Don’t believe the hype about the Russian hypersonic missiles

Hypersonic missiles, created to break through the defensive systems, is a novelty in the old arms race. Russian rocket “Zircon” can be put into service in 2018. Despite numerous newspaper headlines about the rocket while not much is known in order to definitely tell whether it is insurmountable threat to ships at sea.

“Sputnik”, owned by Russian state news Agency, touts the capabilities of this missile, and notes that “the British aircraft carrier strike groups will be forced to be out of rocket range “Zircon”, and carrier-based aircraft will not be enough fuel to overcome the necessary distance”.

Threatening aircraft carriers, the missile is an cheap means to counter a deadly threat, but this threat is well known. For many years, military planners were put in charge of carrier strike groups and other ships equipped with missile defense systems and using their own radars and interceptor missiles to protect from massive aircraft carriers currently known missiles. A serious threat hypersonic cruise missile does not only speed.

Speed is only a means, not an end in itself. Difficult to intercept missiles doing what they can do with his speed. “In my opinion, the question relative to the rocket “Zircon” is its characteristics, is it possible to detect in the far distance and at what speed it is able to maneuver in the final phase. It’s more interesting questions than just speed,” said James Acton (James Acton), one of the Directors of the program on nuclear policy (Nuclear Policy Program), Carnegie endowment for international peace (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace).

One speed is not enough, because the existing missile defense system created in order to knock down much more quick goals.

“It’s actually high-speed cruise missiles, but it is not particularly high, if you think about ballistic missiles,” — said David Wright (David Wright) from the Union of concerned scientists (Union of Concerned Scientists).

Missile defense system designed to intercept Intercontinental ballistic missiles just beginning to show some progress in the fight against educational targets. Against smaller ballistic missiles used by the Patriot, and they are in service with many countries-members of NATO, including the United States. Missile complex Patriot have a speed of about Mach 4. This is more than enough in order to defeat existing cruise missiles and aircraft. In addition, the rocket complex Patriot has demonstrated some success in the fight against ballistic missiles flying at a predictable trajectory.

The interception at the expense of speed and detection.

The high speed of Intercontinental ballistic missile Minuteman III is 20 swings. This is three or four times faster than the perceived speed of the rocket is “Zircon”. However, ballistic missiles fly on a pretty clear path — first up, then down, all in the open air, where radars and satellites can easily track all their flight.

“Another way to circumvent the radar — at least to some extent — is for the rocket in the low flight. The flight profile is very important in order to complicate detection, — said Acton. Even if the missile will notice, it is unlikely to be intercepted if it is able to maneuver to Dodge the blow.” Missiles in literally dodging missiles trying to intercept it.

How to fly the rocket “Zircon”, will tell ultimately much more about its capabilities than just data speed. If the missile can move at a low trajectory, and then after a sudden and unexpected maneuver at the very end of his flight hit the ship, then it will be deadly as all trumpeting. If she will not be capable of such a maneuver, it is possible that the existing missile defense system can intercept. Although it is unlikely that the designers and military planners have not given her such opportunities. However, such information is currently unavailable, and therefore, in any case, it is still too early to definitely talk about will provide the missile “Zircon” a huge advantage of Russia’s naval battles.

“I take very seriously what they say about the rocket “Zircon”, and also to the fact that it can pose a threat to American ships, — said Acton. — However, mere speed is not the only important factor. According to the media, its speed is Mach 6, and supposedly that is why it cannot be stopped. This is actually a rather ignorant assumption.”