Russia has apparently started testing a new hypersonic cruise missile called the 3M22 Zircon. The new weapon will equip Moscow’s modernized Project 11442 Kirov-class nuclear-powered battlecruisers and its next-generation nuclear submarines.
“The tests of the hypersonic Zircon missiles have begun using a ground-based launching site,” a Russian defense industry source told state-owned RIA Novosti media outlet.
The new missiles Mach 5.0-Mach 6.0 would replace the Pyotr Velikyi’s and its sister ship Admiral Nakhimov’s existing 390-mile range P-700 Granit supersonic anti-ship missile armament. While the Zircon range will likely be shorter—about 250 miles—its sheer speed will make it extremely difficult to intercept with current missile defense technology.
Moscow plans to refit the two giant warships with ten 3S-14 vertical launch systems—each of which carries eight rounds. The addition of the 3S-14 would enable each ship to carry eighty cruise missiles onboard. The ships would carry a mix of and Zircon long-range Kalibr cruise missiles.
The Zircon will also be used onboard Russia’s next-generation nuclear attack submarines. The RIA Novosti report suggests that the new submarine project is called Husky—which was previously unreported.
Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy.