Russia frigate Admiral Gorshkov armed with Tsirkon hypersonic missiles is ready for combat

According to information published by Tass on December 29, 2022, the Project 22350 frigate Admiral Gorshkov has completed preparations for combat duty, the Northern Fleet said.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Project 22350 frigate Admiral Gorshkov firing Tsirkon hypersonic missile. (Picture source: Tass)

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier said that the frigate Admiral Gorshkov armed with Tsirkon hypersonic missiles would go on combat duty in early January 2023.

About the Tsirkon hypersonic missile

The Tsirkon is a hypersonic cruise missile announced as having a conventional capability, but speculation abounds that it could carry a nuclear warhead in the future.

The Tsirkon has a solid-fueled first phase, followed by a scramjet second phase. In development since 2011, the Tsirkon is thought to be made of a new metal alloy capable of withstanding the high temperature of hypersonic flight.

Significant maneuverability during flight and terminal phases is anticipated. The primary challenge for hypersonic cruise missiles is the reliability and lifetime of the scramjet engine.

Expected to be sea-launched, the Tsirkon will likely obtain a speed of Mach 5 to Mach 6 and a range of about 500 km (300 mi). Successful tests from a ground-based launcher were conducted in April 2017 and December 2018. The Tsirkon is expected to be deployed on Russia’s two Kirov-class battle cruisers after modifications.

Given the relative immaturity of scramjet engines and the new metal alloy production, Tsirkon deployment before the mid- to late2020s would be surprising.

When deployed, the Tsirkon is expected to target missile defense installations, decision centers, and high-value assets from a safe distance without risk of interception, because of its speed and maneuverability over short ranges.