Not in service? ..
If we discard some conventions, then Zircon can be called the most mysterious and mysterious example of Russian weapons. Judge for yourself: they showed us “Armata” a long time ago and already presented the first production Su-57. They saw "mere mortals" and other new military-industrial complex products in Russia: X-47М2 "Dagger", "Poseidon" (most likely, just a mock-up, but okay) and even the Peresvet combat laser system. As for the Zircon, then история with this missile most of all resembles a joke about a gopher known to all.
Recall that in the case of Zircon we are talking about a hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile, which, according to data from open sources, is already capable of speeds 8 Mach and has a range of about 400-600 kilometers. However, there is even more impressive data. “Namely, I want to say about the Zircon hypersonic missile with a flight speed of about nine flies, and a range of more than a thousand kilometers, capable of hitting both sea and land targets,” the Russian president himself said in February of this year.
The public is even more interested in the status of rockets. That is, does such a rocket exist at all. And there are a lot of interesting things. Back in 2017, TASS, citing ex-commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces Viktor Bondarev, reported that the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation already had the Zircon missile in their arsenal. Vladimir Putin gave a more modest assessment of the state of the program in October 2019. “Zircon will definitely be,” said the head of the Russian state. According to calculations, the flight of the rocket to its maximum range will take about five minutes. It is likely that no modern fleet of the world will have an effective counteraction to such a threat.
It is not surprising that information regarding hypersonic missile carriers has to be collected bit by bit. If you believe the media, then “Zircon” want to arm almost all modern large Russian ships. Let's look at the situation in more detail.
On November 19, TASS published an interesting article titled “Zircon Matters: Ships Retrofit to Hypersound”. It said that the first surface ship of the Russian fleet to receive a new missile would be Marshal Shaposhnikov, a large anti-submarine ship of the 1155 project, which is part of the Pacific Fleet of the Russian Navy. It can be recognized by its distinctive silhouette and tail number 543. This is not a new ship: it was put into operation in the 1986 year. However, this is the first representative of the 1155 project to undergo appropriate modernization, after which it will become a frigate.
It is known that during the modernization of the ship will receive a universal launcher 3С14, with which it will be possible to use cruise missiles "Caliber", "Onyx" and "Zircon". In total, according to data from open sources, the Russian fleet has six large anti-submarine ships of the 1155 project in operation, not counting Shaposhnikov. Another - “Admiral Kharlamov” - is in reserve.
To the big ship - hypersonic rocket
Among the most likely other rocket carriers are Russian "21st century battleships" - heavy nuclear missile cruisers of the 1144 Orlan project. Russia has two of them: Peter the Great and Admiral Nakhimov. Curious information about the first of them appeared back in 2016. “In the course of this work (modernization, -“ Military Review ”), the cruiser will be armed with Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missiles,” TASS wrote then. This is a logical step that will make the world's largest non-carrier strike attack ships effective combat units. Which, however, does not guarantee their “invulnerability” from air attacks. Recall that the decked aviation of the Russian Navy is significantly deprived - the only Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” in repair, which can drag on forever.
Repair of the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov began on the floating dock PD-50, however, an accident occurred on the night of 29 on 30 on October 2018, as a result of which the dock sank. Russia has no other such dock, so the ship can be written off altogether. But even if this does not happen, they are unlikely to be re-equipped with the Zircons: taking into account the age and the “problem” history of the ship, this is expensive and inexpedient. Earlier, we recall that TASS wrote that the aircraft carrier could receive the 3X14 installation, which includes the Zircon cruise missile. Now this is most likely a story.
As, probably, the adoption in the foreseeable future of the arsenal of promising nuclear destroyers "Leader", which were also previously seen as one of the main carriers of Zircon missiles. “Russia will build two Leader destroyers by the end of the 2020's,” Izvestia wrote in February 2019. A lot can change by then. Now they are very strongly criticizing the choice of a nuclear power plant for the ship, and also talk about the lack of funds for the construction of such destroyers. Perhaps, even the chances of building a new Russian aircraft carrier are greater than the production of nuclear destroyers. Which, we note again, without air cover will be just very convenient (and very expensive) targets for enemy carrier-based aircraft.
Versions and conjectures
In 2018, the Russian Navy commissioned the head frigate of the 22350 Admiral Gorshkov project. In total, eight want to build such ships: in the foreseeable future, they should become one of the foundations of the surface forces of the Russian Navy. In March of the 2019 of the year, it became known that at the end of the 2019 of the year, the Zircon rocket would be launched for the first time from Admiral Gorshkov.
“Admiral Gorshkov” is a modern warship equipped with 3С14 launchers, which suggests that a promising hypersonic missile can “register” with all representatives of the 22350 project. This, without a doubt, would significantly increase the capabilities of the Russian fleet.
We also note that as of 2017, the carriers of 3С14, besides the then still not fully adopted by Admiral Gorshkov, were frigates of the 11356 project, corvettes project 20385, missile ships of the project 11661, small missile ships of the project 21631 and small missile ships of the project 22800. All these ships are significantly smaller than the head frigate of the 22350 project. Earlier, by the way, information appeared that the boats of the 22800 Karakurt project and the 21631 Buyan-M project could be equipped with a light version of the Zircon. Whether they will spend money on all this or will cost only the rearmament of large ships is another matter.
But in general, the fear of a number of Western observers of the Russian "mosquito fleet" is not without foundation. At the same time, it is worth saying bluntly that the full appearance of a new hypersonic missile could only be the appearance of its aviation version. However, in order to talk confidently about this, you need to know at least the mass and dimensions of the product. As well as the future of the Tu-22М3М long-range bomber and the prospects of the new “invisible” strategic bomber being developed as part of the PAK DA program.
In a deep theory, in the role of a carrier of such weapons Su-34 front-line bombers could act, but, apparently, the chances of this are even less. In the future, we will definitely talk about which Russian submarines can receive the Zircon hypersonic missile.