Russia has launched five successful flights of a hypersonic jet that is capable of destroying an aircraft carrier with a single impact, according to a new report.
The Zircon cruise missile travels between 3,800mph and 4,600mph – five to six times the speed of sound – and puts Russia ‘half a decade’ ahead of the US’, the report says.
This makes it faster than any anti-missile system, including those that are expected to appear in the next two decades.
Russian military analyst Vladimir Tuchkov said: ‘In Russia, the testing of actual weapons is already underway.
‘It is expected to be added into Russia’s arsenal between 2018 and 2020’, he told state media outlet Sputnik.
‘A speed of Mach 6 is more than enough of a guarantee to overcome any anti-missile system’, he said.
Experts warn the ‘unstoppable’ projectiles could spell disaster for the Navy’s £6.2 billion ($7.9 billion) aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
The US spends almost $600 billion (£469 billion) a year on its defence budget and boasts the most powerful military in the world.
However, its 19 aircraft carriers would be powerless to stop Zircon cruise missile missiles, according to the report.
Current Navy anti-missile defences are only equipped to shoot down projectiles travelling 2,300mph, meaning they would be useless against the Zicron.
This would force aircraft carriers to anchor outside of their estimated 500 mile range
That would make it impossible for the carrier’s jets and helicopters to reach their target, carry out their mission, and return without running out of fuel – effectively rendering them useless.
‘This includes not only systems that exist today, but those expected to appear over the next two decades.
‘The results that the Americans reached in 2013 were achieved, and even exceeded, by the Soviet Union a long time ago’, he said.
The weapon could be fitted to nuclear-powered cruiser Pyotr Velikiy as soon as 2018, Russian state media reports.
It can be fired from land, sea and submarines carrying payloads ranging from high explosive to nuclear.
‘American scientists and engineers will have to strain every nerve just to avoid lagging too far behind Russia in this area’, said Mr Tuchkov.
The 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.