Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday sent a frigate armed with the country’s latest Zircon hypersonic missile on a transoceanic tour as tensions with the West escalate over the war in Ukraine.
Russia claims the Zircon missile can fly at a staggering 7,000 miles per hour (11,265 km/h) and evade any Western air defenses.
Here’s a look at the ship and its weapons.
THE PRIDE OF THE RUSSIAN NAVY
Commissioned by the navy in 2018 after long trials, Admiral Gorshkov is the first ship in the Russian navy’s new line of frigates, designed to replace obsolete Soviet-built destroyers as a key offensive component.
Armed with an array of missiles, the ship is 130 meters (427 feet) long and has a crew of around 200.
In 2019, he circumnavigated the world’s oceans on a 35,000 nautical mile journey.
Admiral Gorshkov served as the main test site for the latest Russian hypersonic missile Zircon.
In recent years, Zircon has undergone a series of tests, including launching in various application targets. The Army declared the tests successful, and the Zircon officially entered service last fall.
Zircon is designed to arm Russian cruisers, frigates and submarines and can be used against both enemy ships and ground targets. It is one of the few hypersonic missiles developed by Russia.
Putin hailed the Zircon as a powerful weapon capable of penetrating any existing anti-missile defenses by flying nine times faster than the speed of sound at a range of more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles).
Putin emphasized that Zircon gives the Russian army a long-range conventional strike capability and allows it to hit any enemy target with precision.
Russia’s hypersonic weapons move came as the United States was working on its Conventional Rapid Global Strike capability, which envisions hitting an enemy’s strategic targets anywhere in the world with precision-guided conventional weapons within an hour.
Putin heralded the Zircon as Russia’s response, claiming that the new weapon had no rivals and gave Russia a strategic advantage.
Months before ordering the invasion of Ukraine, Putin warned the United States and its NATO allies that Russian warships armed with zirconia, if deployed in neutral waters, would give Russia the ability to hit the enemy’s “decision-making centers” within minutes.
Speaking via video link at Wednesday’s farewell ceremony, Putin once again praised Zircon as a “unique weapon” “unmatched in any country in the world”.
In response, the Pentagon said it was watching the ship and did not think it posed an irresistible threat.
“We are aware of reports that Russia has launched a frigate named Admiral Grorshkov. Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Roger Cabiness said, “We will continue to routinely monitor its activities while maintaining awareness of our operating environment.” for.”
OTHER RUSSIAN HYPERSONIC WEAPONS
Russia has commissioned Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles for some of its land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, which form part of Russia’s strategic nuclear triad. Putin praised the Avangard’s ability to maneuver at hypersonic speeds, evading air defenses on approach to the target.
The Russian military also deployed Kinzhal hypersonic missiles on MiG-31 aircraft and used them to hit some priority targets during the war in Ukraine. The Kinzhal reportedly has a range of about 1,500 kilometers (about 930 miles).
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed Putin on Wednesday that Admiral Gorshkov will patrol the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea, but did not provide further details.
Shoigu said Admiral Gorshkov’s crew will focus on “counting threats to Russia, maintaining regional peace and stability jointly with friendly countries.” He added that the crew will conduct exercises with hypersonic weapons and long-range cruise missiles in “various conditions”.
Some military experts say that a single hypersonic missile-armed warship cannot match the massive naval forces of the United States and its allies.
Others, however, pointed out that the frigate’s potential deployment to US shores could be part of Putin’s strategy to raise the bar in the Ukraine conflict.
“This is a message to the West that Russia has nuclear-tipped missiles that can easily penetrate any missile defense,” pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov said in a comment.
Associated Press writer Tara Copp contributed to this report from Washington.