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    Russian Navy uses supersonic cruise missile to hit test target

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    The flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet has effectively engaged a designated target with a supersonic cruise missile as part of a Navy exercise in the northern Atlantic, a Navy spokesman said Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, January 22 (RIA Novosti) - The flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet has effectively engaged a designated target with a supersonic cruise missile as part of a Navy exercise in the northern Atlantic, a Navy spokesman said Tuesday.

    The Moskva guided-missile cruiser launched the P-500 Bazalt (NATO reporting name SS-N-12 Sandbox), a liquid-propellant supersonic cruise missile, last used in 2003.

    The P-500 Bazalt, which entered service in 1973, has a 550 km range and a payload of 1,000 kg, enabling it to carry a 350 kT nuclear or a 950kg semi-armor-piercing high explosive warhead.

    A Joint Naval Task Force, comprising the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, the Udaloy-Class destroyers Admiral Levchenko and Admiral Chabanenko, as well as auxiliary vessels, is currently on a two-month tour of duty in the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic.

    "The missile system used for launches has no match in performance terms," Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo, an aide to the Navy commander, said Monday.

    Russian warships will also practice interoperability with naval aviation and strategic bombers for several days.

    The operation is the first large-scale Russian Navy exercise in the Atlantic for 15 years. All the warships and aircraft involved are carrying full combat ammunition loads, the Navy said.

    Vice-Admiral Nikolai Maksimov, commander of Russia's Northern Fleet who is heading the task force, earlier said that the current tour of duty to the Mediterranean, which started on December 5, was aimed at ensuring Russia's naval presence "in key operational areas of the world's oceans" and establishing conditions for secure Russian maritime navigation.

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