US military analysts believe that tests of the Russian Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, capable of flying at speeds above 6,000 miles per hour, will be completed next year. Forbes, for example, believes that the first launch of this type of missile is planned to be carried out with the new Kazan multipurpose submarine K-561. And, accordingly, Russia will become the first country that can use hypersonic weapons.
In fact, Russia already possesses such hypersonic missiles – one of the last successful tests of Zircon passed on December 10, 2018. This fact was recognized even by incredulous Americans, including at an incredible speed of 8 Machs, which no rocket in the world possesses. The Pentagon to a certain extent strained this fact, because the appearance of such a missile casts doubt on the effectiveness of the entire missile defense system, and the threat of defeating aircraft carriers or coastal targets cannot be prevented.
Successful tests from the coastal platform allowed us to proceed to the stage of marine tests. As far as we know, the Zircon ship platform has chosen the new frigate Admiral Gorshkov, equipped with launchers that allow launching hypersonic missiles. And when in March of this year this ship went on combat duty in the Mediterranean Sea, “colleagues” from NATO were very worried about this. However, test ship launches are scheduled for the end of 2019, we will probably hear about them soon. Not far off and testing hypersonic missiles from aboard submarines, the same Americans claim that they will happen in 2020. The Russian military department also called this date. According to some reports, it is already in service.
It is known that Zircon 3M22 is a development of OAO VPK NPO (Reutov, Moscow Region) and is part of the 3K22 Zircon complex, whose code designation in NATO is SS-N-33. The missile is capable of speeds of about 9 Machs (this, according to Putin, it accelerated to 8 Machs in tests) and flies on a marching section at an altitude of 30-40 kilometers, where air resistance is lower, which allows increasing range and speed. The weight of the warhead is 300-400 kg, and the total length is 8-10 meters. It is assumed that the Zircon will be used not only from ships and submarines, which will replace the P-700 Granit heavy anti-ship missile, but also from the Bastion coastal missile systems.
Judging by expert estimates, we can conclude that the Zircons are able to hit US command posts practically throughout the country. Theoretically, the Pentagon building, Camp David and Fort Ritchie command posts in Maryland, McClellan in California and Jim Creek in Washington could be targeted by these hypersonic missiles. And, as the American publication Popular Mechanics writes, assessing the “slaughter” of Zircon, this missile could potentially be used to carry out so-called “decapitation strikes” against the US military-political leadership, which would undermine its ability to retaliate in a nuclear war. The “beheading” scenario assumes that Russian submarines launch a surprise nuclear missile attack that will level Washington even before the US leadership can order the response.
At a missile speed of 11 thousand kilometers per hour, the flying time from the moment of launch from ships and submarines will be 5-8 minutes and the missile defense system will not stop them.
– The enemy will not be able to detect the missile on the radar, but will be able to see it rapidly approaching from the horizon. In the literal sense, it will inspire horror, – Avia.pro quotes its expert. The US military itself calculated that they would have no more than 20 seconds to destroy the Zircon rocket. However, given the low radar signature, analysts estimate the interception of Russian hypersonic missiles is generally impossible.
Nevertheless, the Zircon remains precisely an anti-ship missile, while leaving opportunities for hitting ground targets. Launchers for the launches of this rocket remain the same as those used for the latest P-800 Onyx and Caliber (3M54) missiles. And the application is designed both from warships (and not only frigates of the Admiral Gorshkov type), as well as nuclear submarines of the projects «Yasen-M», «Antey» project, «Husky». At the same time, Zircon, like Caliber, can easily be put on the ground, but in this case, their focus will be mostly European countries where American ballistic missile launchers are located.
It is assumed that the Zircon will replace the P-700 Granit heavy anti-ship missile, which has been in service with the Navy since 1983. But it’s too early to write off Granit! According to the Chinese portal Sohu, the Russian Granit cruise missile anti-ship missiles have the greatest potential for fighting American carrier groups. According to the author of the article, it was precisely this weapon that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had in mind, who in a recent interview noted that the Pentagon was spending the budget on creating carrier groupings, while Moscow was focusing on funds that could be used to combat them. This approach is cheaper and more efficient.
– Among all the supersonic anti-ship missiles created in Russia since the Cold War, Granite is the weapon with the longest flight range, capable of inflicting the most severe damage on aircraft carriers, – writes Sohu. It is noted that the PRK is capable of reaching a target at a distance of more than 600 kilometers, while US carrier groups are able to protect a zone with a radius of only 550 kilometers.
In September, the Pacific Fleet conducted exercises, during which the Granit rocket was launched from the Omsk nuclear submarine cruiser. The target was successfully hit at a range of about 350 kilometers. In the Russian Navy, there are 6 submarines equipped with the anti-tank missiles of 949A of the Antey type in service, which are armed with such missiles — 24 missiles per each. They are often called “killers” or “nightmares” of aircraft carriers. Each of the submarines is capable of sinking an enemy carrier group in one salvo.