The Russian military industrial complex has demonstrated its adaptability and technological advancement during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. In just a few months, Russia has managed to achieve superiority in the production of various equipment, including tanks, drones, artillery, aircraft, ammunition, and missiles.
A recent report from Reuters reveals that Russia is equipping its new nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines of the Yasen class with the advanced Zircon missiles. These missiles are reportedly five times faster than sound, making them incredibly swift and difficult to defend against. The head of Russia’s largest shipbuilder, Alexei Rakhmanov, confirmed that the multi-purpose nuclear submarines will be regularly equipped with the Zircon missile system, and work in this direction is already underway.
The Yasen-class submarines, also known as Project 885M, serve as replacements for Soviet-era nuclear attack submarines and are integral to modernizing Russia’s fleet. The Zircon hypersonic missiles deployed on these submarines have a range of 900 km (560 miles) and can travel at speeds several times the speed of sound, posing a significant challenge for any defense system.
Adding to the complexity of countering these missiles is the relative quietness of the launch platform and the sheer speed of the projectiles. This development further complicates NATO’s efforts to develop effective countermeasures against this highly advanced technology.
Stars and Stripes reported that the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov has already been equipped with Zircon missiles, marking the initial deployment of this hypersonic missile system. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced earlier this year that the country would begin mass production of Zircon missiles as part of its efforts to bolster its nuclear forces.
A report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service highlighted that both Russia and China are developing hypersonic missiles for use with nuclear warheads. Recognizing the escalating threat from countries like North Korea, the U.S. and Japan are expected to announce a joint agreement to develop missile interceptors for hypersonic weapons in the near future.
The deployment of Zircon missiles on the Yasen-class submarines is part of broader efforts by Russia to re-equip its fleet. Currently, these submarines are equipped with Kalibr and Oniks cruise missiles and Fizik-type torpedoes. Additionally, the Russian Navy is set to receive at least five more ships by the end of the year, as confirmed by Alexei Rakhmanov.
The introduction of hypersonic missiles poses a significant challenge for global defense systems and emphasizes the rapid advancement of Russia’s military capabilities. As these technologies continue to evolve, it is crucial for nations to invest in research and development to effectively counter these emerging threats.