3M22 Zircon

Quick Facts

Russian/US Designation 3M22 Zircon/SS-N-33
Role and Mobility Anti-Ship Hypersonic Cruise Missile; Land-, Air-, and Submarine-Mobile
Designer/Production NPO Mashinostroyeniya
Range 1,000 km
Warhead Type and Weight Unknown
MIRV and Yield Unknown
Guidance System/Accuracy Active and Passive Radar Seeker; Unknown
Stages/Propellant 2; Solid and Scramjet
IOC/Retirement N/A; N/A
Status/Number of Units Unknown


The 3M22 Zircon or the SS-N-33 is a maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile developed in Russia.[i] The Zircon’s estimated range is 500 km at a low level and up to 750 km at a semi-ballistic trajectory, but the state-owned media in Russia reports the range as 1,000 km.[ii] It’s a two-stage missile that uses solid fuel in the first stage and a scramjet motor in the second stage. This missile will be incorporated into the Kirov-class battlecruiser Admiral Nakhimov this year and the Pyotr Velikiy in 2022.[iii] The 3M22 Zircon was first used in combat in February 2023, as Ukrainian reports found debris that pointed to the use of the hypersonic weapon.

Strategic Implications

The Zircon missile is strategically valuable due primarily to its speed. In April 2017, it was reported that the Zircon had reached a speed of Mach 8 during a test.[iv] In 2019, Vladimir Putin stated that the Zircon had reached a speed of Mach 9 and reach targets within 1000km, which is a longer distance than previously reported and it is unclear if a target that far from the launch site has been hit in testing.  Another valuable aspect of the missile is its plasma cloud. During flight, the missile is completely covered by a plasma cloud that absorbs any rays of radio frequencies and makes the missile invisible to radars. This allows the missile to remain undetected on its way to the target.[v]

Recent News


[i] http://cmano-db.com/pdf/weapon/3361/

[ii] http://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=2732278

[iii] http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/15608/delivery-of-russias-refit-nuclear-battlecruiser-delayed-but-progress-looks-impressive

[iv] http://tass.com/defense/941559

[v] https://www.1tv.ru/news/2017-05-21/325643-v_rossii_uspeshno_proveli_ispytaniya_novoy_giperzvukovoy_rakety_tsirkon_ne_imeyuschey_analogov_v_mire

Missile Threat and Proliferation


Curtis Stiles - Chief of Staff