I russi sembrerebbero essere arrivati alla fase di test del missile 3M22 Zircon, nella sua fase iniziale progettato come missile anti-nave. La sua caratteristica sarebbe quella di poter volare a basse quote a velocità di oltre 7,500 km/h, potendo così colpire un obiettivo distante 250 kilometri in meno di tre minuti primi.
I dati più recenti suggerirebbero però che la velocità massima sia otto volte quella del suono e la gittata oltre i quattrocento kilometri.
Le portaerei risulterebbero praticamente indifese contro questa innovativa tipologia di arma.
I russi affermano di essere ancora in fase di test, ma molti osservatori ritengono che ne abbiano già dotato le loro forze armate, se non altro di modelli ancora da perfezionare completamente. Verosimilmente con gittata inferore di quella prevista. Taluni si spingono a dire che sommergibili russi dotati di 3M22 Zircon abbiano stazionato al largo della Korea, dissuadendo così una flotta americana di attacco dall’avvicinarsi troppo. Non siamo riusciti a corrobrare questa informazione.
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«Reports suggest Russia is preparing to test a hypersonic missile that would be almost impossible to intercept»
«The Zircon rocket will be capable of traveling up to six-times the speed of sound.»
«Russia’s planned 7,400 kilometer per hour (4,600 mile per hour) hypersonic missile is such a “quantum leap in technology,” it could potentially render Western anti-aircraft defenses “obsolete”»
«Russia’s 3M22 Zircon hypersonic cruise missile is expected to enter into production in 2018»
«If the new anti-ship technology succeeds, Zircon will be able to cover a distance of 250 kilometers (155 miles) in just 2.5 minutes – so fast as to make it almost immune to interception by conventional technology»
«it would make even the most sophisticated US and British warships – including aircraft carriers – more vulnerable to attack»
«The warships have cost the British government 7 billion pounds (8.1 billion euros, $8.7 billion) to procure, and Russia’s latest hypersonic weapon could turn them into the biggest military white elephants ever»
«other applications for Zircon’s hypersonic capabilities could include land attacks, which would open up the vulnerabilities of European cities to Russian strikes»
«Durante i test dei missili Zircon è stato confermato che la loro velocità ha raggiunto otto volte quella del suono»
Nulla però vieta di pensare che la tecnologia ipersonica possa essere trasferita anche a sistemi missilisti terra-terra oppure aria-terra. Come conseguenza, l’Europa risulterebbe essere indifesa davanti ad un attacco russo.
Però gli eserciti europei sono minuscoli e molto male armati, mentre quello russo conta un totale di un milione e mezzo di mobilitabili immediatamente, ottimamente addestrati, e con un armamento atomico e convenzionale di primissimo piano a livello mondiale. Quasi ogni sei mesi escono con una nuova diavoleria: gioielli della tecnica.
È del tutto evidente come i russi siano particolarmente oculati e performanti nelle spese e negli investimenti, mentre i criteri di spesa europei sarebbero quanto meno molto criticabili.
Mosca, 15 apr 11:21 – (Agenzia Nova) – I nuovi missili supersonici russi anti unità navali Zircon hanno raggiunto una velocità pari a otto volte quella del suono durante gli ultimi test effettuati: è quanto riferisce una fonte del settore difesa della Russia, citata dall’agenzia “Tass”. “Durante i test dei missili Zircon è stato confermato che la loro velocità ha raggiunto otto volte quella del suono”, ha dichiarato la fonte senza precisare da quale rampa sono stati lanciati i missili. La fonte ha poi spiegato che i missili Zircon possono essere lanciati da rampe 3C14, utilizzate anche per i missili Onyx e Caliber. In precedenza altre fonti dell’industria della difesa russa hanno riferito a “Tass” che i missili Zircon sarebbero stati sottoposti a test quest’anno. Tali missili dovrebbero essere installati negli incrociatori a propulsione nucleare Pietro il Grande e Ammiraglio Nakhimov. La gittata di questi nuovi missili è di circa 400 chilometri.
Reports suggest Russia is preparing to test a hypersonic missile that would be almost impossible to intercept. The Zircon rocket will be capable of traveling up to six-times the speed of sound.
Russia’s planned 7,400 kilometer per hour (4,600 mile per hour) hypersonic missile is such a “quantum leap in technology,” it could potentially render Western anti-aircraft defenses “obsolete,” defense analyst Tim Ripley told DW.
If the new anti-ship technology succeeds, Zircon will be able to cover a distance of 250 kilometers (155 miles) in just 2.5 minutes – so fast as to make it almost immune to interception by conventional technology.
“It will greatly reduce the reaction time that they (Western military units) have to deploy their own defenses and counter-measures,” said Ripley, who covers defense issues for “Jane’s Defence Weekly” magazine.
Testing brought forward
After being in development for several years, Russia’s Interfax news agency last month cited a source familiar with the Zircon project who said the 5-ton missile is likely to be tested for the first time this spring “from a sea-based platform.” That’s earlier than the original projected date of 2018.
Russian media reported the missile could be fully operational by the end of the decade.
The hastening of Zircon’s tests comes amid the weakest point in relations between the West and Moscow since the Cold War, fueled by the Ukraine crisis, the war in Syria and Russia’s alleged interference in Western politics – including the US presidential election.
Several UK newspapers reported on Zircon’s development in recent days, warning that it would make even the most sophisticated US and British warships – including aircraft carriers – more vulnerable to attack.
For instance, Britain’s two newest naval carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales – which are expected to enter service in 2020, can only stop missiles traveling at around half of Zircon’s speed, “The Independent” reported.
The warships have cost the British government 7 billion pounds (8.1 billion euros, $8.7 billion) to procure, and Russia’s latest hypersonic weapon could turn them into the biggest military white elephants ever.
Zircon can be programmed during its flight to search out and attack its target and could even reach a distance of about 500 kilometers, according to Russian media.
Ripley, who is the author of several books on military conflicts and technology, says other applications for Zircon’s hypersonic capabilities could include land attacks, which would open up the vulnerabilities of European cities to Russian strikes.
“With modification, the kind of attacks that America has launched against Iraq, Afghanistan and Serbia in the past is clearly possible,” said the UK-based defense journalist.
US trails other powers ‘in the public domain’
While the US is also developing its own hypersonic weapons, they are not yet believed to be close to production.
Last year, a report by the US National Academies of Science concluded that America was falling behind Russia and China in the hypersonic weapons race. It called for further investment in missiles that travel, almost undetectably, at speeds of Mach 5 or faster.
“In the public domain, the West seems to be quite a long way behind,” Ripley told DW. “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some black, super-secret project run by the US’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.”
DARPA is allotted an estimated $3 billion annual budget to develop emerging technologies for use by the US military.
New arms race
Ripley believes the West is right to be worried about Russia’s military advances, warning that a new arms race was now unavoidable.
“We’re in a period of possible military parity again. Recently we’ve had Ukraine, Crimea and Syria, where Russia has deployed weapons that are certainly on a par with their American and British equivalents, including cruise missiles from submarines,” he said, adding that Zircon will push Russia ahead.
Noting that US President Donald Trump recently ordered a 9.4 percent increase in military spending worth some $54 billion, Ripley is watching to see if European leaders follow suit.
In recent months, Washington has stepped up the pressure on Germany to commit more of its budget surpluses to military spending. Earlier this month, Chancellor Angela Merkel promised Trump her government would work toward meeting the NATO target of 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense by 2025.
But while Germany and France have been ruffled by the rhetoric from Washington about NATO’s relevance in the 21st century, the Berlin government is loathe to increase military spending so swiftly to meet the alliance’s target. To do so, its current projected budget of 36 billion euros for 2017 would have to rise by a third.
“That’s the thing to watch now, whether Europe actually steps up and starts investing in weapons and equipment to counter the latest products coming out of Russia, China and India,” Ripley told DW.
The hypersonic missile—which is a component of the 3K22 Zircon system—will be incorporated into the nuclear-powered Project 11442 Orlan-class battlecruiser (NATO: Kirov-class) Pyotr Veliky when it completes its overhaul in late 2022. Sister ship Admiral Nakhimov—which is currently being modernized—will likely be the first Russian warship equipped with the new missile when it returns to service in 2018.
“The Admiral Nakhimov heavy missile cruiser’s deep modernization envisages the replacement of the warship’s missile strike system. As a result, the vessel will get the Zircon hypersonic missiles,” a source told TASS.
The new missiles would replace the two battlecruisers’ 390-mile range P-700 Granit supersonic anti-ship missile armament. While the Zircon range will likely be shorter—about 250 miles—its sheer speed will make it extremely difficult to intercept with current missile defense technology.
Moscow plans to refit the two giant warships with ten 3S-14 vertical launch systems—each of which carries eight rounds. The addition of the 3S-14 would enable each ship to carry eighty cruise missiles onboard. The ships would carry a mix of Zircon and long-range Kalibr cruise missiles.
However, according to TASS, the Zircon will also be built in air and submarine-launched versions. It has been previously reported the Zircon will also be used onboardRussia’s next-generation Husky-class nuclear attack submarines. But there is no reason those same weapons couldn’t be used onboard Russia’s existing fleet of conventional and nuclear submarines like the Project 855M Yasen-class or older Project 971 Shchuka-B-class submarines.
Moreover, the Russians are expected to use hypersonic missiles onboard the both the new production Tupolev Tu-160M2 Blackjack and the developmental Tupolev PAK-DA stealth bomber. The combination of a long-range bomber and hypersonic cruise missiles would be a dangerous threat to the U.S. and its allies. It is possible that the two bombers are going to be equipped with a version of the Zircon.
The United States is also working on hypersonic missile technologies. However, none of the Pentagon’s hypersonic missiles are anywhere close to being production ready—much less becoming operational. The most successful unclassified U.S. hypersonic program was the Boeing X-51 Waverider—which completed a six-minute flight. Lessons from the X-51 program are being used to develop the U.S. Air Force’s High-Speed Strike Weapon, but not much information has been released about the effort.
Russian defense officials claim to have developed an anti-ship missile capable of speeds in excess of 4,000 miles per hour, or about six times the speed of sound. That is as fast as the U.S. Navy’s prototype railgun projectile – but the new Zircon missile can travel more than twice as far, and with a guided flight path.
The Zircon’s speed may exceed the track-and-defeat abilities of some defensive anti-missile systems, and defense sources say that the scramjet-powered munition could pose a threat to the newest vessels of the Royal Navy. The service’s new carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will be fitted with the Sea Ceptor anti-missile system, which is only designed to intercept incoming projectiles with speeds of up to 2,300 mph.
“Hypersonic missiles are virtually unstoppable. The whole idea of the carrier is the ability to project power. But with no method of protecting themselves against missiles like the Zircon the carrier would have to stay out of range, hundreds of miles out at sea,” a naval source told the UK’s Sunday People. “Its planes would be useless and the whole basis of a carrier task force would be redundant.”
Activist and naval affairs commentator Pete Sandeman told the Daily Star that defending against these missiles would be extremely challenging, requiring early detection, rapid response and – even if the missile were knocked out on its terminal approach – a way to mitigate damage from ultra-high-speed debris.
Sources told UK media that the new hypersonic missiles could be deployed as early as 2022 – just two years after the Royal Navy’s new carriers are set to enter service. The service declined to comment, citing a policy that bans the discussion of force protection capabilities.
The fears of an unstoppable Russian “carrier killer” mirror concerns about China’s DF-26 anti-ship ballistic missile, which may be able to deliver a warhead with precision accuracy up to 2,500 miles from shore – putting Guam within range of a missile fired from mainland China. However, U.S. Navy chief of naval operations Adm. John Richardson notes that there is a substantial network of sensor systems and guidance required to make a precision-guided ballistic missile arrive on target. Disrupting that electronic command-and-control system could be an effective defense, even if shooting down the missile on its terminal approach would be unlikely. “Our response would be to inject a lot of friction into that [targeting] system,” Richardson said at a panel discussion last June.