Russia launches Mediterranean exercises amid break with Britain – Boston Herald
The Russian military launched sweeping maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea with warplanes armed with advanced hypersonic missiles on Friday, a show of force amid rising tensions following an incident with a British destroyer at sea Black.
Moscow said one of its warships fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs on the way to the British destroyer Defender on Wednesday to force it out of an area near Crimea that Russia claims as its territorial waters. Britain denied this account, insisted its ship had not been targeted and said it was sailing in Ukrainian waters.
Russian exercises that began in the eastern Mediterranean on Friday come as a British carrier strike group is in the area. Earlier this week, British and American F-35 fighters from HMS Queen Elizabeth conducted combat sorties against the Islamic State group.
Russia has been waging a military campaign in Syria since September 2015, allowing the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to regain control of most of the country after a devastating civil war.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a pair of MiG-31 fighter jets capable of carrying Kinzhal hypersonic missiles arrived at the Russian air base in Syria and carried out training missions to practice strike. targets in the Mediterranean. Hemeimeem Air Base in the coastal province of Latakia serves as the main hub for Moscow’s operations in the country.
This is the first time that armed Kinzhal fighter jets have been deployed outside Russia’s borders.
The military claims the Kinzhal has a range of around 1,250 miles and flies at 10 times the speed of sound, making it difficult to intercept.
The Defense Ministry said the maneuvers in the Eastern Mediterranean also involved several warships, two submarines and Tu-22M3 long-range bombers as well as other fighter jets. The supersonic, nuclear-capable Tu-22M3s were first deployed to Syria last month in a demonstration of an increased Russian military presence in the Mediterranean.
The Russian military modernized the Hemeimeem runway to accommodate heavy bombers and built a second to expand operations there.
Russia also expanded and modified a naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus, the only such facility Russia currently has outside of the former Soviet Union.
The Russian military has increased the number and scope of its exercises amid bitter tension in relations with the West, which fell to an all-time low after the Cold War following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the peninsula from Crimea to Ukraine. As part of President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to bolster the Russian army, the Russian Navy has in recent years revived the Soviet-era practice of constantly rotating its warships in the Mediterranean.