Personally I’d call this propagandist saber – rattling, or at least Russia simply evening out the playing field. Scramjet technology and hypersonic ramjets have been around for decades in the West. Nevertheless, I thought this worthy of interest from a military/Defence point of view:
Russia has developed an “unstoppable” hypersonic missile capable of destroying the Royal Navy’s most sophisticated warships, the Sunday People can reveal.
Kremlin military chiefs claim they have built an anti-ship cruise missile capable of travelling at between five and six times the speed of sound – 3,800 mph to 4,600mph.
Now experts fear the missile, called the Zircon, could sink the Royal Navy ’s two new £6bn state-of-the air aircraft carriers in a single strike.
The missile flies more than twice the speed of a sniper’s bullet and is almost impossible to stop.
The cruise missile is powered by a “scramjet” – an air-breathing jet engine that can reach incredible speeds.
A swarm attack involving a dozen missiles against the world’s most modern warships would be devastating, experts believe.
The Zircon missile is believed to have a range of up to 500 miles and can be fitted with a series of warheads from high explosive to nuclear.
It can be fired from land, sea and submarines and could prove to be the most important and deadly weapon of the 21st century.
One senior defence source last night described the Zircon as a “potential game changer”.
The missile can be programmed in flight to search out and attack a target while at the same time avoiding anti-missile missiles.
The Zircon is so fast that it can out run the Royal Navy’s Sea Ceptor which is designed to shoot down missiles travelling at 2,300 mph, much slower than the estimated speed of a Zircon.
Now some military experts believe that hypersonic missiles could make massive aircraft carriers redundant.
Aircraft carriers need to be positioned so that their planes can attack targets at a range which allows them to return to the ship before they run out of fuel.
But the only protection against hypersonic cruise missile would be for carriers to stay out of range – the Russians call this strategy “area denial”.
One senior Naval source said: “Hypersonic missiles are virtually unstoppable. The whole idea of the carrier is the ability to project power.
“But with no method of protecting themselves against missiles like the Zircon the carrier would have to stay out of range, hundreds of miles out at sea.
“It’s planes would be useless and the whole basis of a carrier task force would be redundant.”
Testing of the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile began this year and they could be fitted to a nuclear-powered cruiser by 2022.
The Kremlin is believed to have restarted a programme initiated by the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
Pete Sandeman, a naval expert, said: “Defence against hypersonic missiles presents a huge challenge to surface ships.
“There is so little time to react that even if detected, existing defences may be entirely inadequate.
“Even if the missile is broken up or detonated by close-in weapons, the debris has so much kinetic energy that the ship may still be badly damaged.”
A Royal Navy spokesperson said: “We keep threats under constant review but do not comment on Force Protection measures”.