The Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise, part of Ukraine’s Justice Ministry, revealed evidence through debris recovered after the attack, suggesting the Zircon's involvement.

Experts describe the Zircon as a formidable weapon, with hypersonic speeds making it almost impossible to defend against, even for Western missile defenses like the Patriot, according to the United States-based Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA). The Zircon's speed is estimated at Mach 8, or almost 6,138 mph, making it potentially the fastest missile globally.

The MDAA highlights the Zircon's unique features, including a plasma cloud that renders it invisible to radars during flight, adding to its strategic value. The missile is identified as a maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile with a range between 500 and 1,000 kilometers (310 to 620 miles).

While Ukrainian authorities reported casualties from the February 7 attack, no direct link to the alleged Zircon missile has been established. There is also no mention of the launch platform, though Russian state media previously reported its deployment on a warship.

Analysts express concerns about the potential impact of the Zircon on Ukrainian air defenses, already facing challenges in intercepting Russian missiles.

The February 7 attack saw three Iskander ballistic missiles and four Kh-22 cruise missiles evading interception attempts, according to data from Ukraine’s air force. Despite some success in downing less-advanced missiles during the attack, analysts caution against overestimating the overall impact of the Zircon on the ongoing conflict.

The introduction of the Zircon into the conflict raises questions about Russia's production scale and its ability to field this expensive technology on a broader scale.

U.S. Navy prepares underwater test site for hypersonic missiles U.S. Navy prepares underwater test site for hypersonic missiles

Analysts, including Sidharth Kaushal from the Royal United Services Institute in London, emphasize the need to consider Russia's capacity to produce and deploy the Zircon, especially as it competes with other priorities, such as rebuilding the Russian ground forces.