Technology 3 min read

Russian Zircon Hypersonic Missile Trumps U.S. Defense Systems

SpaceX-Imagery |

SpaceX-Imagery |

Reportedly, Russia has tested a hypersonic missile that’s 6 times faster than the speed of sound.

“Speed” is a keyword in the human vocabulary, and across many aspects of life, the quest for the fastest [insert anything here] never ceases.

Fast internet, fast computers, fast cars, fast aircraft; in each of these cases, “speed” is synonymous with efficiency.

For missiles, range was once most important–hence ICBMs. After missile defense symptoms improved drastically, now speed is also the goal for missiles. The more velocity, the more evasive capability they have.

Russia's Zircon hypersonic missile is 6 times faster than sound.Click To Tweet

Zircon Hypersonic Missile, a Game Changer

While North Korean totalitarian regime sees intercontinental ballistic missiles as potential leverage against the U.S. and its enemies, Russia is vying for sheer speed.

Sound travels in the dry air at the maximum speed of about 760 mph, or Mach 1. For comparison, the speed of the stealthy F-22 Raptor is 1497 mph, or Mach 1.95.

A Russian hypersonic missile reportedly reached a speed of Mach 6.

Named Zircon, the missile concept was test-launched by Russian Military a year ahead of schedule.

Clocking in at 4,600 mph, or about 77 miles per minute, the Zircon would be virtually invulnerable to existing missile defense systems and would render them obsolete.

The hypersonic Zircon missile is scheduled to enter service between 2018 and 2020, to be installed on Russia’s nuke-powered missile strike ship, Pyotr Veliky.

Hypersonic Warfare

The U.S. anti-missile defense systems are like a monkey on an attacking missile’s back. They render the missile useless, no matter how powerful, as they can’t, theoretically, reach American soil.

American missile defense bases deployed in Europe, as well as carriers equipped with anti-missile systems sailing in the seas around Russia, not only enable the U.S., according to Russia, to be able to make a surprise nuclear attack. What’s more, these systems could also intercept any Russian missile in the sky.

This is the main reason pushing Russia (and China) to pursue the development of hypersonic missiles that could circumvent American advanced countermeasures.

With Zircon, Russia has joined the U.S. in a very restricted club of countries with advanced, hypersonic weapons programs.

Hypersonic missiles can hit anywhere on the globe, and their speed alone make them impervious to detection and neutralization systems.

Naturally, China is also entertaining the idea of developing hypersonic missiles, and if it’s not there yet, it’s getting closer.

China has its own project for hypersonic missiles equipped on jet fighters. As a result, last May, the country tested two “ramjet engines”.

As part of the program HIFiRE (Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation), launched in 2009, the U.S. and Australia have completed a series of tests of a hypersonic missile that reached Mach 8.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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