The Zircon or Tsirkon (US Classification: SS-N-33) is an anti-ship and land-attack hypersonic cruise missile that can be launched from a surface platform or submarine. This missile is capable of accelerating up to the speed of Mach 9 (11113.2 kilometers per hour). It has been designed to hit enemy surface ships, such as destroyers, frigates, and aircraft carriers, as well as ground targets located within the range of the missile. Zircon’s speed makes it difficult for it to be stopped by any anti-missile systems.
Russian media outlets claimed that Zircon has a speed of about 1000 meters. During recent tests in May 2022, Zircon Hypersonic Cruise Missile destroyed a target as far as 1000 kilometers. s. The first stage uses a solid-fuel rocket to lift and accelerate the missile, and the second phase uses a scramjet motor to move the missile at hypersonic speeds.
Russia also developed a new fuel named “Decilin-M” to power Zircon missiles. The main objective behind the development of “Decilin-M” was to enhance of range of Russian cruise missiles. Decilin-M is reported to be a high-calorie synthetic aviation fuel rumored to be
like the U.S. synthetic fuel JP-10.
A Threat to the United States:
Compared to ballistic projectiles, Hypersonic Cruise Missiles (HCMs) are far more difficult to track and intercept since they can move while in flight and travel at a speed of more than five times the speed of sound.
It is considered a big threat to the United States. As per US Navy Admiral Charles A. Richard (commander of United States Strategic Command & Commander Submarine Forces): “Because of these challenges, our current terrestrial- and space-based sensor architecture may not be sufficient to detect and track these hypersonic missiles,”
According to Mikhail Khodarenok, a military commentator for RT and retired Russian Armed Forces colonel, the Zircon has the ability to “seriously influence the global maritime balance of power.” He cited the missile’s “high cruising speed” and “significantly reduced radar cross section” as a powerful combination.
To date, Russia has not officially announced that Zircon will carry nuclear weapons but from Russia’s nuclear policy and Zircon’s role in Russian Strategic Weapons, we can predict that it would carry a nuclear warhead in near future.