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SS-N-33 - T3K22 Zircon / Tsirkon / 3M22 rocket

T3K22 Zircon / Tsirkon / 3M22 rocket 3M22 Zircon (NATO reporting name SS-N-33) is a submarine-based hypersonic missile capable of striking targets both at sea and on the ground. The weapon was presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his annual address to the Federal Assembly, where he stressed the incredible speed at which the missile approaches its target — up to 9 Machs. Such speed will allow submarines, situated beyond the US maritime borders, to strike targets located 500 km deep into the territory within 5 minutes.

All of the USSR's hypersonic weapons designs were strictly classified. It was only due to the fact that the project was closed in 1992 thanks to a lack of financing and the collapse of the defense industry in general that some information about the Kh-90 has become publically available. After a period of stagnation in the 1990s, development resumed. Today, the analyst noted, Russia has reached a point where it has created and is actively testing at least two hypersonic systems. "This includes the 3K-22 Zircon anti-ship cruise missile, the main developer of which is the NPO Machine Building plant in Reutov, outside Moscow, which is also part of KTRV. At the same time, an export version of the missile, known as the Brahmos, is being developed for the Indian Navy."

Zircon is a hypersonic a multi-purpose operational/tactical missile / anti-ship missile. According to available information, the development of the complex was conducted at "NPO Machine Building" (Annual Report, page 15). The first application for the development of the complex in the media was in February 2011. There was also not officially confirmed the assumption that the export variant missiles "Zircon" is BrahMos-II. Until 2012 there was also a hypothesis that the complex was the successor complex to "Bolide", a development of the NPO Engineering.

In 2011, the NPO "Engineering" as part of the Directorate 15-51 organized a group of leading designers on the 3M-22 theme - Sergei Bunakov, Denis Vitushkin, Yuri Vorotyntseva and Alexey Naydenov. In the same year, it seems to have developed a draft design of the complex "Zircon-C", and, accordingly, draft projects complex subsystems. Part D - "Zircon-C-ARC" and "Zircon-C-RV" was performed a structural subdivision of HRCT - UPKB "Detail". As of 2011 the organization of serial production in the coming years missiles of "Zircon" is planned at "Strela" (Orenburg, east -. Annual Report, page 15). Completion of the establishment of the missile system is planned for 2020

According to the analysis of the information relating to the second half of 2012 has been suggested that the theme of "Zircon" either closed or changed. The actual evidence for this assumption was slim, but there is a possibility that it is closing the work on the project for technical reasons could cause the appearance of the Government's proposals for the unification of the ICD "Rainbow" with "NPO Machine Building" for the organization of work on hypersonic weapons.

May 25, 2013, this information was adjusted : the development of the complex continues according to plan, but during 2012 there was a pause caused by technical problems. There was a direct connection with the reorganization of work on hypersonic and the situation with the theme of OCD or research "Zircon". There was now under consideration the concept of the development of hypersonic technologies, which entered GZLA classification, the priority development of various technologies and materials for GZLA. The main focus of the first stage, of course, taken the development of the system that has already been tested by us.

The rest of the directions is planned as a pilot with the creation of the demonstrators, but existing in their backlog is consistent with the world level no less important than the creation of technologies, materials and demonstrators, now the development of other concepts -.. concept of combat use of hypersonic weapons systems necessary to answer the question -. why need such a system, as they should be used, in any form and manner which the objectives will be achieved by the application and the main question -. what is the uniqueness of such systems and what tasks they can decide that it is impossible to solve the existing weapons systems.

A report from 15 July 2015 refers to the willingness to test RPC "Zircon". Probably, it is a full-fledged flight test engineering. On 19/02/2016, the media reported that the were already flight-design state tests missiles at the end of which a decision is made on the adoption of a rocket "Zircon" adopted Russian Navy ships. April 19, 2016 reported that the missile "Zircon", state that the test is scheduled for completion in 2017, in 2018 to be put into serial production.

Heavy nuclear missile cruiser "Admiral Nakhimov" will get the hypersonic missile "Zircon" during modernization, Tass reported on 19 April 2016, citing a source in the shipbuilding industry. Earlier, another source told Tass that "Cubic Zirconia" is planned to be equipped with the same type of ship "Petr Veliky", which would run modernization after 2018. "Nakhimov" at this time is to go back into operation. "During the repair with thorough modernization at the" Admiral Nakhimov "replace complex percussion As a result, he gets hypersonic missiles." Zircon "- a spokesman said.

Russia's new hypersonic anti-ship missiles "Zircon" reached a speed on trials of Mach 8. This was reported 15 April 2017 by TASS source in the military-industrial complex. "In the course of the missile tests, it was confirmed that her speed on the march reaches 8 Makhov (number, taking into account the dependence of the sound velocity on the flight altitude - note Tass.)", - the source said, without specifying when and with what platform launch was held missiles. The "Zircon", said the source, can be fired from the universal launchers 3S14 plants, which are also used for missiles "Caliber" and "Onyx". As reported previously by TASS other sources in the Russian "defense industry", in 2017 "Zircon" would pass state tests. After adopting a missile, in particular, needs to replenish ammunition load of heavy nuclear missile cruiser "Petr Veliky" and "Admiral Nakhimov". The firing range of "Zircon", according to the public data is about 400 kilometers; the maximum speed of the rocket is indicated in the area of Mach 4-6.

Prior to 2019, Zircon was normally presented as a conventionally armed anti-shipping cruise missile. However, during his annual February address to the Federal Assembly in 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russian submarines will be heavily equipped with 3M22 Zircon (NATO reporting name SS-N-33) hypersonic missiles that will be used to strike enemy decision making centers in the event of aggression against Russia.

Although not explicitly stated, there was an implication that Zircon would be tipped with a nuclear warhead. The history of the American Tomahawk sea launched cruise missile, which was deployed in both nuclear and convetional variants, makes this entirely plausible.

State TV channel Russia-1 presented a list of five US decision making centres that wouldbecome likely targets for Russia's Zircon hypersonic missiles deployed on submarines if Washington decided to attack Moscow using its missile arsenal. According to the media outlet, the Pentagon will be one of the primary targets because it houses top military command centres, as well the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The next target could be Camp David — the US president's retreat, located around 100 kilometres from Washington. The place is equipped with a bunker and communications center called Site R. Another possible target named by the Russian media was Jim Creek Naval Radio Station responsible for maintaining communications with US submarines in a submerged state, using very low frequency radio transmissions.

Another target for Russian Zircons, according to the TV channel is Fort Ritchie, Maryland, which served as a support facility for Site R. It's unclear why the channel included the base in its list, since it was officially closed in 1998. The final target for Zircons named by the Russia-1 channel is McClellan Air Force Base, California, which officially ceased operating in 1995.

Rear Adm. Vsevolod Khmyrov said on 21 February that a Russian submarine is capable of firing 40 Zircons at once to successfully hit US-based Armed Forces' control centers operating the missile systems deployed in Europe in the event Washington uses them to attack Russia.

Moscow insisted that anti-missile defence system Aegis Ashore presents a threat to Russia's security and violates the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Aegis Ashore is based on the Aegis Mk-41 ship-based missile system, capable of firing Tomahawk missiles. Moscow says missile defences deployed in Romania and Poland are also capable of firing Tomahawks and thus violate the INF agreement. Washington denied Moscow's accusations and claimed Aegis Ashore doesn't have such functionality.

T3K22 Zircon / Tsirkon / 3M22 rocket T3K22 Zircon / Tsirkon / 3M22 rocket

Russian patent number 2579409 relates to the field of rocket technology, and more specifically to hypersonic cruise missiles equipped with a hypersonic ramjet engine. The invention describes a method of application and device hypersonic cruise missile (CRPD), allowing to solve the problem of performing a combat mission to destroy ground and surface targets of such a missile. The described invention is designed to maximize the combat potential of the CMP with the scramjet.

The design mode for the scramjet are high-altitude cruise conditions while maintaining the estimated cruise speed, and the need to reduce the altitude and flight speed creates difficult technical problems due to the fact that:

  • an engine designed to perform a hypersonic mid-flight at high altitude is not able to continue to work at low-altitude trajectory sections associated with a decrease in the flight number M, hence, the rocket must approach the ground or surface target with an inactive engine;
  • characteristics of sustainability and controllability of CRPD with inactive scramjet significantly deteriorate, loss of stability becomes possible;
  • there is also a danger of destruction of the scramjet design due to the increase in pressure in the flow part of the engine while reducing the CMP from the march height before hitting the target.

The presence of off-design modes for a high-rise scramjet causes an adjustable powerplant (SU), in which the air intake, the flow part and the engine nozzle are configured to change their shape in a wide range of geometrical parameters, is required to enable the CMP to fly. Such solutions need to be implemented to create a scramjet operating in a wide range of flow parameters. Changing the shape of the air intake, combustion chamber and engine nozzle is possible only with the use of complex control devices.

The solution of such a complex technical and technological problem in the conditions of severe weight and size restrictions imposed on weapons systems seems to be inexpedient.

This goal is achieved by the fact that, in contrast to the known method of defeating the CMP target, which consists in launching a rocket to a predetermined altitude and flight speed with a launch and acceleration stage (CPC), detachment of CPC, launch of a sustained scramjet, active flight at an estimated height in the direction of the target, search , capturing and hitting the target, in the claimed invention, after detecting and determining the coordinates of the target at the point of the trajectory calculated by the onboard instrumentation of the control system (BASU), the scramjet is switched off.

After the end of the active part of the flight power plant is separated from the combat module. The trajectory segment associated with the planning and destruction of the target overcomes the combat module. The separation of the power plant will lead to a decrease in drag and, consequently, to an increase in the length of the planning section, the combat module will be able to withstand large allowable overloads and, therefore, have better controllability. Also, the separation of SS will lead to a significant decrease in the effective dispersion surface of the combat module, and, consequently, to a decrease in its visibility, which is especially important when approaching the target.

For the implementation of this method of destruction of the target in the known device of a hypersonic aircraft, containing a solid starting and accelerating stage (CPC) and a marching stage with the ventral air intake of a hypersonic direct-flow air-jet engine on liquid hydrocarbon fuel, including SU, containing an air intake, a combustion chamber, the nozzle, the pneumohydraulic system and devices ensuring the operation of the scramjet, the claimed invention proposed to build the main stage of the CMPD on ove two modules, the first of which is to combat and is formed as a sustainer stage CMP airframe, and the second - in the form of sustainer module powerplant combining all the above SU devices and the combat module fixed under the fuselage according to the package (parallel) scheme with the possibility of its separation in flight by the command of BASU. At the same time, the power plant module (ISU) is fixed under the fuselage of the combat module by pyrodevices, and to ensure the supply to the propulsion module of the propulsion fuel and control commands, it is connected to the combat module with discontinuous hydraulic and electrical connectors.

In his annual state-of-the-nation address on 20 February 2019 to Russia's two-chamber parliament, President Vladimir Putin stated "Today I also think I can officially inform you about another promising innovation. As you may remember, last time I said we had more to show but it was a little early for that. So I will reveal little by little what else we have up our sleeves. Another promising innovation, which is successfully being developed according to plan, is Tsirkon, a hypersonic missile that can reach speeds of approximately Mach 9 and strike a target more than 1,000 km away both under water and on the ground. It can be launched from water, from surface vessels and from submarines, including those that were developed and built for carrying Kalibr high-precision missiles, which means it comes at no additional cost for us."

At the end of 2019, the Russian hypersonic rocket Zircon will be launched for the first time from a warship, the frigate of the project 22350 Admiral Gorshkov. This was announced on 12 March 2019. "At the end of this year, it is planned to begin testing the missile from the sea carrier, the lead frigate of project 22350, Admiral Gorshkov, which is part of the Northern Fleet," the TASS agency’s source said. Earlier tests of the rocket were carried out only from the coastal stand, the source recalled.

State tests of the Zircon hypersonic missile will be completed this year, and launches from submarines will be carried out. Deputy Defense Minister Oleksiy Krivoruchko announced this on 29 January 2021 during the Single Day of Military Acceptance. He noted that within the framework of flight design tests from the frigate "Admiral Gorshkov" the first in the world sea-based hypersonic cruise missiles "Zircon" were launched. During the tests, a speed of over 8 Mach. "The positive results allow us to proceed to the next stage of development - launching from underwater carriers, complete state tests in 2021 and start serial deliveries starting in 2022," the deputy minister said. According to him, in 2020, the rearmament of the 13th missile division of the Strategic Missile Forces with the latest Avangard strategic missile system continued. In December 2020, another 2 missiles with hypersonic winged units took up combat duty.

Russian Designation3M22 Zircon
Designer/Production NPO Mashinostroyeniya
IOC 2018??
Status In production ?
Number of Units Unknown
Role Anti-Ship Hypersonic Cruise Missile
PlatformsLand-, Air-, and Submarine-Mobile
Stages/Propellant 1 - Solid
2 - Scramjet
Range 300 - 1,000 km
Maximum SpeedMach 5-8, Mach 4-6
Warhead Type conventional, nuclear possible
Warhead Weight Unknown
Warhead Yield Unknown
Guidance SystemActive and Passive Radar Seeker

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 17:23:51 ZULU