The Russian military denied Wednesday that it was planning to test its new Zircon hypersonic missiles during naval drills off the coast of South Africa this week that will coincide with the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine.
China’s navy also is participating in the Indian Ocean exercises, which come at a time when Russia’s relationship with the West is at its lowest point since the Cold War, and ties between China and the United States are under serious strain.
As Russian and Chinese warships prepared in South Africa for their joint drills, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted China’s most senior foreign policy official at the Kremlin. Those meetings showed the strengthening of Russia’s relationship with China and raised concern in the West that Beijing might be ready to offer Moscow stronger support for its war in Ukraine.
Russia’s aims for the naval exercises came under scrutiny because of the involvement of the Admiral Gorshkov, a frigate which is armed with hypersonic missiles and has served as the main testbed for them. The ship arrived in Cape Town last week emblazoned with the letters Z and V, letters also seen on Russian weapons on the front lines in Ukraine and which are used as patriotic symbols in Russia.
Russia has said the Zircon missiles can penetrate any missile defense systems by flying at an astounding 7,000 miles per hour — around nine times the speed of sound — to strike targets at sea and on land. They have a range of over 620 miles, Russia claims.
Putin sent the Admiral Gorshkov on a trans-ocean cruise last month in a show of force as tensions with the West escalated over Ukraine. But a Russian navy officer in South Africa said Wednesday that the exercises would focus on maritime security, including the fight against piracy, and the Zircons would not be fired.
The drills will involve “mutual maneuvering of the three sides, assistance of the suffering vessel in a disaster, liberation of a captured vessel by the pirates, and artillery fire which, according to our schedule, does not include the firing with the hypersonic missiles,” Capt. Oleg Gladkiy said. He spoke through a translator.
The Admiral Gorshkov and a Russian oil tanker for refueling, a Chinese destroyer, frigate and a support vessel, and a South African frigate will be involved in the exercises, according to a South African military statement released last week.
years ago, well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The exercises are to be held around the Indian Ocean port cities of Durban and Richards Bay. Media access was restricted.
H/T Fox News (read more at FoxNews.com)
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