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Russia used 5 Zircon hypersonic missiles to strike Kyiv in 2024

One of Russia’s newest missile techs, the Zircon can hit targets over 1,000km away at 9x the speed of sound.
A high-speed missile Zircon. Credit: Russian Defense Ministry
Russia used 5 Zircon hypersonic missiles to strike Kyiv in 2024

Russia has used five ZM22 Zircon missiles to attack Kyiv since the start of 2024, the Kyiv Military Administration reported on 1 April.

The last time the Russian army used Zircon on Kyiv was on 25 March. Russian forces also used Zircon earlier against other cities, in particular, on 29 December 2023 against civilian infrastructure in Zaporizhzhia.

High-speed missile Zircon is one of the latest developments in Russian missile technology, which Moscow presents as “a serious threat to Western armies.”

Zircon missiles were designed for deployment on ships and submarines, with possible adaptation for ground-based launch systems. This expands the options for their use, including unexpected ones. Ground-based missile systems are less noticeable than MiG-31Ks).

There is not much open information about these missiles and their exact tactical and technical characteristics. Russia is trying to keep most of the characteristics of the Zircon in secret.

The development of these missiles became known a few years ago, and in 2019, Vladimir Putin claimed that the Zircon could hit naval and ground targets at a distance of over 1,000 km and accelerate up to 9 Mach. The weight of the high-speed missile is estimated at 300-400 kg.

“There are no reliable photos of this missile,” military expert Ivan Kirichevsky from the Defense Express said on Radio NV. Images of the Zircon are usually published either in animations or as footage from training launches from ships and a fairly large distance.

Russian military observers call the Zircon an “aircraft carrier killer,” which traditionally “has no analogs” in the world and is not intercepted by missile defense systems because of its speed, trajectory, and electronic protection.

However, the missile that fell in Kyiv was likely shot down or suppressed by electronic warfare. The PATRIOT and SAMP/T systems reportedly are capable of intercepting such targets.

“The 3M22 Zircon is a very problematic, raw, and difficult-to-adopt hypersonic anti-ship missile,” military observer Alexander Kovalenko wrote in X. Russian military’s use of Zircon will likely become a new challenge for Ukrainian air defense. It means that the Russian army is using the second type of hypersonic missile against Ukraine, in addition to the Kinzhals.

Except for Zircon, Russia launched over 180 weapons at Kyiv over the first three months of 2024. In particular, one Kalibr missile, three Kh-69 missiles, five Zircon missiles, six Iskander ballistic missiles, 11 Kinzhal ballistic missiles, 48 Shahed drones, and 113 Kh-101 missiles.

Russia also began production of Kh-101 cruise missiles with two warheads, doubling their danger, Defense Express reported on 29 March.

Russian forces intensified missile attacks on Ukraine in March with various types of missiles and drones, causing significant damage to energy and electricity infrastructure. Ukrainian Southern Defense Forces reported on 28 March that the Russian army had deployed a submarine carrying cruise missiles to the Black Sea., which means Russia is going to launch attacks again soon.

Ukraine’s Military Intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov also said on 31 March that the Russian fleet has been accumulating Kalibr cruise missiles, which could be used to strike Ukraine in the near future.

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