Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered a warship armed with new hypersonic Zircon cruise missiles to be deployed on a mission to the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, in what could be a message and warning aimed at the West against escalating in Ukraine.
The deployment of the frigate appears intended to make maximum possible public impact, given the announcement was made by Putin himself in a televised conference call with his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu.
Along with Shoigu, Putin addressed Igor Krokhmal, commander of the frigate which bears the name "Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov" - and reminded him the ship while on mission is armed with Zircon hypersonic weapons - again in a coordinated message which unveiled the deployment to the public for the first time.
"This time the ship is equipped with the latest hypersonic missile system – 'Zircon' – which has no analogs," Putin said. "I would like to wish the crew of the ship success in their service for the good of the Motherland."
The ship is expected to also enter the Mediterranean Sea at some point while on its Atlantic mission, though the timeline of the voyage remains unclear.
"This ship, armed with 'Zircons', is capable of delivering pinpoint and powerful strikes against the enemy at sea and on land," Shoigu had responded to the Putin announcement. The defense chief also stressed the Zircon is undefeatable, able to evade any anti-air defense system in the world due to its purported ability to fly at nine times the speed of sound.
According to The Telegraph, it's already making its way into the Atlantic, based on the publication's Wednesday reporting that "a warship armed with new hypersonic cruise missiles on a training mission [went] past Britain to the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean."
All of this follows last year's test launches of Sarmat – an intercontinental missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads – launches which were confirmed in highly publicized videos.
Here is the test launch of Sarmat, dubbed as the world’s longest range ballistic missile pic.twitter.com/LbHy9SW1IG— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) April 20, 2022
Meanwhile, the Kremlin has repeatedly warned the West not to get more deeply involved in Ukraine, at a moment the US administration has authorized Patriot anti-air defenses to be transferred to Kiev.
However, Washington has sought to claim that no American troops will be manning the Patriot batteries, but that it will take some time - at least six or more months - for Ukrainian personnel to be trained on the Patriots' operation.