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Putin deploys new hypersonic cruise missiles to Atlantic

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to the report of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Commander of the Admiral Gorshkov frigate Igor Krokhmal before a ceremony to launch the Admiral Gorshkov frigate to a combat mission, via a video conference in Moscow, Russia, on January 4, 2023. (MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV / AFP)

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin sent a frigate to the Atlantic Ocean armed with new generation hypersonic cruise missiles on Wednesday.

In a video conference with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Igor Krokhmal, commander of the frigate named "Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov", Putin said the ship was armed with Zircon (Tsirkon) hypersonic weapons.

Along with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle which entered combat duty in 2019, the Zircon forms the centerpiece of Russia's hypersonic arsenal

"This time the ship is equipped with the latest hypersonic missile system – 'Zircon'," said Putin. "I am sure that such powerful weapons will reliably protect Russia from potential external threats."

The weapons, Putin said, had "no analogues in any country in the world".

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Along with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle which entered combat duty in 2019, the Zircon forms the centerpiece of Russia's hypersonic arsenal.

Russia sees the weapons as a way to pierce increasingly sophisticated US missile defenses which Putin has warned could one day shoot down Russian nuclear missiles.

Atlantic voyage

Shoigu said the Gorshkov would sail to the Atlantic and Indian oceans and to the Mediterranean Sea.

"This ship, armed with 'Zircons', is capable of delivering pinpoint and powerful strikes against the enemy at sea and on land," Shoigu said.

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Shoigu said the hypersonic missiles could overcome any missile defense system. The missiles fly at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of over 1,000 km, Shoigu said.

The main tasks of the voyage were to counter threats to Russia and to maintain "regional peace and stability jointly with friendly countries", Shoigu said.

The target of a hypersonic weapon is much more difficult to calculate than for intercontinental ballistic missiles because of their manoeuverability.