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Can we stop Russia’s Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile?

Can we stop Russia’s Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile?
[Photo: Flickr user Ben Ferenchak]

After the U.S., then Russia, suspended the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to deploy new weapons aimed at Western capitals if the U.S. puts new missiles in Europe.

He also highlighted a new hypersonic missile known as Tsirkon or Zircon, capable of being launched from ships and traveling at nine times the speed of sound, or roughly 6,900 miles per hour. Putin said the missile could be aimed at land or sea targets and could travel up to 1,000 kilometers, or 620 miles, CNBC reports.

Experts have said the missile, said to be under development since 2011, could move too fast for existing defenses to easily stop, Popular Mechanics reported late last year. In a conflict, U.S. forces could aim to destroy ships carrying the weapons, but they might have trouble locating submarines equipped with the missiles. U.S. and Chinese forces are believed to be developing their own hypersonic missiles, usually used to mean ones traveling at least at roughly five times the speed of sound.

Putin also unveiled footage of what he said is a new speedy, nuclear-powered underwater drone that could carry nuclear weapons. The drone would be carried by a manned submarine either stealthily or speedily, according to RT, the Russian government news outlet.

“Once at its target, it can detonate the nuclear payload, devastating a valuable enemy asset like a naval base or an aircraft carrier group,” according to RT.

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