Russia’s hypersonic missile-armed ship to patrol global seas

Russia’s hypersonic missile-armed ship to patrol global seas

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday sent a frigate armed with the country’s latest Zircon hypersonic missile on an overseas cruise in a show of power amid escalating tensions with the West over the war in Ukraine.

Russia touts that the Zircon missile can evade any western air defenses by flying at a staggering 7,000 miles per hour (11,265 km/h).

Here’s a look at the ship and its weapons.


Commissioned by the Navy in 2018 after lengthy testing, Admiral Gorshkov is the first ship in the new series of frigates designed to replace aging Soviet-built destroyers as a key component of the Russian Navy.

Armed with an array of missiles, the ship is 130 meters long and has a crew of around 200 men.

In 2019, it circumnavigated the world’s oceans on a journey of 35,000 nautical miles.


The Admiral Gorshkov served as the main testbed for Russia’s newest hypersonic Zircon missile.

In recent years, the Zircon has been subjected to a variety of tests, including being launched on various practice targets. The military declared the tests successful and Zircon officially entered service last fall.

Intended to arm Russian cruisers, frigates and submarines, Zircon could be used against both enemy ships and ground targets. It is one of several hypersonic missiles developed by Russia.


Putin has touted Zircon as a powerful weapon capable of penetrating any existing missile defenses, flying nine times faster than the speed of sound at a range of more than 1,000 kilometers (over 620 miles).

Putin has emphasized that Zircon gives the Russian military a conventional long-range striking capability, allowing it to hit all enemy targets with precision.

Russia’s hypersonic weapons engine arose while the US was working on its own “Conventional Prompt Global Strike” capability, which envisages hitting an opponent’s strategic targets with precision-guided conventional weapons anywhere in the world within an hour.

Putin heralded Zircon as Russia’s response, claiming that the new weapon has no rival, giving Russia a strategic advantage.

Months before Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, Putin warned the US and its NATO allies when he warned that Zircon-armed Russian warships would enable Russia to attack the enemy’s “decision centers” within minutes if they used in neutral waters.

Via video link during Wednesday’s farewell ceremony, Putin once again hailed zircon as a “unique weapon” with no “equivalent to it in any country in the world.”

In response, the Pentagon said it was monitoring the ship and did not believe it posed a threat that could not be countered.

“We are aware of reports of the Russian launch of a frigate, the Admiral Grorshkov. We will continue to routinely monitor their activities while monitoring our operating environment,” Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Roger Cabiness said. “While we do not comment on specific capabilities or speculate on hypotheses, the Department of Defense remains confident in our ability to deter our adversaries and defend the national security interests of the United States at any time, anywhere.”


Russia has already commissioned the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles for some of its ground-launched ICBMs, which are part of Russia’s strategic nuclear triad. Putin has praised the Avangard’s ability to maneuver at supersonic speeds and evade air defenses when approaching the target.

The Russian military also deployed the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles on its MiG-31 aircraft and used them in Ukraine during the war to hit some priority targets. Kinzhal reportedly has a range of about 1,500 kilometers (about 930 miles).

patrol service

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin on Wednesday that Admiral Gorshkov would patrol the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean, but without giving further details.

Shoigu said Admiral Gorshkov’s crew would focus on “countering threats to Russia and working with friendly countries to maintain peace and stability in the region.” He added the crew will practice “under various conditions” with hypersonic weapons and long-range cruise missiles.

Some military experts say that a single warship armed with hypersonic missiles is no match for the massive naval forces of the US and its allies.

Others, however, noted that the frigate’s potential deployment near the US coast could be part of Putin’s strategy to up the ante in the Ukraine conflict.

“This is a message to the West that Russia has nuclear-tipped missiles that can easily penetrate any missile defense system,” wrote pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov in a comment.

Associated Press writer Tara Copp contributed to this report from Washington.

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