The Russian destroyer “Admiral Gorshkov,” equipped with hypersonic missiles, will take part in exercises with China and South Africa.

The Russian destroyer "Admiral Gorshkov," equipped with hypersonic missiles.
According to reports, the Russian frigate “Admiral Gorshkov,” which is equipped with a new generation of hypersonic cruise weaponry, will take part in joint military exercises between China, South Africa, and Russia next month.

Since hypersonic weapons travel at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound and are more difficult to detect, China, Russia, and the United States are competing to create them.

The frigate’s participation was first formally announced in a Monday article by the Russian news agency TASS. According to TASS, which cited an unnamed defence source, “Admiral Gorshkov will go to the logistic support point in Syria’s Tartus, and then take part in combined naval drills with the Chinese and South African navies.”

Zircon missiles are carried by the “admiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov.” These missiles are the focal point of the frigate’s hypersonic weapons, according to Moscow, and they have a range of more than 1,000 kilometers and travel at nine times the speed of sound. It also transports the Avangard glide vehicle, which, according to a Reuters story, started serving in battle in 2019.

These are among the six “next generation” weapons that Russian President Vladimir Putin identified in a speech in 2018, according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies. As US missile defences get more advanced, Putin has warned that one day they may take down Russian nuclear missiles. Russia sees these weapons as a method to get past these defences.

This month, when President Vladimir Putin deployed the “Admiral Gorshkov” to the Atlantic Ocean to send a message to the West that Russia would not back down over the conflict in Ukraine, it conducted maneuvers in the Norwegian Sea. From February 17 to February 27, drills will take place close to Richards Bay and the port city of Durban. The exercises are intended to “strengthen the existing thriving connections between South Africa, Russia, and China,” according to the South African National Defense Force.

The ten-day naval drills are a diplomatic independence display by South Africa, which is a member of the BRICS including Brazil, Russia, India, China alliance. The exercises will take place on February 24, one year after the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Last year, South Africa was one of the thirty-two nations that chose not to participate in a UN vote to denounce Russia for allegedly annexing parts of Ukraine.

The United States, NATO nations, as well as Russia and China, have all participated in military drills with South Africa in the past. The planned drills, which will take place from February 17 to 27 close to the coastal cities of Durban and Richards Bay, are described by the South African National Defense Force as a “means to deepen the already blooming relations between South Africa, Russia, and China.” These drills, involving the three nations, are the second round of their kind. They last conducted military exercises in 2019. 

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