The Onyx hypersonic missile used by Russia to attack Odesa has high speed and ability to fly along the sea, making it impossible for the Ukrainian military to intercept.

Ukraine on July 20 announced it shot down 18 of the 38 Russian weapons that attacked the country’s southern provinces, including five Kalibr and Iskander-K cruise missiles and 13 suicide drones. However, the Ukrainian military failed to intercept any of the seven P-800 Onyx supersonic anti-ship missiles and four Kh-22 shells used by Moscow in the attack.

A day earlier, the Ukrainian air defenses also lost six Onyx shells and eight Kh-22 missiles in an attack on the southern Odesa province.

“Onyx has a speed of 2.6 times sound, equivalent to 3,200 km / h. The projectiles usually fly at high altitudes during the journey to save fuel. When approaching the target, it will lower altitude. Only 10-15 meters above sea level. This makes it very difficult for air defense systems to detect and destroy Onyx,” Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuri Ignat said at a later press conference.

The Russian Onyx rocket leaves the launch pad during the 2018 exercise. Photo: Russian Defense Ministry

The Russian Onyx rocket leaves the launch pad during the 2018 exercise. Photo: Russian Defense Ministry

Colonel Ignat admitted that the current Ukrainian air defense systems are almost unable to intercept Onyx missiles. “We can only affect them with electronic warfare; that’s why some missiles don’t reach their target,” he said.

The Ukrainian air force official also said that the country needs to strengthen its air defense network in the southern provinces by deploying modern Western missile complexes such as Patriot and SAMP/T.

Russia has repeatedly announced the deployment of the Bastion-P coastal missile system to fire Onyx missiles against high-value Ukrainian targets. The Onyx missile attacks appear to have been launched from the Bastion-P battlefield on the Crimean peninsula.

Location of the Crimean peninsula and the city of Odessa in southern Ukraine.  Graphics: Washington Post

Location of the Crimean peninsula and the city of Odesa in southern Ukraine. Graphics: Washington Post

Each Bastion-P complex consists of several ammunition carriers cum launchers mounted on a wheeled chassis, each carrying two Onyx shells.

The Onyx hypersonic missile has a range of 600-800 km, using a 250 kg high explosive warhead. The original P-800 model was designed to destroy aircraft carriers and large ships, but the Russian military began using this weapon to attack ground targets when attacking Syrian rebels in late 2016.

P-800 is equipped with an inertial navigation system and activates the active radar detector in the final stage to rush to the target. In-ground missions, Onyx can use the GLONASS satellite navigation system to attack fixed targets on the map or use radar to track targets with high contrast compared to the surrounding environment.