Russia has passed through another test of the promising “Tsirkon“ hypersonic cruise missile. The launch was first carried out from the frigate “Admiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov” against a sea target located at a distance of 450km. The average flight speed of the missile was 1.6km per second, and the maximum flight altitude was 28,000m. It took about 4.5 minutes to hit the target. The missile will be used against enemy surface ships equipped with air and missile defense systems that can effectively intercept modern supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles.
The first shooting at a target located on the shore at a distance of 500 km took place in January and also proved successful. The Northern Fleet frigate “Admiral Gorshkov” will perform three more test launches of the “Tsirkon” by the end of this year. At the same time, all launches will be carried out with a real defeat of sea or land targets that simulate enemy aircraft carriers and strategic objects.
This indicates that the Russian hypersonic missile “Tsirkon” 3M22, developed by “Mashinostroeniya” is ready for its main purpose — the destruction of large enemy ships.
The United States is clearly alarmed by the prospect of this complex appearing at the disposal of the Russian Navy. As we know, the basis of US influence in the world is military force. And the basis of this power is its ability, as the Americans say, to project, i.e., to attack other countries, no matter how far from the US they are. The main tool of this “projection” is the US Navy, or rather, their ability to destroy in a non-nuclear war any possible fleets that can resist them, and ensure US dominance at sea. And this ability is based on the fact that no matter how the enemy tries to touch them, they will not succeed, while American submarines and carrier-based aircraft are strong enough to cope with anyone.
Submarines are a separate story, and the deflection of any missile strikes is the specialty of the US Navy’s surface forces. Missile cruisers and destroyers with the AEGIS system can provide such a powerful air defense that breaking through it without nuclear weapons can cost the existence of almost any forces of the opposing aviation. Of course, the defense of naval formations of the US Navy can be broken through and bypassed by tactical tricks, but all this requires huge forces, a mass of missiles, hard work of headquarters – and, alas, victims. And a huge amount at that.
Now all the advantages of the US Navy have been reduced to zero. Extreme high speed is the main advantage of the “Tsirkon”. To date, there are simply no missile defense systems that can effectively intercept these anti-ship missiles.
And if we take into account the declared flight range, which is according to various sources 600km, and most likely more than 1000km, the aircraft carrier simply will not notice the approaching threat. And if only one missile hits an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, it will be literally torn in half by the huge kinetic energy of the projectile. This nullifies the capabilities of the AEGIS system’s protective dome over all US Navy aircraft strike groups. Instead of being a formidable deterrent to Russia, American carrier strike groups will have to stay away from its shores and hypersonic weapons carriers.
When “Tsirkons” are used by submarines, it will generally look like shooting at point-blank range. In the US, they flatter themselves that they will be able to use their ship’s SM-6 missile to intercept Russian hypersound and will be able to detect the “Tsirkon” at a great distance using the new naval integrated fire control system (NIFC-CA). Even so, which is very doubtful, it is still impossible to hide or protect oneself from a charge that flies 3km per second.
Overseas, they are closely monitoring missile tests in Russia and taking them into account in the course of forming their own policy in the field of arms control, the State Department said after the tests of the “Tsirkon” missile, as was reported by many American media outlets. Popular Mechanics wrote, for example, that the US Navy’s defense systems are likely to struggle with the “Tsirkon” and other hypersonic anti-ship missiles.
However, the publication noted: “Zircon’s speed borders on terrifying, but the good news is the U.S. Navy is on the case,” but did not say how the Americans intend to counter Russian hypersonic weapons.
In addition, most Russian ships and submarines will now be able to use these weapons — both small corvettes and frigates, as well as nuclear cruisers: surface and underwater vessels are serially equipped with universal launchers for “Kalibr”, “Oniks”, and “Tsirkon”. The modernisation of the large anti-submarine ship of the Pacific Fleet “Marshal Shaposhnikov” and the nuclear submarine of the Pacific Fleet “Irkutsk” for “Tsirkon” shows that hypersonic weapons will be deployed in the Far East – in a region that is becoming increasingly important amid the growing confrontation between the US and China.
The Baltic and Black Sea fleets don’t need missiles with a range of 1,000 kilometers, because they simply have nowhere to fly in small inland seas. But in the Pacific Ocean, supersonic and hypersonic missiles have plenty of space. The “Kalibr” is twofold better than the American “Harpoon” in range (600km vs. 280km) and three times as fast: Mach 3 vs. 0.85. The flight speed is three times higher than the sound one, which already calls into question the possibility of AEGIS air defense system deployed on US Navy ships intercepting the “Kalibr”. There is no protection against the “Tsirkon” with its Mach 9 and a range of 1000km.
Perhaps the Pacific region will become a priority for the deployment of “Tsirkon”, writes MilitaryWatchMagazine. Aviation missiles “Kinzhal“ and naval “Tsirkon” will become the “absolute weapon” of Russia, allowing it to strengthen its influence in the region and giving a new impetus to the joint efforts of China and the Russian Federation to move away from the global maritime dominance of the US. In addition, there are several dozen projects in the field of hypersound in Russia.
Russia has deprived America of the status of untouchable, said the Vice-Admiral United States Navy Daryl Caudle. “But it’s pretty well known now that our homeland is no longer a sanctuary, so we have to be prepared here to conduct high-end combat operations in local waters,” he said.
With the advent of the “Tsirkon” cruise missile, Russia is becoming a leader at sea and becomes the owner of an effective tool for deterring the aggression of unfriendly states, said Viktor Bondarev, head of the Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee. “Today, the presence of a serious nuclear arsenal is cooling the hotheads in the Pentagon, keeping them from using force against Russia in one form or another. In fact, strategic nuclear forces are currently the main guarantor of global peace. But it is important to support this ‘source of stability’ with non-nuclear weapons that are comparable in power and impact to nuclear weapons,” the Senator said. This, Bondarev stressed, is what Russia is successfully doing: hypersonic weapons, along with laser weapons, are a new generation of weapons.
In the future, “Tsirkon” will be installed not only on surface ships and submarines, but also on “Bastion” coastal anti-ship complexes.
The tests of the “Tsirkon” hypersonic missile were a major event for the Russian armed forces. According to the Press Secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov, thanks to the successful test of the “Tsirkon” missile, the Russian nuclear triad received a fundamentally new weapon. He stressed that the Russian President called this test a great event for the whole country. In turn, the Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov on the TV channel “Russia-1” called the launch of “Tsirkon” an amazing success of the Russian armed forces. According to him, Washington paid attention to the tests and generally “closely monitors” what is happening in Russia. He noted that any step of the Russian armed forces is important for the American side. Reports alone about the imminent adoption of a hypersonic missile by the Russian Navy had a significant impact on the balance of power in various parts of the world.
However, the latest test of the “Tsirkon” is accompanied by a grave silence in the specialised American press. Did they finally understand? Unlikely. The “Tsirkon” 3M22 anti-ship missile is one of the notorious “Putin missiles” that the Russian President warned his geopolitical partners about in a memorable speech to the Federal Assembly. Back then there was a lot of irony over the “cartoons“, including from the liberals who had settled in Russia. But now we can talk about the appearance of the “Avangard” missile system and the “Kinzhal” hypersonic aviation complex as a fact. “Tsirkon” was the next of the promised weapons on that list.
The situation is very similar to the one that developed during the period when the USSR implemented its nuclear projects. On March 8th 1950, the USSR officially announced the presence of an atomic bomb, shocking the world community and, first of all, the US administration and military circles.
Before that, American experts in the US were sure that the Soviet nuclear industry was far behind the American one, and in the best case, the Soviet atomic bomb would not be ready until 1954. The statement of the USSR foreign Minister Molotov about the unraveled secret of atomic weapons in 1947 was perceived by the Americans as a bluff. But in the same year, the first nuclear reactor was put into operation in the Soviet Union.
However, the American media and politicians almost did not raise this topic, they were so sure of the unattainable military superiority of the US. Moreover, on August 12th 1953, successful tests were conducted at the “Semipalatinsk” test site, which made the USSR the first country to create a thermonuclear weapon of enormous destructive power. In addition, the bomb could be delivered by a strategic bomber to the enemy’s territory, as it was small in size, weighed only 7 tons, and easily fit, for example, in the Tu-16. This news did not go unnoticed abroad, but it did not have the desired effect: the US did not change its opinion about its own greatness.
According to Vladimir Batyuk, head of the Center for Military and Political Research at the Institute of the United States and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Americans were skeptical of the achievements of Soviet science until the 1950s. “The American establishment was not too impressed by the Soviet atomic bomb test. It was accepted to write off everything as ‘atomic espionage’. Moreover, the hydrogen test did not become a sensation, although here the Soviet Union was clearly ahead of America. I suspect that there was the same perception associated with conversations about atomic espionage: they say that the Russians stole something and refined it,” Batyuk said in an interview with RT.
The expert believes that Americans were really shocked by the achievements of Soviet science and military technology later, when the world’s first satellite was launched (1957), but “much more than the first test of the Soviet hydrogen charge, American society and the elite were excited by the test in 1961 on Novaya Zemlya of the Tsar bomb, which became the most powerful weapon in the history of mankind”.
And it was like this: on October 17th 1961, at the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev announced the imminent testing of a huge thermonuclear bomb that can be dropped from an airplane. The power of the bomb was a record. Khrushchev claimed 50 megatons, but in reality its capacity reached 58 megatons.
The bomb was tested on October 30th 1961. The superbomb, called “Tsar bomb” or “Kuzkin’s mother” (Khrushchev threatened to show everyone “Kuzkin’s mother” at the UN – hence the second name of the bomb), was dropped from a Tu-95 plane from a height of 10km by parachute and detonated three minutes later. Immediately after the drop, the plane made a sharp u-turn. The explosion occurred at a distance of 38-39 km from the plane, the shock wave caught up with it at a distance of 115km and threw it into a dive, from which the pilots managed to escape, losing 800m of altitude. The bomb blast was supposed to demonstrate the Soviet Union’s nuclear power and sober up the hotheads in the west.
History repeats itself, but in the form of a farce, as periodically happens with American history. In March last year, the website “Breitbart news” wrote: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mocked Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to deploy new missiles against western capitals, calling it “bluster” designed to sow division between Washington and its allies.
A month ago, US President Donald Trump announced that Russia was able to create hypersonic weapons only after allegedly stealing the technology from the administration of his predecessor Barack Obama. “We now have the greatest weapon ever created by man. We revived the army and raised it to a level that no one thought would be possible. And I said that we have created the most powerful weapon known to mankind. This is true,” he said. At the same time, according to the President, these weapons are so advanced that Russia and China “will envy” the US.
American generals seem to have a more sober head. In recent months, they have repeatedly acknowledged that the country has fallen behind Russia and China in producing hypersonic weapons. The head of the Pentagon, Mark Esper, noted, for example, that the US was in this area “playing catchup”. He announced a doubling of funding for the development of ground, air, and sea-based hypersonic munitions in 2020. And the head of the Northern Command of the US armed forces, General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, said recently: “The Russian Avangard missile system is able to bypass the US missle defense system and strike deep into the US territory 15 minutes after launch”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin compared the work on the “Avangard” complex to the Soviet nuclear project. He stressed that since December last year, the first regiment of strategic missiles equipped with the “Avangard” system has been put on combat duty. According to the Russian leader, this is a huge event in the life of the country and ensuring its security. “The withdrawal of the US from the anti-ballistic missile treaty in 2002 forced Russia to start developing hypersonic weapons. We had to create these weapons in response to the deployment of the US strategic missile defense system, which in the future would be able to actually neutralize, nullify our entire nuclear potential,” the Russian President said.
Russia used to have to be in the role of catching up in the development of new weapons, Vladimir Putin said, which always put the country in a very difficult and even dangerous position. “In fact, there were moments when we were threatened, but we had nothing to respond with,” the President said.
This, he said, was a clear and dangerous violation of the strategic balance. But now, for the first time, the country has the most modern weapons, many times superior to the development of other countries, our President said.
In the latest report from the congressional research service, “Hypersonic weapons. Background and issues for Congress” from March 17th 2020 it is stated directly: Russian gliders (“Avangard”) with a nuclear warhead are difficult to detect with the help of existing equipment, the command structure of the US armed forces is too slow and will not be able to respond to such an attack. But it also says that these weapons do not add anything to the existing strategic potential. So they didn’t understand, again.
On September 18th 2020, the authoritative American magazine “The National Interest” published an article entitled “Is the Russian Avangard Hypersonic ICBM a Serious Threat?”. Its author Peter Suciu, in particular, writes that the gliding hypersonic combat unit of the “Avangard” missile system can move at a speed 27 times the speed of sound, and its ability to maneuver can make it almost impossible to correctly predict its trajectory. The article also notes that the “Avangard” is only one of the components of Russia’s large arsenal of such weapons, which includes 528 land-based and submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as nuclear weapons on bombers.
The presence of hypersonic systems in Russia is one of the main reasons why the White House still refuses to extend the START-3 Treaty, since it wants to include “Avangard” in the agreement, but Russia, for obvious reasons, refuses. The fact is that after the appearance of hypersonic weapons, which includes the “Avangard”, nuclear weapons have lost their former significance. And here it is particularly important to emphasize that the hard work that Russia has done to extend the START-3 Treaty is dictated solely by concern for peace. But the US does not want to accept this either. Meanwhile, according to well-informed sources, the creation of a new American ICBM is planned for 2029. This means that in the next 8-10 years, the US will not have anything to oppose the Russian “Avangard”. But Russia will not stand still either…
And here comes the “Tsirkon”. Moreover, in the next test launches planned for the end of 2020, it is no coincidence that mobile surface targets simulating aircraft carriers are mentioned as targets — the 3M22 missile is called the “carrier killer”. This is one of the main purposes of the “Tsirkon”.
And the once-terrifying aircraft carriers have almost become a great target even for small ships of the Russian Navy, which will be equipped with supersonic missiles. Therefore, the 10 upcoming test launches of the “Tsirkon” in their geopolitical significance can probably be compared with the tests of the superbomb called “Kuzkin’s mother”. Back then the US finally recognised the Soviet Union as an enemy that is equal in terms of military power. The cold war was thus balanced by the potentials of the two most powerful nuclear states. Today, as they say, the hypersonic ball is on the American’s side of the court, and at the same time the degree of confrontation in the endless cold war is increasing, but Russia now has the right to establish the conditions of the Great Game.
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