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Oct 5, 2021
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The end of another era: American aircraft carriers are turning into useless junk

Probably, the American military is sad now. It’s hard to rejoice, realizing that your entire fleet, nurtured for decades, has finally turned into a potential graveyard. Meanwhile, this is exactly what has happened now, when Russia has carried out two successive tests of the Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missile. And two starts in a day is a very important sign that everything is going well and the product has worked reliably.

These are not just successful tests. These are, in fact, the final tests before the developers raise glasses of champagne with the military. The Zirkons have already been launched from a surface carrier – the frigate Admiral Gorshkov.

After successfully passing those tests, the next stage was launches from an underwater carrier. The missiles were to take off from the Project 885 Yasen nuclear submarine Severodvinsk. In early October from the surface, and in November – from underwater. Moreover, it was indicated that the beginning of the second test would depend on the results of the first.

Launches of “Zircons” from the frigate “Admiral Gorshkov”. Photo: MOD Russia / Globallookpress

And what do we see?

Observers from among the military experts immediately drew attention to this: the second launch happened not a month later, but the next day. This means, according to experts, that the passage of the previous stage was done so flawlessly that the command decided not to wait in vain.

Double benefit: the date of the transition of flight design tests to state ones is approaching (especially since the contract for the supply of “Zircons” to the troops has already been signed); well, and awards to everyone who are involved, too, will not be superfluous.

Why – aircraft carriers?

At one time, the creator of the first Soviet nuclear submarines, academician Anatoly Alexandrov recalled how naive even they, the atomic lobbyists from the Kurchatov team, were naive about the capabilities of strategic missile weapons at sea.

And so one of the ideas was to make a huge thermonuclear torpedo … And then I met Korolev. And we showed him the blueprints of our boat and showed him what kind of torpedo we were going to put in there, and there was a talk about whether it might not jump out of the water somehow and fly … And we talked about and whether it is possible to put the boat upright when it will release this rocket. In general, everything was at a rather childish level, both on his part and on my part. But we discussed it all …

Since then, new ideas and new missiles have come. And rocket torpedoes. And when today in the footage published by the Ministry of Defense, you see how, on a black night, a hypersonic missile, inevitable in its accuracy and ruthless in its effectiveness, bursts out from under the water from a depth of 40 meters, you understand that this time has not passed in vain.

All these post-war decades, the United States had an indisputable advantage over the USSR in the aircraft carrier component. And an aircraft carrier is not even a ship. This is a floating military base, not only possessing an overwhelming air advantage far from coastal airfields, but also surrounded by a real palisade of surface and submarine ships.

Of course, the Americans were afraid of hurting Russia itself, but the sea reigned systematically. Successful episodes for the Russians, when, for example, a Soviet submarine surfaced in the middle of an aircraft carrier order, only emphasized this advantage. Yes, the Russians showed the vulnerability of an aircraft carrier strike force (AUG) in some place at some time. But 10 such AUGs could not be pierced or killed at the system level.

And this is how it was before the appearance of “Zircons”.

Why – “Zircons”?

No, we will not exaggerate the capabilities of these missiles. It’s just a rocket. That is, the engine is in the tube on which the warhead is mounted. The ship is killed by the explosion of this warhead, which immediately puts forward a number of requirements for the rocket.

For example, accuracy is of no use to a missile if it detonates a mile from its target. The strength of the charge itself. Invulnerability – the charge must be delivered to the target, despite fire and electronic countermeasures.

It is precisely to achieve a successful combination of these factors that is the most difficult task of missilemen. The Zircon missile is highly classified. But from what was published in the open press, we can draw the following conclusions about its design and capabilities.

To reliably deliver the charge to the target, the designers have achieved a combination of two things: high speed and unpredictability of the broken path of the product. Tests have shown that the rocket reaches nine speeds of sound (nine Mach numbers, or roughly 2.65 kilometers per second). It flies at an altitude of 20-40 kilometers, which gives a reduced air resistance at a specified speed. The maximum range is 1000 kilometers, which allows you to shoot without entering the target’s anti-missile defense zone. When approaching the target, the rocket descends to a height of a couple of tens of meters above the water surface and approaches it along the same broken, unpredictable trajectory. Probably, at this stage, the speed of the product decreases only to supersonic, otherwise it is not clear how the final aiming is carried out through the ionized plasma of the surrounding air cocoon.

Test launch of the Zircon hypersonic missile from the Severodvinsk nuclear submarine /vk.com

This, of course, does not exclude “external” aiming. In this sense, as far as one can judge, the Zircons work in close connection with the Liana space electronic reconnaissance system. Relying on the latest Pion-NKS and Lotos-S reconnaissance satellites, this system provides global tracking of military activity, monitoring the movement of sea and land formations, and even individual tanks and vehicles. And also target designation for high-precision weapons systems.

Therefore, in particular, the current testing of Zircons is a complex task. It’s not easy for the captain of the submarine to play the nocturne on the consoles, ignite the solid fuel boosters and send the rocket flying. Such a rocket must also be combined with the entire range of products and capabilities that ensure its flight and targeting. Including, by the way, means of counteracting enemy electronic reconnaissance and suppression, as well as means of intercepting enemy communications and information in general.

For target designation, this system forms the corresponding radio-technical images of enemy equipment, determines and transmits its coordinates, speed and direction of movement, characteristics. After that, the flock of “Zircons” is guaranteed to destroy the enemy’s AUG, including the main target of the aircraft carrier.

However, as it is clear from some publications, the over-the-horizon “Container” radar may well be connected to the “service” of the “Zirkons”. She generally sees everything, including the “invisible” planes, so that the aircraft carrier group is generally one tooth for her. Moreover, the “Container” was just recently tested in the Barents Sea for tracking ships and targeting carriers with weapons of destruction at them.

So what?

As you can see, it is not at all necessary to put the submarine vertically in order to launch a nuclear torpedo at the foe. With the current level of development of weapons, the missile is being produced from a standard “glass” ZS-14, universalized for the anti-ship missiles P-800 “Onyx” and “Caliber”. Then she flies, accompanied by the care of an automated control system, the same one that was recently tested during the exercises of the Northern Fleet.

Finally, external and internal target designation and guidance systems lead the product to the enemy ship. And the warhead weighing up to 450 kg remains only to explode at the level of the aircraft carrier’s waterline, so that the floating air base makes its last flight – to the bottom.

The Americans simply have nothing to resist these weapons. Constantinople somehow cited the calculations of the famous military scientist and analyst Konstantin Sivkov. According to them, even one anti-ship missile “Zircon” overcomes all air defense systems as much two modern American ships with a probability of 77–84%. And a swarm of such missiles of 8 items, led by a replaceable (in case of shooting down or damage) “leader”, is guaranteed to defeat any enemy AUG.

Americans sadly state in The National Interest:

These missiles could turn America’s superships into multi-billion dollar graveyards for thousands of sailors.

And they are completely right.

This means that the projection of power, for which the United States created as many as 11 aircraft carrier formations, has ended. With which we can all congratulate.

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