A recent report from the Kiev Institute of Scientific Research and Forensic Expertise, which is part of the Ukrainian government, suggests that the devastating Russian attack on February 7th in the Ukrainian capital may have involved a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile. The report indicates that projectile debris recovered from the attack shows specific markings of the 3M22 Zircon missile, including parts and fragments of the engine and steering mechanism.
The Zircon missile, according to information provided by Russia, is said to have a range of up to 625 miles and travels at 9 times the speed of sound, making it nearly invulnerable to anti-aircraft defenses. A video released by the Russian Ministry of Defense in May 2022 shows a test launch of a Zircon supersonic missile from the frigate ‘Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov’.
The Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA), a US-based organization, cites Russian information indicating that the Zircon missile reached a speed of Mach 8, or about 6,138 miles per hour, in a test in April 2017. Missiles that travel at Mach 5 or faster are considered ‘supersonic’. The MDAA states that if this information is accurate, the Zircon missile would be the fastest in the world, making it extremely difficult to defend against due to its speed alone.
The Zircon missile is a two-stage weapon that uses solid fuel in the first stage and a scramjet engine in the second stage. During flight, the missile is covered by a plasma cloud that absorbs radio frequency rays, making it invisible to radars and allowing it to go unnoticed on its way to the target.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly praised the Zircon missile as a “unique weapon” with “no equivalent in any country in the world.” He claims that Russia has a strategic weapon capable of overcoming the United States’ anti-missile shield.
The Zircon missile’s capabilities and the recent report from the Kiev Institute of Scientific Research and Forensic Expertise have raised concerns about the potential impact of this advanced weapon on global security. The speed and stealth of the Zircon missile pose significant challenges for defense systems, and its development and deployment could have far-reaching implications for international relations and military strategies. As the situation continues to unfold, it is essential for governments and defense experts to closely monitor and assess the Zircon missile’s capabilities and the potential risks it may pose.
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