Russia’s recently announced Kh-32 upgrades will provide Russia with expanded hypersonic strike capability, with the dual-use missile to be deployed as an anti-ship weapon to complement the hypersonic Kinzhal’s primary use against land-targets. With a range of up to 1000km and a high explosive warhead which can pierce the hull of most warships, and the potential to overcome ship-based air-defense systems.
The revelation that this solution is Kh-32 based indicates Russian hypersonic weapons use will be very specifically targeted in roles and deployments, in addition to pointing to the stop-gap nature of this particular solution, says William Davies, Associate Analyst at GlobalData. This particular Kh-32 upgrade being launched from modified SU-30s means this is a viable hypersonic air-launched munition for other Su-30 operators such as China, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Algeria, with the platform being significantly more widely proliferated than the MiG-31 that carries the Kinzhal.
In particular, the upgrade will provide frontal aviation units deploying SU-30s with the capability to strike naval vessels including aircraft carriers from outside their defensive umbrellas. The development of the Kh-32 as a widely deployed anti-ship missile would strengthen Russia’s area-denial capabilities, complementing the use of other hypersonic solutions. The Kh-32 is initially being deployed on Su-30s but it could potentially be deployed on other modified platforms and could provide a number of other frontline aircraft with hypersonic strike capabilities, such as the Su-34 and Su-24.
Russia has previously mounted the Kinzhal on the MiG-31K, but despite it having a larger range, it was designed for use on land targets making the upgraded Kh-32 a significant boost to Russia’s offensive hypersonic capabilities. The Kh-32 can be employed with nuclear or non-nuclear warheads, but given its application as an anti-ship missile, its application is likely to be non-nuclear in nature despite the DoD categorizing it as a nuclear weapons delivery system.