UPDATED: Russia will not fire hypersonic missile at S.Africa naval exercise

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JOHANNESBURG, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Russia will not fire its new generation “Zircon” hypersonic missile during a joint naval exercise with South Africa and China, a senior Russian naval officer said on Wednesday.

Russia’s TASS news agency reported earlier this month that a frigate participating in the drills off South Africa’s eastern coast would perform a training launch during the exercise.

“The hypersonic weapon will not be used in the context of these exercises,” Captain Oleg Gladkiy, who is heading the Russian contingent, said during a media briefing.

Russia’s flagship frigate equipped with new generation hypersonic cruise missiles has arrived in the South African port of Richards Bay for exercises that will include China, Russia’s RIA state news agency reported on Wednesday.

South Africa was due to launch the joint exercises on Friday. It calls the drills routine but they have fuelled domestic criticism and fears they could endanger relations with Western partners.

The beginning of the exercises coincides with the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to suspend its last major nuclear arms control treaty with the United States

The ship, named “The Admiral Gorshkov of the Fleet of the Soviet Union”, had arrived at Richards Bay “performing the tasks of a long-range voyage”, RIA reported, citing a statement from the Russian Northern Fleet.

The Gorshkov warship, which was sent off from Russia on Jan. 4, carries the Zircon missiles which have a range of 900 km (560 miles) and can travel at several times the speed of sound, making it difficult to defend against them.

In late January, the ship tested its strike capabilities in the western Atlantic Ocean.

Photo: The ship, named “The Admiral Gorshkov of the Fleet of the Soviet Union”, Russian . EPA-EFE/ERNESTO MASTRASCUSA

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