These images show Russia’s new Zircon hypersonic cruise missile – that can travel five times faster than the speed of sound – being launched from a battleship as the superpower announces a new series of tests set to start next month.
The Zircon hypersonic cruise missile has been in development for years but now seems poised to be deployed to military vessels in the Russian fleet after news agency TASS announced that “state tests” had been scheduled for August.
The revelation comes after the United States announced in February that it was about to make its first hypersonic missile flight after a series of setbacks.
The announcement, made yesterday (Sunday 18th July), also comes after TASS reported at the beginning of the month that the Admiral Golovko frigate would become the first “standard carrier of these hypersonic missiles”.
In the meantime, the Admiral Gorshkov frigate from the Northern Fleet will test fire the Zircon from a surface position, with the goal of hitting a fixed target. Then, in the second half of August, the Severodvinsk nuclear submarine will also test fire the Zircon missile.
The tests had first been scheduled for May or June this year but were postponed, with four test launches planned.
The Zircon missile can travel five times faster than the speed of sound, Mach 5 or higher, or 3,836 mph. in comparison, a standard US Tomahawk cruise missile, in use by the U.S. Navy in the Royal Navy, is subsonic and can reach speeds of just 550 mph.
This footage shows a Zircon missile being launched from the Admiral Gorshkov frigate in the White Sea in the Baltic on 6th October 2020.
Hypersonic cruise missiles are being developed by various world powers, the Russians stating between October and December 2020 but they had successfully carried out various tests.
These upcoming tests are seen as the next step towards these missiles been fully implemented in the Russian fleet. These missiles are seen to be the next step in the arms race, with no defence systems currently able to stop them.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had promised in 2011 to develop a hypersonic missile system for the Russian Navy, with the first flight tests beginning back in 2015.
In 2019, Putin announced that the missile is capable of hitting a ground target a distance of over 1,000 kilometres.
Russian media are touting the Zircon as the “world’s first hypersonic cruise missile capable of carrying out a long aerodynamic flight with manoeuvring in dense layers of the atmosphere, using its own engine thrust throughout the route.”
Russian experts believe that these Zircon hypersonic missiles will provide Russia with a significant advantage over NATO air defence systems,