“For the very first time since the Soviet era, we’ve conducted anti-submarine aviation flights over the North Pole to the shores of the North American continent,” Shoigu said on Wednesday.
The development and modernization of the Northern Fleet, as well as the Arctic in general, remains among the main priorities of the MoD. As of the beginning of this year, the share of modern weaponry and military equipment in the fleet has reached almost 50 percent, the minister stated.
In 2017 alone, the Northern Fleet “received 1,090 pieces of modern hardware, including five combat speedboats, seven logistics vessels, nine aircraft and 10 anti-air radar systems.”
This year, the fleet has been bolstered by further additions, including the icebreaker ‘Ilya Muromets,’ while military logistics vessel ‘Elbrus’ is also about to join its ranks. Several other vessels are undergoing final tests before their deployment, according to Shoigu.
Over the past few years, Russia has significantly beefed up its defensive capabilities on its northern borders, building new military facilities and refurbishing old ones, and deploying more troops and hardware to the Arctic region.
Russia currently has four bases there, including the northernmost military compound, known as ‘Arctic Trefoil.’ The installation is the world’s only permanent structure built at 80 degrees latitude north of the Equator.
Notably, Russia’s build-up in the Arctic region serves solely defensive purposes, the country’s top officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have repeatedly stated.
“We won’t threaten anybody, but using our advantages of a territorial nature in this case, we will ensure the security of Russia and its citizens. In this sense, the Arctic region is extremely important for Russia,” the president said in a documentary titled ‘Putin,’ aired earlier this month.
The development of the Arctic is not limited to military infrastructure – maintaining and developing Russia’s unique fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers is also a priority. The icebreakers serve both military and civilian purposes. The vessels accompany other ships through the ice along Russia’s northern coasts, and guide them into the mouths of large rivers, providing support for trade and logistics flowing through the Northeast Passage.
Putin: Russia’s Arctic fleet is strongest in the world & will continue to be
The Russian leader vowed to continue developing the scientific, transport and military infrastructure in the strategically important Arctic region. He also emphasized that icebreakers are a key component of this ambition. “Our Arctic fleet has been, remains and will be the strongest one in the world,” Putin said, addressing Russian parliamentarians on Thursday.
By 2024, the traffic through the Northern Sea Route past Russia will increase tenfold, the president predicted.
Putin made the comments in a Thursday address to the Federal Assembly – a joint session of the two chambers of the Russian parliament. The annual event is Russia’s version of the State of the Union address in the US, a report by the head of the nation on how well the government performed in the previous year and what future challenges it faces.
Russia tests new Arctic air-defense system
The Arctic modification of the short-range air defense missile system Tor has been honing its skills during military exercises at the Kapustin Yar proving grounds in southern Russia. The Tor-M2DT system fired a volley of missiles and intercepted all the mock targets.
“The live firing was carried out by a single vehicle at two targets, simulating cruise missiles, in complicated targeting and radio interference conditions,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
The latest version of the Tor system was designed specifically for the Arctic and Far North regions and is capable of operating in the harshest weather conditions of up to -50C (-58F). Tor-M2DT boasts 16 anti-aircraft missiles, capable of hitting targets some 12km (7.5 miles) away flying at altitude of up to 10km.
The missile complex is mounted on a DT-30 twin off-road vehicle. The tracked machine can pass through weak and rough terrain, including swamps and deep snow. While the off-road vehicles have already been tested in the Arctic, the whole Tor-M2DT complex is yet to be weather-proven. The possibility of redeploying the missile system with a transport aircraft will be also explored. Following the tests, the systems are expected to be adopted by Russia’s Arctic troops, the Defense Ministry said.
The new weapon was unveiled last year during the Victory Day parade in Moscow.