On March 1st, during his annual speech in front of the Parliament, Vladimir Putin made a statement regarding the new technologies developed by the Russian defense industry: six new strategic weapons including one new type of hypersonic missile.

The Kinzhal (Кинжал KH-47M2) is a long-range hypersonic air missile (12,000 km/h – Mach 10 speed) co-produced by the Russian companies Tactical Missiles Corporation and KB Mashinostroyeniya. It was originally designed for the Mikoyan MiG-31 (Микоян МиГ-31) aircraft however, Russian newspapers reported on July 6th 2018, that the authorities were going to also test it onboard the Tupolev (Tu-22M3 Туполев). This aircraft has a lower supersonic speed than the MiG-31 but the Government thinks it could raise the combat potential of the Russian Air Force.

The missile is characterized by an interchangeable warhead that can be either conventional or nuclear.  The Kinzhal is claimed to have maneuverable flight characteristics at any speed and can operate up to a distance of 2,000km.

It can hit aircraft-carriers, destroyers and cruisers. In December 2017, tests were fired over Southwest Russia and authorities affirmed that the tests were successful. However, the MiG-31 had to be modernized to be adapted to the new weapon. No explanation about the type of upgrade was given.

The Kinzhal has been compared to the Iskander missile (9K720 Искандер, NATO name SS-26 Stone). The only difference between the two is the range capacity, as the Iskander it is limited to a 500km distance.

The Kinzhal has been designed to overcome any known anti-missile defense system thanks to its speed. Indeed, it flies so fast that it cannot be perceived by ballistic systems, and therefore, cannot be intercepted. Such weapons would be able to overturn the balance of power between power states.

Another missile was also introduced in 2017: the Zircon. The Zircon (3M22 Циркон), is an anti-ship cruise missile developed by Russian company NPO Mashinotroyeniya. It is the hypersonic version of the supersonic cruise missile Brahmos, and authorities have declared that its speed capacity is of Mach 8, approximately 9,800km/h. The Zircon is expected to be installed on the 5th generation nuclear submarine “Husky” (developed by the Design Office of Malakhit). It has been engineered to be used on the same platforms as the anti-ship missile SS-N-26 Strobile (Oniks – 3M55) and SS-N-27 Sizzler (Kalibr – 3M54) such as in the following table.

First tests were fired on March 17th, 2016 and were reported as successful.

The 3M22 (Zircon) missile can be placed on naval vessels which means it can be fired from vertical silos or from a launching ramp. It is also adapted to the universal onboard shooting complex 3C14. Its cost is estimated between 1 and $2 million.

Although the new “Husky” is not a part of Russian fleet yet, it is expected to start the experimental design work in 2023 and to have delivered the vessel by the end of 2027. The Zircon will become the main weapon of this new submarine, as it is planned in the 2018-2027 Russian armament program.

The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin also justified this development because of American military developments of anti-missile shields in Eastern Europe and in South Korea. International newspapers recently reported that several MiG-31 reinforcements are positioned in two areas: the Tiksi base on the Arctic Ocean and the Milerovo base on the Ukrainian border.


Written by Alix Van Den Bogaerde (Junior Analyst) for OIDA Strategic Intelligence

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