Raids follow believed hypersonic missile leak

Russian Air Force MiG-31, like the one pictured, carried Kinzhal hypersonic missiles in an early July drill. Credit: Dmitriy Pichugin. Russian Air Force MiG-31, like the one pictured, carried Kinzhal hypersonic missiles in an early July drill. Credit: Dmitriy Pichugin.

The believed leak of state missile secrets has prompted raids on Russia’s leading space and mechanical engineering agencies.

Federal Security Service (FSB) officers are questioning staff at Roskosmos and the Central Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering (TsNIIMash) after a tip-off that Western spies had gathered information on hypersonic missiles on Thursday.

According to Russian newspaper Kommersant the searches in Korolev and Moscow honed in on 10 staff members.

Roskosmos press service head Vladimir Ustimenko did not go into further details but confirmed the service was cooperating with the investigation: “The general director of the state corporation, Dmitry Rogozin, instructed our security service to provide maximum support to the investigative bodies,” he said.

Also under close scrutiny is Dmitry Payson. The Research and Analysis Center of the United Missile and Space Corporation director’s office was raided by FSB investigators as part of the search. “It is established that the leak occurred from the employees of TsNIIMash, with whom Dmitry Payson maintained close contact,” a source told Kommersant. “A lot of heads will roll, and for sure this case won’t end just with a few dismissals,” the source said.

Hypersonic missiles fly at more than five times the speed of sound with video of the two missile systems, named Kinzhal and Avangard, released earlier this week.

It should be noted that some weaponry commentators dispute the validity of the hypersonic missiles. Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer told the BBC the missiles would simply not work in battle and called the video propaganda. “Kinzhal is just an Iskander [short-range] missile attached to a plane – that creates problems, as it was not designed for such a range. It doesn’t have a detachable warhead, and the probability of it disintegrating on re-entry into the atmosphere is much higher. Nor can it hit moving targets,” he said.

“It’s propaganda, and President Putin loves it when the Russian military feeds him that stuff. Guys were working on these projects in Soviet times, but they were put on hold in the 1990s,” Felgenhauer said.

The suspected information leak comes the same day as an announcement that an air squadron armed with the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles ran joint drills with long-range bombers in early July.

State news agency Tass reports the drill focused on planning, preparing and jointly employing Kinzhal air-launched missile systems and long-range missile-carrying bombers.

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