The exercise took place a few days after Moscow claimed to fire a warning shot on a British warship in the Black Sea.
The Russian military launched a full-scale exercise in the Mediterranean, including fighters capable of carrying hypersonic missiles. This was a demonstration of its strength when tensions surged after the incident in the Black Sea and British destroyers.
Moscow said one of its warships fired warning shots on Wednesday that a warplane dropped bombs on the route of the British destroyer “Guardian”, forcing it to leave an area near Crimea, which Russia claims is its territorial waters. The UK denied this claim, insisting that its ship was not shot, and stated that it was sailing in Ukrainian waters.
Russia began exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean on Friday, when the British aircraft carrier battle group was in the area.
Earlier this week, British and American F-35 fighter jets from the Queen Elizabeth conducted a combat flight against the Islamic State (ISIS) organization.
Since September 2015, Russia has launched a military operation in Syria that allowed President Bashar al-Assad’s government to regain control of most of the country after a devastating civil war.
The Russian Ministry of Defense stated that two MiG-31 fighter jets capable of carrying “Kinzal” hypersonic missiles arrived at Russia’s air base in Syria for exercises. The Hemeimeem Air Force Base in the coastal province of Latakia is Moscow’s main hub for operations in the country.
This is the first time a fighter jet capable of carrying Kinzhal has been deployed beyond the Russian border.
According to the military, Kinzhal can fly at 10 times the speed of sound and has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (approximately 1,250 miles).
The Ministry of National Defense stated that the exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean involved multiple warships, two submarines, long-range Tu-22M3 bombers and other combat aircraft.
Last month, the supersonic, nuclear-capable Tu-22M3 was deployed to Syria for the first time to demonstrate the increase in Russia’s military foothold in the Mediterranean.
The Russian military has modernized the Hemeimeem runway to accommodate heavy bombers and built a second runway to expand operations there.
Russia has also expanded and renovated a naval base in the port of Tartus in Syria, which is the only such facility it currently owns outside the former Soviet Union.
The Russian military has increased the number and scope of exercises amidst tensions with the West. After Moscow annexed the Crimea Peninsula of Ukraine in 2014, Western relations have fallen to a post-Cold War low.
As part of President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to strengthen the Russian military, the Navy has resumed the Soviet-era practice of continuously rotating warships in the Mediterranean in recent years.
On Sunday, on the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, Brigadier General Steve Moorhouse told reporters that due to Russia’s increasing military presence in Syria, the Eastern Mediterranean has become more “crowded and competitive”. Lead to frequent encounters with Russian ships and fighters.
He pointed out that a Russian warship had already sailed within 16 kilometers (10 miles) of the aircraft carrier.