Up to 60 percent of Russian missiles in Ukraine are failing, U.S. assesses

·2 min read
Unexploded Russian missile in Ukraine
Unexploded Russian missile in Ukraine Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

Russia has been trying to make up for its setbacks on the ground in Ukraine with missiles and bombs, and the Russians have launched at least 1,200 missiles "of all stripes and sizes" in the first 28 days of their invasion, a senior U.S. defense official said Wednesday. But not all of those missiles are hitting their marks. Three U.S. officials told Reuters on Thursday that Russia is suffering failure rates as high as 60 percent for some of the precision-guided missiles it's using to attack Ukraine.

"Such a high failure rate can include anything from launch failures to a missile failing to explode on impact," Reuters reports. "The disclosure could help explain why Russia has failed to achieve what most could consider basic objectives since its invasion a month ago, such as neutralizing Ukraine's air force, despite the apparent strength of its military against Ukraine's much smaller armed forces."

The failure rate for Russia's missiles varies from day to day and depends on the type of missile being launched, the U.S. officials told Reuters, citing U.S. intelligence. Air-launched cruise missiles, for example, are failing at a rate of 20 percent to 60 percent. Two experts told Reuters that any failure rate above 20 percent would be considered high.

But Russia still has "the vast majority of their assembled available inventory of surface-to-air missiles and cruise missiles available to them," the senior Pentagon official said Wednesday. "I mean, they've expended a lot, but they put a lot into the effort. And they still have an awful lot left."

And even 40 percent of 1,200 missiles would do a lot of damage. On Friday, Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed that Russia destroyed "the largest of the remaining fuel depot of the Ukrainian armed forces," outside Kyiv with "sea-launched Kalibr precision cruise missiles."

Russia's failure to shock and awe Ukraine isn't impressing the Pentagon. "I think with a high degree of certainty that Russia will emerge from Ukraine weaker than it went into the conflict," Pentagon policy chief Colin Kahl said Thursday. "Militarily weaker, economically weaker, politically and geopolitically weaker, and more isolated." Kahl added that an upcoming Pentagon defense strategy document would asses Russia as an "acute threat" that, unlike China, poses no long-term systems challenge to the U.S.

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