Russia has tested its 3M22 Tzirkon hypersonic anti-ship missile at its maximum range of 1000 km

Hypersonic weapons, and more particularly Russian hypersonic armies, have fueled many debates for several years, whether it concerns the vulnerability of large naval units such as systems able or not to oppose such missiles evolving beyond Mach 5. Since the announcement of the entry into service of the Kinzhal airborne ballistic missile in 2019, Moscow has exploited this very perceptible concern in the West, often relayed by the media lacking perspective on the subject. However, the Russian Navy has just lifted one of the doubts that had been hovering for several months regarding the announced performance of its 3M22 Tzirkon hypersonic anti-ship missile, by announcing the success of a validation firing held this weekend in White Sea, at the maximum range of the system, i.e. 1000 km distance from the target.

So far all the tests announced by the Russian Navy were held at shorter distances, ranging from 200 to 450 km range, which left some doubt as to the advertised range of the Tzirkon at 1000 km. This weekend, the frigate Admiral Gorshkov, therefore removed the ambiguity, by firing its new missile to its maximum range from its standard UKSK silos. Last week, the Russian authorities also confirmed their intention to provide Russian K-300 Bastion shore batteries of the new hypersonic missile alongside the supersonic P800 Onyx already in service, so as to give them a long-range strike capability and a very effective deterrent against enemy fleets.

The frigate Admiral Gorshkov (project 22350) fired a 26M3 Tzirkon missile on Saturday May 22 at a maximum range of 1000 km in the White Sea

However, many questions remain unanswered about this new missile. Indeed, if it is admitted that it is equipped with a solid rocket booster for ejection and initial speed, and a Scramjet or superstatoreactor to maintain a hypersonic cruise flight between Mach 5 and Mach 8 , at an altitude of up to 28 km, its ability to hit moving targets, even large ones such as an aircraft carrier, is still subject to debate. Indeed, a missile evolving between Mach 5 and Mach 10 generates a significant release of heat on its protruding parts, in particular on its fairing which is supposed to house the terminal guidance system. To resist this extreme heat, it is therefore necessary to use special alloys which prove to be particularly opaque to radar waves, not to mention the infrared guidance systems currently used to allow anti-ship missiles to locate their target and identify if necessary.

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