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Russia upgrades Zircon, making missile hypersonic and superior to Kinzhal

Russia upgrades Zircon, making missile hypersonic and superior to Kinzhal Zircon missile (Photo: Russian Media)
Author: Daria Shekina

The Zircon missile, with which the Russian Federation struck Kyiv on the morning of March 25, was modernized. Russia was able to make the missile hypersonic, according to Defense Express.

As the material notes, this time experts were able to collect more debris from the Russian missile. This allowed for a more detailed examination to determine the extent to which the Russians succeeded in modernizing the Zircon.

Russia has indeed developed a hypersonic scramjet engine and installed it on the Zircon. Consequently, unlike the Kh-47 Kinzhal, the Zircon missile is indeed hypersonic and capable of sustaining a constant hypersonic speed.

Launch scheme of the Zircon

After the missile exits the silo, the booster stage begins to operate, providing the Zircon with the necessary altitude and acceleration to reach speeds at which the hypersonic scramjet engine can start working.

As a result, during its flight at an altitude of several dozen kilometers, the Zircon reaches a constant speed of up to Mach 5.5 during the cruise phase. It is worth noting that at this point, the flight takes place in a rarefied atmosphere, which helps reduce the thermal load due to air friction.

It should be noted that the speed of Mach 5.5 is not the maximum for the Zircon. In the vicinity of the target, the missile begins to dive and briefly accelerates to Mach 7.5. At this point, the missile's body heats up to the maximum temperatures that the special thermal insulation coating can withstand. Closer to the ground, the speed of the Zircon is not hypersonic, although it remains very high - at 4.5 Mach.

From this, it follows that, as previously believed, the Zircon does not have hypersonic speed on the final stretch. However, the use of a hypersonic scramjet engine sets it apart from the Kh-47 Kizhal.

Putin's praise for the Zircon

Earlier, the Russian dictator claimed that the Zircon has speeds of up to Mach 9. However, in reality, this is not the case.

The range of flight also differs from what was claimed in Russia - 1000 km. Data indicates that when launched from Crimea, the missile can fly a distance of 700 km.

Despite all the identified details, it is worth noting that a speed of Mach 4.5 is still significant. For comparison, the Kh-22 missile, often used by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, has a speed of up to 2-2.4 Mach on the terminal phase.

This makes the Zircon difficult to intercept, but recent events indicate that modern anti-aircraft missile systems with missile defense capabilities are capable of doing so.

It remains unknown what exactly the guidance system of the Zircon is. However, it was previously believed that the missile had an active radar homing warhead. This was stated by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Attacks by the Zircon on Ukraine

Earlier reports appeared in the media that Russia could have used the ZM22 Zircon anti-ship hypersonic missile during a missile strike on the morning of February 7.

At that time, the missile strike was mainly aimed at Kyiv, although Mykolaiv and the Lviv region were also shelled.

Putin essentially confirmed the strikes by the anti-ship Zircon in his speech about the Russian-Ukrainian war at the end of last month.

Today, March 25, Russia once again attacked Ukraine with these missiles. During this attack, experts were able to collect more debris and examine the missile in more detail.