Russia Successfully Tests Zircon Hypersonic Missile as Putin Eyes Futuristic Weapons

Russia on Monday successfully test-fired the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, a development that accelerates the HELA (Hypersonic Experimental Flying Vehicle) project further. Russian President Vladimir Putin had stated that the missile is capable of destroying both sea and land targets within 1,000 km.

The missile was reportedly launched from an Admiral Groshkov frigate located in the White Sea in northern Russia on Monday.

'The Flight Speed Was About 7 Mach'

The defense ministry said in a statement that the missile had travelled at around seven times the speed of sound before hitting a ground target on the coastline of the Barents Sea more than 350 km (217 miles) away. "The tactical and technical characteristics of the Tsirkon missile were confirmed during the tests," the ministry said.

Backdrop of Growing Tensions with the West

According to AFP, Moscow has in recent years touted the development of futuristic weapons which it hopes will give it the edge in any arms race with the United States at a time of growing tensions with the West. It had made numerous announcements of new weapons presented as "invincible" by President Putin.

Hypersonic missile
Russia has hypersonic missile Kinzhal attached to a fighter jet Wikimedia commons

Several other weapons such as the hypersonic Kinzhal missile for the air force, or the nuclear-powered Bourevestnik missile are also being developed.

The Russian President has also threatened to deploy hypersonic missiles on ships and submarines that could lurk outside US territorial waters if the United States moved to deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe, reported Reuters.

According to a media report, in October 2020, the lead frigate of Project 22350 Admiral Gorshkov fired a Zircon for the first time at a sea target located in the Barents Sea.

Hypersonic missiles
Besides Russia and the U.S., China and India also possess hypersonic missiles that can reach the target in minutes Wikimedia Commons

Features of Zircon Hypersonic Missile

Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a non-profit organization, has stated in a report the features of Zircon Hypersonic Missile.

It states that the 3M22 Zircon or the SS-N-33 is a maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile. It is designed by NPO-machinostroeniya in Reutov in Moscow region. The Zircon's estimated range is 500 km at a low level and up to 750 km at a semi-ballistic trajectory, but the state-owned media in Russia reports the range as 1,000 km.

It's a two-stage missile that uses solid fuel in the first stage and a scramjet motor in the second stage.

A significant aspect of the missile is its plasma cloud. During flight, the missile is completely covered by a plasma cloud that absorbs any rays of radio frequencies and makes the missile invisible to radars.

This allows the missile to remain undetected on its way to the target. Another report highlights that the missile can be fired from universal vertical launchers 3S-14 on warships and submarines and from Bastion mobile coastal missile launchers.