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24 Sep, 2016 14:54

Ukraine shows off new domestic cruise missile as part of ‘military modernization’ (VIDEO)

Ukraine shows off new domestic cruise missile as part of ‘military modernization’ (VIDEO)

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko showed off a slow-motion video of the country’s new domestic guided missile. However if it comes into service, experts warn that the weapon could violate the Minsk ceasefire agreement with rebels in the east of Ukraine.

The video shows the missile fired from a launcher, which appears to be the same that is used by the multiple-rocket launcher Smerch. As it takes off, the rocket corrects its flight path with steering thrusters located in its front part.

“Over two years the Ukrainian military has received dozens of new weapons and military hardware, but we are just beginning our military modernization. There’s much work to be done,” President Poroshenko said, when he commented on the video.

Ukraine has adopted a strong anti-Russian stance since an armed coup in 2013, which eventually led to its elected government being ousted. However, it has found its military procurement challenged.

For two decades after gaining independence, Kiev relied on stockpiles of old Soviet weapons it inherited and produced new weapons in close cooperation with Russian companies.

Now Ukraine is investing heavily to find replacements for weapons and technology it previously acquired from the Russian military. The missile, which Poroshenko raved about on Friday on his Facebook page, is one of these projects.

First revealed in January, the missile, which is nicknamed Olkha, is being developed by the Kiev-based design bureau Luch. The state-owned bureau started in the 1960s as a producer of test equipment for torpedoes and missiles, but is currently best known for developing guided anti-tank missiles.

While few details were officially confirmed about Olkha, Ukrainian arms experts say it is a 300mm guided missile, which can be released from a Smerch launcher.

Smerch is a multiple rocket launcher developed in Soviet Union, which was used extensively by both the Ukrainian military and their rebel enemies in the east.

The launchers have been pulled back from the disengagement line under the Minsk ceasefire far enough to exceed their rockets’ ranges, making it physically impossible for the belligerents to fire at each other.

While Olkha’s specifications are yet to be revealed, Ukrainian sources describe it as a replacement for the Tochka tactical missiles, yet another Soviet weapon that Ukraine used during the hostilities in the east. Smerch has a range of 70 km while Tochka missiles can travel as far as 140 km, so the Minsk agreement demands that Tochka launchers are pulled back further than Smerch launchers.

If the Olkha missiles are comparable with Tochka in range, but can be fired by Smerch launchers, the Ukrainian military would be potentially able to fire them at the rebels without relocating any hardware, while technically observing the Minsk agreement ceasefire, Rossiyskaya Gazeta reports, citing military experts.

The Olkha project was first made public in January, when Ukraine’s security council granted it funding. The system was tested in August near Odessa, with national Security Council chair Aleksandr Turchinov hailing the trials as a big success. The official said the Ukrainian weapon was guided and thus much better than their “Russian analogues”.

Considering Luch’s lack of experience with longer-range tactical missiles, military experts believe that the Olkha project was inherited from the Yuzhnoye design bureau, the well-established Ukrainian space rocket and ballistic missile producer, which suffered badly from Kiev’s decision to cut ties with Russia.

The potential threat from the Olkha missiles is somewhat counterbalanced by Ukraine’s poor record of introducing new weapons since the coup.

READ MORE: Ukrainian troops blast flaws in new ‘Molot’ mortars, manufacturer blames lack of training

The much-hailed Molot mortar project - a weapon significantly less complex than a guided surface-to-surface missile - was marred by reports of poor manufacturing and overpricing.