Built to Launch Hypersonic Missiles, Russia’s First Ship ‘Admiral Golovko’ Commissioned

Foreign Affairs

Moscow: Russia has commissioned the frigate Admiral Golovko, the country’s first ship built to launch Zircon hypersonic missiles, the government announced.

At the December 25 flag-raising ceremony, President Vladimir Putin said that by 2035 the Severnaya Verf shipyard will build a series of small- and medium-displacement corvettes. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had previously announced that all frigates and corvettes under construction would be armed with Zircon missiles. However, experts have doubts about Russia’s ability to build both the vessels able to launch Zircons and the missiles themselves in the planned timeline.

“Despite the statements about the start of serial production, this is still a piece[-by-piece] production,” said Pavel Luzin, senior fellow at the Centre for European Policy Analysis. The vessels will likely use “a universal launcher, which includes Kalibr, Oniks and Zircon missiles. Given that the Zircon missile is more expensive, the basis of the anti-ship armament of these vessels will be Kalibr and Oniks. In addition, there are few carriers for Zircon,” Luzin added.

The Severnaya Verf shipyard, a subsidiary of United Shipbuilding Corp., is currently under contract to build or prepare to launch seven Admiral Gorshkov-class frigates, also known as Project 22350. Three frigates of this type are in service with the Russian Navy. Russia is also developing a modernised frigate, dubbed Project 22350M, and plans to build 12 of the ships.

In addition, Steregushchiy-class corvettes under projects 20380 and 20385 are to be armed with Zircons. Ten corvettes are in service, and nine are reportedly under construction, with plans for a total fleet of 29. But as a result of sanctions, “high quality components for the creation of radar complexes and diesel engines are either impossible to obtain or very expensive,” the officer explained.

“Because of this, many things need to be developed independently from scratch. But I am not sure that the Russian industry is ready for this. It would be long, expensive and with unclear results, and the corvette was supposed to be cheap. It is not clear how manufacturers will solve these problems and coordinate this with the Defence Ministry,” the officer added.

Meanwhile, it’s unlikely industry can produce the Lider-class destroyer, according to the state-owned media organisation RIA Novosti, citing an interview with Aleksey Rakhmanov, the general director of United Shipbuilding Corp. And the battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy is set to be decommissioned, per Russian media.