Tsirkon: Russia’s hypersonic missile that can’t be seen on a radar
President Vladimir Putin has promised unparalleled new weapons for his nation’s military. Making the announcement during Russia’s Navy Day on Sunday, Putin said the Tsirkon missile systems would be delivered to naval forces within the coming months.
The declaration coincided with the ratification of a naval doctrine that says the determination of the US and its allies to “preserve their dominance in the world, including its oceans”, along with the expansion of NATO, are the biggest threats facing Russia.
Putin listed in his speech the areas that he considers untouchable and from which NATO must move away: "Our Arctic zone, the waters of the Black, Okhotsk and Bering seas, and the Baltic and Kuril straits [...] We will guarantee their defense firmly and by all means.”
The missile that the ships of the Russian Navy will soon carry: the dreaded Tsirkon (also known as 3M22 Zircon), is a missile with terrifying characteristics.
The technological novelty introduced by this missile is its ability to exceed up to nine times the speed of sound. That is to say, this projectile would be able to strike down a target in a very short period of time.
According to Russian propaganda, Tsirkon could reach between 6,000 and 10,000 kilometers/hour (3,800-6,900 miles/hour).
That extreme speed makes Western military circles speculate that Tsirkon could elude missile defense systems.
The detailed Wikipedia entry on this missile states that "air pressure in front of it forms a cloud of plasma as it moves, absorbing radio waves and making it virtually invisible to active radar systems."
The Russians claim that a Tsirkon missile can hit a target from 10,000 kilometers (6,213 miles) away almost instantly.
According to The New York Times, Russia claimed in March that it had demolished an arms depot in Ukraine with a Tsirkon missile.
The Russian armed forces indicated that the Tsirkon missile could strike both ground and sea targets, and was being developed at the renowned rocket-design bureau NPO Mashinostroyenia near Moscow, Newsweek reported.
According to the official Tass agency, "The Reutov-based Research and Production Association is serially producing Tsirkon hypersonic missiles. The defense firm is working to extend the missile's operational range."
Russia and China have advanced in the investigation of this type of hypersonic weapons. According to The New York Times, "the Pentagon has requested $3.8 billion for hypersonic research in fiscal year 2022."
In fact, Reuters reported in July 2022 that two Lockheed Martin Corp hypersonic missile tests had been successfully conducted.
But, also according to Reuters, in parallel to the experimentation with hypersonic missiles, the US military industry is rapidly investigating systems to detect and deactivate these projectiles in case the enemy launches them.
A shield against hypersonic missiles is urgent if they can, in fact, circumvent current defense systems as it is thought by Western military circles.
The arms race that went on during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union and the United States pointed their missiles at each other, seems to have returned.