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Russia to modify its Tsirkon missiles for corvettes

The Russian Defense Ministry will get a smaller option of Tsirkon hypersonic antiship missile to arm Karakurt-class corvettes of project 22800 and Buyan-M-class corvettes of project 21631.

Russia to modify its Tsirkon missiles for corvettes Tsirkon (Zirkon) missile (Picture source : The Center News)

The missile will be launched from a special container. Previously it was planned to arm cruisers, frigates and submarines with Tsirkon (also called Zirkon). The smaller hypersonic missiles will change the Navy tactic. Corvettes and submarines will ambush adversary and deny its attack groups a possibility to approach the Russian coast, the Izvestia daily writes.

The Navy command told the newspaper the tactical and technical requirements for a new Tsirkon option had been formulated. The smaller size will not affect the missile characteristics considerably. They will not actually cede to the basic option of the antiship missile.

Corvettes of projects 22800 and 21631 are to be armed with the hypersonic missiles. They already carry Kalibr cruise missiles and Onix supersonic antiship missiles. Tsirkon will allow the warships to fight any adversary.

Hypersonic Tsirkon is a principally new weapon. It differs from previous generations by a bigger ability to destroy aircraft carriers due to low vulnerability and bigger payload and flight speed. The blast can sink even big displacement ships.

Hypersonic speed makes Tsirkon lowly vulnerable. All R&D is classified, but open sources said the missile can accelerate to Mach 5-10 speed and destroy targets at distances of 300-500 km. The antiship missiles can be engaged in a group as a single self-coordinated swarm. It makes it impossible to repel the strike.

The antiship missiles can also hit ground targets with known coordinates. Such a possibility is specifically important in coastal areas where corvettes and submarines have to both fight the adversary and back the ground forces.

Tsirkon can be fired from existing launchers, but smaller missiles are better for corvettes and submarines, expert Dmitry Kornev said. "A lighter missile is likely to have the same engine, but a smaller warhead, fuel reserve and design elements. The launching booster is likely to be modified. It is very powerful on Tsirkon. The new booster for a corvette will have a smaller payload," he said.

Hypersonic missiles on corvettes and submarines will strengthen the Navy might, expert Dmitry Boltenkov believes. "Light Tsirkon is necessary for the fleet. The construction of big warships is skidding while a corvette is a cheap carrier for Tsirkon and is built in 2-3 years," he said.

New hypersonic antiship missiles will change the Navy tactic. It is difficult to detect corvettes and submarines specifically near the coast where the air defense protects them. Corvettes and submarines can deliver a massive strike from an ambush at the adversary who approaches the Russian coast, he said.

The Navy is constantly upgrading arms and engagement tactic. Last year the first project 22800 corvette received two Orlan-10 drones. They are necessary for covert reconnaissance of the targets, the Izvestia said.

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