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Zircon Missile | Russia tests hypersonic anti-ship missile

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Dress rehearsal for the parade of the Russian Navy in Saint Petersburg

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  • Russian state media announced the first test of the Zircon hypersonic missile.
  • Zircon is a ship-launched anti-ship and land attack missile system.
  • Zircon moves to Mach 9, leaving the defenders little time to react.

    Russia has tested its new hypersonic Zircon missile. Zircon is designed to attack ships at sea and land targets at speeds of up to Mach 9, which gives enemy missile defenses little time to prepare. The new missile will breathe new life into the Russian navy, many of which were built before the end of the Cold War.

    The test, according to Naval News, took place in the Barents Sea in January. The missile was fired from the frigate of the Russian Navy Admiral Gorshkov (above). The missile is said to have struck a target ashore. There would have been five previous missile tests, but it was likely to be tests of key components, such as the missile's engine and body. The January test was the first comprehensive test of the hypersonic weapon itself.

    The test was originally announced by TASS, a Russian state media source. Another test is planned for later this year from the new Russian Navy K-561 submarine Kazan.

    Zircon is designed to use speed to penetrate enemy air defense systems. According to the missile flight profile, an American Navy battle group defended by the Aegis combat system would have between two minutes and 20 seconds to detect, track and shoot down the missile. The missile will be armed with a conventional or nuclear warhead.

    Zircon has been in development for several years and its existence was confirmed in February 2019 by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin said the missile was capable of flying at Mach 9 and had a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles). During this last test, Zircon's flight would have exceeded 500 kilometers (310 miles).

    Grom-2019 military exercises

    Gorshkov launching a Kalibr land attack cruise missile during an exercise, 2019. Kalibr and Zircon will share parts to reduce costs.

    Russian Ministry of DefenseGetty Images

    There aren't many more details regarding Zircon. Putin says missile shares parts with subsonic Kalibr land attack cruise missile as an economy measure. Putin also said that Zircon would be transported by both surface warships and submarines.

    One such submarine is the 949A project under Irkutsk. Irkutsk is a missile submarine designed to attack aircraft carriers of the United States Navy with heavy anti-ship cruise missiles. Commissioned in 1988, it is currently being modernized and should receive Zircon missiles in exchange for its obsolete load of older missiles. A large part of the Russian naval fleet is obsolete and the deployment of Zircon on these older ships, just like Irkutsk, will give them a considerable makeover in terms of offensive weapons.

    According to the head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation of Russia, it will be possible to deploy Zircon on all future warships of the Russian Navy.

    Source: Naval news

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