YouTube/Russian Ministry of Defense
- The Russian government released footage of a new Zircon hypersonic missile launch.
- A warship launched the missile at a land target.
- The missile reportedly flies at more than 5,000 miles per hour, giving defenses little time to react.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense released new video of the country’s Zircon hypersonic weapon system. The missile is designed to attack ships and land targets, flying at speeds of nearly Mach 7. Zircon’s speed, like all hypersonic weapons, lets it destroy targets on short notice while enemy defenses scramble to shoot it down.
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The Russian Navy frigate Admiral Gorshkov launched the test missile in the Barents Sea earlier this week. The missile was aimed at a ground target located 350 kilometers (217 miles) away. The Ministry of Defense said the missile achieved a speed of “about Mach 7” (about 5,370 mph) and claimed the weapon will eventually equip surface warships and submarines.
Watch the test here:
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Zircon (“Tsirkon”) is known in Russia as 3M22 and to NATO as the SS-N-33. While Russia said the latest launch reached Mach 7, other sources say the missile might actually have a top speed of Mach 9, or 6,905 mph.
The video shows Zircon launching from Admiral Gorshkov’s missile silos. After launch, nose-mounted rockets correct the missile’s pitch, from a 90-degree angle to a 70-degree angle in the direction of the target, and then burn out and fall into the sea. The missile climbs for altitude, where the air is thinner and there’s less heat-inducing friction, before presumably diving down onto its target.
Zircon is a tactical weapon, designed to be carried by frigates of the Russian Navy as well as submarines. The missile reportedly has a maximum range of 1,000 kilometers, or 621 miles. One prime target for Zircon is a NATO aircraft carrier, and the missile’s hypersonic speed leaves little time for enemy air defenses to knock it down.
The missile may also be nuclear-capable, meaning just one would need to successfully thread its way through enemy defenses to put a carrier out of action.
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