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Russia tests hypersonic missile, holds naval drill amid tensions with West

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
He file photo shows the Russian navy firing a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile from a warship in the north of the country. (Photo by TASS)

The Russian military has successfully test-fired a hypersonic cruise missile against a target in the country’s north as Moscow is engaged in naval drills in the Black Sea region amid tensions with the West and the US-led military alliance of NATO over the situation around Ukraine.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Thursday that the Northern Fleet’s Project 22350 frigate Admiral Gorshkov in the White Sea had successfully hit a target at the Chizha proving ground in the Arkhangelsk Region with the Zircon hypersonic missile.

"The crew of the frigate Admiral Gorshkov conducted another launch of the Zircon missile within the framework of concluding a series of the trials of hypersonic missile weapons. The launch was performed from the waters of the White Sea at the coastal target position located at the Chizha proving ground in the Arkhangelsk Region," said the ministry.

Citing data of objective control, the Defense Ministry said the trajectory of the hypersonic missile complied with configured parameters and that the target was hit.

The Northern Fleet’s surface vessels and naval aviation were also reported to have been involved in conducting the launch and securing the area.

The Admiral Gorshkov frigate successfully conducted on November 29 a trial launch of the Zircon hypersonic missile from the White Sea to the sea target at a distance of over 400 kilometers.

The Zircon has previously undergone several tests in recent years.

The hypersonic Russian cruise missile, one of the latest additions to the country's arsenal of weapons called "invincible" by President Vladimir Putin, can travel more than five times the speed of sound and is much harder to track and intercept than traditional projectiles.

Putin used his state of the nation address in 2018 to reveal new hypersonic weapons, including the Zircon, saying it could hit targets at sea and on land with a range of 1,000 kilometers.

The testing was conducted amid fresh confrontation between Russia and the West.

Enemy warship destroyed in Black Sea drills

Also on Thursday, the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s aircraft and artillery practiced eliminating a mock enemy warship during scheduled drills in the strategic sea.

The naval drills involved over 200 personnel, four Su-30SM fighters, two Su-24M frontline bombers and a battalion of Bastion coastal defense anti-ship missile systems.

"Under the scenario of the drills, a notional enemy surface ship with a subversive group on its board was spotted in the Black Sea,” the Fleet’s press office said in a statement.

"A group of quick reaction alert aircraft from the Black Sea Fleet’s naval aviation and air defense forces was scrambled to accomplish the task of jointly destroying the target while the teams of Bastion coastal defense anti-ship missile systems stationed on the Crimean Peninsula conducted a march to the missile launch area and readied the missile systems for employment," the press office added.

The statement said the crews of Su-30SM fighters and Su-24M frontline bombers practiced sorties at the first stage of the drills, delivering training missile and bombing strikes against a surface target.

The statement added that the Bastion teams locked on the mock enemy warship at the second stage, readied the launchers and practiced an algorithm of measures to deliver missile strikes against the notional target by electronic launches.

Russia and the US-led NATO have recently been at odds over Ukraine. Western countries accuse Russia of preparing for an invasion of Ukraine by amassing troops and armaments near the border with that country.

Moscow says that it is free to move its military freely within its borders and that it is taking precautionary steps because of increased NATO activity near its territory.

The Russian president has repeatedly warned the West against crossing the Kremlin's red lines by staging military exercises in and sending lethal weaponry to Ukraine. During a video call with US President Joe Biden earlier this month, the Russian leader demanded guarantees against NATO's expansion eastward.

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