The Russian Navy has successfully tested a prototype hypersonic missile from a nuclear submarine for the first time, Russia’s Defense Ministry said earlier this week.
According to the ministry, the Severodvinsk submarine carried out two launches of the hypersonic cruise missile Tsirkon (Zircon). Tsirkon is a weapon that President Vladimir Putin has boasted of as part of a new generation of unrivaled “invincible” weapon systems.
“The test firing of the Zircon missile from a nuclear submarine was considered a success,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in its statement.
Hypersonic weapons are much more difficult to track or intercept with conventional anti-aircraft weapons.
Russia first tested the Tsirkon from the surface of the water, then launched another missile from the Severodvinsk nuclear submarine to a depth of 131 feet. The missile hit a test target in the Barents Sea, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
He also posted a grainy video showing the missile lighting up the night sky during launch. The video has been intentionally scrambled to make it more difficult for detailed scrutiny by Western intelligence.
In July, the Zircon had been tested several times from a Navy frigate.
President Putin said the Zircon missile is capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound (over 6,850 mph) and has a range of 620 miles. In 2018, he said the missiles could escape the US missile defense shield and “reach anywhere in the world.”
“[U.S. and NATO] need to take into account a new reality and understand … [this] is not a bluff, ”Putin said.
However, many Western military analysts wonder how advanced zircon really is, as Putin and the Russian Defense Ministry frequently exaggerate Russia’s military capabilities. Despite this, Russia appears to be moving forward with the development and deployment of hypersonic weapons.
Another hypersonic weapon prototype, the Avangard boost-glide hypersonic vehicle, nicknamed the SSC-X-9 Skyfall by NATO, is said to have crashed in the Arctic during an engine test in the summer of 2019. upon recovery, the missile exploded killing several scientists. Previous tests had also been reported as unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the Avangard is now deployed by the Russian Navy.
Zircon tests are expected to be completed later this year, according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The missile will be ordered by the Russian Navy in 2022, according to the Defense Ministry. Zircon is intended for arming Russian submarines, cruisers and frigates.
A reborn Russia
Since the return of a belligerent Russia under Putin, tensions with the West have steadily increased, culminating with the Russian annexation and invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
Following the poor performance of the Russian military in the short conflict with Georgia in 2008, Russia launched the New Look reform program making the modernization of its arsenal a top priority.
Reforms have focused on professional strength rather than conscripts, improvements in Russian nuclear forces, which are seen as the ultimate guarantor of Russia’s security, improved fighter jets, better equipped conventional forces and improved missile systems.
Russia’s military improvement has provided Moscow with the backbone to be much more aggressive in its attempt to expand its influence in many parts of the world.
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