Foreign Desk Report
MOSCOW: Russia has reported another successful test launch of a Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile, a weapon President Vladimir Putin has touted as part of a new generation of missile systems without equal in the world.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Monday the missile was launched from an Admiral Gorshkov, a warship located in the White Sea, in the north of Russia.
The ministry said the missile travelled at around seven times the speed of sound before successfully hitting a ground target on the coastline of the Barents Sea more than 350km (217 miles) away.
“The tactical and technical characteristics of the Tsirkon missile were confirmed during the tests,” the ministry said. Russia plans to fit the Tsirkon missile system to its submarines and surface ships. Putin has previously claimed the Tsirkon missile would be capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of 1,000km (620 miles).
But some Western experts have questioned how advanced Russia’s new generation of weapons is, while recognising that the combination of speed, manoeuvrability and altitude of hypersonic missiles makes them difficult to track and intercept.
An earlier test launch of the Tsirkon missile took place in October, on Putin’s birthday. Russia’s leader hailed it as a “big event” for the country.
Putin announced an array of new hypersonic weapons in 2018 in one of his most bellicose speeches in years, saying they could hit almost any point in the world and evade a United States-built missile shield.
The following year, he threatened to deploy hypersonic missiles on ships and submarines that could lurk outside US territorial waters if Washington moved to deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
Washington has not deployed such missiles in Europe, but Moscow is worried it might. Tensions between the two capitals are simmering over a range of issues including Belarus, Ukraine, NATO and human rights, with relations between Russia and the West currently languishing at post-Cold War lows.