On May 28, Admiral Gorshkov frigate of the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet fired a Tsirkon hypersonic, anti-ship cruise missile from the Barents Sea at a naval target located 1,000 kilometers away in the White Sea.
The Russian Ministry of Defense told reports that that the shooting was part of a series of tests for new weapon systems.
“Today, the lead Project 22350 frigate Admiral Gorshkov fired a Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile at a naval target position in the White Sea from the Barents Sea,” the ministry said. “According to objective control data, the Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile successfully hit a naval target located at a distance of around 1,000 kilometers”.
The Tsirkon, which was developed by Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya, is powered by a state-of-the-art scramjet engine that allows it to reach speed as high as Mach 8 and 9. The maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile can destroy both naval and land targets with a report range of more than 1,000 kilometers.
The missile is reportedly equipped with a high-precision inertial navigation system and an advanced active radar seeker.
The high speed of the Tsirkon likely gives it better target-penetration characteristics than lighter subsonic cruise missiles, such as the US-made Tomahawk. Being twice as heavy and almost eleven times as fast as Tomahawk, the Zircon has more than 242 times the on-cruise kinetic energy of a Tomahawk missile.
The missile’s speed means that it cannot be intercepted by existing missile defense systems and its precision makes it lethal to large targets as aircraft carrier.
The hypersonic missile, which is currently in production, can be launched from surface ships and submarines. NPO Mashinostroyeniya is now developing a costal defense system that utilizes the missile. The system, which will be able to engage naval and land targets, will reportedly enter service with the Russian Navy before the end of the year.
The Tsirkon is one example of the advanced capabilities the Russian Navy has acquired in the recent years. As of now, the NATO has no match for the missile.