MOSCOW --- Under development by Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia Corporation headquartered in the Moscow Region, the Tsirkon advanced hypersonic antiship missile has achieved Mach 8 at a recent test, TASS reports, citing a source in the defense industry.
"The tests have proved that its cruising speed is Mach 8 (the Mach number indicates the relationships between sonic speed and flight altitude)," the source said without specifying the date of the launch and the launcher used. According to him, the Tsirkon can be fired by the 3S-14 versatile vertical launch system used in the Kalibr (NATO reporting name: SS-N-27 Sizzler) and Oniks (SS-N-26 Strobile) missile systems as well. An official confirmation of the reports is unavailable at the moment.
The official tests of the Tsirkon have been kicked off this year. When the missile enters service, it will join the weapons suites of the Pyotr Veliky (Kirov-class) and Admiral Nakhimov nuclear-powered battlecruisers among others. According to open sources, the Tsirkon’s range is in the neighborhood of 400 km and its maximum speed equals Mach 4-6.
In late March this year, British media have actively discussed the Tsirkon’s characteristics, saying the weapon was a threat to the Royal Navy and was a game changer, according to the Novosti News Agency.
For instance, the Daily Mirror wrote the sophisticated missile was fit to destroy the RN’s most advanced ships "in a single strike."
"Experts warn the unstoppable missiles could spell disaster for the Navy's new £6.2 billion aircraft carriers… But with no method of protecting themselves against missiles like the Tsirkon, the carrier would have to stay out of range, hundreds of miles out at sea. That would make it impossible for the carrier's jets and helicopters to reach their target, carry out their mission, and return without running out of fuel - effectively rendering them useless," the Mirror’s article said.
The Daily Mail, in turn, warmed that the missile could fly at a speed of 7,400 km/h - six times faster than sonic speed.
"Current Navy anti-missile defenses are only equipped to shoot down projectiles traveling 2,300mph, meaning they would be useless against the Tsirkon. The 'unstoppable' projectile could spell disaster for the Navy's… aircraft carriers," the article explained.
The Daily Star called the Tsirkon a "game changer….The lethal missile - which can be fired from land, sea and submarines - can reportedly cover 155 miles in just 2.5 minutes, which is faster than a bullet from sniper's rifle," it said.
Early media reports on the development of the Tsirkon cropped up in February 2011. Some presumed for want of an official confirmation that the BrahMos-II antimissile system was the Tsirkon’s export version. There had been an assumption before 2012 that the Tsirkon was a successor to the Bolid system from NPO Mashinostroyenia as well.
NPO Mashinostroyenia set up a team of project engineers in 2011. The weapon’s preliminary design was complete the same year, as were the preliminary designs of the subsystems of the missile. A division of UPKB Detal did some of the job. The development of the hypersonic missile system is scheduled for completion before 2020, according to the Military Russia web portal.
Later on, the media have reported that the Tsirkon program was either discontinued or altered. No proof has been offered, but it is possible that it is the closure of the program due to technical problems that prompted the government to propose that the Raduga Design Bureau and NPO Mashinostroyenia pool their efforts to work on hypersonic missile development, according to the Gazeta.ru website. -