A Russian warship has successfully test-fired a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile that can travel at nine times the speed of sound, according to footage of Vladimir Putin’s latest cutting-edge weapon released by Moscow.
In a statement, the Russian Ministry of Defence said that its Admiral Gorshkov frigate had fired the missile 685 miles from the Barents Sea, in the Arctic, into the White Sea, an inlet off Russia’s northwest coast.
“Rocket firing was carried out as part of testing new types of weapons,” it said. “According to objective control data, the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile successfully hit a sea target located at a distance of about 1000 km. The flight of a hypersonic missile corresponded to the specified parameters.”
A 30-second video released with the statement showed a missile launching from the Admiral Gorshkov, one of Russia’s newest frigates, before it arcs away into the distance. It leaves a huge vapour trail before it disappears into the clouds.
President Vladimir Putin has described the Zircon as part of a new generation of unrivalled arms systems and Russia has conducted previous launches of Zircon missiles from warships and submarines in the past year.
Hypersonic weapons can travel at nine times the speed of sound and have been described as the next big frontier in the global arms race with all the major military powers designing and manufacturing their own versions. They are supposed to be difficult to intercept and designed to launch surprise attacks on enemy warships.
Questions have been raised, though, about just how much of a missile threat upgrade the hypersonic missiles represent with US military analysts last year describing them as “evolutionary rather than revolutionary”.
“There’re lots of claims and not many numbers,” David Wright, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the New York Times. “If you put in the numbers, you find that the claims are nonsense.”
The Kremlin has pledged to increase its military spending and to station more forces and missiles on its borders with Europe if Sweden and Finland join Nato. They have applied for Nato membership after years of neutrality because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Since the start of the war, Russia has tested several new weapons including a missile dubbed Satan-2. This missile is designed to carry several nuclear warheads across the world in minutes.