Understanding the KH-22 Missile

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January 3, 2024

Understanding the KH-22 Missile


  • The KH-22 missile stands as a significant relic from the Soviet era, characterized by its long-range capabilities and formidable destructive potential. Recently, during a conflict involving the Ukraine Air Force, the inefficacy in neutralizing these supersonic cruise missiles was brought to light.

Key Points:

  • Origin and Purpose: Originating in the 1960s within the USSR, the KH-22 missile was crafted as a long-range airborne supersonic cruise missile. Its primary objective was the annihilation of large warships, including aircraft carriers, or entire groups of such vessels.
  • Design and Specifications: Specifically tailored to be launched from Tupolev-22 bombers, this missile was armed with a nuclear or highly explosive fragmenting cumulative warhead. Upgraded in the 1970s, it boasted staggering attributes: a remarkable speed of 4,000 kilometers per hour, a 1,000-kilogram warhead, and a striking range of 500 kilometers. Weighing 5,820 kilograms, approximately 3,000 of these missiles were produced during the Soviet era.
  • Historical Context: Following the dissolution of the USSR, a portion of these missiles found their way into Ukraine’s possession. However, in 1991, Ukraine relinquished its nuclear and strategic aviation arsenal. As a settlement for a gas debt in 2000, Ukraine transferred 386 KH-22 missiles back to Russia.
  • Evolution and Successor: The successor to the KH-22, the KH-32, emerged as an advanced iteration, equipped to be carried by the new Russian Tu-22M3M bombers. Notably, the KH-32 features enhancements such as a conventional warhead, an upgraded rocket motor, and an advanced radar imaging terminal seeker. Although boasting a longer range, it carries a smaller warhead compared to its predecessor.


  • The KH-22 missile, a product of the Soviet era, remains a symbol of potent destructive capabilities. Its evolution into the KH-32 underlines the continuous advancements in long-range weaponry, marking a shift towards more sophisticated and precise armaments in modern conflicts.

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Understanding the KH-22 Missile | Vaid ICS Institute