The Х-22 "Burya" (Storm) is a Soviet-era long-range airborne supersonic cruise missile. Armed with a nuclear or highly explosive fragmenting cumulative warhead, it was initially designed to destroy aircraft carriers and other large warships, or even groups of such carriers.

The Х-22 family was developed in the USSR in the 1960s and specifically designed to be launched from Tupolev-22 bombers. Later, both the missiles and the aircraft were modernized as part of the so-called "K-22 special air-to-surface missile complex."

Upgraded in the 1970s, the missile had an impressive speed of 4,000 kilometers per hour, a 1,000-kilogram warhead and a range of 500 kilometers. Few missiles in the world could compete with the Х-22 at that time.

Flight and firing tests of the К-22 complex were completed in 1967. In 1975, as an alternative launching platform, the Tupolev-95К-22 was made to carry three X-22 missiles. In the second half of the 1970s, Х-22 missiles began to arm modernized supersonic Tupolev-22М2 and Tupolev-22М3 bombers that could also carry up to three missiles. However, for striking purposes, they carry one or two missiles while three are attached only for transportation.


It should be noted that an Х-22 missile weighs 5,820 kilograms. A total of approximately 3,000 such missiles were produced in the USSR. After the USSR collapsed, quite a few of them remained in Ukraine. However, soon after independence in 1991, Ukraine gave up its nuclear and strategic aviation arsenal. In 2000, Ukraine transferred 386 X-22 missiles to Russia as an instalment against the gas debt.

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After Russia unleashed a full-blown war against Ukraine in February 2022, these missiles were used to commit numerous war crimes against Ukrainian civilians, including the strikes on the Riviera shopping mall in Kremenchuk, Poltava region, and an apartment building in Serhiivka, Kherson region.

On Jan. 14, 2023, an Х-22 missile struck a nine-story apartment building in Dnipro that housed more than 1,100 people. One of the 18 sections collapsed to rubble and the rest were partly destroyed or otherwise seriously damaged. According to the Prosecutor General's Office, this type of weapon "causes the heaviest civilian casualties due to its extremely low precision. Therefore, the use of this weapon against densely populated localities definitely constitutes a war crime."


Ukrainian Air Force Commander Lt.-Gen. Mykola Oleshchuk, said in a special statement that the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) have no weapons to counter such missiles. 

"We have no weapons capable of shooting down this type of missile. Since the full-scale invasion, Russia has launched more than 210 missiles of this type on Ukrainian territory. None of them has been shot down by our air defenses," said Oleshchuk.

Even though being cruise, not ballistic, this missile is very hard to intercept, first of all because its speed exceeds 4,000 kilometers per hour. The missiles currently used by the Ukrainian air defenses are far slower. The X-22 is one of Russia's most destructive missiles and the Russian forces have lately begun to use them more often, launching them from Tupolev-22M3 strategic bombers.

According to the Ukrainian Air Force commander, these air targets can only be intercepted by MIM-104 Patriot systems which Ukraine expects to receive from its Western partners. The Franco-Italian SAMP-T can also successfully fight them, but single-digit supplies of such systems are not enough to protect all Ukrainian cities. Supplies need to be regular and quick as the issue of missile defense has been vital since the beginning of Russia's invasion. The Ukrainian military have more than once proven to the world that they are able to master any modern weapons system in a very short time. 


The latest modifications of the Х-22 have an inertial targeting system and a broader purpose range. The Х-22НА, for example, does not use a radar to find and lock a target but has an autopilot that steers it toward certain coordinates at a certain altitude depending on surface geometry.

Still, the Х-22НА is rather old and vulnerable to Western antimissile weapons. The longer the launch-target distance, the lower precision and the easier interception. The less time the missile is in the air, the more difficult it is to shoot it down. Just to compare: Kalibr cruise missiles that Russia launches from the Black Sea have a longer range but take longer to reach the target. Their cruise speed is three times slower than that of the Х-22, so it is easier to shoot them down.


According to Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, as of November 2022, Russia still had 120 Х-22 and Х-32 (the modernized version) missiles. 

Ukraine is looking forward to the soonest possible deployment of Western antiaircraft and antimissile systems which can help defend cities and important facilities from Russian supersonic missiles like the Х-22.

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