Russia's Military Wants Its Supersonic Cruise Missiles to Go Hypersonic

Russian ICBM rocket
A Russian Yars RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile system rolls through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2019. Russia’s armed forces announced it would upgrade its supersonic missiles. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images

Russia is aiming to develop its cruise missiles so that they reach hypersonic speeds. Russian weapons manufacturer Tactical Missiles Corporation is developing supersonic cruise missiles used by the Russian Armed Forces, the company's CEO Alexander Leonov, said.

He told the state agency TASS: "The general trend in the improvement of cruise missiles is towards bringing their speed to the hypersonic level and increasing the range of their operation. This is the direction we are heading towards," he said.

His company is developing the Onyx supersonic anti-ship missile which can be fired from frigates and submarines. Its maximum speed is more than 2.5 times the speed of sound and has a range of 400 miles.

Leonov said his company was looking to "make the missile universal both from the viewpoint of its targets and the launch platform that is used."

Hypersonic flight is generally defined as faster than 5 times the speed of sound through air (Mach 5), just over one mile per second.

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Chkalov Flight Test Center to inspect a MiG-31 fighter jet armed with the hypersonic Kinzhal, or "dagger", missile.

Developed by the Russian Defence Ministry for use by the Russian Aerospace Forces, the Kinzhal is an air-launched ballistic missile that is also nuclear-capable. Russia says it can travel at speeds of Mach 10 over a range of around 1,200 miles, and even up to Mach 12 over shorter distances, Airforce Technology reported.

The National Interest noted that the Kinzhal could be integrated onto other systems Russia used which could pose a significant threat to NATO air defenses and air forces. It said that more targets could be reached if a Kinzhal could be launched from any strike fighter, including those that could take off and land on short runways.

Russia is also developing the 3K22 Tsirkon HCM, which can reach speeds of up to Mach 6 as well as the new ICBM HGV, the Avangard.

In April, Putin praised the achievements of his military in the development of "modern powerful precision weapons that are determining and will determine in the future the image of Russia's armed forces."