Almost unnoticed was a media report on March 17 about the start of tests of the Russian Zircon hypersonic cruise missile. However, the military expert community managed to evaluate it. In essence, this means that the Russian military-industrial complex has entered the homestretch in creating a superweapon, which potential enemies will have nothing to oppose in the near future.
Zircon hypersonic missile. Characteristics
Since 2011, NPO Mashinostroyenia has been developing the Zircon cruise missile. Its appearance and characteristics are strictly classified, which is understandable. It is only known that this is a sea-based missile with an estimated speed of Mach 5-6 and a flight range of 300-400 km. In the future, the speed can be increased to Mach 8.
According to some experts, "Zircon" is essentially the same Russian-Indian supersonic missile "BrahMos" only in hypersonic design. If we continue to continue its “pedigree”, the new Zircon rocket will turn out to be the “granddaughter” of the P-800 Onyx, on the basis of which the BrahMos was created.
By the way, in February last year, representatives of Brahmos Aerospace announced their readiness to create a hypersonic engine for a joint brainchild in the next 3-4 years.
First test results
The first tests of the Zircon rocket were carried out at the State Flight Test Center (Akhtubinsk) in 2012-2013. The long-range supersonic bomber Tu-22M3 was chosen for the "role" of the carrier. Testing was continued after 2 years, but with a ground launcher.
The fact that Russia will soon have a new formidable weapon became clear after successful tests last year. This year the tests should be completed, and in a year Zircon is supposed to be put into mass production.
Problems encountered during development
To make the Zircon anti-ship missile system hypersonic, its creators had to work hard. One of the main problems is the monstrous overheating of the hull during flight at hypersonic speed with the subsequent formation of a plasma cloud. As it turned out, one of the main missile systems, which is responsible for homing, practically "goes blind" in it. It became obvious that Zircon would need a new generation of electronic filling.
To accelerate the rocket, it was decided to use a ramjet rocket engine with supersonic combustion on fuel with increased energy intensity - "Decilin-M". To solve the whole complex of problems, the best Russian specialists in the field of aerodynamics, engine building, materials science and electronics were involved in the development of the product.
Initially, the Zircons were designed as "aircraft carrier killers" - sea-launched missiles, which will equip the 5th generation nuclear submarine "Husky". However, it is not difficult to assume that over time they will be able to launch from surface ships, ground launchers and from aboard strike aircraft.
Equipping the Russian Army with Zircon missiles could seriously affect the balance of power. First, the US carrier strike forces will become even more vulnerable. Secondly, the unique high-speed and maneuverable characteristics of the domestic hypersonic missile will reduce the effectiveness of the American missile defense to practically zero.
Hypersonic projects in the USA and other countries
However, one should not write off the main Russian competitors. Back in the early 2000s, during the presidency of George W. Bush, the development of the doctrine of a rapid global strike began, where the main stake was placed on hypersonic cruise missiles with a range of 6, 000 km.
As part of the doctrine, the AHW missile is already being tested, and the next in turn is the HTV-2 project to create a missile capable of reaching Mach 20 with a range of 7, 700 km. In March last year, Lockheed Martin began development of the SR-72 hypersonic drone.
The hypersonic trend is in the spotlight of the Chinese military-industrial complex. This is how the DF-ZF and Yu-71 hypersonic aircraft were tested a year ago. India is developing the Shaurya tactical surface-to-surface missile reaching Mach 7. France is not lagging behind with its hypersonic design of the ASN4G air-to-ground cruise missile with a nuclear warhead and a speed of Mach 8.