Russia fires new Zircon hypersonic missile on Ukraine ‘for first time’, says Kyiv researcher

By Isaac M February 13, 2024

Russia allegedly targeted Ukraine with the powerful hypersonic Zircon missile, believed to be for the first time in the nearly two-year-long war, the head of a Kyiv research institute said on Monday.

Oleksandr Ruvin, director of the Kyiv Scientific-Research Institute for Forensic Examinations, confirmed the use of the missiles after his institute completed a preliminary analysis of the weapon fragments from the Russian attack on 7 February.

Russia unleashed a barrage of missiles on Ukrainian cities last week, killing five and injuring 50 others.

The Zircon missile is a thermonuclear-capable projectile with a range of 1,000km (625 miles) and travels at nine times the speed of sound, details from its developer state Russia show.

Dubbed as a “promising hypersonic anti-ship missile”, its speed adds to the missile’s capability to hit large, deep and hardened targets and greatly reduces reaction time for air defences, military analysts said.

Mr Ravin showed a video of the wreckage recovered from the alleged Russian missile attack, with specific markings.

“In this case, we see elements that are characteristic of the 3M22 Zircon missile. Parts and fragments of the engine and steering mechanisms have specific markings,” he said.

The Russian defence ministry has not issued any comment on the findings by the institute.

While it is not immediately clear whether Russian forces fired the weapon from land or from the sea, the markings seen on the parts recovered from the wreckage suggested that the weapon had been assembled recently, Mr Ruvin said.

The Zircon hypersonic weapon has likely entered the Russian air force in recent years as officials in Russia said they had completed testing of the weapon in June 2022. Russian officials had boasted about Zircon’s capability, saying that it’s impossible to intercept with existing anti-missile systems.

Vladimir Putin, who had said the weapon carries Mach 8 speed and a range of 1,000km, had described the Zircon as part of a new generation of unrivalled arms systems.

The Zircon was initially designed as a sea-launched weapon and a ground-launched version was developed later.

If its use in Ukraine is confirmed, the Zircon hypersonic missile could pose an additional challenge for the already besieged country’s air defences, amid uncertainty over future Western military aid.

In the span of nearly 24 months of invasion, Russia has fired regular air strikes on civilian areas and the war frontline using a range of long-range missiles and drones.

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