Russia Has Made Some Dangerous Changes to Its Zircon Hypersonic Missile

Charlie Gao

Key point: Russia has upgraded their missile to allow it to be used from land instead of just by sea.

The 3M22 Zircon (Tsirkon) missile is one of the most hyped-up weapons in the Russian arsenal. One of the big three publicly-revealed hypersonic missiles, the Zircon is an anti-ship missile designed to pose an “unstoppable” threat to ships within a 300-400 km range.

But anonymous sources suggested to CNBC in a December 2018 interview that the Zircon was being adapted to be a land attack missile as well as an anti-ship missile. What could a land attack Zircon look like? What payloads could it carry, and which targets in Europe could be at risk?

On the surface, the ground-attack Zircon is a very formidable weapon. It’s not interceptable by any known means, it has plasma stealth to avoid detection, and it would be able to strike at very quick notice. But its original role as an anti-ship missile perhaps hampers its usefulness. Deploying them would be rather straightforward, as K-300 Bastion anti-ship launchers are said to be able to be modified to fire the Zircon.

According to Russian sources, the Zircon is derived from the supersonic P-800 Oniks, though the drawings of the Zircon looks significantly different from the P-800. The dimensions of the missiles are comparable, with the Zircon estimated to be between 8-10 meters long and the P-800 being 8.6 meters long in the surface-launched variant.

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