Russia test-fires hypersonic missile from submarine

In this photo from 2019, a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile is fired from the guided missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov in the White Sea. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia said on Monday (Oct 4) it had launched a new hypersonic cruise missile from a submarine, the latest test of emerging weapons that President Vladimir Putin has dubbed "invincible".

Moscow has in recent years touted the development of weapons that it hopes will give it the edge in any arms race with the United States at a time of growing tensions with the West.

Hypersonics can travel more than five times the speed of sound and manoeuvre in mid-flight, making them much harder to track and intercept than traditional projectiles.

The military said on Monday it had fired a Zircon missile from the Severodvinsk nuclear submarine and hit a test target in the Barents Sea in Russia's Arctic.

"The test launch of the Zircon missile from a nuclear submarine was considered successful," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry released grainy video footage showing missile flares illuminating the night sky.

Later on Monday, the ministry said in a separate statement it had completed another test launch of Zircon from the same submarine but from 40m below the surface.

It was the "first time" the missile had been launched from a submerged position, the ministry added in the statement carried by Russian news agencies.

The Zircon had already undergone several tests in recent years, including a launch from the Admiral Gorshkov frigate.

Mr Putin used his State of the Nation address in 2018 to reveal new hypersonic weapons, including the Zircon, saying it could hit targets at sea and on land with a range of 1,000km.

The Zircon looks set to join Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles that were put into service in 2019 and the air-launched Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles in Russia's arsenal.

The launch comes a week after North Korea said it had tested a new hypersonic weapon, becoming the latest country to join the hypersonic arms race.

Experts agree that, for now at least, Russia has an edge in their development.

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