Zircon: The hypersonic missile Putin hopes will turn the tide against Ukraine

Watch: The Zircon hypersonic missile explained.

President Putin warned in December that Russian forces would be armed with the Zircon hypersonic missile in January.

The Russian President hopes the missile will help turn the tide in his campaign in Ukraine.

Russia test-fired the Zircon hypersonic missiles in December, a move Russian officials said was meant to help make Russia's push for security guarantees "more convincing".

Capable of speeds above Mach 5 – reportedly up to Mach 9 – the Zircon hypersonic missile also has a range in excess of 1,000km.

"It was designed as an anti-ship missile, to supplement and replace the Onyx or SS-N-26," defence and international affairs expert Dr James Bosbotinis told Forces News.

He added: "It also has a secondary land-attack role. It's been tested a number of times from the nuclear-powered submarine, Severodvinsk and the Admiral Gorshkov frigate."

Russia's Zircon hypersonic missile 04012023 CREDIT Russian MOD
The Zircon hypersonic missile reportedly has speeds of Mach 9 (Picture: Russian MOD).

Dr Bosbotinis notes that the Russians currently operate principally subsonic and supersonic cruise missiles, the Kalibr, the SS-N-27 Sizzler, the heavyweight anti-ship missile the Onyx, as well as the backfire launched AS-4 Kitchen.

Russia does currently operate the X-32, which has a high supersonic speed of Mach 4/4.5, however, Russia's latest Zircon missile reportedly has a speed of Mach 9, or nine times the speed of sound.

"The window of time to detect, track, prosecute it, is extremely short," Dr Bosbotinis said.

"This is one of the advantages of hypersonic missiles, they are difficult to detect, and track and engage because their speed compresses the time available to a defender.

He added: "So the Zircon would be extremely challenging for defenders to defend against."