Russia claims its new hypersonic 3M22 Zircon (Brahmos-II) anti-ship missile hit Mach 8 (9,900 km/h) in a recent test, which makes this weapon the fastest hypersonic missile on Earth — if the unverified results of this test are true.
“During the tests of the missile, it was confirmed that its speed on the march reaches eight Mach,” said Russian state-owned media. Russia didn’t specify which submarine, surface ship or land installation launched the Mach 8 Zircon, nor did it specify when.
Western experts doubt the Russian claim as Russia in December 2016 admitted that Zircon (or Tsirkon) is capable only of Mach 5 or 6,200 km/h. Hypersonic weapons such as missiles and aircraft can reach speeds in excess of Mach 5.
Russian state-run media, however, confirmed previous reports the first operational Zircon will be installed on the Kirov-class heavy missile cruisers, RFS Admiral Nakhimov (080) and RFS Pyotr Velikiy (099).
Zircon has a range of 450 kilometers. The warhead weight of 3M22 Zircon remains unknown but will likely be heavier than the 200 kg warhead on India’s BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.
It’s widely believed BrahMos II is the export version of the 3M22 Zircon. BrahMos II, which will have a speed of Mach 7 (8,600 km/h), will be the world’s fastest cruise missile when it enters service with the Indian Armed Forces some eight years from now.
Production of the 3M22 Zircon is expected to begin late this year at the earliest. Tests of this warhead began in March 2016.
The 3M22 Zircon will be added to the missile armament of the RFS Admiral Nakhimov, which has been undergoing extensive refitting since 2015. The Nakhimov should re-enter service in 2018 at the earliest.
The RFS Pyotr Velikiy will be outfitted with the 3M22 Zircon in late 2019 as part of a large scale refit. She was commissioned into the Soviet Navy in 1998 and is part of the fleet that escorted the Russian aircraft carrier, RFS Admiral Kuznetsov (063), to the Mediterranean Sea in October 2016.
The Russians say their hypersonic weapons can defeat all existing types of U.S. anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs), which are designed to intercept Russian ICBMs with more predictable ballistic trajectories.
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