Russia fired missile carrying "dummy" nuclear warhead

Russia fired missile carrying
Does Russian missile with "dummy" nuclear warhead indicate Moscow is running low on stocks of such ordnance against Ukraine? / bne IntelliNews
By Dominic Culverwell in London November 20, 2022

Russia fired a missile carrying a “dummy” nuclear warhead, Ukrinform reported on November 18.

The missile was shot down over Kyiv on November 17. Upon inspection, it was revealed that the KH-55 missile was initially intended to carry a nuclear warhead, but this had been removed and replaced with an imitation, Defence Express reported.

“Simply put: for this strike, the Orks (Russians) took at least one KH-55 from their "nuclear arsenal", "unscrewed" the nuclear warhead from this missile and replaced it with an empty "block" and fired [it] at Ukraine,” the Ukrainian publication wrote.

The discovery has raised a few questions. Typically, Russia uses KH-555s, a modified non-nuclear version of the KH-55 with standard explosives. However, the decision to modify a nuclear warhead could be a sign that Russia’s missile stockpiles are running low.

“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?” wrote.

Moreover, the dummy missile could have been used to misguide Ukraine’s air defence systems. However, Moscow would previously use disposable objects to overwhelm air defence systems, such as drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles, rather than missiles in short supply.

Currently there is no definitive answer. Nevertheless, there are other indicators that Russia is running low on missiles. Another missile shot down during the massive attack on November 15 was reportedly a KH-101 missile manufactured in the third quarter of this year. According to Defence Express, older missiles are fired first, then newer ones are launched.

“The Russians were forced to use the KH-55 for the attack, because the stocks of the newer winged KH-101, specifically for the conventional warhead (the option for delivering nuclear weapons has the designation KH-102), are running out,” the publication wrote.

Russia launched over 90 missiles on November 15, destroying 30 energy facilities and causing millions to lose power. It was the largest attack on Ukrainian infrastructure since the start of the full-scale invasion.

Days later on November 17, Russia launched more missiles at gas facilities and enterprises in eastern Ukraine, Dnipro and Odesa. At the same time, four missiles and five Shahed drones were shot down over Kyiv.

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