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Report: NATO aircraft track Russian frigate armed with hypersonic missiles

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Since it left its base, the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov has been closely monitored by the NATO countries.

On January 4, 2022, the frigate re-entered service at the naval base of Severomorsk in Murmansk during a ceremony attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu.

From the Barents Sea, the warship is expected to sail to the Indian Ocean, passing through the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. On its way, it will conduct several training exercises.

“The main efforts during the campaign will be focused on countering Russia’s threats, maintaining regional peace and stability together with friendly countries,” Shoygu explained.

As it sailed southwards along the coast of Norway on January 6, 2022, the frigate was closely monitored by a P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft scrambled by the Royal Norwegian Navy.

“She is legally in international waters – but as always, we are closely monitoring any movements and will do so as long as the frigate is in our areas,” the Norwegian Armed Forces declared in a tweet.

The statement was accompanied by a picture in which Admiral Gorshkov can be seen sporting a white “Z,” a symbol of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, painted on its funnel.

Then as the Russian frigate and its Kaliningradneft-class support oil tanker “Kama” sailed towards the English Channel, the British Royal Navy took over from the Royal Norwegian Navy.

The Type 23 frigate HMS Portland was deployed along with its Merlin maritime helicopter, “equipped with cutting-edge sonars, sensors, and torpedoes for specialist operations.”

“By maintaining a visible and persistent presence, the Royal Navy ensures compliance with maritime law and deters malign activity to protect our nation’s interests,” Portland’s Commanding Officer Commander Ed Moss-Ward said in a statement. “Escorting the Russian task group alongside forces from our NATO allies has demonstrated the UK’s commitment to the alliance and to maintaining maritime security.”

As expected, the two Russian ships eventually reached the Atlantic Ocean on January 12, 2022. As they entered the Bay of Biscay, the French multi-mission frigate (FREMM) Bretagne and an Atlantique 2 (ATL2) maritime patrol aircraft were sent to track them.

What is the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov?

The Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov is the lead ship of its class, which should eventually comprise ten frigates. Commissioned on July 28, 2018, with Russia’s Northern Fleet, it is one of the most modern warships of the Russian Navy.

With a top speed of 30 knots, the frigate is armed with 16 vertical launch system cells. These platforms can launch the Zircon scramjet-powered hypersonic cruise missile that can reach speeds of up to Mach 9 (over 11,000 kilometers per hour).

“The ship is equipped with the latest hypersonic missile system,” Putin said in a broadcast ahead of the voyage. “I am sure that such powerful weapons will reliably protect Russia from potential external threats.”

In addition to the Zircon missile, Gorshkov’s commanding officer, Captain Igor Krokhmal, said the ship also carries Kalibr subsonic cruise missiles. These weapons have been heavily used during the bombings of Ukraine by the Russian military.

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