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Russia Is Taking the Nuclear Out of Nuclear Missiles to Fight Ukraine

British Intelligence Says Russia Is Using Hollowed-Out Nuclear Missiles In Ukraine: An intelligence update from the British Ministry of Defence revealed on Saturday how Russian forces appear to be using hollowed-out nuclear missiles in Ukraine. The update describes how Russia is “likely removing the nuclear warheads from ageing nuclear cruise missiles and firing the unarmed munitions at Ukraine.”

Russia’s Missile Desperation in Ukraine

British intelligence officials obtained the information by analyzing open-source imagery, which reportedly shows a “shot-down AS-15 KENT air launched cruise missile” that was designed in the 1980s specifically to be used as a nuclear delivery system.

According to the update, Russian forces likely substituted the warhead for ballast, a heavy material designed to maintain the stability of the rocket.

Last week, Ukrainian sources reported that two AS-15 KENT missiles were fired at Ukrainian positions. Sources on the ground claim that the missile was fitted with an empty, heavy block – the ballast – meaning the warhead had been removed entirely.

At the time of the reports, some suggested that Russia had fired the missile as a warning – but there could be other reasons why Russia has resorted to launching nuclear-capable missiles in Ukraine.

What is the AS-15 KENT?

The AS-15 KENT is the NATO name for the Kh-55, a Soviet-Russian air-launched cruise missile that was designed in the 1970s.

The missile is designed to be launched from bomber aircraft.

What It Means

With the nuclear warhead removed, the cruise missiles can still be fired at Ukrainian targets, but they will not cause the same kind of damage.

An inert system, British intelligence suggests, can still produce damage courtesy of the kinetic energy and unspent fuel from the missile.

However, using hollowed-out missiles is not likely to produce reliable results, nor will it cause the kind of damage that even traditional, non-nuclear missiles would cause.

The decision to use the missiles could, therefore, be an effort to create decoys that divert attention from Ukraine’s air defense systems.

It could suggest that Russia is preparing yet more missile bombardment campaigns in Ukraine, using the hollowed-out nuclear weapons as a distraction, forcing Ukraine to spend more surface-to-air missiles and making it harder to block all incoming projectiles.

Even if the decision was strategic, however, British officials believe that the move is symptomatic of Russia’s dramatically dwindling supply of advanced missiles.

“Whatever Russia’s intent, this improvisation highlights the level of depletion in Russia’s stock of long-range missiles,” the update adds.

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor.



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