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In the final months of 2020, Russia tested its 3M22 Tsirkon anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile multiple times, including a mid-December test in the White Sea. Now it seems that the state trials for the missile platform—also known as the Zircon—could be concluded this year.
Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Alexey Krivoruchko announced last Friday that the 3M22 Tsirkon, which was fired from the Northern Fleet Project 22350 frigate Admiral of the Soviet Fleet Gorshkov during the design trials, achieved a speed in excess of Mach 8. That has been seen as a significant milestone reached during the recent trials in December and a significant step up from the first batch of tests held a month earlier.
It was during a test in November that the same frigate fired a Tsirkon while in the White Sea at a target 450 km away in the Barents Sea, and the missile achieved a speed above Mach 4.
The Tsirkon reportedly is capable of reaching a speed of around Mach 9, and could have a strike range capability that exceeds 1,000 km. It was designed to have a dual-purpose capability that is able to strike both naval and ground targets. In late December, it was also reported that the Russian Navy would soon arm its attack submarines with the 3M22 missiles.
“These positive results make it possible to begin the next trial stage: firing from submarine carriers,” Deputy Minister Krivoruchko told TASS. “The state trials are expected to end in 2021, and serial shipment should begin in 2022.”
The 3M22 Tsirkon isn’t the only new missile that could soon be employed on Russia's submarines. The deputy minister added that the 13th Missile Division of the Strategic Missile Forces has continued its rearmament to the newest Avangard missile system. It was also reported that in December, two missiles with hypersonic glide payloads entered service in December 2020.
The Avangard is a boost-glide, Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) missile system that was first unveiled during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2018 annual state-of-the-nation address.
“The Avangard is invulnerable to intercept by any existing and prospective missile defense means of the potential adversary,” said the Russian leader.
Additionally, in December 2020, the Russian Navy’s strategic submarine cruiser Vladimir Monomakh fired a salvo of four Bulava missiles from the Sea of Okhotsk. The carrier and the weapons performed as expected, completing the firing mission in full.
“We have confirmed the quality and reliability of the serial batches,” Deputy Minister Krivoruchko noted.
The RSM-56 Bulava is a submarine-launched derivative of the highly capable Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile. It boasts an operating range of up to 10,000 km and carries a 500 kiloton nuclear warhead with a GLONASS-powered digital inertial navigation system.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.