Putin puts warship armed with hypersonic missiles on combat duty
Russian President Vladimir Putin has deployed a frigate armed with hypersonic cruise missiles towards the Atlantic and Indian oceans in a show of military force as the war in Ukraine grinds on.
Putin took part in a ceremony via video conference on Wednesday to mark the launch of the Admiral Gorshkov warship.
Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, and Igor Krokhmal, the frigate’s commander, were also involved.
“The ship is equipped with the latest hypersonic missile system – ‘Zircon’ – which has no analogues,” Putin said before ordering it to begin combat service
“I would like to wish the crew … success in their service for the good of the Motherland,” he added.
Shoigu said the frigate would sail to the Atlantic and Indian oceans and Mediterranean Sea.
He added it was capable of delivering “pinpoint and powerful strikes against the enemy at sea and on land”, saying the hypersonic missiles on board could overcome any missile defence system and had a range of more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles).
Hypersonic weapons race
Hypersonic weapons can travel at more than five times the speed of sound.
Russia has test-launched the Zircon from warships and submarines this past year as the race to develop hypersonic weapons heats up with the United States and China.
“The main focus of the mission will be countering threats to Russia and supporting regional peace and stability together with friendly countries,” Shoigu said.
“In exercises, there will be training for the crew on deploying hypersonic weapons and long-range cruise missiles.”
The high-profile tests have come despite Moscow suffering heavy losses of men and equipment in its near year-long invasion of Ukraine, which has seen relations between Russia and the West plummet.
Despite their name, analysts have said the main feature of hypersonic weapons is not speed – which can sometimes be matched or exceeded by traditional ballistic missile warheads – but their manoeuvrability.
The weapons are seen as a way to gain an edge over any adversary as they can potentially evade missile shields and early warning systems.