Russian President Vladimir Putin previously the Zircon hypersonic missile as capable of traveling upwards of Mach 9, or about 6,900 mph and a distance of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles). The experimental hypersonic has been increasingly made public this summer, particularly after it was successfully test-fired from a warship on White Sea off the northwest coast of Russia.
Russian media is now widely reporting the hypersonic for the first time will be fitted to the country's warships, marking the first time it will ever be "routinely deployed".
Earlier this week Russia's Defense Ministry announced a deal was finalized with rocket design bureau NPO Mashinostroyenia to roll out with Zircon hypersonics which can be easily deployed aboard warships.
"A government contract on the delivery of the 3M22 missile (the Tsirkon hypersonic missile) has been signed. The contract has been handed to CEO of the Research and Production Association of Machine-Building Alexander Leonov at the [Army-2021] international military-technical forum," the Defense Ministry’s press statement said according to RIA Novosti.
The National Review has meanwhile speculated which vessels are the most likely candidates to be outfitted first:
But, according to earlier reports sourced by statements from anonymous Russian defense industry insiders, the honor will go to Admiral Golovko—the third frigate of the Project 22350 Admiral Gorshkov class. Tsirkon [or Zircon] is likely to eventually make its way to numerous ships in Russia’s naval roster, including the Kirov-class battlecruisers Petr Velikiy and Admiral Nakhimov, as well as the modernized Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates and the Karakurt/Buyan/Gremyashchiy-class corvettes.
And submarines are soon to follow...
The missile will also figure prominently into the offensive capabilities of Russia’s new Yasen-M class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines, seven of which are expected to enter service through 2028. Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to suggest in late 2019 that a land-based Tsirkon variant is in the works, but all current signs point to Tsirkon being a ship and submarine-launched weapon for the foreseeable future.
In comments made two weeks ago, Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard, who is chief of US Strategic Command, warned about Russia's growing capabilities related to its military's rapid modernization of hypersonic weapons.
"Russia is pursuing modernization of its conventional and strategic forces," Adm. Richard said. "Nuclear weapons remain a foundational aspect of Russia's strategy and they have recapitalized over 80% of their strategic nuclear forces, including expanded warhead delivery capacity.
"Like China, Russia is investing heavily in developing hypersonic weapons and a variety of other missiles," he continued.
Crucially Adm. Richard warned that "current terrestrial and space-based sensor architecture may not be sufficient to detect and track these hypersonic missiles" - in reference to US defensive capabilities when it comes to thwarting hypersonics.