Russia has claimed it has carried out successful tests of a hypersonic missile, a year ahead of schedule.
According to government-controlled news agency Sputnik, the missile system – known as Zircon – could be installed on PyotrVeliky, the country’s nuclear-powered missile strike ship.
They can travel faster than any other missile on the planet, up to 4,600mph, which is almost 66 times the speed of sound and enough to practically guarantee they cannot be targeted or intercepted.
Mr Ripley explained that this effectively rendered Western defences, such as the anti-missile systems aboard new Royal Navy carriers the HMS Prince of Wales and the HMS Queen Elizabeth, “obsolete”.
“It will greatly reduce the reaction time that they (Western military) have to deploy their own defences and counter-measures,” he said.
While the world’s media were aware that Russia was developing the missiles, these tests come much earlier than the original projected date of 2018.
Military analyst Vladimir Tuchkov told : “It (the Zircon missile system) is expected to be added into Russia’s arsenal between 2018 and 2020.”
These reports emerge as relations between the West and Russia reach their worst since the Cold War, fuelled by the crisis in Ukraine, the devastating conflict in Syria and the alleged Russian meddling in Western politics – most notably, the US elections.
China and Russia have searched for asymmetric weapons that can defeat American carriers that project power and missile systems that protect the homeland against foreign nuclear attack. Hypersonic missiles are part of this effort and are here to stay as a quantum leap in destructive military firepower.
he 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.