Russia is leading the race to develop a range of new hypersonic weapons that President Vladimir Putin has dubbed “invincible” – Avangard, Kinjal and now Zircon.
Moscow’s latest move comes with another successful test this week of the ship-launched hypersonic missile Zircon.
Launched from the Admiral Gorshkov frigate, one of Russia’s most powerful warships, a Zircon traveling at seven times the speed of sound could hit a target off the coast of the Barents Sea at a distance of more than 350 kilometers (over 215 mi). flew to hit.
If further tests are successful, the Zircon is set to join Russia’s arsenal of hypersonic weapons like the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles and air-launched Kinzel (Dagger) missiles.
Hypersonics are capable of traveling at at least five times the speed of sound and maneuver in mid-flight, making them more difficult to track and intercept than conventional projectiles.
And experts agree that – for now – at least – Russia has the edge in their development.
“Nobody has hypersonic weapons except Russia, but everyone wants them,” said Alexander Golts, a Moscow-based independent defense analyst. AFP.
Putin used his State of the Nation address in 2018 to introduce an array of hypersonic weapons for the first time, claiming they could bypass all existing missile defense systems.
The United States, China, France and other major powers have announced plans to develop their own hypersonic weapons and are expected to catch on soon.
“The Russians are fully aware that their head start is temporary,” said Igor Delano, deputy director of the Franco-Russian Observatory in Moscow.
“Americans are going to catch up in a few months, a year and a half or two at most,” he said.
This week’s test went unnoticed.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby later said that Russia’s new hypersonic missiles are “potentially destabilizing and pose significant risks”, while a NATO official said the weapons “are a significant risk of escalation and miscalculation.” “Were born.
But analysts say that although they are impressive, hypersonics are not game-changing technology.
Golts said the Avangard – which Russian officials say has reached speeds of 33,000 kilometers per hour during tests – was a “remarkable” scientific achievement.
“But from a military point of view, there is absolutely no difference between this and a regular warhead that would follow a ballistic trajectory in space and then hit US territory without any maneuvers,” he said.
With the world’s second largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and a huge stockpile of ballistic missiles, Russia already has enough military capability to deter its enemies.
So what’s the point of spending billions on super-fast new weapons?
Cameron Tracy, a researcher, said, “It is not necessary that these weapons be used for anything… it is to show that any weapon that someone else can develop, you will have first. You Will always be cutting edge.” Scholar at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.
They give Putin another chip to play at any negotiating table with Washington over arms control.
“It’s a common tactic to develop new weapon systems that you won’t actually deploy them, but you’ll get them away in negotiations,” Tracy said.
Putin and US President Joe Biden have talked about renewing talks on “strategic stability” after Donald Trump withdrew the United States from several arms control agreements with Russia.
“It’s certainly an early stage in the arms race. It’s only a matter of time before we see even smaller powers (hypersonics) develop,” said Hans Christensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists.
“Nobody really knows how it’s going to play out,” he said.
“For now it’s a dangerous race … If and when they add nuclear capability to missiles, it will create even more dangerous security challenges.”
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)