Russian MiG-31K fighter jets that can be equipped with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles have arrived at Khmeimim airbase.
According to the Russian defense ministry, the two jets will participate in large drills in the eastern Mediterranean. The event will also involve Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers, Tu-142 and Il-38 anti-submarine aircraft, as well as numerous vessels of the Russian navy.
“The training flights will probe the capability of the aircraft and the equipment to function in difficult conditions, such as high temperatures and long-endurance flights over the sea,” the Russian defense ministry said in a press release.
The deployment can also be linked to the recent ramping up of tensions between Russia and the West, as on June 24, 2021, British destroyer HMS Defender entered what Russia claims to be its territorial waters near the Crimean Peninsula. Recently, the United Kingdom has also been conducting anti-ISIS operations in Syria and Iraq using carrier-borne F-35B fighter jets.
The MiG-31 fighter jet has primarily been designed as a heavy interceptor. The MiG-31K version of the jet, operational since 2017, can carry Kh-47M2 Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile. According to Russian claims, it is capable of reaching speeds up to Mach 10, which makes it one of the few combat-capable hypersonic weapons in the world.