Initially, the long-distance sea cruise of the newest Russian frigate “Admiral Gorshkov”, for which he was the first, from Murmansk across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea (the further route is unknown), attracted close attention. First of all, from the side of NATO, whose ships and airplanes tried to control the ship group (it also includes the tug Nikolay Chiker, the supply ship Elbrus and the tanker Kama) along the whole route. In the waters near Great Britain, the group was accompanied by a Royal Navy destroyer, the Defender, but kept at a respectful distance – it was known that the Admiral Gorshkov would be tested at the 5P-42 Filin optical-noise station. The English sailors had “hallucinations and vomiting” from it.
Already on the approach to the Strait of Gibraltar, a detachment of Russian ships rather boldly, dropping to several hundred meters, was flown by a US Navy anti-submarine patrol aircraft P-8A Poseidon. Especially the American, of course, was interested in “Admiral Gorshkov” and he showed this “curiosity” for one and a half hours, circling above him at different heights. He explored the new frigate from all sides and was most likely interested not in its appearance, but in those weapons that are inside, primarily missiles. It is known that this lead ship of the project 22350 is equipped with Caliber-NK missiles, and its mine installations can also be used for launching hypersonic Zircons.
It is the frigate “Admiral Gorshkov” that should take part in the tests of the “Zircon” during launches from a warship at the end of 2019. If we take into account that the tests of this missile are recognized as successful, and according to a number of sources, it has already entered service with the Russian army, then we can assume that the Zircons are already on board the frigate and can be applied soon in the Mediterranean . It is likely that it was their possible presence on board that the American aerial reconnaissance aircraft tried to figure out, and that was flying almost on a flight at the deck of the frigate. First of all, neutral waters did not shake back, and, secondly, both Caliber and Zircon were intended solely for the destruction of sea and land targets.
What is known about the latest Russian hypersonic rocket, which Vladimir Putin “presented” on February 20 in his message to the Federal Assembly? We will rely on the data of the president, who said that the Zirkon rocket can reach speeds of about 9 Machs (it is tested up to 8 Machs, which is not far from the truth), and the range can exceed a thousand kilometers (the developers said up to 500 km). It is also known that it flies on a march at an altitude of 30-40 km, where there is less air resistance, which allows increasing the range and speed. The weight of the warhead is 300−400 kg, and the total length – 8−10 meters. It is assumed that the Zirkon will be used not only from ships and submarines, which will replace the P-700 Granit heavy anti-ship missile, but also from the Bastion coastal missile systems or some other.
In general, not so much is known, after all, this is not a cartridge for a Kalashnikov machine gun, all the basic parameters are mostly classified. However, the fact of one of the last successful tests of the “Zircon” on December 10, 2018 was recognized even by the usually suspicious Americans, including at an incredible speed of 8 Mach, which no single rocket in the world has. The Pentagon strained this fact to a great extent, because the appearance of this rocket casts doubt on the effectiveness of the entire missile defense system, and the threat of destruction of aircraft carriers or coastal objects cannot be prevented.
So can the Admiral Gorshkov check the Zircon now, if, of course, these missiles are on board the frigate?
- The Mediterranean Sea is not the best platform for testing missiles of this level, – said military observer Vladislav Shurygin.
- There are simply no targets for Zircon with the exception of Syria.
In any other direction from here it is dangerous to start because of the intensity of air traffic, and imagine what kind of war will rise from the same Europe, if hypersonic rockets with which they cannot do anything fly over its territory even at high altitude.
Take the same launches “Calibrov” from the Caspian Sea – their route of passage was agreed to pass through the airspace of Iran and partially Iraq. The launches from the board of a submarine from the Mediterranean Sea were hit with direct fire – directly at the targets of terrorists. Again, it seems, and the result of the destruction of ground targets is easier to fix. However, testers and sailors may have their own arguments on this subject, and they will find sea targets for the Zircon. Well, the main argument against the choice of Syria for testing is that we won the type there, and now we can shoot only in cases of self-defense.
So “Admiral Gorshkov”, most likely, will leave the Mediterranean Sea to another landfill with an unchecked stock of missiles.
Nevertheless, the mere assumption that on board the frigate “Admiral Gorshkov” there may be missiles “Zircon” makes NATO ships on its way noticeably nervous and not provoke any response actions. But the timing and location of the tests are never exactly announced in advance and they become known only after the fact. Well, when Putin tells everyone – at the end of 2019.