"Admiral Gorshkov" in Severomorsk in preparation for the exit, December 2022. Photo by the Russian Ministry of Defense
Last year, the Russian defense industry and the navy completed the development and testing of the Zirkon advanced hypersonic missile system. As a result of the measures taken, the missile and related instruments were adopted by the Navy and put into series. To date, the missile system has reached full operation - and for the first time went on a long sea voyage on a regular carrier.
On military service
At the testing stage, the carrier of the Zircon experimental missiles was the multi-purpose frigate pr. 22350 Admiral fleet Gorshkov of the Soviet Union", serving in the Northern Fleet. Before participating in the tests, the ship underwent some refinement and received a set of new equipment. It was reported that this frigate would later become the first combat carrier of the new missile system.
To date, all necessary measures and procedures have been completed. The Zircon missiles went into series and are supplied to the fleet, and the Admiral Gorshkov is completely ready for operation and use of such weapons. In addition, now a ship with an updated composition of weapons can go to sea and solve real problems.
Last week, January 4, for the first time in stories of the Russian and world military fleet, a ship with hypersonic weapons on board set off on a military campaign. Due to the special significance of this event, President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu watched the release of Admiral Gorshkov via videoconference.
Frigate near Norway, January 6, 2023. Photo by Norwegian Ministry of Defense / Telegram-ChDambiev
During the event, the head of state called the first trip of the frigate with Zircons an important or even significant event. He also thanked for the work of the specialists of the military-industrial complex, who created a unique missile armament. According to the president, such weapons will provide the country with reliable protection against external threats and will help ensure national interests.
The Minister of Defense reported on the readiness of the frigate to go to sea and revealed some details of the beginning long-range sea voyage. According to the plan, the ship will display the flag in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In addition, it is planned to enter the Mediterranean Sea.
During the trip, the crew will work out various tasks related to protecting the borders and interests of the country. Exercises and drills are planned. Some activities will be held together with friendly foreign countries. The Minister also announced the holding of various firing exercises, incl. using the latest hypersonic weapons.
After the minister, the commander of the ship, Captain 1st Rank Igor Krokhmal, reported on the readiness for the campaign. The ship went through a full cycle of preparation. Ammunition was loaded on board: missiles of various types, air defense systems, artillery and torpedo ammunition. The crew is ready to perform tasks. On January 4, the frigate put to sea and headed for the North Atlantic Ocean.
In his speech, Minister of Defense S. Shoigu revealed some features of the campaign that had begun, and also indicated the main features of the frigate and its latest weapons. The minister recalled that the Admiral Gorshkov is a modern multipurpose warship. It carries guided missile weapons and is capable of solving combat missions in the far sea and ocean zone.
"Admiral Gorshkov" on trials. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
The main strike weapon of the frigate is now the Zircon missile system with unique tactical and technical characteristics. In flight, a hypersonic missile develops a speed of more than 9 M; flight range exceeds 1000 km. Such a missile is guaranteed to overcome any modern anti-missile and air defense systems.
The surface complex in the form of the Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the Zircon missile is distinguished by its special combat capabilities. According to the minister, the ship is capable of delivering accurate and powerful strikes against the enemy, both on ground and surface targets.
It should be recalled that in addition to the hypersonic Zircon, the ship also carries other weapons for strike and defense purposes. So, supersonic missiles "Onyx" or subsonic cruise missiles "Caliber" can be used to destroy surface and ground targets. There are multi-purpose artillery systems in calibers of 30 and 130 mm. From the means of air attack, the frigates of Project 22350 are protected by the Poliment-Redut missile systems and portable air defense systems. It is possible to fight underwater targets with the help of anti-submarine missiles RPK-9 "Medvedka" or 91R "Caliber".
The ship has a total displacement of 5,4 thousand tons with a maximum length of 135 m. The main power plant based on diesel and gas turbine engines provides a speed of about 29-30 knots and a cruising range of up to a month. Crew - up to 210 people.
One of the experimental launches of Zircon. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
First and subsequent
The frigate "Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov" was the first in the combat strength of the Navy to receive Zircon missiles. It is possible that so far he is the only carrier of such weapons. However, in the near future the situation will change, and other ships will receive hypersonic missiles.
As reported, the Zircon missile and its transport and launch container are fully compatible with the 3S-14 firing system. Launchers of this type are widely used on ships of the latest projects, and each such pennant is a potential carrier of hypersonic missiles. Minor hardware and software upgrades are likely to be required to exploit this potential.
Accordingly, in the future, Zircons may receive a wide range of ships. First of all, other frigates of project 22350 should be considered as their carriers. Current plans provide for the construction of ten such ships, including two already accepted into the Navy. It is also impossible to exclude the corresponding modernization of ships of a number of other types, up to the rebuildable heavy nuclear cruisers of Project 1144.
In the foreseeable future, submarine forces will also receive the Zircon missile. The first launch of such a product from under water in October 2021 was carried out by the Severodvinsk submarine pr. 885 Yasen, and work on this project continues. As reported, the first regular carrier of the complex will be the Perm nuclear submarine under construction, pr. 885M. It is planned to be accepted into the fleet in 2026. Then other Ashes and other types of submarines will receive hypersonic weapons.
Rise and acceleration of the rocket. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
Thus, in the medium and long term, compatibility with Zircon hypersonic missiles will receive many surface ships and submarines. This number will include both pennants of new projects and modernized ships of older types. However, the exact composition of such a ship "grouping" and its strength have not yet been disclosed.
It is obvious that the Zircon hypersonic missile system will eventually become one of the main models of strike weapons for surface and submarine forces. It will complement the existing systems "Caliber" and "Onyx" and will take on some of the combat missions, increasing the flexibility of the use of the fleet as a whole. At the same time, complex and expensive hypersonic missiles, despite all the advantages, will not displace other weapons.
The recently launched combat campaign of the Admiral Gorshkov frigate with new weapons on board is of great importance - both for the ship itself and for our fleet as a whole. This event shows that the new Zircon missile system has not only been developed and brought to the series, but is also entering service and is ready for full-fledged operation.
In addition, now we can talk about the full-fledged beginning of the rearmament of the Navy. Following the Admiral Gorshkov, other ships and submarines will have to receive new hypersonic weapons. This process will be quite complex and will take several years. However, the obvious benefits and significance for national security fully justify all the expected spending and waiting.