Joy in half with sadness: "Zircon" prepares for state tests

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Joy in half with sadness: "Zircon" prepares for state tests
Joy in half with sadness: "Zircon" prepares for state tests
14 July, 10:39Technology
Two news at once, one way or another concerning the future of hypersonic weapons in Russia, were announced in recent days. First of all, of course, this is the message that state tests of the Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missile will begin this month.

Victor Kuzovkov

But along the way, the Ministry of Defense decided on the first standard carrier of these missiles - it will be the newest frigate of project 22350 "Admiral Golovko". This ship, according to the plan, should enter the fleet in 2022, and this indirectly confirms that the state tests of the Zircon are planned to be carried out as soon as possible. In addition, it seems that our military is confident in the success of these tests, which, too, usually does not arise from scratch.

First of all, we note that military equipment and weapons go through several main stages of testing before going into the army as a serial product. First of all, these are, of course, tests carried out by the developer and manufacturer of equipment, which are usually called factory tests. They are needed simply in order to check the most basic characteristics and parameters of the product. And even more, in order to understand whether the rocket will fly, whether the shell will explode in the barrel, whether the engine will start, and so on. Then, when the manufacturer is more or less confident in the condition of his product, a limited batch of weapons goes to the troops for military trials. There, in addition to purely technical parameters, many other issues are clarified related to the operation of new equipment in conditions that are as close as possible, if not to combat, then to ordinary, and not "hothouse" ones.

State tests are the final stage, at which, under the supervision of the state commission, the entire complex of equipment tests is carried out, from bench tests to flight, conditionally combat ones. And it is at this stage that it is decided whether it will be recommended for putting into service, mass production and purchase. That is, we can say with certainty that the Zircon is at the final stage of testing and, if successful, it will soon be adopted by the Russian Navy. At the same time, the general public reliably learned about this development of the domestic military-industrial complex only in 2019, from the mouth of the supreme commander-in-chief, and then it was only about the first military tests. Work began on the creation of the 3M22 complex. Zircon in 2011, which is very recent by the standards of weapons development. That is, it is obvious that the pace of development of "Zircon" is the highest, and taking into account the complexity and novelty of the hypersonic direction, it is completely unheard of, and they can only be explained by one thing - we seem to be really preparing for war ...

If the planned state tests are successful, we must receive a truly advanced, and in part even an ultimatum weapon. Judge for yourself - a cruise missile capable of moving in the atmosphere at a speed of about 8 speeds of sound (Mach numbers) at a distance of up to a thousand kilometers and practically invulnerable to any modern air defense and missile defense system. Arming Russian warships and submarines with such missiles will dramatically increase their combat capabilities, forcing a potential enemy to reckon with the Russian flag at almost any distance from the Russian borders.

I must say that the development of hypersonic weapons was fraught with enormous difficulties, and it is still not clear how our designers were able to overcome them. In particular, at the high speeds developed by the rocket, the temperature of some surfaces reaches 3000 degrees, and this is already beyond the limit for any metals and alloys. The problem of communication is also extremely difficult - due to the formation of a cloud of incandescent plasma that is impenetrable to radio waves, the traditional communication with the munition, and, consequently, its aiming at the target, are almost impossible. But the rocket flies and, according to sources, more or less confidently hits stationary targets. Probably, we can assume that it also hits target ships, otherwise it would be strange to call it anti-ship and put it into service with the navy.

How exactly the aforementioned problems were solved, we, of course, are unlikely to be told, at least in the foreseeable future. The secrecy in this area of military-technical development is the highest, as is the competition. It is no secret that the Americans are also actively working in the field of hypersound, and after the appearance of "Zircon" they even started talking about the imminent appearance of its analogues, but so far it has not been heard about their tests of hypersonic missiles, which would have been completely successful.

During the state tests, the Zircon hypersonic missile will be launched from the board of the Russian Navy frigate Admiral Gorshkov. This is the lead frigate of the aforementioned project 22350, which entered the fleet in 2018. At the moment, it is considered one of the most modern warships of the Russian fleet, and it is not surprising that state tests will take place on it.

As already mentioned, the project 22350 frigate, Admiral Golovko, which is expected to join the fleet in 2022, should also become the first regular carrier of the Zircon. This is quite logical, since this series of warships, it seems, could be brought to a combat-ready state, at the same time debugging their construction. That is, in this case, there is a very high probability that the ships of the series will not turn into another long-term construction, rusting at the factory berths or on the stocks, but will be in the fleet within the stated time frame.

Another prospective carrier of the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile is to be the Project 885M Yasen-M nuclear submarine, namely the Perm submarine. There is no official confirmation of this information, but sources close to the Russian military-industrial complex most often refer to this boat. This will be the first submarine carrier, and in the future, it is likely that new anti-ship missiles will appear in service with other Yasen-M boats of the 885M project, and then on boats of the Husky project, which are still only being developed by the Russian military-industrial complex.

Thus, we can say with confidence that if the state tests are successful, "Zircon" will not only go into mass production, but will almost immediately receive carriers that can dispose of it as efficiently as possible. This is important, since the rocket turned out to be rather large, not designed for use from air carriers, and when using ground launchers, it is, of course, not possible to provide a sufficient range of combat use.

However, the urgency with which this hypersonic missile was developed still leads to some sad thoughts. Probably, we are really very close to an armed conflict with some strong adversary, if in just ten years, practically from scratch, having overcome a lot of almost insoluble technical, scientific, technological problems, having spent a lot of money, we have developed an absolutely new type not even, but type of weapons. This is undoubtedly a great success and a reason for pride, but ...

But somehow it's still a little scary. For local wars, such weapons are not particularly needed. And in the global and "Zircon" may not save you from a catastrophe, the scale of which can only be guessed at ...

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