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Russia claims 1st successful hypersonic missile test launch from a sub

Moscow — The Russian military said Monday that it had successfully test-fired a hypersonic “Tsirkon” missile from a submarine for the first time. The high-tech missile is a key component of what President Vladimir Putin touts as Russia’s new, “invincible” generation of weapons.

Hypersonic missiles fly much faster and are more agile than standard ones, making them much more difficult for missile defense systems to stop. The U.S. military conducted its first flight test of a hypersonic missile system in 2011. 

The missile was launched from the Severodvinsk nuclear submarine from a depth of 131 feet and hit a test target in the Barents Sea, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement accompanied by a grainy video showing missile flares lighting up the night sky.

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An image from video provided by the Russian Ministry of Defense on October 4, 2021, shows what Moscow claims was its 1st successful test launch of a submarine-fired hypersonic “Tsirkon” missile.

Reuters/Russian Ministry of Defense


Tsirkon had been test-fired previously from the ocean surface by a navy frigate, most recently in July. According to Putin, the missile can fly at nine-times the speed of sound, and has a range of 620 miles.

Tsirkon was unveiled by Putin along with an array of other “unparalleled” weapons during an annual address to the nation in 2018. He boasted then that Russia’s new weapons systems could “reach anywhere in the world,” and would be capable of evading U.S. missile defenses.

“They need to take account of a new reality and understand… [this] is not a bluff,” Putin said of the U.S. and its allies in that speech.

Among the other projects revealed at the time was the Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, the air-launched Kinzhal nuclear-capable ballistic missile, and the long-range nuclear-capable cruise missile Burevestnik. Some Western experts have questioned the real capabilities of these developmental weapons, as well as their production value, but the Russian military appears to be forging ahead regardless, and claiming progress.  

Avangard was officially added to Russia’s arsenal in 2019. A prototype of the Burevestnik, which NATO countries call the SSC-X-9 Skyfall, is believed to have crashed during secret engine tests in Russia’s Arctic in August 2019, exploding during efforts to recover it from the sea and killing five scientists in the process.

Previous tests of the weapon were also reportedly unsuccessful.

Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has said that tests on the Tsirkon system are to be completed by the end of this year, and he expects the weapon to be commissioned by the Russian Navy in 2022, to arm cruisers, frigates, and submarines.

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