Russia has assured this Monday that it has successfully launched one of its new hypersonic missiles, the Zircon (or Tsirkon), from a submarine in the Arctic. The Russian Defense Ministry claims the ship has tested the weapon on simulated targets in the Barents Sea. The Zircon, which according to Moscow is capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound and has a range of 1,000 kilometers, is part of the catalog of new hypersonic weapons that Russian President Vladimir Putin boasts. Thus, the Eurasian country seeks to boost its military capacity.
The Russian Defense Ministry, which expects to complete the Zircon tests by the end of the year, says the nuclear missile submarine Severodvinsk fired a Zircon first from the surface and then from an underwater position at a depth of 40 meters in the White Sea, with a simulated target in the Barents Sea. “The flight of the missile, from when it left the water until it reached the simulated target, fully complied with the expected parameters,” the department led by Minister Sergei Shoigu, one of Putin’s closest men, said in a statement.
Defense already announced in July that it had also tested the launch of the Zircon from a frigate several times. The report then caused concern in NATO, which assured that with the development of these weapons, Russia creates “a greater risk of escalation and miscalculations.” “Russia’s new hypersonic missiles are highly destabilizing, posing significant risks to security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area,” the Alliance said in a statement at the time.
The Zircon’s launch from Sunday night to Monday comes as Moscow and Washington have quietly resumed their talks on strategic stability and arms control, following the June summit between Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden.
The Zircon, intended to arm cruisers, frigates and submarines, is one of several hypersonic weapons that Russia develops and that Putin has promoted as part of a new generation of “invulnerable” weaponry, which due to its combination of speed, maneuverability and altitude makes make it difficult to track and intercept.
In 2018, in a warmongering and boastful speech, shortly before the elections that revalidated him in the Kremlin, the Russian leader announced a new catalog of nuclear weapons. Drawing on animated videos showing multiple warheads aimed at Florida, where then-President Donald Trump regularly stayed, he spoke of a new ICC cruise missile that he defined as “invincible” and a nuclear torpedo that could circumvent all American defenses.
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At the time, most Western pundits called the announcement an electoral boastfulness. However, afterwards, Moscow has been announcing new weapons, such as the Zircon missile, the Poseidon nuclear drone – an unmanned submarine that will deploy the Zircon – or the Kinzhal, which will arm Russian combat aircraft, has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers and it flies at 10 times the speed of sound, according to Russian authorities. Also, a new weapon they have called Avangard, which according to Russian officials is capable of flying 27 times faster than sound and performing abrupt maneuvers on its way to the target to dodge a defensive missile shield. According to Moscow, the latter already entered service in December 2019.
Russian weapons testing and commissioning announcements keep pouring in; and they accelerated after the United States’ abandonment of the Cold War landmark treaty signed by Washington and Moscow in 1987. However, some Western experts question whether Russia’s new generation of weapons is really that advanced. China and the United States are also working on the development of hypersonic weapons.
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