EXPLAINER: What’s the state of Russia’s missile arsenal?

Oct 13, 2022, 10:14 AM | Updated: 11:04 am
FILE - Russian's Air Force Mikoyan MiG-31K jets carrying Kh-47M2 Kinzhal nuclear-capable air-launch...

FILE - Russian's Air Force Mikoyan MiG-31K jets carrying Kh-47M2 Kinzhal nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missiles fly over Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, on May 7, 2021. As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (AP Photo, File)

(AP Photo, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage?

Some analysts believe Russia could be running down its stockpiles of long-range precision weapons as the nearly 8-month-old war drags on and sanctions hit its economy, forcing it to resort to less-accurate missiles.

It remains unclear if Russia has enough weapons to continue the strikes against Ukraine with the same intensity that began following the Oct. 8 explosion on the Kerch Bridge to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

A look at what is known — and not known — about Russia’s arsenal:

WHAT DOES RUSSIA SAY?

Russian officials say the military has sufficient stockpiles of long-range missiles and that factories are churning out more, rejecting Western claims its supplies are shrinking.

The Russian military hasn’t said how many missiles it has fired and how many are left, and there is no data to independently assess the state of the Russian arsenal.

President Vladimir Putin recently chaired a meeting to discuss plans for boosting weapons production, but he steered clear of specifics in the introductory remarks that were televised.

WHAT HAS RUSSIA RELIED ON RECENTLY?

When the Russian military unleashed missile attacks across Ukraine starting Monday, it used the entire range of its long-range precision weapons: the Kh-55 and Kh-101 cruise missiles fired by strategic bombers, the sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles and the ground-launched Iskander missiles.

Russian forces have also repeatedly used the S-300 surface-to-air defense missile systems for striking ground targets, which was seen by some observers as a sign of a Russian weapons shortages.

Russia’s repurposing of air defense systems and anti-ship missiles suggests it is running low on more advanced missiles that are intended to hit ground targets, said Ian Williams, a fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Strikes from a Russian S-300 air defense system “don’t have the ‘oomph’ to really hit hardened military targets and they don’t have the accuracy in a land attack role to even strike the building you want to hit,” Williams said. “This really is just firing them into the ether and seeing where they land.”

Their use, however, could be explained by an abundant stock of older subtypes of such missiles, which were superseded by more advanced air defense weapons, as well as the military’s desire to keep more expensive, advanced long-range missiles for priority targets.

While numbers are hard to obtain, how Russia is using its weapons is telling. In a recent strike in Mykolaiv, a surface-to-air missile was used to hit a target on the ground.

Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, called that “a sure sign that missile stocks are running low.”

WHAT IS WASHINGTON SAYING?

While the Biden administration believes there is evidence that Russia has depleted stocks of its most efficient weapons, U.S. officials say there is no sign Moscow is ready or willing to relent in its recent barrages against civilian areas in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.

It was not immediately clear what the U.S. thinks Russia might have left. But two officials said U.S. government analysts had noted with interest that Russia had used cruise missiles, and not less expensive, shorter-range artillery or rockets, in the aftermath of the Kerch Bridge blast.

That choice, the officials said, could indicate that Russia is running low on cheaper, reliable mid-range weapons and is having trouble replenishing its stockpiles due to sanctions and supply chain disruptions.

The relative calm that Kyiv enjoyed prior to the Kerch Bridge incident may have been a sign that Russia was trying to conserve its limited resources, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal assessments of Russia’s military strength.

WHAT’S BEHIND THE CHOICE OF TARGETS?

Firing large numbers of inaccurate missiles could be intended to clutter air defenses while Russia uses its best missiles for high-value targets and key infrastructure.

But Williams suggested that Moscow could also be acting strategically, knowing its barrage will hit civilian targets in hopes of driving up panic in Ukraine and pushing Kyiv to accept a cease-fire favorable to Russia.

“It’s becoming more and more clear that, as they say, the cruelty is the point,” he said.

___

Tara Copp in Washington contributed.

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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              FILE - In this photo taken from a video distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, on Dec. 9, 2020, a Russian Tu-160 strategic bomber fires a cruise missile at test targets, during a military drills, Russia. After Russian unleashed missile attacks across Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has. That is, how long will the Kremlin be able to keep hitting Ukrainian cities? (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - Russian RS-24 Yars ballistic missiles roll during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, Monday, May 9, 2022, marking the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II. After Russian unleashed missile attacks across Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has. That is, how long will the Kremlin be able to keep hitting Ukrainian cities? (AP Photo, File)
            
              FILE - This photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, shows a Russian Iskander-K missile launched during a military exercise at a training ground in Russia. The Russian military on Friday announced massive drills of its strategic nuclear forces. After Russian unleashed missile attacks across Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has. That is, how long will the Kremlin be able to keep hitting Ukrainian cities? (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system launchers roll during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade which will take place at Dvortsovaya (Palace) Square on May 9 to celebrate 77 years after the victory in World War II in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, May 5, 2022. After Russian unleashed missile attacks across Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has. That is, how long will the Kremlin be able to keep hitting Ukrainian cities? (AP Photo, File)
            
              FILE - In this handout photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile is launched from Plesetsk in Russia's northwest. After Russian unleashed missile attacks across Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has. That is, how long will the Kremlin be able to keep hitting Ukrainian cities? (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - Crows fly over an anti-aircraft missile installed on a warship at a Navy base in Kronstadt, outside St. Petersburg, Russia, Monday, April 4, 2022. As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (AP Photo, File)
            
              FILE - In this file photo taken from a video distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, on Dec. 9, 2020, a ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from the Plesetsk facility in northwestern Russia. As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - In this photo taken from video and released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, multiple rocket launchers fire during the Belarusian and Russian joint military drills at Brestsky firing range, Belarus. As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - In this file photo taken on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, a Russian Air Force MiG-31K jet carries a high-precision hypersonic aero-ballistic missile Kh-47M2 Kinzhal during the Victory Day military parade to celebrate 73 years since the end of WWII and the defeat of Nazi Germany, in Moscow, Russia. As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (AP Photo, File)
            
              FILE - Russian RS-24 Yars ballistic missiles roll during a dress rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 7, 2021. As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - Russian surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system Pantsir-S1 roll along Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 7, 2021.As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (AP Photo, File)
            
              FILE - Russian Buk-M3 surface-to-air missile system rolls along Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 7, 2021. As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (AP Photo, File)
            
              FILE - Russian Buk-M2 air defense missile systems drive down Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, May 7, 2019 . As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (AP Photo, Pool, File)
            
              FILE - A Russian military officer walks past the 9M729 land-based cruise missile on display with its launcher, right, in Kubinka outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (AP Photo, File)
            
              FILE - In this photo taken from a footage released on Sept. 22, 2020 by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, a rocket launches from a missile system at the Ashuluk military base in Southern Russia. As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via videoconference in St. Petersburg, Russia, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. Putin recently chaired a meeting to discuss plans for boosting weapons production, but he steered clear of specifics in televised introductory remarks. As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
            
              FILE In this image taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Saturday, May 28, 2022, a new Zircon hypersonic cruise missile is launched by the frigate Admiral Gorshkov of the Russian navy from the Barents Sea. The ministry said the recently developed Zircon hypersonic cruise missile had struck its target about 1,000 kilometers away. As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE Russian the S-300 air defense missile systems drive during the Victory Day military parade marking 71 years after the victory in WWII in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, Monday, May 9, 2016. As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (AP Photo, File)
            
              FILE - Russian's Air Force Mikoyan MiG-31K jets carrying Kh-47M2 Kinzhal nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missiles fly over Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, on May 7, 2021. As Russia bombarded Ukraine this week, military observers were left wondering about how many and what types of missiles Russia still has in its arsenal. In other words, how long can the Kremlin keep up the barrage? (AP Photo, File)

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EXPLAINER: What’s the state of Russia’s missile arsenal?