Russia is deploying new hypersonic cruise missiles in the Atlantic Ocean
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a frigate into the Atlantic Ocean armed with a new generation of hypersonic cruise missiles, signaling to the West that Moscow will not back down from the war in Ukraine.
Russia, China and the United States are competing to develop hypersonic weapons that are seen as a way to outmaneuver any adversary because of their speeds — more than five times the speed of sound — and maneuverability.
In a video conference with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Igor Krukhmal, commander of the frigate “Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov”, Putin said that the ship was armed with Zircon hypersonic weapons.
“This time the ship is equipped with the latest Zircon hypersonic missile system,” Putin said. “I am sure that such powerful weapons will reliably protect Russia from possible external threats.”
Putin said the weapons were “unparalleled in any country in the world”.
More than ten months after Putin sent his forces into Ukraine, there is no end in sight to a war that has descended into a grinding winter artillery battle that has killed and wounded tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides.
Russia has also used the Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile in Ukraine.
Together with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle that entered combat service in 2019, Zircon forms a cornerstone of Russia’s hypersonic arsenal.
Russia sees the weapons as a way to penetrate the increasingly sophisticated US missile defenses, which Putin has warned could one day shoot down Russian nuclear missiles.
Shoigu said the Gorshkov will sail to the Atlantic, Indian and Mediterranean oceans.
“This zircon-armed ship is capable of delivering accurate and powerful strikes against the enemy at sea and on land,” Shoigu said.
Shoigu said that hypersonic missiles can defeat any missile defense system. Shoigu said the missiles fly at a speed nine times faster than sound and have a range of more than 1,000 km.
Shoigu said the main tasks of the trip were to confront threats to Russia and maintain “regional peace and stability in association with friendly countries.”
A report by the US Congressional Research Service on Hypersonic Weapons says that Russian and Chinese hypersonic missiles are designed for use with nuclear warheads.
A target for a hypersonic weapon is much more difficult to calculate than an ICBM because of its maneuverability.
Outside of Russia, the United States and China, a host of other countries are developing hypersonic weapons including Australia, France, Germany, South Korea, North Korea and Japan, according to the US Congressional Research Service.