America’s Next Big Quake Doug Fabrizio The devastation wrought in Mexico City by a recent massive earthquake may have rattled more than a few nerves along the Wasatch Front. Salt Lake City is, of course, overdue for a significant seismic event. So are other places in the United States, such as Los Angeles, the Pacific Northwest, even New York City. In a new book, science writer Kathryn Miles tours the country in search of the latest research on America’s next big earthquake and what’s being done to address the threat. She joins us Wednesday to talk about it. Kathryn Miles is the author of several books, including her newest, Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake [Independent bookstores|Amazon|Audible]. Learn more about predicting earthquakes in Utah and how well the state’s buildings could stand-up to a great shake from KUER’s news team.
6 Jan 09:22 UTC: First to report: VolcanoDiscovery after 5 minutes.
Date & timeJan 6, 2023 09:17:37 UTC – 12 hours agoLocal timeFriday, Jan 6, 2023 at 4:17 am (GMT -5)Statusuncertain, preliminaryMagnitudeunknown (3?)Depth10.0 kmEpicenter40.93743°N / 74.15146°W (New York, United States)ShakingWeak shakingFelt2 reportsPrimary data sourceVolcanoDiscovery (User-reported shaking)Nearby21 km (13 mi) W of Yonkers (New York) (pop: 201,100) | Show on map | Quakes nearby 28 km (17 mi) NNW of New York(pop: 8,175,100) | Show on map | Quakes nearby 28 km (17 mi) WSW of Greenburgh (New York) (pop: 86,800) | Show on map | Quakes nearby 31 km (19 mi) W of New Rochelle (New York) (pop: 79,800) | Show on map | Quakes nearby 34 km (21 mi) WSW of White Plains (New York) (pop: 58,500) | Show on map | Quakes nearby 36 km (22 mi) NNW of Brooklyn (New York) (pop: 2,300,700) | Show on map | Quakes nearby 37 km (23 mi) W of harryswn (New York) (pop: 28,300) | Show on map| Quakes nearby 335 km (208 mi) NE of Washington (District of Columbia) (pop: 601,700) | Show on map | Quakes nearby
As Putin threatens to strike Ukraine with tactical nuclear weapons and Biden warns that this risks escalation to nuclear Armageddon, many observers have wondered aloud whether the septuagenarian or the octogenarian or both have lost touch with reality. Pundits declare Putin’s threats “irrational,” since according to them no rational leader could order a nuclear strike on another state. Critics of Biden have seized on his references to nuclear annihilation, for example when he recently said that “for the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, we have a direct threat of the use of nuclear weapons” which “could end in Armageddon,” as decisive evidence of senility.
Even observers less judgmental about Biden and Putin have dismissed these two leaders’ talk about nuclear weapons and war as a throwback to the last century. Having come of age since the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, many imagined that nuclear weapons had somehow been relegated to the dustbin of history when we buried the Evil Empire. After more than seven decades without the use of nuclear weapons in war, foreign policy experts assert that a “nuclear taboo” has made any use of nuclear weapons “inconceivable”—failing to recognize that when one declares something to be inconceivable, that is a statement not about what is possible, but about what one’s mind can conceive.
Thankfully, Americans have a president and national security team who know better. As the individual who understands Putin best, CIA Director Bill Burns, has repeatedly stated, Putin’s threat to conduct a nuclear strike is deadly serious. Why has the Biden administration gone to such extraordinary lengths to prevent Putin from conducting such a strike? Because they understand that this really would set in motion a dangerous spiral that could end in full-scale nuclear war.
To begin to appreciate what President Biden, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, CIA Director Bill Burns, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan understand that most of the press and talking heads who have been discounting nuclear risks posed by the war in Ukraine don’t, it is useful to consider answers to seven questions.
First: could Putin rationally order a nuclear strike on Ukraine? Unquestionably yes: as rationally as U.S. President Harry Truman dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, killing 140,000 Japanese. Indeed, Truman ordered a second strike on Nagasaki three days later—after which Japan’s emperor surrendered.
Second: would Putin’s nuclear attack on Ukraine be a step onto a moving escalator that could end with nuclear bombs destroying American and Russian cities? Yes: Putin certainly commands a nuclear arsenal as deadly as the one wielded by leaders of the Soviet Union in the Cold War. If he strikes a Ukrainian city with a Hiroshima-sized nuclear bomb, the U.S. has made it clear that it will respond in a way that has “catastrophic consequences” for Russia. While the U.S. response would almost certainly not include a retaliatory nuclear strike on Russia, it could mean attacking Russian military forces in Ukraine, which could lead to further Russian nuclear attacks on Ukraine. And then? “Limited” nuclear war is a possibility that fascinated Cold War theorists in the 1960s. But in hundreds of simulations of war games in which national security experts attempted to explore that option, rarely was it possible to avoid full-scale war.
Third: under what conditions would Putin be more likely than not to order a nuclear strike? Answer: if conditions on the battlefield force him to choose between a humiliating defeat, on one hand, and a nuclear attack that offers even a slim chance of an acceptable outcome to his war, on the other. If Zelensky succeeds in his current objective to liberate every square inch of Ukraine seized by Russia, including Crimea, this decisive defeat of Putin’s armies would not pose an existential threat to Russia. It would, however, pose an existential threat to Putin’s rule. If he is forced to choose between a humiliating loss and conducting a nuclear strike, I am prepared to give odds that he will choose the latter.
Instructively, having successfully led the U.S. through the most dangerous crisis in recorded history—the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962–President John F. Kennedy came away from that searing experience with a major lesson that he passed to his successors. As he said in his most important foreign policy speech delivered just five months before he was assassinated: “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations that bring that force an adversary to choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on October 19, 2022.
Sergei Ilyin—Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images
Fourth: do Russia’s current nuclear posture, doctrine, and exercises include the first use of tactical nuclear weapons? Answer: yes. Russia’s national security strategy includes a doctrine they call “escalate to deescalate.” To counter a large-scale conventional attack on Russia, their exercises simulate tactical nuclear first strikes against an adversary to force it to stop rather than risking further escalation. To make this a feasible option, Russia’s arsenal includes 1,900 tactical nuclear weapons designed for use on the battlefield or at shorter range. If used, many of these would have an explosive impact equivalent to the bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima.
Fifth: why are there no U.S. troops fighting on the battlefield alongside brave Ukrainians resisting Russian aggression? Why has the U.S. not been prepared to threaten to retaliate against a Russian nuclear strike on Ukraine with an equivalent nuclear attack on Russia? Answer: because as President Biden has said from the outset of the crisis, “we will not fight World War III for Ukraine.” The brute fact that Biden knows, but that many of those now demanding that he move more forcefully against Putin have conveniently forgotten or want to deny, is that in relations with Putin’s Russia, the U.S. continues to survive in a MAD world. MAD—mutual assured destruction—is the acronym strategists created to capture the essence of the condition in which two adversaries have such robust nuclear arsenals that neither can attack the other without suffering a retaliatory response that destroys itself.
Sixth: why in these conditions did President Ronald Reagan declare: “a nuclear war cannot be won and must therefore never be fought?” Because if the price of a war that completely destroys the enemy is the destruction of one’s own society, as Reagan insisted, “no one could call that a victory.” When facing this reality, a nuclear war must never be fought—because doing so would result in the loss of America’s most vital national interest: the survival of the U.S. as a free nation.
Seventh: does the imperative of not fighting a war with a nuclear-armed adversary require passivity when it acts in ways that challenge our interests? Answer: no. But these conditions do create a demand for extraordinary strategic imagination. In the aftermath of World War II, U.S. policymakers found themselves facing a revolutionary expansionist Soviet Union they believed was in their words as “incompatible with democracy as Nazism or fascism.” Statesmen we now honor as the “wise men” developed a strategy for what came to be called the “Cold War.” “Cold” War included a determined effort to defeat and undermine the Soviet adversary by every means possible except one—bombs and bullets wielded by uniformed members of the U.S. military killing uniformed members of the Soviet military. Thus the U.S. engaged in economic warfare, political war, proxy wars, and every other means it could mobilize—while always stopping short of direct attack on Soviet troops.
In crafting a strategy that is now defeating Putin’s attempt to erase Ukraine from the map, the Biden Administration has drawn from the earlier playbook. It has organized comprehensive Western sanctions that are crippling Russia’s economy; provided arms, training, intelligence, and other support for Ukrainians on the battlefield; and given the Zelensky government unprecedented levels of economic aid. While it is too soon to offer judgements about the outcome of the war, at this point it seems likely that when the intense fighting subsides, Ukraine will emerge as a free, independent, vibrant nation; Putin’s war will be seen by all to have been a colossal strategic blunder; NATO will have been revived and stand strong against future Russian aggression; and most importantly, there will have been no nuclear war.
The US and South Korea are actively discussing closer collaboration in the deployment and potential use of nuclear weapons, which is part of the far broader US-led military build-up throughout the region. While nominally directed against North Korea, US war preparations including with South Korea are above all aimed at China.
Yoon explained: “The nuclear weapons belong to the United States, but South Korea and the United States should jointly share information, plan, and train together. The United States also feels quite positively about this idea.”
When asked at the White House whether joint nuclear military exercises with South Korea were being planned, President Biden flatly declared “no” and made no further comment. However, subsequent comments by American officials make clear that the closer integration of South Korea into US preparations for nuclear war is indeed under way.
A senior US administration official told Reuters that while regular nuclear exercises with South Korea would be “extremely difficult” as it is not a nuclear power, the two countries are discussing other means for collaborating. The talks were instigated by Biden and Yoon after meeting in Cambodia in November to address the North Korean threat.
“This is going to be done through a variety of ways, including as President Yoon said, through enhanced information sharing, joint planning and expanding the range of contingencies that we plan for, as well as training, and with the idea eventually leading up to a tabletop exercise,” the official explained.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Yoon’s press spokesperson, Kim Eun-hye, confirmed that Seoul and Washington “are discussing an intel-sharing, a joint planning and subsequent joint execution plans over the management of US nuclear assets in response to North Korea’s nuclear [threats].”
The discussions mark a significant escalation in the preparations for nuclear war. While South Korea, a US military ally, was protected by the so-called nuclear umbrella or what is known as “extended deterrence,” Yoon is pushing for a greater South Korean say in the use of nuclear weapons.
In his interview, Yoon declared: “What we call ‘extended deterrence’ means that the United States will take care of everything, so South Korea should not worry about it… But now, it is difficult to convince our people with just this idea.”
Yoon has adopted a more aggressive stance towards North Korea than the previous Democrat president, Moon Jae-in. Prior to assuming the presidency last May, Yoon called for the return of US tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea or an arrangement like that with NATO allies, under which South Koreans would be trained to launch US nuclear weapons in a conflict.
While Yoon has not publicly repeated his proposals as president, there have already been significant steps to a greater US nuclear presence in South Korea. In a joint press conference last November, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-seop announced plans for the de facto permanent stationing of US nuclear-capable assets in South Korea for the first time since 1991.
While Austin described the deployments as rotations, Lee said the US would send “strategic assets to the level equivalent to constant deployment through increasing the frequency and intensity of strategic asset deployment in and around the Korean peninsula.” The two countries underlined the move by flying two B-1B strategic bombers, accompanied by South Korean and US fighters, over the Korean peninsula for the first time since 2017.
As far as Washington is concerned, the North Korean “threat” is a convenient pretext as its nuclear planning is primarily focussed on war with China. Strategically located close to the Chinese mainland, South Korea is deeply integrated into the US strategy for such a conflict. Not only does it house key US military bases and some 28,500 military personnel but it also has a key anti-ballistic missile system—a recently upgraded Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system—critical in any nuclear conflict.
The US is boosting its nuclear weapons capacity throughout the region with the announcement last year that it will effectively station nuclear-capable B-52 bombers at the Tindal air force base in Northern Australia. At the same time, prior to his assassination last July, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe initiated a discussion in ruling circles about stationing US nuclear weapons in Japan, despite enormous popular opposition to such a move.
The Biden administration has already taken steps to strengthen its military alliances in the Indo-Pacific by kickstarting the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or “Quad” with Japan, Australia and India as well as initiating the AUKUS pact with Australia and the United Kingdom, which, in particular, will arm Australia with nuclear-powered attack submarines. At the same time, it has sought to strengthen intelligence sharing between South Korea and Japan, essential in any nuclear conflict.
What is underway not just in South Korea are high-level discussions to integrate US allies throughout the region with the US military as preparations accelerate for a potentially catastrophic war with China that would inevitably involve the use of nuclear weapons.
Once nuclear weapons became a significant element in US military force structures and planning, beginning in the late 1940s, government agencies began estimating nuclear war fatalities. Over the years, fatality estimates—usually classified top secret—were embedded in nuclear war plans, strategic force requirements, strategic balance assessments, and arms control decisions. The estimates, which often left out important effects of nuclear detonations, sometimes conveyed the shifting “balance of strength” between the two superpowers. The magnitude of these numbers sometimes shocked US officials, who eventually sought options intended to make nuclear war less catastrophic.
While a considerable number of important estimates from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s have been declassified, government agencies have refused to declassify other fatality numbers, and estimates from the 1980s and beyond remain unavailable. With the war in Ukraine once again raising the prospect of a nuclear war, accurate estimates of such a war’s human impacts are more important than ever. But it is not even clear whether the US government continues to make such estimates.
Cold War calculations. Casualty estimates were part of the war planning effort from the beginning, a recognizable element of ascertaining the impact of nuclear strikes on a given country or set of targets. Estimates made during the late 1940s projected millions of deaths from atomic bombings. By the mid-1950s, with thermonuclear weapons becoming available, deaths in scores of millions became certain. These hydrogen bombs were “area weapons” that could destroy large cities and their surroundings, or large areas around military targets.
With thermonuclear weapons becoming integral to the US arsenal, government officials drew a frightening picture of their effects. In 1959, David Z. Beckler, executive director of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Science Advisory Committee, declared that the radioactive fallout from an all-out US-Soviet nuclear war would cause “enormous” numbers of casualties, but they “would represent only a small portion of the total casualties from all causes (blast, thermal radiation, fire, and local fallout).”
The work of the National Security Council’s highly secret Net Evaluation Subcommittee supported Beckler’s conclusions. As part of its effort to gauge the overall impact of nuclear strikes on each side, the subcommittee prepared casualty estimates. In its 1958 report, the subcommittee imagined a devastating Soviet attack in 1961 involving the detonation on the United States of 553 nuclear weapons with a total yield exceeding 2,000 megatons—more than 130,000 times as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, which had an estimated yield of 15 kilotons. An estimated 50 million Americans would die, with nine million sick or injured, out of a pre-attack population of 179 million. The US retaliatory attack would include every city in the “Sino-Soviet” bloc with a population of over 25,000. It would completely destroy “command facilities” in Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang and kill 71 million people at once; 30 days later, a total of 196 million people would be dead (out of a population of 952 million people in the bloc).
According to the report, the US counterattack “would virtually eliminate [the Soviet Union] as a world power.” As devastating as this picture was, the report nevertheless found that at the end of the nuclear exchange, “[t]he balance of strength would be on the side of the United States.” That confidence would erode as the Soviet Union’s capability to inflict deaths and destruction increased during the 1960s.
Military planning. Estimating of deaths and destruction went hand in hand with US nuclear planning. As the Cold War developed, and atomic weapons became a bigger part of the US arsenal, military planners and civilian authorities began preparing for the possibility of a confrontation. For that worst case, a failure of deterrence in which war was imminent and civilian authorities were ready to authorize nuclear weapons use, military officials developed plans to use these weapons—either in retaliation or preemptively—to destroy the adversary’s key military and industrial installations. In that context, Soviet nuclear weapons sites (delivery systems and stockpiles) became prime targets, as did civilian and military headquarters and key industrial facilities.
Beginning in the late 1940s and early 1950s, target planners developed methodologies to estimate requisite levels of destruction for targets. Usually, explosive blast effects were the chief metric for measuring destruction.
To obtain the desired outcome, target planners assigned warheads and delivery systems, and collaborated with military commanders to develop tactics for optimizing destruction. By 1960, war planning was centralized at the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff, located at the headquarters of the Strategic Air Command in Nebraska. The planning staff had responsibility for preparing the Single Integrated Operational Plan, the US warfighting strategy for the use of nuclear weapons.
A 1961 report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff exemplified the potentially catastrophic impacts of the operational plan’s targeting. The report included estimates of casualties associated with a military conflict over West Berlin. According to numbers drawn from the war plan, a full-force attack on the Soviet Union’s major cities, government control centers, and nuclear threat targets would kill some 50 percent of its total population—some 108 million out of its then-population of 217 million. If the smaller alert force (with bombers on 15-minute to two-hour alert) was used, total Soviet casualties would be 37 percent, or about 80 million.
The total estimated deaths, including Chinese, from a full-force attack, 212 million, were fewer than the estimate of 275 million that the Joint Chiefs provided to the Kennedy White House in 1961, as disclosed in jaw-dropping detail by Daniel Ellsberg. The revelation of these startling numbers was important, but the documentary record is elusive. (Significant Pentagon records from the early 1960s remain unprocessed at the National Archives, so the document may be found someday.)
Estimates of fatalities were also built into decision making on strategic and defensive force levels. For example, in 1962, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara explained to President Kennedy why he rejected Air Force proposals for a first-strike capability. McNamara observed that the latest estimates showed that in a projected 1968 nuclear conflict a strategic strike by the Air Force’s proposed force would leave 100 surviving Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles. If the Soviets targeted those missiles against US cities, “they could inflict roughly 50 million direct fatalities in the United States, even with fallout protection.” That was not an “‘acceptable’ level of damage.” Kennedy let McNamara’s recommendation stand.
Shifts in strategic balance. Over the years, fatality estimates reflected the changing strategic balance. During the 1950s and the early 1960s, estimated Soviet fatalities were proportionately higher than US fatalities. As Soviet strategic forces caught up in their lethality, however, estimated US fatalities markedly increased, and optimism about a “balance of strength” favoring a post-nuclear-war United States faded.
Exemplifying the catastrophic scale of destruction and the growing numbers of estimated US fatalities was a 1967 interagency report describing the comparative vulnerabilities of the United States and the Soviet Union. According to the report, in 1964 the Soviets could kill 48 million Americans in a preemptive attack; by 1968, with greater numbers of intercontinental ballistic missiles in place, they would be able to kill 91 million.
By contrast, Soviet fatalities remained relatively constant during the decade, because the United States already had large strategic forces by 1964. In a US retaliatory attack on Soviet cities in 1964, some 77 million would be killed, the report estimated. Under the same circumstances, 81 million would be killed in 1967.
A “political-psychological” burden. While all the estimates were conjectural, some admittedly were underestimates. The authors of a 1969 study prepared for strategic arms control talks estimated scores of millions of fatalities on both sides but acknowledged that they “underestimat[ed] the resulting fatalities.” They based their appraisals on fatalities caused by explosive blast damage and did not include impacts such as radiation and mass fires, which were certain to cause many more deaths.
When Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was briefed in 1955 on the destruction that thermonuclear weapons would inflict, he was initially incredulous. Dulles had to be re-briefed before he accepted the analysis.
The prospect that decisions to use nuclear weapons would cause tremendous death and ruin troubled US officials. As Deputy Secretary of State Elliot Richardson put it years later, there was a “political-psychological” issue: “the imbalance between [the] ability to inflict fatalities and [the] reluctance to accept or cause large numbers of deaths.” Well before then, US presidents and their advisers had become strongly averse to nuclear weapons use, with the “nuclear taboo” stigmatizing these weapons because of the terrible and disproportionate dangers that their combat use would cause.
Huge casualty estimates and the enormous scale of nuclear strikes influenced President Richard Nixon to seek alternatives to apocalyptic attacks, eventually leading to a 1974 directive calling for options to control escalation and limit the scope and intensity of destructiveness. During the following years, the Defense Department tried to break down the operational plan into smaller attack options (Major, Regional, and Selective) to give the president and command authorities less destructive and possibly more credible options. But into the 1980s the options developed by the planning staff continued to require large numbers of nuclear weapons, despite attempts by presidents to scale back the plans.
Presidents Carter and Reagan successively levied explicit requirements for reduced “collateral damage”—civilian casualties—in their targeting policy directives (Presidential Directive 59 and National Security Decision Directive 13, respectively). While target planners prepared still-classified studies on collateral damage, their impact is unknown. It was not until the late 1980s, when the Cold War was winding down, that the White House and Pentagon officials induced target planners to produce attack options that could reduce deaths and destruction. What planners actually did—for example, whether they adjusted target planning to reduce “collateral” damage to civilians—is highly secret. In any event, it’s unclear whether any estimates of casualties were produced.
Secrets and risks. The horrifying scale of fatalities estimated during the 1950s through the 1970s were classified for years, only becoming available through archival releases during the 1990s and later. With rare exceptions, nuclear casualty estimates from the 1980s or later years are unavailable. Indeed, in some instances, the Defense Department has refused to declassify estimates in reports from the 1960s and 1970s.
While non-governmental organizations such as International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Physicians for Social Responsibility have produced casualty estimates, the degree to which official projections continued into the post-Cold War period is unclear. In 2013, the Obama administration began to apply to nuclear targeting international rules of war presented in the 1977 Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, such as proportionality and civilian-military target distinctions. The adoption of those rules in 2013 may have led to estimates of fatalities under more restrictive targeting options, but that is also unclear.
The dangers of superpower war and nuclear confrontation declined when the Cold War ended, and both the United States and the former Soviet Union/Russia made significant cuts in their strategic forces. In recent years, with tensions increasing and the future of Ukraine and Taiwan in dispute, risks have risen again.
The war against Ukraine presents a newer danger. It can only be hoped that the leaders of nuclear weapon states avoid steps that would make Cold War nuclear casualty estimates more than historical curiosities.
Demanding immediate action and practical steps to “save al-Aqsa and stop the extremist and aggressive plans,” the Hamas political bureau chief repeating false and inflammatory claims aimed at sparking Palestinian violence against Israel.
“An imminent threat has been posed against holy sites in Palestine, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque, as a new far-right government is taking charge of the Zionist regime,” he was cited as saying by the Iran-based International Quran News Agency.
Even though Israel regards the entirety of of Jerusalem as its eternal capital and the center of the Jewish faith, it has observed the “status quo” arrangement that existed prior to its reunification of Jerusalem following the 1967 Six Day War, that bars Jewish prayer at the compound as not to ‘inflame Muslim anger.’ Religious worship on the al-Aqsa compound is restricted to Muslims, while Jews pray at the Western Wall nearby.
During his 15-minute visit, Ben-Gvir did not approach the mosque. An Israeli official stressed that he complied with an arrangement that allows non-Muslims to visit but not pray.
“We will not be dictated to by Hamas,” added the statement, emphasizing that “the claim that a change has been made in the status quo is without foundation.”
While Ben-Gvir has visited the compound numerous times since his election to the Knesset in April 2021, his presence as a top minister carries far greater weight. Palestinians used the pretext of a visit to the site by then-Opposition Leader Ariel Sharon as one of the main triggers for the 200-2005 Second Palestinian Intifada. That claim was later refuted by research showing the alleged planning of the violent campaign against Israel by then-Palestinian President and leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) terror group, Yasser Arafat following failure of the United States-mediated 2000 Camp David Summit.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday sent a frigate armed with the country’s latest Zircon hypersonic missile on a trans-ocean cruise in a show of force as tensions with the West escalate over the war in Ukraine.
Russia touts that the Zircon missile can evade any Western air defenses by flying at an astounding 7,000 miles per hour (11,265 km/h).
Here is a glance at the ship and its weapons.
THE PRIDE OF THE RUSSIAN NAVY
Commissioned by the navy in 2018 following long trials, the Admiral Gorshkov is the first ship in the new series of frigates which were designed to replace the aging Soviet-built destroyers as a key strike component of the Russian navy.
Armed with an array of missiles, the ship is 130-meters (427-feet) long and has a crew of about 200.
In 2019, it circled the world oceans on a 35,000-nautical mile journey.
The Admiral Gorshkov has served as the main testbed for the latest Russian hypersonic missile, Zircon.
Zircon is intended to arm Russian cruisers, frigates and submarines and could be used against both enemy ships and ground targets. It is one of several hypersonic missiles that Russia has developed.
THE NEW WEAPON
Putin has hailed Zircon as a potent weapon capable of penetrating any existing anti-missile defenses by flying nine times faster than the speed of sound at a range of more than 1,000 kilometers (over 620 miles).
Putin has emphasized that Zircon gives the Russian military a long-range conventional strike capability, allowing it to strike any enemy targets with precision.
Putin heralded Zircon as Russia’s answer to that, claiming that the new weapon has no rival, giving Russia a strategic edge.
Months before ordering the invasion of Ukraine, Putin put the U.S. and its NATO allies on notice when he warned that Russian warships armed with Zircon would give Russia a capability to strike the adversary’s “decision-making centers” within minutes if deployed in neutral waters.
Speaking via video link during Wednesday’s sendoff ceremony, Putin again praised Zircon as a “unique weapon” without an “equivalent for it in any country in the world.”
In response, the Pentagon said it is monitoring the ship, and did not think it presented a threat that could not be countered.
“We are aware of the reports regarding the Russian launch of a frigate, the Admiral Grorshkov. We will continue to routinely monitor its activities as we maintain awareness of our operating environment,” said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Roger Cabiness. “While we do not comment on specific capabilities or speculate on hypotheticals, the Department of Defense remains confident in our ability to deter our adversaries and defend United States national security interests at any time, in any place.”
The Russian military has also deployed the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles on its MiG-31 aircraft and used them during the war in Ukraine to strike some priority targets. Kinzhal reportedly has a range of about 1,500 kilometers (about 930 miles).
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin on Wednesday that the Admiral Gorshkov will patrol the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean, but didn’t give further details.
Shoigu said the Admiral Gorshkov’s crew will focus on “countering the threats to Russia, maintaining regional peace and stability jointly with friendly countries.” He added the crew will practice with hypersonic weapons and long-range cruise missiles “in various conditions.”