Threat to aircraft carriers: how Zircon will change the balance of forces at sea

By | October 10, 2020
Threat to aircraft carriers: how Zircon will change the balance of forces at sea

As it became known, by the end of the year, three more test launches of Zirkon hypersonic missile will be performed from the frigate Admiral Gorshkov. In the course of firing, the aircraft carrier-type sea target will be defeated. Military analyst Mikhail Khodarenok was familiar with the specifics of the Tsirkonov combat application.
All three launches, according to media reports, will take place with the real defeat of sea or land targets imitating aircraft carriers and strategic enemy objects. The nearest firing will take place in late October – early November.

Zircon hypersonic missiles are regarded as one of the most promising means of fighting aircraft carrier strike groups (AUG). And it is not surprising.

Modern aircraft carriers are the main attack force of the Navy on the seas and oceans and their introduction into battle often decides the outcome of armed confrontation as a whole.

In all local wars in recent decades, the aircraft carriers have proven to be a very effective means of combat. At the same time, the aircraft carriers are very expensive ships in construction and operation. The cost of a modern nuclear attack aircraft carrier already reaches $13-14 billion, which, by the way, is 20 percent of the RF Armed Forces budget. Now only nine countries in the world have such ships in their fleets.

For example, the United States Navy currently has 11 nuclear attack aircraft carriers. Ten of the Nimitz type are the Nimitz (CVN-68), the Dwight. D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), Carl Vinson (CVN-70), Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), George Washington (CVN-73), John K. Theater. Stennis (CVN-74), Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), George G.W. Bush (CVN-77), and one Gerald R. Ford type (CVN-78).

U.S. Navy aircraft carriers operate as part of an aircraft carrier strike team (one aircraft carrier and an escort ship – the so-called combat group) or aircraft carrier strike team (several aircraft carriers and escort ships). In this case, aircraft carriers are the core of the group. In the U.S. Deck Aviation today 67 squadrons and 731 aircraft.

China still has two aircraft carriers – “Liaoning” (project 001) and “Shandong” (project 001A). In 2018, China began the construction of aircraft carriers on project 003.

As previously reported “Gazeta.Ru”, the Chinese aim to have in the PLAAF Navy by 2035 six aircraft carriers. In China, they had already built a second shipyard to build ships of this type.

There are only two aircraft carriers in the British Navy – HMS “Queen Elisabeth” and HMS “Prince of Wales”.

France has only one ship of this type – aircraft carrier “Charles de Gaulle” (R91). It is the first French surface warship with a nuclear propulsion system, the flagship of the French Navy.

The Italian Navy has two light aircraft carriers – the Cavour (C550, Cavour, ex-Andrea Doria) and the Giuseppe Garibaldi (C551, Giuseppe Garibaldi).

The Indian Navy has one aircraft carrier of Project 1143 – INS Vikramaditya (R33), the second ship (INS Vikrant, R44) has been launched and is under construction.

In the Spanish Navy, the Juan Carlos I (L61) can be referred to as an aircraft carrier, although most likely it is a universal landing ship.

There is only one heavy aircraft carrier in the Russian Navy – “Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Nikolay Kuznetsov”. At the present time it is under repair.

And finally, the Thai Navy has an aircraft carrier “Chakri Narubet”. It is the smallest among modern aircraft carriers.

As you know, one of the main, we can say, the main tasks of the domestic Navy, starting from the postwar times, is the fight against aircraft-bearing attack (multipurpose) groups of the probable enemy, which pose a significant threat to important facilities of the state and the Armed Forces, located near the coast. These issues in our Navy have traditionally been (and currently are) assigned to ships, submarines, and naval missile-carrying aviation.

It was planned that first of all the aircraft carriers of the probable enemy would engage Project 949A submarines (with anti-ship missiles such as P-700 “Granit”) and long-range bombers such as Tu-22M3 with anti-ship missiles such as X-22 (Tu-22M3M with X-32 missiles).

However, many domestic experts believe that the range of available domestic means of destruction does not even allow surface ships, submarines, and aviation to reach the launch boundary of anti-ship cruise missiles (SLCMs).

Even in case of great luck and implementation of ICBM launch on an aircraft carrier, cover ships from the combat group of the probable enemy will easily destroy all attacking ICBMs of X-22/32 and P-700 types.

With the adoption of service, deployment of serial production of Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missiles, and subsequent equipping with products of this type of ships and submarines of the modern Russian Navy, this problem will be largely solved.

According to some data, the range of this missile may reach 1000 km. This in itself severely limits the ability of a hypothetical enemy to organize an effective missile/air defense of a squad of warships (AUG, AMG).

Further, the extremely high marching speed of the Zircon missile (over 8M) combined with its very small effective reflective surface will have a very strong effect on the Russian fleet.

For example, today the most promising anti-aircraft guided missile to be equipped with the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga and Arlie Burke-type cruisers and destroyers is the SM-6 Block I/IA Dual I.

It is designed to engage manned and unmanned aircraft, supersonic low-flying cruise missiles, combat units of ballistic missiles at the final points of the trajectory. The manufacturer (Raytheon Corporation) is silent on the possibility of destruction of hypersonic cruise missiles (and also maneuvering them during the flight, and Zircon has such a possibility, we suppose).

Among other things, with such a high marching speed (M – 8 and more) of the promising Russian SCRs, the working time (i.e. time from the moment of target detection to the moment of launch of an air defense/anti-missile system of a probable enemy is reduced to almost zero. In other words, he had no time to detect how he had already received the missile on board.

That is why the presence of hypersonic cruise missiles in the arsenal of the domestic fleet (which by their effectiveness are equal to tactical nuclear weapons) radically changes the ratio of forces on seas and oceans. The probable enemy does not have any effective means of struggle against domestic GLCMs yet.