Defense industry of russia is planning to deploy mass production of Kh-50 strategic cruise missiles this June, and the first strikes on Ukraine with the new weapon may come as soon as this autumn, stated Brig Gen Oleksii Hromov, a representative of the Ukrainian General Staff during a briefing at the Military Media Center on Thursday.
This is definitely a new threat for Ukraine. Until now, the project of the Kh-50 missile was believed to exist only on paper, even the Kremlin's media rarely remembered about its existence. Simply put, the description of this cruise missile would be a somewhat simplified Kh-101 so it can be made in larger quantities and with less resource input. Still, there is no credible data to build an assessment of how many of them russians would be able to make in a month.
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The first mention of the development called Kh-50 Orion dates back to December 2017. The report said the development proceeds from the Kh-SD medium-range missile project that halted in the 1990s.
Media sources in russia started designating it as the Izdeliye 715 (Product 715), and the first declared specifications were: fuselage length 6 meters, weight 1,600 kg, operational range 1,500 km, cruising speed 700 km/h, max speed 950 km/h. The weight of the warhead was it's not disclosed but russians already said the missile would be able to carry either a "penetrating" BS-715P bunker buster or a BS-715K cluster warhead against targets dispersed over a wide area.
The russian propagandists emphasized the visual similarity of the Kh-50 and Kh-101 saying both missiles use "stealth technologies." Although we already know what kind of "stealth" pertains to the Kh-101, thanks to a downed sample.
Between 2008 and early 2013, approximately, there was no information about Product 715 in open sources. The only piece was a questionable news report about the Product 715 allegedly having passed the tests as a weapon for the Tu-22M3M modernized bomber with success.
However, in February 2023, there was some cruise missile designated Izdeliye 720 (Product 720) without a word about its specs spotted in a photo report from a visit by putin's right hand dmitry medvedev at the Raduga plant. This facility is located in the city of Dubna, 120 km north of Moscow, and is the main producer of missiles in russia. Possibly, this Product 720 will be the actual version of the Kh-50 for mass production.
Another threat is that the Kh-50 in the Product 715 version was designed as a universal missile fitted to use by all available russian strategic bombers: Tu-22M3, Tu-95MS, and Tu-160.
In the case of Tu-22M3, the potential payload is up to 8 Kh-50 missiles, two on the outer pylons and six more in the rotary launcher. For the Tu-95MS, it would be up to 14 Kh-50 missiles, including six missiles in the bomb bay. And Tu-160 can lift up to 12 Kh-50 in two rotary launchers inside the aircraft.
Read more: The russian 'Stealth' Was Fake: Research Shows no Radar-Absorbent Coating on Kh-101 Missile