What is known about the capabilities of the Zircon hypersonic missile

What is known about the capabilities of the Zircon hypersonic missile

Alexander Karpov & Alena Medvedeva

The Zircon hypersonic missile cannot be detected by existing air defense systems due to its high speed and the use of stealth technologies. This was stated by Georgy Roslya-kov, the commander of the missile and artillery warhead of the frigate Admiral Gorshkov, from which the missile was repeatedly tested successfully. According to Roslyakov, Zircon is capable of hitting moving targets with high accuracy. Experts emphasize that hypersonic missiles of this type are a unique weapon that is not subject to modern means of detecting and intercepting a potential enemy.
The air defense systems of a potential enemy will not be able to detect the Russian Zircon hypersonic missile due to its high speed and the stealth technologies used in the design. Georgy Roslyakov, commander of the missile and artillery warhead of the frigate Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov, said this on the air of the Military Acceptance program on the Zvezda TV channel .
“The Motherland gave us such a weapon, from which the potential enemy has no means of counteraction. Because the system of counteraction for it is not created. The air defense and missile defense systems of a potential adversary in service are not able to detect, much less hit a missile due to its speed characteristics … Opponents will not see a missile on radars, since, in addition to speeds, “stealth” technologies are embedded in Zircon , the soldier explained.
According to Roslyakov, “Zircon” can hit moving targets with high accuracy, in particular, individual objects from a group of targets.
“What goal we set, such “Zircon” will choose. If we need to choose a ship from the core or an escort ship, then when forming the task, we will lay down that it is this target that needs to be destroyed. What we plant, she will destroy. It doesn’t matter if the ship is moving or not. It all depends on the number of missiles launched: it will be necessary – at least ten ships will be destroyed,” the officer emphasized, adding that the missile system provides for salvo fire.
The secret of hypersound
3M22 Zircon is a hypersonic cruise missile developed by NPO Mashinostr-oeniya. It is fundamentally different from other Russi-an and foreign sea-based missiles with a significantly higher flight speed.
For a long time, Zircon was one of the most closed projects of the Russian military-industrial complex, and the performance characteristics of the missile were not made public. In February 2019, they were partially disclosed by Putin in his message to the Federal Assembly.
The President said that the Zircon’s flight speed is about Mach 9, and the range is over 1,000 km. He clarified that the missile can hit both sea and ground targets.
“Its use is envisaged from sea carriers, serial surface ships and submarines, including those already produced and under construction for Kalibr precision-guided missile systems,” the Russian leader stressed.
Later, a little more became known about the characteristics of Zircon. So, at the end of February 2022, on the air of the Vesti Nedeli program on the Ru-ssia 1 channel, the comma-nder of the frigate Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov, Captain 1st Rank Igor Krokhmal, said that the missile could hit targets at a distance of up to 1.5 thousand km
“Shooting will be carried out at a distance of 1,000 to 1,500 km. If we take 1 thousand km and divide by Mach 9, we get a flight time of 580-620 seconds,” the commander of the ship ex-plained, commenting on the test firing in the Barents Sea.
At the same time, the remaining characteristics of the rocket are still kept in the strictest confidence, Krokhmal specified. Even the appearance of the rocket is a mystery – the Zircons are loaded onto the ship in closed containers.
Both land and sea targets
In May 2020, Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Alexei Krivoruchko said that the Zircon was designed to arm nuclear submarines of projects 885 Yasen and 885M Yasen-M, 949AM Antey, ships of projects 22350, 23560, as well as rearmament of the project cruiser 1144.2 “Admiral Nakhimov”.
In the same year, reports began to appear about the testing of the latest hypersonic missile. So, in October 2020, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation published a video of the first firing of the Zircon at a sea target located in the Barents Sea. The missile was launched from the frigate “Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov” from the White Sea.
After that, “Admiral Gorshkov” made several more successful firing “Zircons” at ground and sea targets. And in August 2021, the Ministry of Defense announced that the department had signed a contract with NPO Mashinostroeniya for the supply of Zircons.
“A state contract was signed for the supply of the 3M22 missile (the Zircon hypersonic missile). During the International Military-Technical Forum, the contract was awarded to the General Director of NPO Mashinostroeniya Alexander Leonov,” then the Russian military department said.
In October 2021, it became known about a new success in missile testing – Zircon was launched from a submarine for the first time.
“For the first time, the Russian Navy has tested the Zircon hypersonic missile from the Severodvinsk nuclear submarine. The shooting was carried out at a mock sea target in the waters of the Barents Sea,” the press service of the Ministry of Defense reported on October 4.
The military department then noted that the flight of the rocket corresponded to the specified parameters and it hit a conditional target.
Shortly thereafter, it became known that the Zircons would begin to enter service with the Russian fleet in 2022. Vladimir Putin announced this at the beginning of November 2021 as part of a meeting on defense topics .
“Tests of the Zircon sea-based hypersonic cruise missile are nearing completion. During testing, she accurately, in full accordance with the task, hit both ground and sea targets from a submerged position and from surface ships. Starting next year, these missiles will begin to be supplied to the Russian Navy,” the President stressed.
Later it became known that the Russian military had carried out at least 12 successful launches of the new missile from both a surface ship and a submarine.
Universal weapon
In a conversation with RT, the director of the Air Defense Forces Museum in Balashikha, military expert Yuri Knutov, noted that today there are no means of detecting and intercepting hypersonic missiles like the Zircon.
“The American military company Raytheon is trying to create a radar that can detect hypersonic targets, but this is still a conceptual development, not even a prototype. But even if such a missile could be detected, then from the moment it was discovered to the attempt to take the anti-aircraft missile system for escort, the working time will pass, and the target will already be hit,” the expert explained.
High speed and the use of technologies that reduce radar visibility make the Zircon missile unique, Yuri Knutov emphasized.
“In addition, they can be used not only against sea targets, but also against ground targets. Such a range of application makes missiles a universal weapon that is able to hit any object at the maximum range, which is included in the characteristics of the Zircon,” said the military expert.
He added that in addition to installing these missiles on surface ships of the Russian Navy, equipping Yasen-M multi-purpose submarines with Zircons will be a breakthrough in terms of ensuring the country’s defense, since the missiles will be able to strike targets deep in the rear of a potential enemy.
The Zircon’s flight speed is so high that it will be difficult to detect it not only in flight, but also at the time of launch, TASS military observer, retired colonel Viktor Litovkin said in a conversation with RT.
“Not a single radar station will have time to detect it. The moment of launch can be fixed, but this information will not give anything, since without direction and speed it will be impossible to calculate its trajectory. During the flight, Zircon will not be able to detect a single tracking device, it will not be able to intercept a single missile defense system. This is our achievement, which is not subject to any opponent,” concluded the expert.

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