Russia could use its Hypersonic anti-ship missile, “Tsirkon” as a bargaining chip in arms control negotiations with the United States.
The Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said yesterday that the successful tests of the newest Russian hypersonic missile Tsirkon (also spelt as “Zircon”) gives confidence to Russian diplomats in the United States in arms control negotiations.
“This directly affects our work in Washington. You feel more confident, calm and comfortable when you negotiate with your colleagues on strategic stability issues, on arms control issues,” Russia 1 TV channel quoted him as saying.
This could be the first time a conventionally-armed missile with a relatively short range (450 kms-according to the Russian MoD) will be used as a bargaining chip in tough US-Russia arms control negotiations.
While the US and Russia have focused on reducing missiles armed with nuclear warheads, neither side will take the first strike option given the propensity for the other side to reply with a nuclear strike not to mention the horrendous human casualties caused by a nuclear blast.
With the Tsirkon, however, the strike could be limited to a single aircraft carrier or missile carrying frigates bringing back fears of the Pearl Harbour attack. The confidence that Russia has in the missile as a negotiating tool stems from the fact that currently the US has nothing matching the Tsirkon.
If claims by the Russian MoD are true, the Tsirkon has unmanned lethality. Its speed- up to 10 times the speed of sound or 12,000 kms per hour- makes it impossible to intercept by the US Navy’s AEGIS anti-missile systems (AMS) or any other AMS in US or Western inventory. Given its ability to be launched from a stand-off distance, the Tsirkon can strike at US aircraft carrier groups without the fear of interception.
In its first test on October 7, the Tsirkon slew a sea-based target after launch from a sea platform.
“Its range is 450 kilometers. It is clear that in such launches the maximum range is not checked. It can be assumed that the maximum range is much higher. In addition, it is known that this rocket has a ramjet engine, which accelerates it to hypersonic speed, ” Viktor Murakhovsky, a member of the expert council of the board of the Military-Industrial Commission of the Russian Federation told the Zvezda TV channel.
In terms of dimensions and weight, the missile fits into the 3S14 universal ship-borne firing complex, with which Russian surface ships are equipped, Murakhovsky said.
“This means that our fleet is ready to receive missiles that are capable of penetrating any air defense and missile defense – both a single ship and a combination of ships. The fleet got the opportunity to fight any, even the most powerful fleet, of any state in the world,” Murakhovsky stressed.
In Wednesday’s test, the Tsirkon missile traveled 450 kms in 4.5 minutes achieving a speed of Mach 8, according to the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov.
“Yesterday at 0715 hours from the White Sea frigate Admiral Gorshkov, a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile was fired at a sea target located in the Barents Sea,” Gerasimov said, reporting to the President (Putin) on Wednesday, Interfax reported.
“The launch tasks have been completed. The shooting has been recognized as successful. A direct hit of the missile on the target has been recorded,” said the head of the General Staff. The missile’s flight range was 450 kilometers, the maximum height was 28 kilometers. “The flight time is four and a half minutes. A hypersonic speed of over Mach 8 has been achieved,” Gerasimov added.