Amid international tensions, the Russian military announced it has successfully conducted a test launch of its new hypersonic cruise missile.
Officials announced the news on Monday, with Russia's Defense Ministry saying the Zircon missile was launched from the Admiral Groshkov frigate in the White Sea. The missile allegedly flew at seven times the speed of sound, successfully hitting a specified practice target placed more than 350 km away from the launch site, the ministry said.
New Hypersonic Missile
In a statement, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Zircon missile would soon be capable of flying up to nine times the speed of sound. He added that the weaponry will have a range of 1,000 km. The leader also said the deployment of the missile will have a significant effect in bolstering the country's military capabilities.
Previously, the Russian navy conducted multiple test launches of the new hypersonic missile, including one on Putin's birthday in October. Officials also said that the tests of the military equipment are scheduled to be completed later this year.
The Zircon missile is planned to arm Russian cruisers, frigates, and submarines to bolster their firepower. The equipment is one of Russia's several hypersonic missiles under development. NATO responded to the test by releasing a statement arguing that Russia's test launches could cause a "greater risk of escalation and miscalculation," US News reported.
The statement noted that the new hypersonic missile was highly destabilizing and that it posed a threat to security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. NATO said its allies were committed to responding to Russia's actions of growing its arsenal of conventional and nuclear-capable missiles. The statement added they would not be following Russia's footsteps but will take other precautions to bolster their defenses.
Despite rising tensions with the West after Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, the Kremlin has continued to modernize the region's military capabilities, which is considered to be a top priority.
Putin also praised the test launch of the hypersonic missile, touting it as part of a new generation of missile systems that lead the world's technology. The defense ministry also noted that the test launch showed officials the tactical and technical characteristics of the Zircon missile.
However, some Western experts are questioning the technological advancements of Russia's new missile. However, they acknowledged the weaponry's combination of speed, maneuverability, and altitude made it a difficult object to track and intercept, Reuters reported.
In 2018, Putin announced an array of new hypersonic missiles during one of his bellicose speeches. The Russian president said the weapons could hit almost any region worldwide and are capable of evading a U.S.-built missile shield.
Putin then threatened to deploy hypersonic missiles in 2019 targeting ships and submarines that could be lurking outside U.S. territorial waters if the American government decided to deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe. Despite the United States not conducting any such moves, Russia feared it would.
Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have been on the rise as officials argue about certain global issues, including Belarus, Ukraine, NATO, and human rights, Aljazeera reported.