Russian naval ships and aircraft have kicked off joint drills in the Mediterranean Sea, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Friday.
"On June 25 this year, the Russian Navy’s standing Mediterranean taskforce and aircraft of Russia’s Aerospace Force have kicked off joint drills in the eastern Mediterranean," the ministry said in a statement.
Russian combat planes have redeployed from Russia to Syria to participate in the joint drills, the statement says.
"As part of the drills, a pair of MiG-31K aircraft capable of employing the latest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles and an Il-38 anti-submarine warfare plane have performed their flights from airfields in Russia to the Russian Hmeymim airbase in the Syrian Arab Republic," the Defense Ministry said.
The drills involve five warships, including the missile cruiser Moskva, the frigates Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov, and the submarines Stary Oskol and Rostov-on-Don, the ministry specified.
Also, Tu-142MK and Il-38 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, Tu-22M3 long-range bombers and MiG-31K fighters will carry out combat training tasks jointly with the Navy to ensure security of the Hmeymim airbase and the Russian Navy’s Tartus naval facility in Syria, the statement says.
In the course of the drills, aircraft and equipment will be tested in complex climatic conditions, including in high temperatures, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Following the upgrade and the extension of the second runway at the Hmeymim airbase with the complete replacement of the runway’s surface and the installation of new lighting navigational facilities and radio-technical equipment, the crews of long-range aircraft and the latest carriers of missile armaments have received a possibility to practice the skills of accomplishing tasks over the Mediterranean, the statement says.
Currently, the UK aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth with ten deck-based US F-35 fighters under British command is staying in Mediterranean waters.