Russia says it has successfully tested a new hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile in a move hailed by President Vladimir Putin as a “great event” for the country.
The military said on Wednesday that the Tsirkon missile was fired from the Admiral Gorshkov frigate in the White Sea on Tuesday morning in the Russian Arctic and successfully hit its target.
Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian military’s General Staff, told Putin – who turned 68 on Wednesday – that it was the first time the missile had successfully struck a target at sea.
“The tasks of the launch were carried out. The test-fire was successful,” he told Putin. Gerasimov said the missile hit its target 450 kilometres (280 miles) away in the Barents Sea and reached a speed of Mach 8 – eight times the speed of sound.
Russia has in the last years touted the development of futuristic new weapons it hopes will give it the edge in any arms race with the United States at a time of growing tensions with the West.
Putin said the test-firing of Tsirkon was a “great event not just in the life of our armed forces but for all of Russia”.
He said such weapons, which he claimed are unequalled worldwide, “will without doubt in the long term boost the defence capabilities of our state”.
The defence ministry said that the plan was to equip both warships and submarines with the Tsirkon.
Putin had revealed the development of the new weapon in a state of the nation address in February 2019, saying it could hit targets at sea and on land with a range of 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) and a speed of Mach 9.
Russia boasts of developing a number of “invincible” weapons that surpass existing systems and include Sarmat intercontinental missiles and Burevestnik cruise missiles.
The first Avangard hypersonic missiles were put into service in December last year.
The programme is not without risks and seven people were killed in an explosion at a missile test site in August 2019. Western experts linked the blast to work on the Burevestnik.