The ceremony to begin the deployment of the Admiral Gorshkov (full name: “Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov”) took place on January 4, under the chairmanship of the Russian president, via video conference. Putin, from his suburban Moscow residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, gave the order to proceed to the commander of the frigate, the first unit of Project 22350 type of ships built for the Russian Navy. This is the ship’s second long-distance deployment since its commissioning on July 28, 2018. Putin stressed that this time the frigate is equipped with the latest hypersonic Tsirkon (Zircon) missile system “which has no counterparts”.
On December 11, the Admiral Gorshkov arrived at its base in Severomorsk in Northern Russia after undergoing repairs at the Kronstadt shipyard on the Baltic Sea. At that time, a large letter “Z”, familiar from Russian military vehicles involved in the war against Ukraine, was painted on the funnel. The press service of the Russian Northern Fleet reported in late December that the frigate had completed preparations for deployment. Captain Igor Krohmal, the ship’s commanding officer, said the frigate had undergone a full training cycle before the deployment:
“The ship has been loaded with Tsirkon and Kalibr missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, torpedos and artillery ammunition. The crew is ready to perform combat service tasks”
The frigate left Sevromorsk and headed for the Atlantic. On the way, in the Norwegian Sea, the ship was spotted by a P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) from 333rd Squadron of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. Along the Gorshkov sails the Kama tanker (Dubna class).
The Gorshkov is now heading for the Mediterranean. During the deployment, the frigate will be the command vessel of the operational group of the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean. The frigate will probably replenish fuel and supplies at ports of friendly countries, including the only foreign base of the Russian Navy in Tartus in Syria, where the 720th Material and Technical Provision Point is located, as well as from support ships. It will also certainly become a unite of interest for observation by NATO maritime groups operating in these area.
The Gorshkov will not enter the Black Sea – a war zone against Ukraine, as Ankara has closed the Bosporus Strait to the movement of ships of the parties to the conflict. After that, the frigate will proceed to the Indian Ocean.
The 3M22 Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile system is manufactured by the Rieutov-based NPO Mashinostroyeniya company, part of the state-owned Taktical Missiles Corporation (Korporatsiya “Takticheskoye raketnoye vooruzheniye”). On December 21 last year, Shoygu revealed that deliveries of the 3K22 Tsirkon ship-borne hypersonic missile of the first serial production batch had begun. These are the world’s first hypersonic missiles used operationally.
The 3K22 Tsirkon missile is expected to reach a hypersonic velocity of Mach=8 (about 9800 km/h), as confirmed by its state trials. Its range is estimated at more than 500 km (some studies suggest as much as 1,000 km).
It is carried in a transport-launch container TPU, and with it inserted into the 3S14-22350 UKSK (Universal ship firing system) vertical launcher. Gorshkov class frigates have two modules with eight cells each. Gorshkov participated in state trials of the Tsirkon system, during which frigate fired 3K22 missiles several times.
About the Gorshkov class frigates
The Project 22350 frigates are the first large (5,400 tons of full displacement) Russian Navy surface ships designed after the collapse of the USSR. Their design was developed by the “Northern Design and Construction Bureau” of St. Petersburg. The frigates are being built in the “Northern Shipyard” in St. Petersburg (part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation).
Currently, the Russian Navy has two frigates of this class. Second one – Admiral Kasatonov (full name: “Admiral of the Fleet Kasatonov”) – joined the Northern Fleet in July 2020, while the third, Admiral Golovko, began sea trials last November.
Gorshkov class frigates, in addition to Tsirkon missiles, are armed with: 16 Kalibr-NK system (3M14 long range crusie missiles, 3M54 anti-ship missles) and 91RT2 Otvet anti-submarine rockets, as well as 3M55 Oniks supersonic universal missiles, 9M96 Poliment-Redut anti-aircraft system (32 medium-range missiles 48N6Е2 or 9М96 or 128 short-range missiles 9М100 in quadpacks), Paket-NK system with MTT torpedoes and M-15 rosket antitorpedoes (2×4 SM-588 launchers), 130mm AK-192M Armat cannon, two CIWS Palash systems. The frigate has a hangar for the Ka-27PL ASW helicopter.