The Russian military has converted ageing Soviet-made Kh-55 cruise missiles to decoys to test and trick Ukrainian air defenses.
The basic version of the Kh-55, which was produced in the 1980s and has a range of up to 2,500 kilometers, was apparently selected for the use as decoys. For this propose, the active warhead was replaced with an inert one that was designed for use in tests and exercises.
At least one Kh-55 decoy was used during the November 17 Russian missile strike on Ukraine. The decoy managed to trick Ukrainian air defenses. It was reportedly shot down over the capital, Kiev, where several targets were hit by active cruise missiles.
At the time, Ukrainian media boasted about successfully downing a Russian cruise missile with a Norwegian-made NASAMS air-defense system. However, a photo of the wreckage that surfaced online on November 18 showed an inert warhead, confirming that what was shot down was just a Kh-55 decoy.
The Russian military has been using a variety of aerial decoys to trick and test Ukrainian air defenses since the beginning of its special operation in the country.
Aerial decoys are not only used to deplete enemy air defenses, but also to help locate, identify and target them along with other means as a part of what is known as Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) operations.
The long range of the Kh-55 and its ability to fly at low and high altitudes and maneuver makes it very suitable for the use as decoy during large-scale missile strikes on Ukraine. Furthermore, the Russian military inherited a large number of these missiles from the Soviet Union, many of them likely passed their service life. Thus, using these missiles as decoys is resourceful decision.
Russia’s use of advanced decoys will further add to the problems of Ukrainian air defenses, who remain largely ineffective even after all the support provided by the West.