Ukrainian air defense today eliminated an unusual Russian cruise missile.
According to preliminary information, early this morning Ukrainian Armed Forces shot down two cruise missiles. One of them was a Kh-55 model (Russian designation X-55) which was originally developed to carry a nuclear payload. However, this specific missile did not contain any warhead at all – instead, it contained a dummy imitator of a nuclear warhead.
This surprising discovery raises some interesting questions. There is a chance that the Russian Federation is running out of conventional missiles of Kh-555 modification and they are using Kh-55 instead. If a nuclear charge was taken out, does this mean Russian soldiers forgot to put a conventional warhead in its place? Or, if a nuclear warhead was taken out, where is it now?
These questions will remain unanswered for now. However, this situation may be an indicator that the Russian Federation has passed a critical limit and has nearly exhausted the available stockpiles of conventional cruise missiles.
The portal Defense Express explains the key difference between these two missile types. Russia had used Kh-555 missiles to strike Ukraine before – these are “regular” rockets loaded with non-nuclear explosives. Meanwhile, the Kh-55 missile is the original model designed specifically to carry nuclear warheads.
Simply put, Kh-55 and Kh-555 use basically the same rocket, but with a different payload. Their warheads are structurally different and can be identified by experts relatively easily. This also means that it is possible to replace a nuclear warhead with a “conventional” alternative, which seems to be the case in today’s attack against Ukraine.
There is also a chance that this missile with a dummy warhead existed in its current form, and was simply used as a somewhat less-expensive decoy with the aim to misguide the Ukrainian Air Defense systems.