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Russia releases video of hypersonic missile launch from a cruise ship

Russian Navy frigate Admiral Gorshkov launches a 3M22 Tsirkon hypersonic missile, Oct. 6, 2020. (Russian Ministry of Defense/Released)
October 07, 2020

A top Russian military official on Wednesday told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia successfully tested a new hypersonic cruise missile, capable of reaching speeds in excess of eight times the speed of sound, Mach 8. The Wednesday announcement of the missile test, which occurred the day before, coincided with Putin’s 68th birthday on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Kremlin released the transcript of a call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chief of the General Staff of Russia’s Armed Forces – First Deputy Defence Minister Valery Gerasimov. In the call, Gerasimov described the launch of the Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile from the Russian Navy frigate Admiral Gorshkov, deployed in the White Sea.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense also shared video purporting to show the missile launch from the frigate Admiral Gorshkov.

The video shows a missile leaving a launch tube, before cutting to another shot with footage of a missile launching

Gerasimov claimed the missile flew over 450 kilometers (about 279.6 miles) distance and reached a maximum altitude of 28 kilometers (about 17.4 miles) and a hypersonic speed of over Mach 8, measured at about 6,138 miles per hour. The test launch lasted four and a half minutes from start to finish. The hypersonic missile was fired at a target in the Barent Sea and destroyed the target.

Reuters reported the missile was first successfully tested in January. Tuesday’s test consists of the first use of the weapon against a naval target.

The 3M22 Tsirkon, also spelled Zircon, is a scramjet-powered anti-ship missile capable of maneuvering in flight, Fox News reported.

Putin said, “The Tsirkon project and the stage you have reported today – the successful test flight of the missile – are a major event not only for the Armed Forces but also for the nation as a whole. Supplying our Armed Forces – the Army and the Navy – with the most advanced armaments that have no analogues in the world will reliably ensure national defences for a long time to come.”

In December of 2019, Russia said it had successfully deployed another advanced hypersonic weapon, the Avangard system, which is a hypersonic glide vehicle.

In 2018, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned that the U.S. was lagging behind Russia and China in the pursuit of hypersonic weapons. In March, the U.S. successfully tested its common hypersonic glide body (C-HGB), being developed as part of the U.S. efforts to counter other hypersonic weapons.

Gerasimov said, following additional tests, the Tsirkon system will be deployed on Russian submarines and surface ships.