Russian frigate armed with hypersonic Zircon missiles will participate in joint drills in South Africa in February, TASS says.
A Russian warship armed with hypersonic cruise weapons will take part in exercises with the Chinese and South African navies in February, according to Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency.
The report on Monday was the first official mention of the participation by the Russian frigate Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov.
The frigate is armed with Zircon missiles, which fly at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of more than 1,000km (620 miles).
The missiles form the centrepiece of Russia’s hypersonic arsenal, along with the Avangard glide vehicle that entered combat duty in 2019.
“‘Admiral Gorshkov’ … will go to the logistic support point in Syria’s Tartus, and then take part in joint naval exercises with the Chinese and South African navies,” TASS said in its report, citing an unidentified defence source.
The South African National Defence Force has said the drills will run from February 17-26 near the port cities of Durban and Richards Bay on South Africa’s east coast.
It said on Thursday that the joint exercise aims “to strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia and China”.
The exercise will be the second involving the three countries in South Africa, after a drill in 2019, the defence force added.
The Gorshkov held exercises in the Norwegian Sea earlier this month after President Vladimir Putin sent it to the Atlantic Ocean in a signal to the West that Russia would not back down over the war in Ukraine.
Putin has previously said the frigate and its Zircon missiles have “no analogues in the world”.
The Russian president sees the weapons as a way to pierce the United States’s increasingly sophisticated missile defences.
Russia, the US and China are in a race to develop hypersonic weapons, seen as a way to gain an edge over any adversary because of their speed and their manoeuvrability, features which make them harder to detect.