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Up-Close British and Russian Operations in the Eastern Mediterranean

June 29, 2021 (EIRNS)—The Russian air-naval exercise that began on June 25 continues, with the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier right nearby. The Russian Defense Ministry posted a four-minute video yesterday, showing, among other things, two MiG-31Ks taking off from the Latakia air base in Syria, armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, and two Tu-22M3 bombers, each armed with a pair of anti-ship missiles. The Kinzhal can be used against either land or maritime targets. The Russian Defense Ministry reported that the crews of its naval vessels involved in the exercise worked out the tasks of repelling the attack of enemy air assets and conducted training for the air defense forces, and aircraft carrying hypersonic missiles made training flights accompanied by fighters.

“While this is the second time that the Tu-22M3 has been deployed to Syria, the emphasis on the type’s maritime strike mission is noteworthy, especially as it coincides with the high-profile appearance of HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Mediterranean for the first time, as first of its first operational cruise, as part of Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21),” writes Thomas Newdick in The War Zone. “The MiG-31K and its Kinzhal missile have not been deployed outside of Russian territory before this, and it seems highly likely they are also on hand to practice the anti-shipping mission, too.”

Also seen in the Defense Ministry video is a brief clip, maybe 4-5 seconds, of an F-35B flying over one of the Russian ships, suggesting that the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier isn’t all that far away. The Queen Elizabeth has been launching combat missions, in combination with Royal Air Force aircraft based in Cyprus, against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq.

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