The Russian Aerospace Forces will conduct patrols over the Black Sea with MiG-31 fighter jets armed with the Kinzhal hypersonic weapons, President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday.
“This is not a threat… Based on my instructions, the Russian Aerospace Forces will begin patrols on a permanent basis in the neutral zone of airspace over the Black Sea, and the MiG-31 aircraft will be armed with Kinzhal systems,” Putin said as cited by state news agency Interfax.
The weapons have a range of over 1,000 km and a speed of Mach 9.
The Kinzhal is Russia’s latest system with “hypersonic aero-ballistic missiles carried by specially equipped MiG-31K fighters-interceptors,” state news agency TASS said, adding that the Kinzhal missile features low radar signature and high maneuverability and is designed to strike ground and naval targets.
“I stressed that this is not a threat, but we will exercise visual control, control with weapons of what is happening in the Mediterranean Sea,” Putin said.
The Russian President highlighted that this decision comes against the backdrop of the Middle East conflict and how the US has deployed two aircraft carrier strike groups to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The US had sent the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea “in order to deter any actor seeking to escalate the situation or widen this war.” Efforts to increase US posture continued, including the rapid movement into theater of US Air Force F-15s, F-16s and A-10s to augment existing fighter squadrons in the region.