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The Zircon swoops down as it approaches the target: Katkov points out a nuance in the time of missile approach to Ukrainian cities

The Zircon missile
A Zircon missile. Illustrative photo. Source: RosZmі

The time of approach of Russian Zircon missiles to Ukrainian cities, as recently reported by Telegram channels, is not correct. The fact is that these missiles can change their speed depending on the altitude, and before impact, they "peak".

Weapons expert Oleh Katkov, editor-in-chief of Defense Express, explained the nuances in a commentary to OBOZ.UA. He said that the Zircon is launched vertically, then a solid-fuel accelerator is used to bring the vehicle to a considerable height and give the first acceleration to make the direct-flow hypersonic engine work. On the flight path (during which the rocket covers the vast majority of its distance), it accelerates to Mach 5.5.

However, converting Machs to kilometers per hour is not a simple process. Mach is the speed of sound, which depends on the environment in which it propagates. Near the ground, the Mach speed is the same, about 1200 km per hour, at an altitude of 10 km it is already a thousand and something kilometers less.

"There is a special table where you can see the Mach speed depending on the altitude. It's not a linear relationship either, there is a complex formula," the military expert emphasized.

He noted that the calculations require knowing not only the speed of the Zircon, but also the height of its flight.

"The second aspect. When the Zircon approaches the target, it begins to dive. Briefly, very briefly, it reaches its maximum recorded speed," Katkov said. According to his sources, this missile can accelerate to Mach 7.5.

But closer to the ground, in a denser atmosphere, the speed drops to Mach 4.5. "That is, at the final stage, the speed is definitely not hypersonic, although it is as high as possible. That is, another half Mach will be hypersonic. Four and a half Mach is twice as fast as what the X-22 shows at the terminal section," the military expert said.

For some reason, Telegram channels that spread the speed of the Zircon's approach are focused on 9,000 kilometers per hour. However, this is a conversion of the Mach speed at ground level, which is a short-term maximum. And the missile's route was calculated in a straight line - but it does not fly that way.

Defense Express editor-in-chief explained: to calculate how long it will take the missile to reach Kyiv, Odesa and other cities, you need to have the exact parameters of the Zircon, the exact trajectory, and it will be a mathematical model.

"But even if we take the Zircon's speed of 5.5 Mach, which means 5973 km/h at a conditional altitude of 30 km, we will already get 6 minutes if it is launched from Cape Tarkhankut to Kyiv. Next, we need to add what can only be calculated by a mathematical model: the time of the rocket's ascent to the launch site and descent to the terminal site," Katkov said, emphasizing that the specific value is unknown.

As OBOZ.UA previously reported:

- According to the military portal Defence Express, the Russians were able to develop a hypersonic direct-flow jet engine for the Zircon. This allows the missile to maintain hypersonic speed.

- In February 2024, Kremlin dictator Vladimir Putin admitted that the Russian occupation forces had used 3M22 Zircon missiles against Ukraine.

Only verified information on our Telegram channel OBOZ.UA and Viber. Do not fall for fakes!

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