According to information published by the Russian press agency TASS on November 27, 2020, the Project 22350 frigate Admiral Gorshkov of the Russian Navy has successfully test-fired a Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile from the White Sea against a target in the Barents Sea, the Russian Defense Ministry’s press office said.
“The test launch of the missile was performed as part of the trials of new weapons. According to live monitoring and recording data, the Tsirkon hypersonic anti-ship missile successfully hit the sea target at a distance of 450 km (280 mi.) During the flight, the missile’s speed was more than Mach 8,” the press office said.
The area in the Barents Sea was cordoned off by Northern Fleet forces, including the Project 1164 missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov and the Project 22350 frigate Admiral Kasatonov.
According to video footage available on the Russian Defense Ministry’s official channel on YouTube, the Tsirkon test launch was conducted at night.
Earlier, the frigate Admiral Gorshkov test-fired a Tsirkon hypersonic missile in October 2020. The missile covered a distance of 450 km. The maximum altitude of its trajectory was 28 km (17 mi). The flight lasted 4.5 minutes. The missile reached the hypersonic speed of over Mach 8.
Project 22350 also called Admiral Gorshkov-class is a guided missile frigate designed by the Severnoye Design Bureau and incorporates the use of stealth technology. The new frigates are made with stealth technologies. Modern composite materials are used to minimize the signature. The warships have a new hull and superstructure architecture. All the measures decreased the radar signature.
The frigates are the most powerful in the Russian Navy. She is equipped with universal vertical 3S-14 launchers able to fire Kalibr cruise missiles, Onix anti-ship missiles and hypersonic Tsirkon anti-ship missile.
The Tsirkon is a scramjet-powered maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile currently in testing by Russia. According to U.S. report, Russia is pursuing two hypersonic weapons programs including the Avangard and the 3M22 Tsirkon (or Zircon) and has reportedly fielded the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal (“Dagger”), a maneuvering air-launched ballistic missile.
The Tsirkon is a ship-launched hypersonic cruise missile capable of traveling at speeds of between Mach 6 and Mach 8. Tsirkon is reportedly capable of striking both ground and naval targets. U.S. intelligence reports indicate that Russia conducted its most recent successful test of Tsirkon in December 2018 and that the missile will become operational in 2023.
According to Russian news sources, Tsirkon has a range of between approximately 400 and 1,000 km and can be fired from the vertical launch systems mounted on cruisers Admiral Nakhimov and Pyotr Veliky, Project 20380 corvettes, Project 22350 frigates, and Project 885 Yasen-class submarines, among other platforms.
On February 24, 2011, then-Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin said that the state armament program for 2011-2020 envisaged “the development of the seaborne Tsirkon-S complex with a hypersonic missile.” In February 2016, a source in the shipbuilding industry told TASS that the prospective Russian hypersonic missile was undergoing flight development tests. The trials were planned to be completed by 2020.