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Russia used a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile for the first time in a recent strike, Ukraine claims.

Press service of the Russian Defense Ministry/AP

In this image taken from a video released by the Russian Defense Ministry in 2022, a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile is launched by a Russian Navy frigate from the Barents Sea.


Ukraine says it has evidence that Russia fired an advanced hypersonic missile — one that experts say is nearly impossible to shoot down — for the first time in nearly two years of war.

The Kiev Government Institute of Scientific Research and Forensic Expertise said in a Telegram post that debris recovered after a February 7 attack on the Ukrainian capital indicated the use of a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile by the Russian army.

“Markings on parts and fragments, identification of components and parts, as well as characteristics of the relevant weapon type” indicate the first use of Zircon in combat, said the institute, which is part of the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice.

The Telegram message was accompanied by a video showing dozens of pieces of debris believed to have come from the new missile.

Ukrainian authorities reported that four people were killed and 38 others injured in kyiv during the February 7 attacks, but no casualties were directly attributed to the alleged Zircon missile.

Serhii Loparev/Ukrinform/NurPhoto/Reuters

Firefighters extinguish a fire in a building in the Holosiivskyi district of kyiv, Ukraine, February 7, 2024, after it was hit by falling Russian missile debris following a Russian strike.

There is also no mention of the missile’s launch platform, although previous reports in Russian state media indicate it was deployed on a warship.

Experts say that Zircon, if it lives up to what the Russian government says, is a formidable weapon.

Its hypersonic speed makes it invulnerable to even the best Western missile defense systems, such as the Patriot, according to the US-based Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA).

The alliance says its speed has been set at Mach 8, or nearly 9,900 kilometers per hour (6,138 mph). Hypersonic is defined as any speed greater than Mach 5 (3,836 mph).

“If this information is accurate, the Zircon missile would be the fastest in the world, making it almost impossible to defend due to its speed alone,” the alliance says on its website.

The site also points out that the missile’s plasma cloud is another “valuable” feature.

“During flight, the missile is completely covered in a plasma cloud which absorbs all radio frequency rays and makes the missile invisible to radar. This allows the missile to remain undetected as it moves toward the target,” he says.

Additionally, the MDAA says the Zircon is “a hypersonic anti-ship maneuvering cruise missile” with a range between 500 and 1,000 kilometers (310 to 620 miles).

When the Russian navy frigate Admiral Gorshkov undertook a combat mission last January, leader Vladimir Putin bragged about the Zircon missiles the ship was carrying.

“This has no equivalent in any country in the world,” Putin said, according to a report by the official TASS news agency. “I am sure that such powerful weapons will reliably protect Russia from possible external threats and help ensure the national interests of our country,” he added.

If Russia introduces this new weapon into the conflict, it could cause problems for Ukraine’s air defense which is already struggling to repel air attacks from Moscow.

For example, during the February 7 attack in which Zircon was allegedly used, three Iskander ballistic missiles and four Kh-22 cruise missiles fired by Russian forces escaped attempts to shoot them down, according to the data of the Ukrainian Air Force.

Although air defenses have successfully shot down Iskander missiles in the past, Ukraine is estimated to have failed to intercept a single Kh-22 in nearly two years of war. Speaking in December, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said Russia had so far fired nearly 300 Kh-22s during the war.

Ukrainian air defenses had some success during the February 7 attack, destroying 26 of 29 Kh-101, Kh-555 and Kh-55 cruise missiles, all three Kalibr cruise missiles and 15 of 20 drones Shahed fired by Russia. But these are less advanced than Zircon.

Despite this, analysts caution against exaggerating the impact that the use of Zircon could have on the war as a whole.

02:22 – Source: CNN

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Since this is a new – and expensive – technology, the question is how much has Russia produced?

A “key consideration is Russia’s ability to produce and deploy a capability like Zircon at scale, especially since the program will compete for financial and other resources with priorities such as rebuilding Russian ground forces », Sidharth Kaushal, researcher at the Royal United Services Institute. in London, wrote last year after Admiral Gorshkov reportedly deployed with Zircons on board.

CNN’s Svitlana Vlasova, Mariya Knight, Andrew Carey and Jack Guy contributed to this report.

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