Russian President Vladimir Putin has unveiled the world’s most powerful hypersonic missile, capable of destroying the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers in one swoop.
According to Kremlin chiefs, the Zircon cruise missile can travel up to 4,600 mph, six times the speed of sound, making it impossible to defend against using any known military technology in the West.
The Zircon cruise missiles, which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, will be deployed in 2018 according to Russian officials.
Experts warn the ‘unstoppable’ projectiles could spell disaster for the Navy’s new £6.2billion aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
Current Navy anti-missile defenses are only equipped to shoot down projectiles traveling 2,300mph, meaning they would be useless against the Zicron.
This would force aircraft carriers to anchor outside of their estimated 500 mile range
That would make it impossible for the carrier’s jets and helicopters to reach their target, carry out their mission, and return without running out of fuel – effectively rendering them useless.
Pete Sandeman, a naval expert, told the Sunday People: ‘Defence against hypersonic missiles presents a huge challenge to surface ships.
‘There is so little time to react that even if detected, existing defences may be entirely inadequate.
‘Even if the missile is broken up or detonated by close-in weapons, the debris has so much kinetic energy that the ship may still be badly damaged.’
The weapon entered testing earlier this year, and could be fitted to nuclear-powered cruiser Pyotr Velikiy as soon as 2018, Russian state media reports.
It can be fired from land, sea and submarines carrying payloads ranging from high explosive to nuclear.
The Zicron uses Scramjet technology which mixes fuel with air and allows it to burn at hypersonic speeds.
That means the projectile can travel at astonishing speeds – covering 155 miles in 2.5 minutes, which is faster than a sniper’s bullet.
The setback is just the latest in a long line of problems with the Royal Navy’s new carriers after a report earlier this month found they were beset with technical issues, facing delays and could go over-budget.