Following the successful surface launch of the Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile from a Russian nuclear-powered submarine on Sunday, a second launch was conducted on Monday; this time from 40 meters underwater signaling a new capability for the country's navy.
In a statement, the Russian Ministry of Defense said, “The second test firing of the hypersonic cruise missile Tsirkon was carried out by the crew of the nuclear submarine missile cruiser Severodvinsk for the first time from an underwater position, from a depth of 40 meters, in the waters of the White Sea at a conditional sea target in the Barents Sea.”
"This is a serious event for the Russian Navy. No one has protection from Tsirkon," the former chief of the General Staff of the Russian Navy, retired Admiral Viktor Kravchenko said in comments quoted by Interfax. "In the near future, (more) submarines will be equipped with Tsirkons - this will strengthen the capabilities of our Navy to fight aircraft carrier groups," he added.
A capability to launch the Tsirkon missile that can travel at 5-7 times the speed of sound from underwater means the nuclear-powered submarine can approach its firing position and release the missile almost undetected from ground and space-based radar systems.
Prior to the tests from a submarine, the missile was tested only from a surface warship.
During Army-2021 Forum, Russia’s MoD signed a contract for the delivery of Tsirkon hypersonic missiles to the Russian troops. According to Alexander Leonov, CEO of NPO Mashinostroenia, it has to be fulfilled by 2025.
The Tsirkon 3M-22 hypersonic missile is a part of 3K-22 (Zircon code) complex which NATO reports as SS-N-33. The missile can develop a speed of Mach 9 and fly at an altitude of 30-40 km where the range and speed increase as air resistance is smaller. Experts estimate the payload at 300-400 kg and the missile length at 8-10 m. The missile is to be fired from universal vertical launchers 3S-14 on warships and submarines and from Bastion mobile coastal missile launchers.