“Russia says hypersonic missile scientists face ‘very serious’ treason accusations”

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Three Russian academics who have worked on hypersonic missile technology face “very serious accusations”, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, in a treason investigation that has spread alarm through Russia’s scientific community.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he was aware of an open letter from Siberian scientists in defence of the men, but that the case was a matter for the security services. In the letter, published on Monday, colleagues of Anatoly Maslov, Alexander Shiplyuk and Valery Zvegintsev protested their innocence and said the prosecutions threatened to inflict grave damage on Russian science. “We know each of them as a patriot and a decent person who is not capable of doing what the investigating authorities suspect them of,” they said.

President Vladimir Putin has boasted that Russia is the global leader in hypersonic missiles, capable of travelling at speeds of up to Mach 10 (12,250 kph) to evade enemy air defences. On Tuesday, Ukraine said it had managed to destroy six of the weapons in a single night, although Russia disputed this.

Notices of academic conferences stretching back over many years show the arrested scientists were frequent participants. In 2012, Maslov and Shiplyuk presented the results of an experiment on hypersonic missile design at a seminar in Tours, France. In 2016, all three were among the authors of a book chapter entitled “Hypersonic Short-Duration Facilities for Aerodynamic Research at ITAM, Russia”.

The open letter from their colleagues at ITAM – the Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics in Novosibirsk – said the materials the scientists had presented in international forums had been checked repeatedly to ensure they did not include restricted information. The cases showed that “any article or report can lead to accusations of high treason”, the open letter said. “In this situation, we are not only afraid for the fate of our colleagues. We just do not understand how to continue to do our job.”

The letter also cited the case of Dmitry Kolker, another Siberian scientist who was arrested last year on suspicion of state treason and flown to Moscow despite suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer. Kolker, a laser specialist, died two days later. It said such cases were having a chilling effect on young Russian scientists.


Comment: This looks like Russia is actively looking for scapegoats to explain the less than stellar performance of their Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, especially considering the offending paper was written in 2016.  That’s quite a stretch.

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38 Responses to “Russia says hypersonic missile scientists face ‘very serious’ treason accusations”

  1. Christian Chuba says:

    My interpretation is that Russia is trying to protect their crown jewels. Any Russian scientist who manages to defect to the west can write their own ticket in terms of compensation. Our pocketbook remains our most effective weapon.

    As for Ukrainian reports that they intercepted a total of 7 hypersonic missiles, how, has the Ghost of Kiev returned?

    The KH flies at twice the speed of the PAC-x interceptor missiles and it’s plasma shield interferes with RADAR detection. All of the following is needed for the Patriot to have a chance … it gets the KH flight path and altitude, it launches a fragmentation warhead with a proximity fuse, the missile would then have to remain in the KH flight path while it is cruising in a straight line. And I don’t even know if this would work as I doubt the Patriot was tested for this.

    A new type of AD system is needed for hypersonics. I’m thinking a fragmentation warhead with an infra-red proximity fuse rather than traditional RADAR.

    • TTG says:

      Christian Chuba,

      Any AD system designed to take out ballistic or hypersonic cruise missiles has a chance to take down a Kinzhal, especially if it’s being aimed at the missile launcher. Your problem is believing in Moscow’s hype about the Kinzhal. It’s not undetectable nor it is unstoppable.

      • Christian Chuba says:

        “especially if it’s being aimed at the missile launcher.”
        By then it is too late because that is when the Kinzal starts evasive maneuvers. If the flight path is straight before that point then you have a chance.

        “Any AD system designed to take out ballistic or hypersonic cruise missiles has a chance to take down a Kinzhal”
        The Patriot can hit ballistic missiles.
        The Patriot can hit drones and cruise missiles (I think) but it has never been tested on Hypersonic missiles, correct?

        The hypersonic combines speed w/maneuver. Even if maneuvering slows it down it will still be much faster than drones or cruise missiles that maneuver.

        • TTG says:

          Christian Chuba,

          The Patriot was designed to hit ballistic missiles and now, with decades of improvements has an excellent success rate against them. The PAC-3 missile also combines hypersonic speed with maneuverability. The Patriot ground radar not only tracks incoming targets, but it paints them as well making it easier for the PAC-3 missile to track and maneuver to its target. The German V-2 was hypersonic. It’s not a new concept.

          • TonyL says:


            “The PAC-3 missile also combines hypersonic speed with maneuverability”

            That’s irrelevant.

            “The Patriot ground radar not only tracks incoming targets, but it paints them as well making it easier for the PAC-3 missile to track and maneuver to its target”

            It does not mean it can track a hypersonic missile and come up with a good intercept solution. The hypersonic missile evasive maneuver would f**up any *committed* intercept solution. Rinse and repeat… in a window of a few seconds, and then it’s too late.

            And the same scenario would happen to a Russian AD system, if US had hypersonic missiles.

    • James says:

      Christian Chuba,

      Any Russian scientist who manages to defect to the west? You do realize that it is 2023 and the Berlin wall has been down for over 30 years, right?

      It seems that the accusations/arrests happened last year and they are just now hitting the news. It’s almost as if western intelligence agencies have been keeping this in their hip pocket.

      My understanding is the PAC-3 is hit to kill and uses no proximity fuses. If they are bringing down anything with hit to kill I am damn impressed (I presume it must or it would not have gone into production).

      • TTG says:


        I was recruiting Russian scientists years after the fall of the Berlin wall and the USSR. It never stopped. I think we’re learning about these arrests now only because of the open letter written by their compatriots.

      • Christian Chuba says:

        ” the Berlin wall has been down for over 30 years, right?”

        And I bet Russia let’s phys ed teachers leave much more easily than engineers working on their most advanced weaponry. TTG mentioned that we have been poaching scientists for a long time. I’m certain that is true and I’m also certain that Russia is very sensitive about it now.

        • James says:

          The US doesn’t like it when China recruits our scientists and engineers but we don’t try to stop them – and when they move to China we call them emigres not defectors. Russia doesn’t do any more to prevent their citizens from emigrating than the US does. Among other things, Putin doesn’t want disaffected citizens sitting around complaining.

    • leith says:

      Christian C. –

      Speed does not matter, it’s not a race or a tail chase. It’s a head-on collision.

      Plasma stealth is dated from the 1950s and 1960s. It can reduce radar cross section. But it does not completely shield the missile from radar detection.

      Patriot radar MPQ-65 has a sophisticated search, detection & tracking capability. It was designed to detect incoming hypersonic ballistic missiles. It would have no problem with detecting a Kinzhal flight path and altitude.

      Patriot missiles don’t necessarily need to fly in a straight line. They can maneuver while in flight.

      If Ukrainian air defense used the PAC-3 missile, it uses hit-to-kill (a kinetic kill). In other words it destroys the incoming ballistic missile by ramming.

    • scott s. says:

      PAC-2 GEM-T is proximity/frag. PAC-3 CRI or MSE is skin-to-skin. I have no idea how an IR seeker could improve the missile? Obviously a high speed crossing target is going to be difficult in any situation.

      • Christian Chuba says:

        ‘no idea how an IR seeker could improve the missile’

        As a counter to Kinzal’s ‘plasma stealth’. Since Hypers produce a big heat signature, and I was thinking that an IR would be a more reliable means to detect proximity. Proximity fuses do not have to be RADAR based. We have been messing w/that tech since WW2, so we know it very well.

        ‘a high speed crossing target is going to be difficult in any situation’
        Yeah, that is why I was thinking of a missile that just gets in front of a Kinzal, waits for it to pass and then boom when its proximity detection kicks in. I would think that having a missile fly in the same direction and lets the Kinzal pass it would be more effective than trying a head on attack. A crossing shot is a nightmare.

        • leith says:

          CC –

          Your IR proximity fuse might work. But the head on punch-in-the-nose seems to be doing the job fine. So why why change it? “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” as my old First Sergeant used to say.

          • Christian Chuba says:

            Leith, you are correct. If a Patriot battery can track a Kinzal while it is cruising on a fixed trajectory, you might as well smash it head on. A proximity based missile has to get almost as close.

            To TTG’s point, maneuverability combined w/speed is a big deal. The Patriot has a proven history of hitting ballistic missiles that are on a fixed course.
            If a Patriot missile starts a perfect interception course and the Kinzal changes direction, the distance between the two missiles will start to increase. If the PAC-n was tracking something slow, likc a cruise missile, it can correct its course and catch up. But the Kinzal is 2X the speed of the PAC-n, the PAC-n will not be able to make up the lost ground.

            I do not know if the Kinzal maneuvers throughout its flight or only at the tail end.

          • leith says:

            CC –

            Are you assuming that the Kinzhal is more maneuverable than the Patriot? That might be so for older Patriot missiles but not for the PAC-3, whose 180 pulse jet steering motors give it a kick-start on maneuvering. It’s an order of magnitude better than Kinzhal steering ability.

            The Kinzhal cannot turn on a dime. It has nowhere near the maneuverability of hypersonic cruise missiles or hypersonic glide vehicles. It only makes minor course corrections, supposedly random to spoof air defense radars. There are doubts about the randomness. The course changes might be predictable by Patriot computers. There is also skepticism about speed. Kinzhal uses the same motor as the Iskander, whose maximum speed is Mach-5.9. So can Kinzhal reach mach-10 as Putin claimed?


            In any case, the score now is seven to one in favor of the Patriot.

          • Christian Chuba says:

            Keith, we do not know the score as the only source is from Ukraine without even confirmation from our infamous ‘unnamed U.S. officials’.

            The link you sent me claims that the newest PAC-3 can intercept a maneuvering missiles below Mach 9. The Kinzal is rated at 10+ Mach. Since the Kinzal is 1,000 lb heavier than the Iskander, it might have more solid state fuel to accelerate for a longer period of time to achieve greater speed.

            The Kinzal does not have to maneuver better than a patriot, it just has to create enough space to prevent a direct hit and get by a PAC-3.

            I’m seeing a U.S. football game where the last defensive back is trying to stop a runner. The runner wins 9 out of 10 times by making a single cutback and both are about the same speed. If the defensive back was twice as fast, he would win 10 / 10 times.
            A note on the S-400, it has go 13 mach.

    • Laura Wilson says:

      I get the impression that Russian superiority/competence at just about anything has fallen victim to Putin’s need to be stroked. No realistic assessments and adjustments can be made in such a situation.

  2. Fourth and Long says:

    I have no idea if this posted below represents the truth, though I understand enough of it to know what he’s saying (a Ru critic on Telegram). If this is accurate then TTG is as usual an optimist. Weirdness of text is not because of translation, the writer will try to teach a course in thermodynamics in the middle of most paragraphs.

    Arrests of scientists involved in hypersonic topics have become massive – in any case, three cases in a short time – this is already a system. One of the scientists died in jail.

    The standard charge is treason, but it is possible that we are talking about something else. Hypersonic weapons were also developed in the USSR, but then it was found that this was a very specific, very expensive weapon with a very narrow range of applications. Plus technology, plus structural materials, plus not fully developed theories – in general, the problem was not put an end to, but it was not considered promising. Except on distant horizons.

    But then the command came – take out and put a miracle weapon on my table. And not just one, but many at once. Therefore, they raised the developments, including from under the cloth, shook off the dust, smeared cartoons and accompanied them with false indicators (in the case of hypersonic missiles, Mach 20 or more in dense layers). And all this nonsense in 2018 was presented by Putin at his benefit performance in front of deputies-senators.

    But with the practical implementation, apparently, what happened was what should have happened – a failure. Only the Kinzhal was brought to some digestible form, but strictly speaking, this is not a hypersonic missile, but the same Iskander, only air-based. It reaches hypersonic speeds on a ballistic descent, but generally speaking, any missile on a ballistic trajectory goes hypersonic, but this does not make it a hypersonic weapon, since a hypersonic missile means the ability to maneuver at hypersonic speeds. The “dagger” flies, as it should be for a blank – straight ahead. All his maneuvers – at “normal” speeds, where he corrects himself, aims at the target – and forward.

    With the rest of the miracle products, the story is even worse, but for obvious reasons, it’s hard to say how much worse. Because it’s a secret. It remains only to speculate, based on scanty official reports. And they are extremely stingy, except that the accident with Losharik in 2019 and the jump in radioactivity at the site of its accident could not be hidden at all. There are many rumors, the only thing that is reliably clear is that something did not work out very well.

    In general, the stone bowl does not come out, no matter how hard you push. Therefore, a logical question arises – someone must answer.

    The answer is clear – definitely not the authorities who presented the nonsense to Putin, definitely not the leadership of all sorts of secret institutions that prepared this nonsense, which means – direct executors. Now they are taking them. There is not the slightest point in considering the accusation because of the ridiculousness, they could even be taken for crossing the street on red.

  3. Fourth and Long says:

    Hugely detailed analysis of the strike on Kiev AA, getting praise. They seem to have definitely destroyed a battery, you can argue about how. The system fired off all it’s rockets at the last moment to prevent harm upon impact. Estimated cost of just the rockets shot off – $157 million.

    • James says:

      Thank you for that link, Fourth and Long.

    • wiz says:


      it strikes me as a feel good article for the pro Russian side.
      When you read it carefully you can learn that it is full of assumptions.

      Russian’s may have used this or may have used that. Reading the article can you say that Kinzhal is just an air launched version of Iskander-M or not ?
      Was a there a destruction of a battery or was a launcher destroyed ?
      How many launchers were in this battery ? 8 x 4 or 2 x 16 ?

      Were only (some) launchers affected or was it the radar, or maybe C&C component ?

      Was the damage catastrophic or is the battery up and running already ?

      Can you answer these questions from reading that article/”analysis”

      As a more serious approach to the topic I would suggest you check out this link:


      • TTG says:


        I’m looking forward to Tom Cooper’s full series on this. According to stories, the damaged launcher was repaired with duct tape. Quite a story if that’s true.

      • Fourth and Long says:

        Yes, you’re right it’s a very pro Russian presentation. I forgot to mention that. My sense of things on the technical issues is that the “hypersonic” verbiage is chewing gum for the greater unwashed, or maybe milk, because it is so eagerly lapped up. When the dust settles you’re going to find that the old stuff with new age miniskirts is deadly enough to wreck whatever the west drags in there. The braintrust in the pentagon and Whitehall know that full well, and they also know it will likely prompt the Russians to eventually succumb to the temptation to really clobber Kiev. That’s not precisely what they want maybe – maybe – but it’s a price they’re willing to pay? Also incorrect. It’s a price they’re willing to let Zelensky pay with the lives of young Ukrainian men and boys. The stakes are high. The propaganda for our side is masterful but such transparent foolery that I watch it in same day reruns on YT, but only 30% of the way through before turning it off. They’re never going to let down the Ratheon company, ever, by admitting that their expensive AA battery was knocked to bits. Why would they? And you’re also correct about the fact that it’s difficult to reach firm conclusions about what actually happened and that my link is in part dubious. I will spare you a link to our generals and colonels on TV talking about it. It’s equally if not much more dubious. Thanks for the xtom cooper referral, I’ll attempt to understand it later.

  4. Fred says:

    Did they announce medals for the trolls who defeated Hilary with Russia Collusion(!) blogging? Oh, wait, that was all a fraud. Never mind. But at least we are still recruiting missile scientists, none of whom are working for SpaceX. Home grown talent there.

  5. Christian Chuba says:

    Even if the Kinzal is just an incremental improvement over the Iskander, that means it makes random course modifications throughout its entire flight.
    I don’t see how the Patriot can intercept either one on a regular basis.

    Just give me ONE example, prior to recent claims, of a Patriot intercepting a missile that both flies at ballistic speeds and alters its course. Yes, it swatted down Iraqi ballistic missile but they had a fixed trajectory.

    Article from Popular Mechanics …

    “The rocket flies on a “quasi-ballistic” trajectory, meaning that rather than traveling on a smooth curve like a cannonball, it makes random minor course changes so its path cannot be predicted.”

    • TTG says:

      Christian Chuba,

      The US never claimed the Patriot was invincible, but it’s undergone 30 years of constant upgrading and improvement. The Patriot that took down Iraqi Scuds with varying success is not the Patriot system now in Ukraine. The Kinzhal was never invincible in theory or in practice. It’s an effective weapon, but not a wonder weapon. Russia’s biggest mistake was selling as such.

      • AngusinCanada says:

        The patriot system couldn’t even protect against Houthi rockets when they blew up the Saudi oil refinery. This is so ridiculous.

        • TTG says:

          The Saudis were using Pac-2 missiles and the Houthis used a lot of drones in their attacks. Let’s face it, the Saudis aren’t up to Ukrainian standards and the Russians apparently up to the Houthi standards.

  6. ked says:

    losing any effective, complex & costly air defense asset is bad in hi-tech warfare – even if a replaceable component of one. I’m sure our Patriot Production Plants are cranking up. this article offers some context on the event.


    {launchers ARE critical elements … just ask Elon}

    • TTG says:


      That’s a good article with an important message – no weapon is invulnerable, not the Kinzhal, not the Patriot. The good thing about this for Ukraine is that Russia is now aiming at the Patriots, a military target rather than apartment buildings, schools or even power infrastructure.

      • Peter Williams says:

        Apartment buildings, schools and power infrastructure are all military targets when occupied by the military. Most apartment hits in Kiev are the result of poorly maintained Soviet missiles fired by the Ukrainians. At least Russia has not carpet bombed cities like the US is wont to do.

        • TTG says:

          Peter Williams,

          The Ukrainian power infrastructure was absolutely a legitimate military target. It was a smart strategy. Too bad Putin lost interest.
          Apartment buildings all over Ukraine have been struck, too many to be accidents. I don’t think Moscow’s targeting is all that swift.

      • ked says:

        ya know, I thought about that… but I concluded that Putin is so Stalinist in character that he REALLY believes in the utility & virtue of murdering non-combatants. he’s even even-tempered, having the same attitude toward Russian citizenry.
        {& we should help him get out of the mess he’s made? oh, yeah – THAT’s virtuous…}

        • Fourth and Long says:

          One of the great ironies in this ongoing conflict is that one can certainly imagine that one of Putin’s most acute dilemmas was his fear of making Stalin’s biggest mistake. Namely not giving sufficient credence to the Intel coming at him from multiple sources including his own agent Richard Sorge and the British codebreakers via Churchill that the Third Reich was about to attack very soon. One can argue, if so disposed, that Stalin understood exactly what the situation really was and chose, at great expense, to retain or purchase the property known as “the moral high ground” by not becoming the country to strike first.

          • ked says:

            Stalin’s moral high ground? a novel revision if poor real estate calculation as it transpired… a very close-run deal.

    • AngusinCanada says:

      I wouldn’t worry too much. They’ve been telling us for a year that Russia is just about out of missiles. Just ignore reality, and it’s all good!

      • TTG says:


        There are a hell of a lot more Pac-3 interceptors than there are Kinzhals.

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