Russia Successfully Test-Launches ‘Tsirkon’ Hypersonic Missile

Russia has successfully test-fired its highly touted hypersonic cruise missile called Tsirkon in the waters of northwestern Russia, the military said Wednesday.

Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov reported to President Vladimir Putin on his 68th birthday that the Tsirkon’s launch from a guided missile frigate “directly hit” its intended target.

“Yesterday at 7:15 a.m., the Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile for the first time hit a sea target as part of flight tests,” the state-run TASS news agency quoted Gerasimov as saying. “The launch tasks were completed, the shooting was declared successful.”

The Admiral Gorshkov frigate test-fired the Tsirkon from the White Sea at a target 450 kilometers away in the Barents Sea, the army general said.

The missile traveled four and a half minutes at the hypersonic speed of more than Mach 8 and a maximum altitude of 28 kilometers, Gerasimov said.

He added that the military plans more test launches of the Tsirkon, which Putin unveiled in 2018 as part of a new generation of advanced weapons.

Gerasimov said the Tsirkon will be deployable on submarines and surface ships when tests are completed but did not indicate when the missile will enter service.

Tuesday’s test-launch was the second known launch of the Tsirkon this year. In early January, the Admiral Gorshkov test-launched the Tsirkon from the Barents Sea on a ground target in the northern Urals more than 500 kilometers away.

The Tsirkon program began in 2011 and entered the active testing stage in 2015. Previous reporting suggested that the Tsirkon test trials in 2012 were held on board the Tu-22M3 bomber.

Putin has said the Tsirkon ground- and sea-based hypersonic rocket can fly at nine times the speed of sound and hit underwater and ground targets more than 1,000 kilometers away.

Putin warned that Russia would be forced to place hypersonic nuclear missiles on submarines near U.S. waters in response to arms-control tensions. Washington waved off Putin’s warnings as disingenuous propaganda.

Russia Stages Black Sea Warship Drills Amid U.S. Destroyer Presence

A Russian warship has sailed out of its home berth in the Black Sea to confront a U.S. destroyer navigating the area, the Russian Navy announced Friday.

The Admiral Makarov performed air defense and combat-readiness exercises “under combat training plans,” Interfax cited the Navy’s Black Sea Fleet as saying.

“The frigate’s crew will next conduct joint exercises with the Bastion coastal defense missile system battery,” the Black Sea Fleet said.

Russia’s muscle-flexing comes hours after Turkish amateur ship watchers spotted the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter crossing the Bosphorus Strait toward the Black Sea.

The Aegis ballistic missile defense system-equipped warship is now the third U.S. Navy vessel in the area, joining destroyer USS Donald Cook performing joint drills with NATO and replenishment oiler USNS Laramie.

The U.S. Sixth Fleet announced that USS Porter’s multi-domain operations with NATO’s central air and space command builds on Donald Cook’s integration activities in Europe. It said the ships performed air- and maritime-superiority scenarios to enable freedom of navigation in international waters and airspace.

“The ultimate goal of these operations is to refine joint air defense procedures to better defend U.S. Navy ships,” the Sixth Fleet said in a statement Thursday.

The Russian and U.S. drills come on the eve of planned exercises off the coast of Pakistan next month where the Russian Navy is expected to join NATO members for the first time in a decade.

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