Russian MiG-31K fighters, armed with Kinzhal Hypersonic missiles began overflights in the Mediterranean taking off from a base Syria, as part of a joint exercise between the country’s Aerospace Forces and the Navy.
A statement by the Russian MoD said, "As part of the exercise at the Russian Khmeimim airbase in the Syrian Arab Republic, a pair of MiG-31K aircraft flew from Russian airfields, which have the ability to use the latest hypersonic missiles from the Dagger complex," the Russian MoD said in a statement.
Official photos and videos released by the Russian MoD of the exercises show the MiG-31K taking off with a large missile strapped to its fuselage. The image matches that of previous photos of Kinzhal hypersonic missile shown by the Russian MoD.
The MiG-31K is modified to launch the Kinzhal Hypersonic missile. The ‘K’ designation is believed to be standing for ‘Kinzhal.’ The MiG-31 is the fastest fighter jet in the world with a maximum speed of Mach 2.8 and can cruise at altitude of 60,000 feet. It can launch the Kinzhal missile whose range of 2000 km, and flying speed of Mach 6-7 will strike its target without the fear of being struck by an air defense battery such as the American PATRIOT.
The Mediterranean Sea is currently home to a naval strike group led by the British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth from whose deck F-35 jets flew a couple days ago string at ISIS targets in Syria.
In the Russian exercise, five ships are involved including the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the missile cruiser Moskva, besides two submarines equipped with Kalibr supersonic cruise missiles. During Russia’s entry into the Syrian conflict against ISIS in 2016, the Kalibr missiles were used with devastating effect.
In addition to the MiG-29Ks, anti-submarine aircraft Tu-142 and Il-38, long-range bombers Tu-22M3 are also participating in the exercise. The ships and submarines will perform combat training missions to ensure the security of two Russian bases in Syria - Khmeimim and Tartus. These bases have frequently come under attack from anti-regime forces in Syria.