Russia begins mass production of “world’s fastest” missile Putin called “invincible”

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The Russian Navy will now be armed with Tsirkon / Zircon hypersonic missiles. The move is gaining momentum amid Moscow’s tensions with NATO and its heightened interest in the Indo-Pacific region.

Russia’s Reutovo-based Machine Building Industry and Research Association (NPO Mashinostroyenia) has started mass production of Tsirkon, also spelled Zircon, of hypersonic missiles for the country’s navy. , TASS reported.

“Mass production of Tsirkon missiles is underway at NPO Mashinostroyenia,” a source quoted by TASS said, adding that “but state testing of surface launches of this product will continue.”

The Tsirkon missile (via Twitter)

On November 3, President Vladimir Putin claimed that the Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile experiments were nearing completion and the missiles would begin arriving for the Russian Navy next year.

A few days later, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed Putin of the successful test launch of a Tsirkon hypersonic missile in the White Sea.

Flight development tests for the Tsirkon hypersonic missile would continue in 2024 from the modified nuclear submarine Perm of Project 885M (Yasen-M), the aforementioned news agency said.

The Russian nuclear submarine Severodvinsk first fired Tsirkon hypersonic missiles from surface positions and submerged in the White Sea in October this year.

The modified Perm submarine, which is Project 885M’s fifth nuclear-powered submarine, will be the first regular underwater carrier of Tsirkon hypersonic missiles. The submarine is expected to join the Russian Navy in 2025.

Yasen-class submarine - Wikipedia
The Yasen-class submarine (via Wikipedia)

Six Project 885M submarines to be armed with Tsirkons are currently under construction at the Sevmash Shipyard, part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation.

The Russian Navy’s lead submarines Project 885 and Project 885M, Severodvinsk and Kazan, are in operational service, while Project 885M’s first mass-produced submarine, Novosibirsk, is being tested and is expected to enter in service by the end of this year.

Can Tsirkon / Zircon missiles escape radar?

The Tsirkon multipurpose hypersonic missile, designed to strike sea and land targets, is capable of flying at Mach 9, or nine times the speed of sound, at a range of over 1,000 km. It should be mentioned that President Putin called Tsirkon and other advanced weapons “invincible”.

The announcement of the mass production of the Tsirkon missile also underlines Russia’s strategy of deterring its adversaries as it comes against the backdrop of an American warship entering the Black Sea.

It is said that the missile cannot be intercepted even by sophisticated American systems. The reason is that hypersonic weapons, such as Russia’s 3M22 Tsirkon, travel at speeds above Mach 9 and have a low atmospheric ballistic trajectory, allowing them to bypass typical anti-missile defenses.

Zircon test
The Russian Navy is testing a hypersonic Zircon missile in July 2021 (Image: Russian Defense Ministry)

The missile uses improved fuel with a range of up to 1,000 km. And it moves so quickly that the air pressure in front of the weapon generates a plasma cloud, which absorbs radio frequencies and makes it virtually invisible to active radar systems.

Russia’s switch to hypersonic weapons is most likely a response to the size, technology, and number of aircraft carriers in the United States. The US Navy wants to maintain a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier force of 12 ships. Russia, on the other hand, has one, and it deploys with a tug in the event of its engine failing.

Even the most modern American aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, could be sunk with less than half a dozen Tsirkon missiles. The main reason behind this is that even if an American ship detected a Zircon missile 100 miles away, it would only have a minute to respond, according to Popular Mechanics.

To intercept a Russian Tsirkon missile, the United States would have to intercept it before it was launched or fly anything in its path.

BrahMos2
A model of the BrahMos-II hypersonic missile.

Interestingly, the Indo-Russian joint venture’s BrahMos-II hypersonic missile is said to be very similar to Zircon. “Although India tested its first Hypersonic Technology Demonstration Vehicle (HSTDV), developed by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), in August last year, knowledgeable sources say that this is linked to the making of the BrahMos-II, which is supposed to succeed the Indian Navy’s BrahMos anti-ship missile, ”Prakash Nanda, editor-in-chief of the EurAsian Times previously wrote.

In one of his most belligerent statements in years, Putin promised a slew of new hypersonic weapons, claiming they could target virtually any point on the globe and escape a US-built missile shield. .

Geopolitical churning

Due to its speed, the Tsirkon missile is said to be the fastest in the world, making it almost difficult to defend. The missile’s plasma cloud is also a valuable feature, allowing the weapon to go unnoticed.

It is a valuable addition to the Russian Navy amid a modern arms race that includes three participants – the United States, Russia and China. After unveiling a series of weapon systems cautiously recognized in the West, Russia has finally launched mass production of its most advanced hypersonic missile to be launched from a submarine.

This gives the Navy a strategic advantage, not only in its own backwaters, but in other strategic waters where it could be deployed to deter a common powerful adversary, the Indo-Pacific being an example.

The Russian Navy will be able to improve its combat capabilities in 2022 when the missiles are deployed on warships. This will create a deterrent wherever the Russians are deployed.


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