In the interests of the surface and submarine forces of the Russian Navy, a promising hypersonic anti-ship missile 3M22 "Zircon" is being created. In the near future, the tests of this product will be completed, after which it will be adopted by the Navy. At the same time, some plans for the future deployment, operation and use of the new missile are already known.
To date, the test program of the Zircon anti-ship missile system has reached its last stages, which provide for regular test launches. So, last year we conducted three test firing at ground and surface targets. The frigate "Admiral Gorshkov" of project 22350 was used as a test carrier of the rocket. In July this year, another "Zircon" successfully hit its target again.
Earlier, official and unofficial sources have repeatedly announced plans to conduct several more tests. Shooting will be carried out from surface and underwater carriers. According to their results, already in 2022, the missile system can be adopted by the fleet. 3M22 products will be used by ships and submarines of various types.
Also at the official level, some details are announced. So, at the end of May, at a meeting between the President of Russia and the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, it was announced that Zircon was in the final stage of state tests. On August 10, as part of the Single Day of Acceptance of Military Products, Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko said that state tests of the new complex will be completed this year.
One of the future launch vehicles was also mentioned at the United Day. The commander of the 11th submarine division of the Northern Fleet, Rear Admiral Alexander Zarenkov, said that the Zircons, along with other modern missile weapons, would be included in the ammunition load of the Kazan multipurpose nuclear submarine, project 885M Yasen-M. Thanks to this, the submarine will be able to strike at various surface and ground targets. In the future, it is the Yasen-M submarines that will become the basis of the submarine strike forces of the fleet.
So far, not too much is known about the anti-ship missile 3M22 "Zircon". Only the most general data are open, and the approximate level of tactical and technical characteristics is also clear. The appearance of the product was also not officially disclosed, although the launch of a rocket from a standard carrier has already been shown.
According to the known data, "Zircon" is a hypersonic weapon for hitting large surface targets. During the tests, a flight speed of about 8M was obtained. The cruising section of the trajectory passes at altitudes of more than 30 km, which makes it possible to reduce air resistance and increase the flight range. The missile's maximum range is reportedly over 1,000 km. The tests demonstrated a flight of 350, 450 and 500 km.
It is assumed that high flight characteristics are achieved due to the ramjet engine. There are infrared or radar homing systems. The defeat of the target is provided with a conventional warhead. In addition, the highest kinetic energy of the rocket becomes an additional damaging factor.
Zircon is compatible with various carriers. A basic modification is intended for the surface fleet, which is used with the 3C-14 universal shipborne firing system.Submarines must use a different modification of the underwater launch anti-ship missile system.
The first carrier of the Zircon anti-ship missile system, as well as an experimental ship for flight tests, was the frigate Admiral Gorshkov, built on project 22350. The latter provides for the installation of two UKSK 3S-14 with 16 cells for different types of missiles. The number and proportion of 3M22 products and other weapons will be determined by the task at hand. In this configuration, it is planned to build four ships.
Recently it became known that the next frigates, starting with the fifth ship of the "Admiral Amelko" series, will receive two additional launchers. Due to this, at least six frigates under construction and ordered will be able to carry 32 missiles of different types.
The carriers of "Zircon" will be not only new, but also modernized ships. In recent years, it has been repeatedly reported that heavy nuclear missile cruisers, project 1144, during the upgrade will receive modern UKSK compatible with all current weapons. Now the cruiser "Admiral Nakhimov" is undergoing such an upgrade. In the future, similar events will be held at Peter the Great. Earlier, there was also news about the possible installation of the UKSK 3S-14 on the aircraft-carrying cruiser "Admiral Kuznetsov".
The project of the destroyer 23560 "Leader", the implementation of which is planned for the medium and long term, is being created taking into account current and future trends in the field of weapons. Accordingly, anti-ship missiles "Zircon" from the very beginning will be included in the ammunition load of future destroyers.
It should be noted that compatibility with the UKSK 3S-14 theoretically allows the use of 3M22 missiles on the widest range of launch vehicles. These can be small missile Buyany-M or Karakurt, frigates and corvettes of modern projects, etc., up to the largest ships of the Navy. The range of future carriers will be determined taking into account technical, tactical, economic and other factors.
Start from under the water
As reported, the first carriers of the underwater modification of "Zircon" will be atomic submarines of project 885M. A ship of this type is equipped with 8 vertical launchers, which can accommodate 4 or 5 containers with missiles of different types. As in the case of surface ships, 32-40 cells can be used to transport and launch various types of missiles, incl. hypersonic 3M22.
Two submarines of project 885 (M) have already been transferred to the Navy and are ready to perform training and combat missions. Until 2027-28 seven more are expected. In parallel, older ships will be withdrawn from service, and the modern Yaseni-M will eventually occupy an important position in the submarine forces.
Part of the Zircon submarine carriers will be created by upgrading existing ships. So, next year, the Irkutsk nuclear submarine, originally built on Project 949A Antey and being renovated on Project 949AM, will return to the Pacific Fleet. One of the main features of the AM project is the replacement of standard launchers with new universal products. After that, the modernized submarine will be able to use different missiles, incl. PKR 3M22 in the amount of up to 72 units.
At the moment, two submarines are being upgraded to "949AM" - "Irkutsk" and "Chelyabinsk". They are planned to return to service in 2022 and 2023. respectively. In the future, a similar modernization of other Anteevs is expected. According to the results of such a program, five more ships may become carriers of the Zircon.
In order to further develop the submarine forces, a promising project of the Husky nuclear submarine is now being developed. Among other things, it provides for the construction of multipurpose boats with torpedo and missile weapons. The ammunition load of such a ship will initially include a hypersonic anti-ship missile system.
In general, the situation around hypersonic weapons for the Russian Navy looks good and encourages optimism. Already this year, tests of the first product of this class, the 3M22 Zircon anti-ship missile system, will be completed, and next year it will be put into service.Serial production will also be launched with the supply of products to the fleet and gradual deployment on standard carriers.
The exact list and number of future carriers of the Zircon missile, surface and submarine, have not yet been officially disclosed. At the same time, the fundamental possibility of the widest possible introduction of such weapons is well known. In combination with the highest flight and combat characteristics of the rocket itself, this will give the most interesting results. The potential of the surface and submarine forces of the Russian Navy to combat surface targets will increase dramatically, and this will happen in the very near future.