Russian navy tests Zircon hypersonic missile in the White Sea
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Moscow has claimed that the 6670mph weapon – which carries a conventional or nuclear warhead – is “unstoppable”. The missile has been dubbed the Zircon missile by the Kremlin. A Russian source said: “A serial production of Zircon missiles is underway at the NPO Mashinostroyenia [originally known simply as OKB-52], although state trials of this product’s surface launches will continue.”
It also added that flight development tests of the Zircon hypersonic missile from an underwater carrier after two successful test launches would resume from the Project 885M (Yasen-M) modified nuclear-powered submarine Perm in 2024.
The Zircon multi-purpose hypersonic missile is designated to strike sea and ground targets.
President Putin earlier said that Zircon hypersonic missiles are capable of flying at Mach 9 and have a range of approximately 620 miles.
Russia intends to outfit its submarines and surface ships with Zircon hypersonic missile systems.
Adding Zircon to various ships and submarines could significantly increase the overall capabilities of the Russian Navy.
Such missiles are cause for concern because the United States’ traditional early warning systems might not be able to see those weapons coming.
Hypersonic weapons such as Russia’s 3M22 Zircon fly so fast and low, that they can penetrate traditional anti-missile defence systems.
In fact, it’s so fast that the air pressure in front of the weapon forms a plasma cloud as it moves, absorbing radio waves and making it practically invisible to active radar systems.
US Aegis missile interceptor systems require 8-10 seconds of reaction time to intercept incoming attacks.
In those 8-10 seconds, the Russian Zircon missiles will already have travelled 14 miles and the interceptor missiles do not fly fast enough to catch up.
According to one technical source, even if a U.S. ship were to detect a Zircon missile from 100 miles away, it would have only one minute to do something about it.
Russia’s shift to hypersonic weapons is likely a means of contending with American superiority in size, technology and the sheer number of aircraft carriers.
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China and North Korea have also tested such equipment, sparking an arms race in the region, sending a message to global friends, and enemies.
Russia’s deputy premier Yury Borisov said last month that Russia had outpaced the West in hypersonic weapons – and intends to maintain its lead.
Mr Borisov said: “We have broken forward, specifically, in the sphere of hypersonic weapons and those based on new physical principles.”
He added: “We now have serious advantages in this regard over the leading Western countries – and will try to maintain this position.”
In recent days, Moscow said it has ramped up its military “cooperation” with Beijing in light of alleged threats by Washington including US nuclear bombers flying near their borders.
Some military analysts say innovations like the Zircon are moving the development of military technology away from aircraft carrier-based systems, calling for the US Navy to reconsider the role of the carrier entirely.
Isabel Sawkins, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society specialising in Russia, said Russia and China joining forces could “potentially could be catastrophic” for Western powers.
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