight with an “exceptional” blitz of missiles and drones. The skies over Kyiv lit up around 3 a.m. with thunderous explosions as air defenses collided with the incoming missiles, raining debris across the city.
A statement from Ukraine’s Air Force about the Kinzhals came quickly. It did not specify whether an American-made Patriot air defense system was involved in shooting down the Russian missiles, but Ukraine until recently lacked the capability to intercept Kinzhals and had pressed allies for Patriot systems that it hoped would provide protection.
In an address via video link later Tuesday to the Council of Europe, the main human rights organization on the continent, President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “At 3 o’clock in the morning, our people woke up to explosions. Eighteen Russian missiles of different types were in our skies, in particular, ballistic ones, which the terrorist state has boasted about.”'
During his regular nightly address, Zelensky sounded a more defiant tone: “We used to hear that Patriots were supposedly unrealistic. And now here they are, Patriots.”
There has been uncertainty regarding the ability of even the Patriot system to intercept hypersonic missiles, as these missiles were believed to be too fast for traditional air-defense systems to detect and respond to in time. However, on May 4, Ukraine's air force announced a significant development that took 24 hours.
"Three senior U.S. officials confirmed that shoot-down and said they had received information about the strike from the Ukrainian military through classified channels. One official added that U.S. military analysts were able to verify the claim using technical means. Nevertheless, independent analysts were reluctant at the time to confirm the interception until more information was available," the Times reported, adding: "Hypersonic missiles are long-range munitions capable of reaching speeds of at least Mach 5 — five times the speed of sound, or more than a mile a second."
Some U.S. defense officials have been skeptical about Russia's claims that its missile is hypersonic, suggesting instead it is an improved conventional weapon, or “new wine in old bottles.”
The early Tuesday aerial assault over Kyiv marked the eighth significant attack on the city within the span of a month. Ukrainian officials have indicated that these repeated attacks were deliberately intended to test and wear down their air defense capabilities.
Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv's military administration, described the barrage on Tuesday as extraordinary due to the sheer number of assaults launched at the capital within a short period of time.