RAF spy plane ‘monitors Russian war games in Arctic waters’ as Moscow tests new hypersonic missile which it claims ‘hit the bullseye’
- Reports say a British spy plane has monitored Russian moves in the Barents Sea
- Russia boasted that its new hypersonic missile had ‘hit the bullseye’ in testing
- 6,100mph Zircon missile was first tested on Vladimir Putin’s birthday last year
A British spy plane has monitored Russian war games in the Arctic where Moscow says it has completed initial tests on a new hypersonic missile, local media says.
An RC-135W Rivet Joint reconnaissance jet flown by the RAF is said to have circled the skies near where the Kremlin’s Admiral Gorshkov frigate sailed off Russia’s northern coast this week.
The Gorskhov has carried out at least four test launches of the new 6,100mph Zircon missile, which is expected to go into service next year and which defence chiefs boasted had ‘hit the bullseye’ in testing.
Vladimir Putin sees the Mach 8 Zircon as his missile of choice to target US cities in the event of a nuclear conflict, it is claimed.
The Zircon hypersonic cruise missile is launched from the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov last year in tests which coincided with Vladimir Putin’s 68th birthday
An RC-135W Rivet Joint reconnaissance plane (file photo) operated by the RAF is said to have circled the skies near where Russia was carrying out war games this week
The Gorshkov was expected to fire the Zircon this week, although defence chiefs confirmed only that supersonic Oniks missiles had been fired from the frigate.
The missiles hit a target off Novaya Zemlya, where a large area of water was declared ‘forbidden to navigate for all vessels’ in Arctic waters.
A military source told Russian state news agency TASS: ‘Flight trials (of the Zircon) from Admiral Gorshkov have been completed successfully.
‘A total of four launches have been made. All missiles hit the ‘bullseye’
Trials of the Zircon missile are planned to be finished in 2021, while mass production of the new weapon is expected to commence in 2022, reported TASS.
It was the second time in a week that a British spy plane had buzzed an area of the Barents Sea to snoop on Russian missile tests, the Barents Observer said.
Tests of the Mach 8 missile from a submarine are also expected soon.
The hypersonic Zircon missile is fired out of a hatch in the upper deck of a Russian frigate during testing in the White Sea last year
Putin has previously described the Zirkon – also known as Tsirkon – as ‘truly unparalleled … in the world’.
The first Zircon test launch of the missile from the Gorshkov was staged in early October and seen as a 68th birthday present for Putin.
More test launches followed in November and December.
A radiation leak during a military accident which killed two people and wounded six in 2019 was thought to have taken place during testing on the missile.
Radiation levels temporarily soared 20 times above the normal level in Severodvinsk, 18 miles from the weapons testing site at Nyonoksa, according to Greenpeace.
Vladimir Putin (pictured in Moscow on Wednesday) has previously described the Zirkon – also known as Tsirkon – as ‘truly unparalleled… in the world’
Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of Russian news show Vesti Nedeli, showed a map of the US on screen with targets he claimed that the Kremlin would hit in a nuclear war.
Kiselyov, seen as a top Putin propagandist, said the Zircon missile could hit the targets in less than five minutes.
Putin has claimed that the West was seeking to steal secrets relating to Zircon and other state-of-the-art Russian weapons such as the Avangard.
Oniks missiles were also fired at a target near the Novaya Zemlya archipelago which was once a Soviet nuclear testing ground, said the defence ministry.
Two Russian Northern Fleet logistics support ships – Elbrus and Ilya Muromets were also in position southwest of Novaya Zemlya.
Earlier Zircon tests were made from the White Sea, twice hitting floating targets and once a land-based target.