The russian Zircon mach 6 to mach 8 hypersonic missile has been claimed to be able to overwhelm existing missile defenses. Russia has claimed the missile could be ready by 2018. However, existing anti-missile systems are getting some success countering mach 20 intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Patriot anti-missile systems have mach 4 interceptors.
How the Zircon flies will ultimately reveal much more about the missile’s power than simply understand its speed. If the missile can work with a low trajectory, and then hurl itself into a ship with a sudden and unpredictable maneuver at the end of its flight, it’s as deadly as the hype suggests. If it can’t, then it’s possible that existing missile defenses are adequate for the task, though it’s unlikely that researchers or military planners would leave it at that. Because this is unknown information, it’s far to early to argue decisively either way that the Zircon missile either does or doesn’t give Russia a massive advantage in naval combat.
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