Russian Navy latest frigates to have hypersonic weapon capabilities

MOSCOW (TASS): The improved Project 22350 frigates Admiral Amelko and Admiral Chichagov will become the carriers of hypersonic weapons and will be capable of carrying 32 cruise missiles each, a source in the domestic shipbuilding industry told TASS on Tuesday.

“The pair [the frigates Admiral Amelko and Admiral Chichagov] will be capable of accomplishing the tasks that standard serial-produced ships of this series fulfil. They will carry a larger ammunition load. A possibility is available for installing hypersonic weapons,” the source said.

“Under the contract, they will carry four versatile shipborne launchers each and this series of ships will be continued. Each launcher is designed for eight Kalibr-NK and/or Oniks cruise missiles and, eventually, for Tsirkon [hypersonic] weapons,” the source said.

TASS has no official confirmation of this information yet.

The original Project 22350 serial-produced warships built at the Severnaya Shipyard (part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation) carry two versatile shipborne launchers each. The Russian Navy is currently using the Project 22350 lead frigate Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov for testing Tsirkon hypersonic weapons.

The frigate Admiral Gorshkov test-launched a Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile for the first time in early October 2020. The missile launched from the White Sea struck a sea target in the Barents Sea. The Tsirkon developed a speed of Mach 8 and climbed to an altitude of 28 km. The next test-launch took place in November 2020. A Tsirkon missile successfully struck a sea target at a distance of 450 km, developing a speed of over Mach 8.

In February 2011, then-Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin announced plans to develop the Tsirkon shipborne system with a hypersonic missile. According to media reports, the missile’s flight tests began in 2015.

In his State-of-the-Nation Address to the Federal Assembly in February 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the work on the Tsirkon hypersonic missile was proceeding as scheduled. As the Russian leader said, the Tsirkon was capable of developing a speed of about Mach 9 and its striking range capability could exceed 1,000 km. The Russian leader also said that the Tsirkon could strike both naval and ground targets. Putin specified at the time there were plans to deploy Tsirkon on serial-produced surface ships and submarines, including the warships built or under construction for Kalibr cruise missiles.

Russia uses the 3S-14 versatile shipborne launcher for the launches of Tsirkon hypersonic weapons and Kalibr cruise missiles. These launchers, in particular, are operational on Russian Navy Project 22350 frigates and Project 20380 corvettes.