Two aging Russian Navy battlecruisers will be outfitted with the anti-ship version of the world’s first hypersonic missile, the 3K-22, which carries Zircon (or Tsirkon) 3M22 hypersonic warheads. This hypersonic missile will also arm Russian ballistic missile submarines.
With a claimed speed of Mach 5 or 6,200 km/h, the 3K-22 has a range of 450 kilometers. The weight of the 3M22 Zircon warhead remains unknown but will likely be heavier than the 200 kg warhead on India’s BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.
It’s widely believed BrahMos II is the export version of the 3M22 Zircon. BrahMos II, which will have a speed of Mach 7 (8,600 km/h), will be the world’s fastest cruise missile when it enters service with the Indian Armed Forces some eight years from now.
Production of the 3M22 Zircon is expected to begin in 2017. Tests of this warhead began last March.
Today, however, the 3M22 Zircon is scheduled to be added to the missile armament of the RFS Admiral Nakhimov (080), a Kirov-class heavy missile cruiser that entered service with the Soviet Navy in 1988. The Nakhimov has been undergoing extensive refitting since 2015.
The Nakhimov should re-enter service in 2018 at the earliest.
Another Kirov-class heavy missile cruiser, the RFS Pyotr Velikiy (099), will be outfitted with the 3M22 Zircon in late 2019 as part of a large-scale refit. She was commissioned into the Soviet Navy in 1998 and is part of the fleet that escorted the Russian aircraft carrier, RFS Admiral Kuznetsov (063), to the Mediterranean Sea in October.
The Russians say their hypersonic weapons can defeat all existing types of U.S. anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs), which are designed to intercept Russian ICBMs with more predictable ballistic trajectories.
On the other hand, a hypersonic missile can maneuver in flight to evade American ABMs. Russia developed a new type of fuel, Detsilin-M, that delivers 20 percent more power than existing rocket fuels to power the Zircon.