Putin deploys Russian warship with Zircon hypersonic missile, TASS says

Putin deploys Russian warship with Zircon hypersonic missile, TASS says


Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent one of his country’s most modern warships armed with advanced hypersonic missiles on a long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, Russian state media announced Wednesday.

The Admiral Gorshkov frigate departed from an unnamed northern Russian port on Wednesday after Putin spoke with the ship’s commander and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu via video link, according to a report by the TASS news agency.

Putin boasted that the ship carried Zircon hypersonic missiles, long-range weapons that travel more than five times the speed of sound and are harder to detect and intercept.

“It has no analogues in any country in the world,” Putin said, according to TASS. “I am sure that such powerful weapons will reliably protect Russia from possible external threats and help secure the national interests of our country,” he added.

Russia tested the Zircon system in late 2021, firing from the Admiral Gorshkov in the White Sea and hitting a naval target more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) away, according to reports at the time.

The current mission would be his first deployment in a potential combat situation.

“The main efforts during the campaign will be focused on countering Russia’s threats, maintaining regional peace and stability together with friendly countries,” Shoigu said in the TASS report.

Russia’s war against neighboring Ukraine is now in its 10th month, but this conflict was not specifically mentioned in the TASS report.

And whether the Zircon missile could be used in that war is uncertain.

If it works as advertised by the Russians, it’s a formidable weapon.

The US-based Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance says the Zircon is “a hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile” with a range somewhere between 500 and 1,000 kilometers (310 to 620 miles).

The alliance says its speed is set at Mach 8, or almost 9,900 kilometers per hour (6,138 mph). Hypersonic is defined as any speed above Mach 5 (3,836 mph).

“If this information is correct, the Zircon missile would be the fastest in the world, making it almost impossible to defend against due to its speed alone,” the alliance says on its website.

The site also points to the missile’s plasma cloud as another “valuable” feature.

Russia and China are ahead of the US in hypersonic missile technology. That is why

“During flight, the missile is completely covered by a plasma cloud that absorbs any radio frequency radiation and makes the missile invisible to radars. This allows the missile to remain undetected on its way to the target,” he says.

Add to that the Zircon’s ability to change its flight path and it becomes an extremely fearsome weapon.

But using the Zircon missiles aboard the Admiral Gorshkov against targets in Ukraine is logistically challenging.

From the Russian perspective, the optimal firing range for the weapons would be from the Black Sea, south of Ukraine. But to get there, the Russian warship would have to pass through the Turkish-controlled Bosphorus Strait, and Ankara has said in the early stages of the war in Ukraine that it would not allow such access for foreign naval vessels.

While Admiral Gorshkov could theoretically fire on Ukraine from the northern border of the Mediterranean, the flight path to Ukraine would pass over NATO countries, something that would be seen as a major escalation of Russian aggression.

TASS said the Gorshkov is also armed with Kalibr-NK cruise missiles, weapons that have a range of up to 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles), according to the CSIS Missile Defense Project. But these weapons, even with their greater range, would face the same problems reaching Ukraine as the Zircons.

Still, Admiral Gorshkov’s deployment gave Putin something positive to talk about amid heavy Russian losses against Ukraine, including one of its most prized warships, the Moskva, which was sunk last April in what Ukraine says was a attack by its missile forces.

Analyst Carl Schuster said the deployment makes a political statement for Putin as much as a military one.

“He is trying to show that Russia remains a global player despite the costs and international condemnation of its attack on Ukraine,” Schuster said.

“He can show his domestic audience that the international response is not as effective as it is in the Western media and that Russia still has friends in key areas,” Schuster said. “Internationally, it is signaling that the sanctions have not affected the Russian navy’s ability to operate and that it remains a global naval power.”

Putin praised his army after the deployment, according to TASS.

“This is a great joint work, which ended with a good and expected result,” Putin said.

“We will continue to develop the combat potential of the Armed Forces, make advanced models of weapons and equipment that will maintain Russia’s security in the coming decades. This is a promising weapon,” Putin said in the TASS report.

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