Hypersonic missiles are quickly becoming a key part of Russian military doctrine, but how can Russia’s newest sci-fi system be expected to impact relations with NATO and collective European Security?

Russia’s 3M22 Zircon missile system has the potential to transform maritime warfare. However, the system will have its most significant effect on Russia-NATO relations in the form of uncertainty: limited information and the unsettling of the status quo function as effective lubricants for political and military escalation at NATO’s ever-changing borders.


This article was submitted to the UK Defence Journal by Tom King. Tom is a graduate student studying Russian politics and security studies at UCL.


Unlike its competitors, a significant proportion of Russian hypersonic missile technology (HMT) efforts have revolved around nuclear-capable hypersonic missile systems — a position justified by President Putin as necessary in light of Washington backing out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002.

To avoid generalisations, this article focuses on the Zircon specifically, instead of the air-launched Kinzhal or boost-glider Avangard systems, as well as on conventional use rather than the issue of HMT’s effect on the nuclear stalemate.

Expected operational impact

Revitalisation of Russia’s ailing Navy is arguably the primary role of the Zircon. Russian naval capabilities have long paled in comparison to the American colossus, their sole aircraft carrier, the diesel-powered Admiral Kuznetsov seemingly destined for the dry dock. A Russian fleet-in-being is incapable of competing with the NATO and U.S. equivalents.

Hypersonic speed combined with impressive, low-flying manoeuvrability allows the Zircon to deliver its potentially carrierdisabling payload without fear of interception or counterattack. Equipping the serviceably large fleet of Russian screening ships (like the Buyan-class corvettes) with the Zircon provides the ability to disable much larger, stronger vessels, unsettling dominant naval doctrine on a scale some compare to the carrier revolution of the 1940s.

Despite Western fears, the Zircon does not necessarily spell the end of NATO’s firm presence near Russian waters.

Due to incomplete development e.g. no submarine variant, existing supersonic stockpiles, and an estimated cost of 1 to 2 million USD per missile, it is highly likely that the Zircon will only enter service in 2022 on a political and psychological level. The bulk of missile-capable ships will instead likely carry the Onyx and subsonic Kalibr missiles for the foreseeable future; Onyx producer NPO Mashinostroyeniya supplied 55 missiles to the Russian navy in 2019, more than the company has manufactured in any other year.

Despite the long timeline and limitations surrounding widespread implementation of the Zircon, Russia continues to celebrate the majesty of the project as NATO members’ nervousness grows — but why is this? The answer lies within the Zircon’s role in Russian identity building, and subsequently the role of perceptions and uncertainty towards hypersonic missile systems.

A test launch of Zircon.

Politics, perceptions, and uncertainty

The Zircon, whilst not underplaying its impact on the battlefield, affects European security to a certain extent by fostering uncertainty largely through identity building. Implementation of the hypersonic missile system helps unite the domestic Russian base; the Putin regime’s 20 year long framing of Russian identity in terms of security and militarisation allows hypersonic missile systems to have a notable ‘rally around the flag’ effect evocative of the Cold War. This psychological impact and political boon of the Zircon system for Russia lowers the chances of much-needed HMT agreements, be they bilateral or multilateral. Not only is it in the interest of Moscow to maintain its technological advantage, but the militarised, separate civilizational identity means collective European security is not Russia’s priority.

Tensions between NATO and US forces and Russia are not a hypersonic missile-induced phenomenon, with constant altercations and interruptions of drills by both parties. However, as identified by former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges as well as a litany of International Relations scholars, the power vacuums and misunderstandings in the region are what leads to an escalation of these tensions and potential conflict. The secretive, militarily revolutionising, unregulated nature of the Zircon, and a lack of clarity around its use case, threatens to breed misunderstanding and thus escalate tensions. This is where the immediate threat of the Zircon missile system lies for NATO.

The threat of uncertainty presented by the Zircon and Russia’s other hypersonic systems is reminiscent of the infamous Cold War ‘missile gap’ of the 1960s, wherein the United States vastly overestimated Soviet missile stockpiles due to fear and misinformation. Perceptions of Soviet missile capabilities influenced US politics and foreign policy, spiking tensions between the ideological adversaries.

Western answers to the Zircon (both in missiles and updated interception systems) are expected to develop at a speed akin to the systems themselves. However, the dangerous political and operational uncertainty the Zircon brings means attempts to reduce information asymmetry, and open regulatory discussions, is more important now in the system’s formative years, than ever.

 

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Shiny Sheff
Shiny Sheff
2 months ago

This where I think drone ships have potential- it would be excessive to use a $2 million missile against an unmanned unit. Maybe we could screen carrier groups with a drone swarm of patrol boats and corvette or frigate sized motherships.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago

When you cannot get the propulsion system on the Russian carrier correct I start to doubt the points made in the article.
The best reports have Zircon hitting stationary targets only on land or a barge at sea.
The kill chain is everything. Break the kill chain and it doesn’t matter what you have.. You won’t hit anything.

Hypersonic and near Hypersonic are nothing new. The western navies have been facing them since the early 1960s. Until some more Info becomes available on Zircon its going to be considered as a limited threat to shipping

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

The Russians would struggle to hit Greenland with one ?. The comments on this one will be interesting

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

Unlike harpoon which is well know for being able to hit random parts of the kingdom of Denmark…….

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

At last Harpoon works.

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

But only if you want to take out a load of Scandinavian holiday homes.

Airborne
Airborne
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

If they are made completely of wood with a steam room, they deserve it.

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago
Reply to  Airborne

Yes all those irritatingly happy blonds need to be deprived of their steam rooms.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Well quite.

John Hampson
John Hampson
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

What hypersonic threats did Western Navies face in the 60’s. I can only think of a ICBM type ballastic nuclear missile. To which there was no defence.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hampson

A lot of air launched anti ship missiles AS 6 kingfish was a +mach 4.5 top diver, AS 4 was a high mach number ASM that has just been upgraded with modern electronics.

Hermes
Hermes
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

M4.5 is high supersonic, not hypersonic (M5+)

Des
Des
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Agree, the author seems gullible. Does he even understand the physics of 500mph at sea level never mind supersonic speeds.

John Hampson
John Hampson
2 months ago
Reply to  Des

Ok explain the physics of 500 mph at sea leve. Maybe explain the physics of a fragments with a kilogram force meter of 6,500, from a Zircon destroyed at >1000 m hitting a thin skinned frigate? Maybe explain why engaging at 1000 m is better than engaging at 2, 3 or 4 times that could be achieved by a non Phalanx system. If the Phalanx is so good answer this. Why has the system NOT been selected for the new US frigate? It has not been selected for the Canadian type 26. The Russian Gorshkov frigate has no gun based… Read more »

Matt Harding
Matt Harding
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I was inclined to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume they were jokingly referring to the smoke plumes as being diesel generated.

AlexS
AlexS
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

The arrogance here i telling. Can you extrapolate Type 45 to all other British equipment?

Paul42
Paul42
2 months ago

The Russian line of thinking is logical – we cannot build ships that compete with Western navies, so pour all our money into missiles that can destroy them. Same with the S400 and S500 SAMs. I wouldn’t underestimate weapons like Zircon. The fact they even exist is cause for concern……..Meanwhile the west is slow to actually respond to the potential threat at hand.

Nathan
Nathan
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

Exactly, just because their other technologies are underfunded, doesn’t mean they all are. It is a clever asymmetric investment. A $0.5bn frigate and crew versus a lifeless, $2m missile. It swings the cost calculation somewhat when the probability of your 2mil getting through is high. Heavens, throw two of them at it.

Meirion X
Meirion X
2 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

A true HS missile should cost a lot more to produce under western manufacturing conditions then $2 million piece.

Ulya
Ulya
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

You are correct Paul, we cannot compete with NATO navies so no point trying, at same time NATO surface fleet have only limited use against Russian territory, but one point this article and comments miss is zircon was developed for navy due to INF limitations, with that gone a larger, longer range land based zirconM and air launched version is where main interest has moved to

Geoffrey Roach
Geoffrey Roach
2 months ago

A coup;e of questions. If the cost to Russia is about £1 million why would they not order them in hundreds if the missile is as capable as they say?
Realistically how many Zircons could you mount on a ship,particularly a Corvette.? They are nearly 35 feet long and the exhaust burn and debris must be huge

Pete
Pete
2 months ago
Reply to  Geoffrey Roach

Issue is, I suspect, probably access to exotic materials in sufficient volumes v the competing demands elsewhere in Russia.

I suspect hitting a moving target at sea would be problematic but using them to swamp moored ships at Devonport or hardened shelters at lossiemouth would be worrying.

P

Geoffrey Roach
Geoffrey Roach
2 months ago
Reply to  Pete

In that case I’ll choose Lossie…the other is a bit close.

Lordtemplar
Lordtemplar
2 months ago

FYI some glaring mistakes in this article
1. hypersonic missiles need to fly high to attain such speeds, too much friction at lower altitudes.
2. More speed = less maneuvrability. There is a trade-off. That is why sea skimming missiles are subsonic
FYI Zircon flies at mach 8 or 9 at 28km altitude, and this is according to Russian defense ministry.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
2 months ago

Interesting article, thank you.

Would a hypersonic AshM need to carry a warhead? I’d imagine that the kinetic force alone would be so enormous that a warhead would be totally superfluous

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago

Yes it actual true sort of maybe. if you do the calculations around dynamic kinetic energy these hypersonic missiles seem to actual deliver the same order of energy in joules as an intercity being driven into something at full speed. Trouble is it’s unlikely to actually convert all the dynamic kinetic energy into impact force ( unless it’s hitting something large solid and very hard like) and the calculations are very complex with lots of variables. This is because the missile will effectively move through the ship impacting over time, doing work as the ship deforms as well the missile… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Jonathan
Hermes
Hermes
2 months ago

The energy is great, but not enough to really make a blast on a ship hull.
You can even risk an overpen with a just a hole above the float line.
So you need a warhead to explode in the hull and maximize the damage.

John Hampson
John Hampson
2 months ago

I posted this on an earlier article. There was some discussion but I was believe the post is still valid. It seems to me that Phalanx type systems are being made effectively useless by hypersonic missiles like the Brahmos II and Zircon anti-ship missiles. Some simple calculations. A Zircon is reported to travel at least 2,700 meters per second. Phalanx fires 75 rounds per second, at 1,100 meters / sec, with a max effective firing range of 1500 meters. A Phalanx firing at 75 rounds for a second results in one round every 14.6 meters. For an incoming vampire travelling in an… Read more »

John Hampson
John Hampson
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hampson

In support of my post above I also presented this quote from the article “Why Russia’s Hypersonic Missiles Can’t Be Seen on Radar.”from military.com. “Hypersonic weapons such as Russia’s 3M22 Zircon fly so fast and low — at speeds of up to Mach 6 and at a low atmospheric-ballistic trajectory — that they can penetrate traditional anti-missile defense systems. The missile flies with an advanced fuel that the Russians say gives it a range of up to 1,000 kilometers. And it’s so fast that the air pressure in front of the weapon forms a plasma cloud as it moves, absorbing… Read more »

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hampson

Physics works both ways. If it has a plasma, radio absorbing shield then how does it home? Radar homing won’t work… The radar cannot get through the plasma. Anti radar homing won’t work the radar from the ship cannot penetrate the plasma so the missile cannot detect it. IR homing… At Mach 8? The friction would white out the sensor. Then let’s get onto say a radome or sensor window material that can be opaque to radar or IR and still not disintegrate when hit by particles in the atmosphere or even rain drops. Funnily enough nobody has come back… Read more »

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

This has been my question for a long time. One that up to now no commentator has in my view successfully addressed. These questions have always been thrown by me at the new supposed Chinese anti ship ballistic missile, so called carrier buster. I concluded to myself that these missiles could only be guided from behind, maybe by receiving satellite signals up their chuffs? Alternatively, it’s all just hype. The same would apply to a HS cruise missile. I can see how Brahmos can guide itself, just about, but anything significantly faster is going to start having problems. Surely?

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hampson

Missiles don’t catch up. They use proportional navigation to fly to a future intercept point and then home in.
Chase homing went out of RN use with Sea Slug. Sea dart being semi active used proportional navigation constants and look angles to fly to the future interception point Ceptor and Viper use future intercept points and active homing. With Pif Paf manoeuvring on Viper the thing can pull insane right angle turns at huge G to get close to the target

Airborne
Airborne
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I always love the realtime knowledge and experience versus internet research lol. Keep it up gunny B.

John Hampson
John Hampson
2 months ago
Reply to  Airborne

Before anymore comments like that maybe you should as why the US Navy is no longer maybe you should ask why the US Navy is no longer installing Phalanx. The new class of frigate as no Phalanx.
Additionally original comment was based on simple maths not the intrenet. Gunbuster suggested that a Zircon type missile could be defeated by a manouvering ship.

Airborne
Airborne
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hampson

Oh dear are you shouting at me and being angry? Calm your pants, as I, and obviously Gunbuster seem to prefer direct subject matter experience to base our various knowledge on. And I will continue comment as I see fit, but thanks for your concern.

Airborne
Airborne
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hampson

And John I’m sure Gunbuster is awaiting your response, amongst many things, to include the plasma cloud issue. I also am intrigued, thanks.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  Airborne

Companies that develop these weapon systems use massive super computers, and hundreds of highly intelligent people with lots of letters at the end of there name. We get John who’s got his calculator out to try and prove the Russians are awesome ?

Airborne
Airborne
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

Love it ?

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Hi Gunbuster. Question with hypersonics, if indeed they can be made to hit a moving target, would be 1) can something like Aster acquire a Zircon by diving down on it from its launch apogee? Does the seeker have sufficient of a look angle to acquire a HS missile early enough while maintaining a proportional navigation intercept path? 2) Will the fuse be capable of reacting in time so that the warhead successfully destroys the clever bits and not just the tail cone of Zircon as it flies past at Mach 5/7? Might SM-6 or Aster B1-NT have a better… Read more »

Frank62
Frank62
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hampson

Agreed on Phalanx usefulness. QEs are woefully underarmed.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hampson

I think the chances of a hypersonic missile hitting a maneuvering warship at speed are even less.

Rob
Rob
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

That is exactly what battleship Admirals said about aircraft prior to WW2. Now I doubt the Russian propaganda about this but we do need to develop countermeasures. A laser anti ship missile capability, by nature travelling at the speed of light, would seem the logical option.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob

I don’t think that’s a logical comparison. The Russians can’t even get one aircraft carrier to work, let alone develop unstoppable laser death ray missiles.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Current lasers don’t have the range. Future systems may be good to say 10km but there are huge issues with getting a kill. Currently and for the mid term… Kinetic kill remains king closely followed by Soft kill.

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob

There was a lot of thinking about the impact of air power in navel conflict in the inter war period. The question of navel air power had been clarified well before WW2. But there were lots of complex issues and as with any discussion around balance of risk in complex systems there is no tue right or wrong answer ( Those who thought they had a definitive answer generally did not and those who went with a mixed approach and balanced views, such as Moffett in the US lead navy’s to a positive outcome in the end). and remember this… Read more »

Rob
Rob
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Thanks Jonathon, that was an interesting read. You are correct about the balance of air / surface / sub-surface being complicated. Looking at WW2 the superiority of naval air power over big gun battleships seems to have been clearly established. Battles such as the Philippine Sea, Midway and the sinking of the Bismarck show this. However I feel the wrong lesson was learnt about submarines. Just because the Allies won the battle of the Atlantic, with massive material and technological superiority, doesn’t mean that the strategy of submarine blockade doesn’t work. In fact the US Navy’s submarine campaign against Japan… Read more »

John Hampson
John Hampson
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

Good luck with that one.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hampson

How much G can one these missiles pull to out maneuver a modern agile warship moving at 25-30knots?

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hampson

It is a shame that the 25mm upgrade of Phalanx was not taken up.

Hermes
Hermes
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

The Phalanx is near useless against hypersonic threat.
Just talking about the range you have something like 1-1.5s of time in the effective range…
You need a bigger range with a bigger splash with a very very very good early detection to preshot and make a wall of airburst between the ship and the threat.

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago
Reply to  Hermes

The Oerlikon KBD upgrade would have swapped the 20×102 round for the 25x 184, giving the Phalanx greater range & hitting power. Still marginal, but better than the current 20mm.

Meirion X
Meirion X
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hampson

A Zircon would Not be travelling in a near horizontal direction, It will be in a near vertical direction from a hight of 28km, to minimise the amount of atmosphere it has to travel in.

Daveyb
Daveyb
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hampson

As I mentioned before the gun will fire at a predicted intercept point along the path a threat will take and not directly at it, unless its heading directly for the gun. Therefore, the missile will fly into the tungsten rounds. The gun will chase the intercept point and not the target, as it uses solid sabot rounds and not shells with proximity fuses. If it was the other way round then logically some of the rounds would be wasted as they’d fall behind the target as it passes.

Ron
Ron
2 months ago

I wonder how these hypersonic missiles work. If I understand correctly at this type of speed you need a supercooler otherwise the engine melts. Then comes the fins for mid flight target correction, I would think that they would need some form of special material on the leading edges again due to friction they would be disformed or melt. So is it possible that Russia has such missiles, yes are they effective I don’t know. The only way that I see that they could work is if hypersonic speed was for a limited time, almost like a superboost. If Russia… Read more »

David
David
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron

Great commentary! The only thing I would say with respect to the T45s, is the limited Aster missile loadout. Just 48 max; if we’re throwing 17 in the air at one time to intercept just one Zircon…. well, let’s hope the Russians don’t fire too many! Three in the air at once and we’ve expended everything.

Lordtemplar
Lordtemplar
2 months ago
Reply to  David

You dont need to fire 17 Aster 30 to hit something. Aster has one of the most sophisticated seekers equipped on any missile
Latest Aster 30 Block 1NT can be used against missiles having 1500km range, and Aster 30 Block 2bmd currently in development is designed to counter ballistic missiles having range of 3000km

Ron
Ron
2 months ago
Reply to  Lordtemplar

LT, you miss understood me, I did not say or mean that you need to launch 17 ASTERS to hit something, what I meant was that SAMPSON can control 17 engagements in a single salvo. Thats 17 missiles in the air at one time engaging 17 targets. An Arliegh Burke can only engage three targets at one time.

ETH
ETH
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron

Bear in mind the number of missiles in the air is not limited by the radar because Aster uses active radar homing in its final stage, independent of the ship it was launched from.

Airborne
Airborne
2 months ago
Reply to  David

I believe 48 is deemed adequate by the RN, as the US ships have loads between 72-96 sparrows, but need to fire 2 or even 3 missiles per target to ensure a hit. That to me makes the maths about right. Gunbuster, please do elaborate mate and correct me if im talking bollocks, cheers.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  Airborne

Put my ten pen’eth in!

Ron
Ron
2 months ago
Reply to  David

The T45 weapons fit is another issue, from my understanding these Zircon missiles cost a few million each so hopefully they don’t have to many. Its also one of the reasons that I argue that we should have a Batch 2 T45, remove the hanger and replace with a second ASTER farm. It would be better if we could stretch the T45 with hanger and second farm much like the Ariegh Burke batch 2 but I am thinking of cost. There is a third possibility, install Mk57s and MK41s/SYLVER A-70s, if we go with the Mk57/41 that would be another… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron

Navylookout said one of the proposed Sampson upgrades would add a panel looking straight up, to tackle ICBM/diving hypersonics.

Ron
Ron
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Yeep, I looked at the old spec, it was four panel and the fifth was to look straight up. Somewhere cuts were made for the two panel that we have now. I am with this very confussed as a radar or any comms dish is not to expensive. I know that is my job build comms. So I am wondering if the panel is the active part (the panel does the thinking) or is it passive where it will pass the signal to a recieving station. If the panel is active possibly it is better if the ABM panel is… Read more »

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron

Sampson has 2 X AESA panels that beam form and steer the radar beams. There are multiple beams in use during every instant. So say the panel at an instantt in time during its rotation is facing straight ahead on ships head. The beams in that instant can be scanned more than 50 degs either side of ships head and up and down from surface to almost vertically straight up.all at the same time whilst also being optimised for air or surface search. Aegis cannot do this with anything except for Spy 6 radars which are only now just being… Read more »

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron

ABs have more missiles because they need to shoot at least 2 at every target. Most are semi active homes not active homes.
A Standard 6 which has active homing and a secondary anti ship role costs… 4. 5 million dollars a shot.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  David

Unlike Standard 2 which is the main USN missile, is semi active homing and fires in Salvos of 2 Viper is active homing fired singly and the kill percentage is such that its around the same percentage kill chance as a Standard 2 salvo shot.
So where a USN Tico or AB has say 70 standards in silos ( assuming others have asroc or tomahawk or standard 6 if they are lucky loaded) that’s 35 engagements. Viper is probably good for 40+ hits with its 48 silos.

Daveyb
Daveyb
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron

From what has been published about Zircon. It is a guided hypersonic land attack or anti-ship missile, that can achieve Mach 8 at 28km and has a range of about 1000km. It uses a narrow lifting body design and is between 8 and 10m long. It is powered by a combination of a rocket booster, followed by a scramjet to punch it to hypersonic speeds. Fact from fiction. The missile needs to be huge, as these speeds demand a lot of fuel. The scramjet is the only internal combustion engine that can reliably attain very high Mach numbers, a ramjet… Read more »

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

I wasn’t going to mention the G value but hey ho….

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
2 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Slowing down the missile for the guided terminal phase would make sense and answer my questions. But then, as you say, Aster should be able to deal with it relatively comfortably.

D J
D J
2 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Nce post. Hypersonics is definately a work in progress. Things like the corona effect are real .If you need to slow up to see me, I can see you (usually well before).You also don’t need to catch a missile that is heading toward you..ie you don’t need a hypersonic missile to take out a hypersonic missile.It’s hard for a hypersonic to dodge something it can’t see.

It is also worth remembering that the more you tune for hypersonics, the more likely a subsonic will sneek past you. Baby, bathwater & all that.

Last edited 2 months ago by D J
dan
dan
2 months ago

Like always Merkel won’t do anything. She will just sit back and let other nations do the heavy lifting for Germany’s defense.

Damo
Damo
2 months ago
Reply to  dan

Hi Dan. European NATO spin the wheel landed on Germany again?

George Royce
George Royce
2 months ago

All the more reason why we should speed up deveopment of the Perseus.

Ron
Ron
2 months ago
Reply to  George Royce

Totally agree.

ETH
ETH
2 months ago
Reply to  George Royce

Perseus was just a 6 month independent design concept, FC/ASW is its designation.

Steve R
Steve R
2 months ago
Reply to  ETH

Yeah, but Perseus is a much cooler name.

Airborne
Airborne
2 months ago

I hate to think how the tug crew will be holding on as they follow the missile onto target!

AlexS
AlexS
2 months ago

Does it work? But even if is not reliable 1 in 10 is already a big headache for any defense.
I am afraid we are entering a technological period where attacking will have significant advantages over defending with obvious strategic implications.

Airborne
Airborne
2 months ago
Reply to  AlexS

Attacking is always advantages at every level of conflict. Defending is always a poor man’s prep and a wise man’s guess.

Dave Wolfy
Dave Wolfy
2 months ago

We got through the Cold War, but then again – we were certain of everything then.

Paul42
Paul42
2 months ago
Reply to  Dave Wolfy

We got through the Cold War by pouring vast sums into Defence across the board to a point where Russia simply couldn’t compete and was on the edge of Bankruptcy. But then the Cold War ended, and our investment/spending was dramatically cut, and we are still reluctant to spend the sums we need to in a world where both Russia and China are behaving in a far more aggressive manner and investing far more than we are.

Ron
Ron
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

Paul42, Not quite true, during the period when I served the UK spent approx 4% GDP on defence. WE had 1BR Corp, a 4 Armoured Div front line force, we had a RN that could carry out NATO tasking and send a task force South to the Falklands, even by the end of the 1980s we had 48 surface combat ships. We had a RAF that had enough squadrons to multi task. The ICBM deterant was a treasury issue and pensions etc was a government issue. Now we spend 2.2%, the ICBM is a Mod issue, pensions etc is an… Read more »

Ian
Ian
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron

So true Ron…..

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron

That’s a very different world you have described Ron. We simply couldn’t justify the cost of building these huge defence projects at a national level. Even the Americans are struggling to justify spending 14bn on one aircraft carrier. Times have very much changed, but it’s the same for all countries these day’s.

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago
Reply to  Ron

Trouble is China got clever and realised a very significant weakness in western liberal democracy and capitalist models. You can’t out compete neoliberal states via a militaristic central control model, it will simply out produce you, that’s what happened the the facist states, military imperialists and communists ( third reich, imperial japan and soviets). The Chinese learnt that lesson very well, went back to the history books and found a weakness in neoliberal states. The very engine of the neoliberal state, the purity and dominance of the market, the thing that allows it to be so competitive and strong is… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Jonathan
Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

And we then discovered after the Cold War that the Great Russian Bear wasn’t as scary as we all thought.
A lot of the tech and systems where poorly built and maintained and in a lot of cases didn’t actually work as advertised.
Fighters, Subs, Surface vessels, Missiles, Tanks, all found to be very substandard. Some of the kit was good (ICBMS) but a lot wasn’t. From the performance of a lot of Russian systems over the past years they still have huge issues.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
2 months ago

We should be neither scared witless, nor complacent, about the development of hypersonics. While the kill chain for them to be effective today may be challenging, it is also target dependent, with some targets easier than others. For example ports, naval bases and even individual berth positions of high value targets are known precisely. Amphibious support vessels, operating either close inshore, or beyond sight from land, may be fixed in location while conducting ship-to-shore ops. CSGs, moving at 20-30 kn are the most challenging to target, or even find, for today at least. So if the target location is known,… Read more »

Daveyb
Daveyb
2 months ago

There are definitely means available today to counter hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) and hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs). As you mentioned above, early detection is the key and airborne surveillance is paramount. Satellite networks may in future be capable of tracking numerous very hot bodies, but due to the current small size of the low earth orbit (LEO) satellites and the sensor’s size requirements, I’d say that’s for the future. Ground based radar will have no problem seeing the HGV boost phase if it is lobbed by a medium range ballistic missile. The HCM is the problem. As it can be… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
2 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Hah! T45 ashore! I must admit I had also considered the BAES radar test facility up on the hill in Portsmouth as a potential defence site if things went pear shaped, provided we have the appropriate ground launch missiles for such a system. Its relative altitude would provide much better visibility vs a T45 moored alongside. Although, I suppose if Aster variants are capable of intercepting manoeuvring ballistic missiles, then a T45 in the harbour could launch them on instruction from the BAES ‘T45 ashore’ facility. Surveillance-wise NATO has its integrated air defence L-band radars. So the UK benefits from… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
2 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

I should have also added that it seems the RN is likely to strongly leverage a range of UUVs for the submarine threat to meet the challenge you outline. I expect them to be surveillance only platforms that can provide potential target information to surface and air assets to prosecute. The air assets would be P8A but probably also sonobouy equipped Protector. Surface assets would be T23/26 but might also include USV platforms.

Richard B
Richard B
2 months ago

After reading the article, I’m no wiser as to what Zircon means for Western security. Once again Russia (or its closely predecessor, the USSR) has made a major investment to produce a highly advanced weapon that may be superior “to anything the West has”, but it’s only available in small numbers, and probably only modest percentage of those will actually work if used. We have been here many times, e.g. the M-4 Bear bomber, VA-11 Shkval torpedo, the T-14 Armata tank, Akula-class submarines, the SS-7/R17 ICBM, the BraMos cruise missile, … Yes, Zircon may be a serious threat at a… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 months ago
Reply to  Richard B

I could add the M25A to that list. The west were sh****ng themselves until Belenko defected in one and it was seen it was not so invincible.

Often these scares are hyped up themselves by the military industrial complex to access more cash.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
2 months ago

Yes, exactly. I remember the fuss made about the MIG29. It was sold to be the mother of all fighter’s. IRST, Helmet mounted sight, Radar with a fancy name, ?F16 beating performance ect ect. Turned out to be good for a airshow display, and that was about it. Poorly made, unreliable, smoky crappy engine’s, and poor avionics compared to Western standards.

Jon
Jon
2 months ago

From the country that exports miss information. Think it’s there Ironman suit cannot develop a efficiency jet engine. May have a warhead and missile body But there goes the pig.

Steve R
Steve R
2 months ago

Tell me if I’m wrong but isn’t this the sort of thing that Dragonfire would be able to deal with pretty simply?

Seems to me that even if Zircon is everything the Russians say it is, that mounting a few Dragonfire lasers onto our carriers, frigates and destroyers would all but negate the threat.

So maybe that’s the solution: invest more and focus on getting it operational.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve R

Nope. Dragonfire will be good for drones and boats. Laser systems needed to hit missiles doing high subsonic let alone High mach numbers need to be in the megawatt class. We are no where near that.
Current lasers will maybe get to 500k Watts. That’s around a 5 km range against a drone or a boat or an aircraft on a good day.

A viable laser could be a free electron laser but it’s a huge monster of a thing that would need an LPD to carry it and a bunch of nuclear physicists to maintain it.

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I thought present systems are more in the range of 30-50 kilowatts ?

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

They have the capacity to get to maybe 500k. Most laser systems that are being developed (though not all) are not coherent beam types. They are individual industrial based cutting lasers grouped together. A group of individual lasers is easier to do than a group of lasers that you then have to use optics for to get a coherent beam.

Coherent beam = more efficient but harder to make work due to complexity

Non coherent = easy to do but a lot less efficient.

You choose your Blaster… You take your chances!

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I choose the Death Star.

Steve
Steve
2 months ago

Whether the missiles work or not is kind of irreverent, as their threat results in a deterrence and should a war happen would mean that strategies would need to be designed around the assumption that they do work. Its the same as trident/vanguard, we have no idea if it works or not, as its too expensive to test it often enough, but the threat is still there and so the deterrence.