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Russia tests strategic deterrence at ground, air and naval exercises

Russia test-fired ballistic and cruise missiles at a strategic deterrence exercise on February 19. Supreme Commander-in-Chief President Vladimir Putin and his Belarussian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko observed the drills from the situation center in Kremlin. The Defense Ministry said: “The strategic deterrence exercise was planned in advance to check the readiness of military command bodies, launch teams, warships and strategic bombers for the missions, as well as reliability of strategic nuclear and conventional forces.”
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Yars ballistic missile launcher (Picture source; Vitaly Kuzmin )

The exercise engaged the Aerospace Forces, the Southern Military District, Strategic Missile Forces, the Northern and Black Sea fleets, and trained “control of nuclear arms and weapons of increased potential danger.”

Hypersonic missiles

Kinzhal airborne hypersonic ballistic missile and seaborne hypersonic Tsirkon missile were launched at the exercise. The Defense Ministry aired the footage of the takeoff of supersonic MiG-31K fighter jet and the launch of Kinzhal that hit the target. Open sources said it was the third launch of the weapon at drills. Kinzhal was for the first time test-fired in the Mediterranean Sea in June 2021. MiG-31K flew in the Eastern Mediterranean in the company of Su-35 and Su-34 jets.

The second test was conducted at Navy drills in the Mediterranean on February 15. The jets flew from the Western Military District to Syria and trained with warships of the Northern, Pacific and Black Sea fleets to destroy hostile naval forces.

Tsirkon missile was launched by the Admiral Gorshkov frigate at a group of hostile warships: Deputy Defense Minister Alexey Krivoruchko said in January that Tsirkon was completing trials and batch supplies would begin in 2022. TASS quoted a source on January 13 as saying that Tsirkon was recommended for surface warships after acceptance trials. President Vladimir Putin said on December 24, 2021, that a salvo of Tsirkons had been test-fired “successfully and faultlessly.”

Tsirkon characteristics are secret. Putin said it can develop a speed of Mach 9 and has a range of over a thousand kilometers. The Defense Ministry signed a contract for Tsirkon on August 24, 2021.


The Graivoron small missile ship of project 21631 of the Black Sea fleet launched a Kalibr cruise missile at a hostile group of warships. The footage showed the missile vertically leaving the launcher.

Kalibr (NATO reporting name: Sizzler) was developed by Novator Design Bureau in Yekaterinburg from Granat S-10. It was for the first time displayed in 1993. There are ground, airborne, seaborne and underwater options. The range of the export option is 300 km. The missile is operated by Russia, China, and India. Russia 13 times engaged Kalibr in Syria. The first case was reported on October 7, 2015, when the Caspian flotilla launched 26 missiles to 1500 km at 11 ground targets in Syria.


Iskander operational-tactical system test-fired a cruise missile at Kapustin Yar range in the Astrakhan region. The design began in 1987 and trials followed in 1991. The launcher was accepted into service in 2006. Iskander’s range is 500 km. The system is armed with five types of air ballistic missiles, including cruise ones. They are incendiary, penetrating, cumulative, cluster, highly explosive.

The missiles can be controlled in flight by outside information sources in real-time and redirected after blastoff. They can carry radar and optical homing warheads. The missiles have a low signature and can break through missile defense.


The Defense Ministry showed a successful launch of Yars intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The mobile launcher was camouflaged against space and air intelligence. The missile blasted off from Plesetsk spaceport and targeted an object in the Kura range in Kamchatka.

Yars RS-24 is a mobile and stationary launcher with a solid-fuel multiple-warhead. It was designed in the years 2000 by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technologies under the leadership of Chief Designer Yuri Solomonov. Yars was developed from Topol-M. The first test launch took place on May 29, 2007 from Plesetsk spaceport at Kura range. The deployment began in December 2009, as Yars went on combat training duty in the Strategic Missile Forces. Yars and Topol-M replaced RS-18 and RS-20 ICBM. The rearmament with Yars is ongoing.

Strategic forces Commander Colonel-General Sergey Karakaev said Yars can maneuver in the trajectory to escape space-based interception. It can be launched from sites, which are fit for Topol only after engineering buildup.

Airborne cruise missiles

Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic bomber fired cruise missiles at Kamchatka ranges. The footage showed Kh-555 non-nuclear option of Kh-55 missile loaded into the aircraft, the flight and launch. The subsonic missile flies at a low altitude and bypasses the terrain relief. Kh-555 is a strategic cruise missile with a conventional warhead. Kh-55SM with additional fuel tanks has a range of 3500 km. Kh-555 were engaged by Tu-160 and Tu-95MS bombers in Syria.

Tu-95 (NATO reporting name: Bear) is a turboprop strategic bomber, which operates nuclear and conventional weapons in remote areas and in the deep rear of continental theaters of warfare. The aircraft was designed in the 1950s and remains operational. The upgrade of the aircraft has been ongoing since 2013 to make the bomber engage precision weapons, which are carried on four pylons under the wing. The aircraft is powered by improved NK-12MVM engines and has a GLONASS sight. The upgrade extends its life cycle to 2025.


The Defense Ministry showed the launch of seaborne Sineva intercontinental ballistic missiles. It was fired by the Karelia K-18 nuclear submarine of the Northern fleet from a submerged position in the Barents Sea at the Kura range in Kamchatka.

Sineva is a three-stage liquid-fuel missile for third-generation submarines. It is carried by strategic Dolphin-class submarines of project 667BRDM. The warhead can be armed with four high-speed unguided units of 500 kt each. The maximum range depends on the payload and can exceed 11 thousand kilometers.

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