Russia successfully test-fires new hypersonic cruise missile
10/08/2021 // Ramon Tomey // Views

Russia has successfully test-fired a new hypersonic cruise missile from an underwater vessel. The country's defense ministry said on Oct. 4 that the Tsirkon hypersonic missile hit its intended target after being fired from a Russian submarine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has lauded the missile, which forms part of Russia's novel arms systems.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has confirmed the missile's successful launch from the Severodvinsk submarine while in the Barents Sea. Footage from the ministry shows the Tsirkon missile shooting upwards, lighting up the night sky and the water. "The test firing of the Tsirkon missile from a nuclear submarine was deemed successful," it says.

Russian state news agency TASS reported back in July that the Tsirkon hypersonic missile was successfully test-fired from an above-water vessel. According to the report, it was launched from the Admiral Gorshkov frigate while the vessel was in the White Sea.

A July 19 MoD statement said: "According to live monitoring data, the Tsirkon missile successfully hit a target directly at a range of over 350 kilometers." The missile's surface target was located on the coast of the Barents Sea, which the Tsirkon hit. The statement added: "During the test, the tactical and technical characteristics were confirmed – [and the] flight speed reached nearly Mach 7."

The Tsirkon missile is just one of many armaments in Russia's arsenal against the United States. Back in 2018, Putin announced an array of new hypersonic weapons. He said in a speech that year that these new weapons could hit almost any location around the globe and even bypass the U.S. defense system against such missiles.


Some Western experts have questioned the full extent of advancement in Russia's new hypersonic weapons, but they recognize the difficulty of tracking and intercepting hypersonic missiles due to the combination of speed, maneuverability and altitude.

Russia's hypersonic weapons put the US at a disadvantage

The National Interest mentioned a number of hypersonic weapons in the Russian arsenal in a December 2019 article. These three weapons were first announced by Putin in his March 2018 state of the nation address.

First is the Kinzhal, a "nuclear-capable ballistic missile" that can be launched by air. It boasts of a reported maximum range of up to 3,000 kilometers when fired from a Russian Tu-22M3 bomber. The Kinzhal's capabilities increase when fired from a Russian Tu-22M3M bomber, reaching a top flight speed of up to almost 15,000 kilometers per hour – about Mach 12 speeds. It entered service in the Russian Armed Forces in 2018, and was test-fired from a MiG-31K fighter jet in December 2019.

Second is the Avangard, which combines the benefits of a high-performance ballistic missile with an unmanned glider vehicle. According to the Kremlin, this makes the Avangard a fast and agile missile that "cannot be reliably intercepted." The first two serial Avangard systems entered a service trial period in late 2019. (Related: New Russian hypersonic missile can achieve speeds of Mach 27 and will become operational in 2020.)

Third is the Sarmat, a 200-ton liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Putin touts the advantages of Sarmat in a speech, calling it a "heavy ICBM [with a] practically unlimited range" that cannot be intercepted by "any current or prospective" air defense system. From 2015 to 2017, Sarmat suffered from delays owing to design flaws with the ejection mechanism. However, the MoD later confirmed that Sarmat is scheduled to finish trials by 2021 and enter service in 2024.

Putin said in a December 2019 MoD meeting: "Now, we have a situation that is unique in modern history where they are trying to catch up to us. No [other] country has hypersonic weapons, let alone hypersonic weapons of intercontinental range."

American experts have been sounding the alarm and saying that the U.S. military is lagging behind Russia and China in developing hypersonic weapons and countermeasures for them.

U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, admitted in 2018 that the country has no weapon for intercepting an Avanguard weapon system. "We don't have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us," he told Congress in March 2018. (Related: STRATCOM commander sounds the alarm bell, says nuclear war "very real possibility" with Russia or China.) has more articles about Russia's development of hypersonic weapons.

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