Tass, on July 12, published information about the latest high-power Zmeevik hypersonic missile anti-ship missile developed by Russia.
The novelty of this ballistic missile is that it can accelerate to hypersonic speed, finally striking surface targets with a large displacement like Destroyers, frigates, cruisers, and particularly aircraft carriers. Simply put, Zmeevik is a longe range new anti-ship ballistic missile with hypersonic warheads.
The source of the TASS news agency claims that the missile will have some of the characteristics of the Dongfeng-21D and Dongfeng-26 (DF-26) missiles developed in China. TASS did not name its sources, except that they are from the defense industry. There are no official comments on this at the moment. The alleged developer Reutov NPO Mashinostroeniyap, a part of the Tactical Missiles Corporation, also did not comment on the subject.
The missile’s physical specifications are unknown at this time, save for the fact that it is a component of a “long-range coastal anti-ship complex.” And hence, the missile is speculated to be developed as a part of the Bastion Coastal system.
As per Russian experts, the Zmeevik missile is strategic. It flies into space; the payload separates from it and gets divided into several combat units (also called MIRVs (Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicle)), glides down and moves towards the target at hypersonic speed.
“The ‘snake’ is thus capable of flying from Russian Primorye (in the Russian Far East region) to the U.S Hawaii Islands and the Pearl Harbor naval base in a matter of minutes,” a military expert, retired Rear Admiral Alexei Sviridov, told Russian news source Gazeta.
A source from Rostec told Gazeta that a powerful rocket launcher could also lift the Zmeevik system from Russian spaceports.
However, the Russian missile 3M22 Zircon can also defeat individual enemy warships and entire aircraft carrier groups. In addition, it can destroy coastal infrastructure facilities, primarily military bases. The range of Zircon is about 1000 km.
Can defeat Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) System
The United States aircraft carriers are protected by ship based Aegis BMD systems, named after the “Aegis” – the mythical cape of the Greek gods, which made them invulnerable.
The AN / SPY-1 radar of the Aegis system scans and detects targets at a distance of up to 320 kilometres. Modern system modifications allow tracking up to 300 targets and directing up to 18 missiles simultaneously.
Aegis system has demonstrated the destruction of even Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). In 2020, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS John Finn, equipped with the mobile component of the Aegis Baseline 9 system, released an SM-3IIA missile and destroyed a test ICBM.
But, the United States does not possess sea or land-based missile defense against hypersonic missiles like Zmeevik.
Russia’s aircraft carrier killers
Over the years, the task of counteracting the U.S aircraft carriers was assigned to Tu-16 and Tu-22M bombers (Tu-22M3M with Kh-32 missiles are the latest), P-700 Granit, Onyx, Zircon and Dagger missiles, Lun ekranoplanes and about half a dozen projects of nuclear attack submarines with a missile – torpedo combination. Some of these assets are very expensive to create and maintain, and others may be vulnerable to modern defenses.
From the coastal zone, enemy ships can be fired at from a shorter distance with the Bal and Bastion complexes. They work well in the Black and Baltic Seas, but better long-range systems that prevent ships from approaching to launch cruise missiles are needed in the Pacific Ocean or the North. Now the Zmeevik medium-range ballistic missile is being tried for this role. Since the U.S has withdrawn from the (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) INF Treaty, Russia is no longer bound by obligations not to develop, manufacture and deploy such weapons.
Is Russia copying China now?
As per the Tass source, “the Zmeevik ballistic missile with hypersonic combat equipment has been developed for quite a long time.”
Chinese developed world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) DF-21D (CSS-5 Mod-4) did not convince the Russian Navy of the potential until hypersonics arrived, said an analyst to Gazeta. Like the DF-21D, the Russian system is expected to be mobile. Although it has characteristics like DF-21D, the Russian system matches the dimensions of the Chinese DF-26, which is a two-stage solid-propellant missile 14 m long and weighing 20 tons with a conventional or nuclear warhead.
As per the Russian news source AIF, a certain fund starved organization took out an old Soviet-era project and decided to present it to the world. The developers added the latest fashionable topic of hypersonic weapons to update the old missile – a kind of the cherry on the cake. Since the arrival of the Avangard missile system, the defence budget has responded favourably to everything hypersonic and the organization that works in this direction.