Russia to Begin Testing Hypersonic Missile From Nuclear Submarine

Tests of a hypersonic missile from a Russian submarine carrier are reportedly scheduled to take place at the end of August as Moscow proceeds apace with its plans to arm its underwater fleet with the deadly weapons.

In July, Russia's defense ministry announced the successful launch from its Admiral Gorshkov warship of the missile which traveled at seven times the speed of sound and was fired from the White Sea to hit its target more than 200 miles away on the Barents Sea.

There has been speculation over when submarine tests would take place of the Tsirkon missile, which is developed by the rocket design bureau NPO Mashinostroyenia.

Reports in March suggested the tests might take place in June, but Tass, the Russian state news agency, reported on Friday that it will be tested from the Northern Fleet's Yasen-class Severodvinsk nuclear-powered submarine by the end of this month.

"Flight design tests of the Tsirkon rocket from Severodvinsk will begin at the end of August. It is planned to complete several launches before the White Sea freezes over," a source told the state-run news agency.

This timeline chimes with what a military source had told the agency in July on the sidelines of the MAKS-2021 international air show outside of Moscow.

Unlike fixed land-launched hypersonic missile sites, submarines at an undisclosed location make defending a hypersonic attack much more difficult, according to National Interest.

Russia has 64 submarines according to and many are renowned for their sophistication in air-independent propulsion and other undersea warfare technologies.

With Western experts analyzing the capability of Russia's new generation of hypersonic weapons, the proposed testing of the Tsirkon in August shows a statement of intent from Moscow to equip its submarines and surface ships with the missile system by 2023.

Russia, Admiral, Gorshkov, fires, Tsirkon, missile
Russia's Admiral Gorshkov frigate test-fires the Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile. Tass reported that the missile will be test-fired from a submarine by the end of August. Russian Ministry of Defense

In 2018, President Vladimir Putin boasted that Russia was developing a range of hypersonic weapons which he threatened to station on vessels near American territorial waters if the U.S. deployed intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.

Tensions between Russia and the U.S. have ramped up in recent months, with Moscow unhappy at NATO-led exercises being conducted in the Black Sea and warning that a U.S. deployment of hypersonic missiles in Europe could escalate into hostilities.

After July's Tsirkon test, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Russia's weapons were "potentially destabilizing and pose significant risks."

However, his comments prompted the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. to say that any deployment of a U.S. hypersonic missile in Europe in turn, "would be extremely destabilizing."

Newsweek has contacted NPO Mashinostroyenia and Russia's defense ministry for comment.