The Russian Navy has successfully test-fired an ultra-fast Zircon anti-ship missile from its most advanced frigate in the far north. The state-of-the-art projectile hit a mock target after travelling 450km within minutes.
The Admiral Gorshkov, the navy’s most advanced guided-missile frigate, set off for the White Sea on Tuesday – an inlet within the Barents Sea – with the Zircon missile on board, Russia’s Defense Ministry revealed.
As part of live-fire trials, it dispatched the hypersonic cruise missile from one of its vertical silos.
It was the first time the Zircon had been trialed for anti-ship warfare, and the weapon “directly hit the seaworthy target located 450km away,” the ministry reported.
Incredibly, the missile reached a speed of Mach 8 during the trial – almost eight times faster than the speed of sound.
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the news on Wednesday, applauding “the enormous work of [Russian] scientists, designers, talented workers, and military specialists.” The mission’s success marks “a big step in equipping the armed forces with the most modern [weapons] systems,” he said.
The Zircon has been in development for several years, and Putin revealed its existence last year, along with that of other hypersonic weapons such as the Avangard (Vanguard) glider, and Kinzhal, an air-launched cruise missile.
Thought to be able to reach speeds of up to Mach 9, the Zircon will have an operational range that allows it to hit both land- and sea-based targets at a distance of 1,000km. The military said it will likely be mounted on nuclear submarines and surface ships, although a ground-based version of the weapon is also in development.
Tests of the missile began late last year, and it was reportedly tried out against a land-based target in January. The Defense Ministry expects it to come into service sometime in the next few years.
Moscow maintains that its ambitious hypersonic program was to assure deterrence after the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and rushed to deploy its ballistic missile shields, including those close to Russian borders. Russia’s advances in developing the top-notch weapons has made the US play catch-up for the first time in history, Putin has repeatedly said.