ZIRCON – Russia’s Deadliest Weapon
- Russia has successfully completed testing of its Zircon hypersonic cruise missile which is fired from Admiral Gorshkov Navy ship. the test took place in the Barents sea. Russia’s Defence Ministry said, “The tests of the zircon hypersonic missile are also being successfully completed”. ” test launches from the Admiral Gorshkov frigate have confirmed that unique tactical and technical characteristics of this missile in terms of range and accuracy of fire as well as its hypersonic flight speed.” A few days back the USA and UK accused Russia of testing an Anti-satellite weapon. The deployment of this hypersonic missile will definitely change the scenario of modern warfare, as it would be very difficult for any air defense to detect and therefore provides too little time to react.
- Zircon also is known as 3MM22 Tsirkon which NATO Reports as SS-N-33, is an Anti-ship maneuverable hypersonic missile and is designed to attack both sea-based and land-based targets. The Missile weighs 5 tons. The missile has a speed of Mach 8 to Mach 9, through which the enemy defense system will get little time to prepare. the missile can travel at an altitude of 30-40 km. Zircon will have both radar target seeker and an optical-electronic complex to detect and attack targets.
- The missile can fly a range of up to 600 miles or around 1000 km. The missile is 8-10m long and can carry a warhead of about 400 kg. Zircon is powered by a scramjet engine. The missile can be launched through Submarine and surface ship. The missile can be equipped with both high explosive conventional and nuclear warheads.
- It is a two-stage missile, in the first stage, a solid fuel engine accelerates the missile to supersonic speed and the later in the second stage scramjet engine accelerates it to the hypersonic speed. Zircon can exchange information during its flight and can be controlled by commands. The missile uses an Active and passive radar seeker as a guidance system.
- Zircon is believed to be invisible to the enemy radars as it would create a cloud of plasma around the missile and it can absorb radio waves and it allows the missile to remain undetected on its way to the target.
- Russia is planning to use the zircon missile in its submarines, cruisers, and destroyers and it will replace the P 800 and Kaliber missile in service with the Russian naval ships. Zircon missile will be a game-changer in the future warfare because of its high speed and because of its radio waves absorbing technology. As of now no air or naval defense system is capable of detecting such a hypersonic weapon, even America is believed to don’t have any such defense system therefore this weapon is of great concern for the Americans.
- American Government Accountability Office (GAO) report stated that” China and Russia are pursuing hypersonic weapons because their speed, altitude, and maneuverability may defeat most missile defense system and they may be used to improve long-range conventional and nuclear strike capabilities. There are no existing countermeasures.” Missile posses a great threat to Americans and their allies assets as the missile with heavyweight and high kinetic energy has the capability to cripple a supercarrier.
Currently there are no counter measures for zircon. It doesn’t need explosive warhead, it’s kinetic energy is so huge that it can cripple a ship like a tin can. The only problem with this missile is its cost. Moreover I don’t think this will replace kaliber because kaliber plays a role similar to that of harpoon or tomahawk.