MOSCOW (Dispatches) – Russia said on Monday it had successfully tested a Tsirkon(Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile, a weapon President Vladimir Putin has touted as part of a new generation of missile systems without equal in the world.
The defense ministry said in a statement that the missile had been fired from the Admiral Gorshkov, a warship located in the White Sea, and travelled at around seven times the speed of sound before hitting a ground target on the coastline of the Barents Sea more than 350 km (217 miles) away.
“The tactical and technical characteristics of the Tsirkon missile were confirmed during the tests. The flight speed reached nearly 7 Mach,” the ministry said.
Some Western experts have questioned how advanced Russia’s new generation of weapons is, while recognizing that the combination of speed, maneuverability and altitude of hypersonic missiles makes them difficult to track and intercept.
Russia plans to fit the Tsirkon missile system to its submarines and surface ships.
Putin announced an array of new hypersonic weapons in 2018, saying they could hit almost any point in the world and evade a U.S.-built missile shield.
The following year, he threatened to deploy hypersonic missiles on ships and submarines that could lurk outside U.S. territorial waters if the United States moved to deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
Washington has not deployed such missiles in Europe, but Moscow is worried it might.
The testing of the missile began five years ago, with nearly a dozen launches completed by 2018.
In his address to the Russian parliament back then, Putin described the missile as one of the main strategic systems capable of reaching “almost any point in the world” and of evading the U.S.-made missile shields.
Russia has unveiled several advanced weapons that can circumvent existing defense systems, including the Sarmat intercontinental missiles and Burevestnik cruise missiles.