Russia Test Fires Zircon Hypersonic Cruise Missile
Russia said Monday it had carried out another successful test of its Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, a new addition to an arsenal of weapons called “invincible” by President Vladimir Putin.
Moscow has in recent years touted the development of futuristic weapons that it hopes will give it the edge in any arms race with the United States at a time of growing tensions with the West.
Footage distributed by the defence ministry showed the Admiral Gorshkov warship launching the cruise missile at a target on the Barents Sea coast in northern Russia.
“The Zircon missile successfully hit a target directly at a range of over 350 kilometres (217 miles). The flight speed reached nearly Mach 7,” the ministry said in a statement.
Putin revealed the development of the new weapon in a state of the nation address in February 2019, saying it could hit targets at sea and on land with a range of 1,000 kilometres and a speed of Mach 9.
The defence ministry has said it plans to equip both warships and submarines with the Zircon.
The missile has undergone several recent tests and in October last year Putin described one of the test firings as a “great event not just in the life of our armed forces but for all of Russia”.
The Pentagon declined to comment on the test itself, but spokesman John Kirby said that “Russia’s new hypersonic missiles are potentially destabilizing and pose significant risks because they are nuclear-capable systems.”
“By contrast, (the) United States is developing solely non-nuclear hypersonic strike capabilities,” he said. “So alongside our NATO allies, we remain committed to deter this while promoting greater stability in the region.”
Russia has boasted of developing several weapons that circumvent existing defence systems, including the Sarmat intercontinental missiles and Burevestnik cruise missiles.
Western experts have linked a deadly blast at a test site in northern Russia in 2019 — which caused a sharp spike in local radiation levels — to the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, revealed by Putin in 2018.