Russia is Flexing Its Hypersonic Naval Muscles With Admiral Gorskhov – The Russian Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier is still undergoing repairs that, at this point, may never be completed.
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But that isn’t to say that the Kremlin lacks capable warships, a fact noted this week by training exercises conducted by the frigate Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov in the Atlantic Ocean.
The cutting-edge Russian vessel conducted test launches of the Tsirkon (3M22 Zircon) hypersonic missile at a target simulating an enemy warship more than 900 km (560 miles) away. The drills, which took place early this week, took place in an undisclosed part of the Western Atlantic, the Russian Defense Ministry announced.
The Tsirkon hypersonic missile has been one of the weapon systems repeatedly touted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who in his state-of-nation address to the Federal Assembly in February 2019, said it was capable of developing a speed of about Mach 9 (nine times the speed of sound) and its striking range capability could exceed 1,000 km.
The plan to develop the Tsirkon was first announced by then-Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin in February 2011, while the first test flights of the hypersonic missile began in 2015. The missile was engineered and produced by the Research and Production Association of Machine-Building, a subsidiary of Tactical Missiles Corporation, based in the town of Reutov in the Moscow Region.
Training Drills Successful
According to a report from the Russian state media outlet Tass, the crew demonstrated a high degree of coordination while performing the combat training task. Admiral Gorshkov is part of a naval task force that also includes the tanker ship Kama. It has been deployed in the distant waters under the command of Northern Fleet Missile Ships Division Commander Captain 1st Rank Oleg Gladky.
The frigate, which is now on a deployment that will last several months, is set to take part in joint drills with China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the South African Navy currently scheduled for late February off the African coasts.
Admiral Gorshkov will first replenish supplies at the Syrian port of Tartus, home to a Russian overseas naval base.
Named for a Hero of the Soviet Union
The fact that the frigate is taking part in such a deployment is notable in that it was named for the admiral who led the expansion of the Soviet Navy during the Cold War. Admiral Sergei Georgyevich Gorshkov (1910-1988), was commander in chief of the Soviet Navy for nearly three decades from 1956-1985.
He also directed 1970’s OKEAN-70 global naval exercise that took place across most of the world’s oceans, and which consisted of some 84 surface warships and 80 submarines – the largest accumulation of military vessels in peacetime. Tragically, it was during those drills that the Project 627A/November-class nuclear-powered attack submarine K-8 sunk – 52 men were lost, including 30 who went down with the boat, while another 22 died of exposure.
Though the upcoming drills with China and South Africa will be considerably smaller in scale, Moscow is clearly making a point by ensuring it includes its most powerful surface vessel, the one named for the admiral who oversaw the expansion of the Soviet Navy into a global fighting force.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.