Russian Warships Carry Out Missile Exercise Off U.S. East Coast

Admiral Gorshkov (file image courtesy Forsvaret)

Published Jun 11, 2024 8:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Russian Navy carried out a small-scale missile drill off the U.S. East Coast on Tuesday, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. 

The Russian nuclear-powered submarine Kazan and guided missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov are under way to Cuba for a scheduled port call, and they paused mid-voyage on Tuesday for an exercise in the Atlantic. According to the Kremlin, they conducted a test of long range anti-ship missiles before resuming their voyage. The Gorshkov also tested its air defense systems. 

Gorshkov was the first vessel to carry Russia's first hypersonic antiship missile, the Zircon. The Zircon (or Tsirkon) has a claimed top speed of Mach 8-9. Gorshkov was involved in live-fire trials for the missile platform in 2020-21, and she received an operational missile loadout in December 2022, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. In past deployments, NATO forces have tracked her movements closely.

Russian media outlets have emphasized that the U.S. East Coast will be within Zircon range during the trip, and that the missile can also be used to strike ground targets (as it has in Ukraine). None of the warships are nuclear-armed, according to Cuban authorities. 

Based on open-source intelligence, the Russian flotilla was operating off Florida early this week, closely escorted by three U.S. government vessels.

While the Russian Navy deployment is small, and the White House does not view it as a threat, it is symbolic. The mission is widely viewed as a response to American support for the defense of Ukraine, as well as an attempt to demonstrate Russian sea power. "This is about Russia showing that it’s still capable of some level of global power projection," an American official told AP.