Hypersonic Zircon will replenish the arsenal of Russian submarines and cruisersAnalytics
Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Alexei Krivoruchko in his interview with the National Defense magazine revealed some details of the 3M22 Zircon hypersonic missile. As it turned out, the fate of this project will differ from other high-profile projects, which did not go beyond the sketches.
According to the deputy minister, at the turn of 2020-2021, the adoption of this missile system is expected. The main carriers of these anti-ship missiles, which will receive them in the first place, were also named. These are, first of all, the multipurpose nuclear submarines of projects 885, 885M, 949AM, frigates of the project 22350, the upgraded heavy cruiser of the project 1144.2 "Admiral Nakhimov, and also, oddly enough, the destroyer of the project 23560" Leader ". According to the latter, it is known that two years ago even its project financing ceased, and the statement of the Deputy Minister of Defense to some extent attracted a sensation. Or, which is also possible, to a very annoying reservation that I would not want to hear from the lips of such a high-ranking (and, as expected, competent) official.
Information on successful tests of the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile has been actively going on since the beginning of this year. So, at the end of February 2020, the Ministry of Defense carried out successful tests of the Zircon anti-ship missiles from the frigate of Project 22350 Admiral Gorshkov. At the same time, it was announced that test launches from the multipurpose nuclear submarine are expected in the near future. And now the first reliable information on the probable timing of the missile on alert. That is, it is very likely that the tests are successful and the military are satisfied with both the declared characteristics of the RCC and its reliability.
Concerning the ships that are planned to be equipped in the first place "Zircons", everything is quite expected. Multipurpose nuclear submarines 885, 885M better known as submarines "Ash" and "Ash-M". The submarines of this project belong to the so-called “fourth” generation of submarines. At the moment, these are the most advanced multi-purpose nuclear submarines in the Russian fleet, distinguished by both excellent indicators of stealth and serious combat power. True, there is one “but” - currently there is only one such boat in the fleet, two more have been built, but for some reason their transfer to the fleet has been postponed (it will probably take place before the end of this year). Four more submarines of this type are now on the slipways, but putting them into operation will take some time.
The rearmament of this type of submarine to the Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missiles looks quite logical: the Yasen and Yasen-M submarines were originally designed, including to destroy enemy surface ships and armed, among other things, Onyx anti-ship missiles and cruise missiles Caliber ”, which also exist in anti-ship modification. That is, this rearmament, on the one hand, is absolutely justified by the very concept of using these nuclear submarines, and on the other, by the structural features of the hull, where everything is ready to receive new missiles.
Probably even more adequate is the rearmament of Project 949AM Antei submarines by Zircons. This, in comparison with Ashen, is an older submarine designed back in the USSR. But immediately after its appearance, Antei was nicknamed the “killer of aircraft carriers”, and it was not in vain: the submarine was designed in accordance with the concept of an “asymmetric response” and was supposed to be a counterbalance to the American aircraft carrier strike groups (AUG). The main weapon of Antey is the 24 launchers of the 3K45 complex (P-700 Granite). Missiles of this type are capable of hitting large surface targets at a distance of 550 km, have the ability to exchange information, including the distribution of targets between launched missiles, carry a warhead weighing more than 500 kg and are capable, even now, in the event of a massive launch, even from one submarine, create a lot of problems even for a full-fledged AUG from 8-10 surface ships.
It is clear that in this case, rearmament to more modern hypersonic anti-ship missiles, which have both greater range and significantly greater speed, will dramatically increase the combat capabilities of an already not-so-weak submarine. Add to this the constructive readiness of the boat to receive new missiles, and get the second win-win modernization option - maximum efficiency with minimum investment.
It should be clarified that the submarines of Project 949AM Antey, which are part of the Russian fleet, are significantly larger than the Ashen, there are currently nine of them. Getting them into service with missiles with a double radius of action (up to 1000 km) and able to reliably overcome any existing system of missile defense is a significant strengthening of the entire Russian fleet, which, importantly, can be obtained quickly and relatively inexpensively.
The rearmament with these missiles of frigates of the Admiral Gorshkov type also seems logical. These vessels belong to the category of the few remaining ships of the far sea zone, and the new hypersonic anti-ship missiles are very useful for them to perform combat missions. It should also be borne in mind that the series is now actively being completed, in addition to the lead "Admiral Gorshkov" soon you can expect at least two more frigates already launched, and on the stocks, to varying degrees of readiness, there are three such ships. Their rearmament will not take much time and money, especially since the appearance of Zircon was already expected during their design and the project is structurally ready for the adoption of these missiles.
Equally logical is the rearmament with these missiles of the heavy nuclear missile cruiser 1144.2 Admiral Nakhimov. This ship, belonging to Project 1144 Orlan, which is the "older brother" of the most powerful Russian combat surface ship at the moment, the Peter the Great heavy missile cruiser, is now under modernization. After its completion, which includes, among other things, rearmament of the Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missiles, it will be safe to say that it will deprive Peter the Great of the title of Russia's most powerful surface combat ship.
To summarize, it should be recognized that the alleged rearmament of some warships to hypersonic anti-ship missiles Zircon will most likely have a positive effect on the combat power of the Russian fleet. And at the same time, it is obvious that it will not be able to completely replace the large-scale modernization of the fleet itself, the mass commissioning of new ships.
Over the past two or three years, we managed to say goodbye to dreams of new aircraft carriers (things did not go beyond conceptual disputes and exhibition layouts), the Leader super destroyers with a displacement of 13,000 tons, and some smaller and cheaper projects. The fate of the project 22350M, which is sometimes called the "Superpot", a frigate of the far sea zone with a displacement of up to 7,000 tons, which should become a relatively budget alternative to the "Leader", is also in question now.
New projects, which would certainly be at the forefront of scientific and technological progress, are also almost not yet observed. An exception is only the Laika multi-purpose nuclear submarine project (Husky), but even so far the matter has not progressed further than the sketch and elaboration of the concept.
Therefore, the joy of the imminent completion of state tests of the Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missile system and putting it into service is nevertheless slightly blurred by the understanding that the general situation in our fleet is far from joyful reports. Oh, these would be missiles, but on new, mass-built ships ...
But for now, we have what we have. Cheap and it seems this time really “angry”. Let's rejoice in that...