Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a frigate equipped with the Zircon hypersonic missile on a transoceanic tour on Wednesday in a show of strength amid rising tensions with the West over the war in Ukraine.
Moscow claims that the Zircon can escape any Western anti-aircraft defenses by traveling at an impressive speed of 7,000 mph (11,265 kph).
Here’s a look at the ship and its armament:
Pride of the Russian Navy
Commissioned in 2018 after a long series of trials, Admiral Gorshkov is the first ship in a new series of frigates that were designed to replace aging Soviet-built destroyers and serve as a key strike component of the Russian Navy.
Equipped with missile suits, the ship is 130 meters (427 ft) long and carries approximately 200 crew members.
In 2019 he went around the world on a voyage of 35,000 nautical miles.
Admiral Gorshkov has been the main test site for Zircon.
In recent years, Zircon has undergone several tests, including its launch against various test targets. The Army declared the tests successful and the Zircon officially entered service late last year.
Zircon is designed for installation on cruisers, frigates and submarines, and can be used against enemy ships and ground targets. It is one of several hypersonic missiles developed by Russia.
Putin describes the Zircon as a powerful weapon, capable of penetrating any missile defense by flying at nine times the speed of sound, with a range of more than 1,000 kilometers (over 620 miles).
The President emphasized that Zircon gives the Russian Armed Forces conventional long-range firepower, allowing them to hit any enemy target with precision.
Russia has developed its hypersonic weapons at a time when the United States is working on its conventional rapid global strike capability, with which it can strike strategic adversary targets with precision-guided conventional weapons anywhere in the world within a period of one hour. imagines to penetrate.
Putin declared that Zircon was the answer, arguing that the new weapon was peerless, giving the Kremlin a strategic advantage.
Months before ordering the invasion of Ukraine, Putin angered the United States and its NATO allies when he warned that Zircon-equipped Russian warships would give Russia the ability to strike “decision-making centers”. minutes if they were launched from neutral waters.
Speaking via video during the handover ceremony on Wednesday, Putin again praised Zircon, calling it a “unique weapon” for which “no country in the world has an equivalent.”
Other Russian hypersonic weapons
Russia has already commissioned the Avangard hypersonic glider for some of its ground-launched ICBMs that are part of Russia’s strategic nuclear test. Putin praised the Avangard’s ability to maneuver at hypersonic speeds on its approach to the target, while dodging anti-aircraft defenses.
The Russian Armed Forces have also installed Kinzhal hypersonic missiles on their MiG-31 fighters and used them to hit some priority targets during the war in Ukraine. Kinjal reportedly has a range of about 1,500 kilometers (about 930 mi).
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin on Wednesday that Admiral Gorshkov would conduct patrols in the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, but gave no further details.
Shoigu said Admiral Gorshkov’s team would focus on “countering threats to Russia, maintaining regional peace and stability in cooperation with friendly countries”. He also indicated that the crews would practice with hypersonic weapons and long-range cruise missiles “in a variety of conditions”.
Some military experts say a single ship armed with hypersonic missiles is no match for the vast naval forces of the United States and its allies.
But others said the frigate’s possible placement near US shores could be part of Putin’s strategy to raise the stakes 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 analyst Sergei Markov said in a comment.