Russian Arctic units to be armed with T-80BVM tanks

Russia is strengthening its ground forces in the Arctic. All Arctic units will be armed by the end of 2020 with T-80BVM tanks fit for operations in the Extreme North. The Izvestia daily writes about the modern Russian ground forces in the Arctic, their composition and the missions of motorized rifles and marines.
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T-80BVM main battle tank at the Victory Parade 2020 in Moscow  (Picture source: Vitaly Kuzmin)

Since the creation of a separate strategic structure, the Northern Fleet has operated two ground formations: the 61st Marine Brigade and the 200th Motorized Rifle Brigade. The Motorized Rifles are deployed on the border with Norway which is a NATO country. The 200th Brigade has to protect the border and Northern Fleet facilities. The 61st Brigade participates in amphibious assaults. Both units are deployed in the Kola Peninsula. Besides, there is the 40th Marine Brigade in Kamchatka. There are no other ground formations on the Arctic coast.

Oil and gas are produced in the region. The climatic changes simplify the access of illegal armed formations to the immense Russian Arctic space. Therefore, the national military leadership created special Arctic forces. The first 80th Brigade is deployed in the Alakurtti settlement. Its composition is not disclosed. However, it was reported that the Arctic Rifles are trained for combat in difficult geological and climatic conditions, including low temperatures. The brigade is armed with a lot of weapons fit for the Arctic. They are Pantsir-SA, two-section articulated all-terrain vehicles, special machines for rest and cooking, and other hardware. The brigade trains to survive and fight in low temperatures and move on any transport ranging from all-terrain vehicles to dog sleds. The training program for the brigades has been changed to fight in a harsh climate.

The brigades have been reinforced and received new hardware, including T-80BVM tanks which are most fit for Arctic operations. T-80BVMs paraded in Red Square. They are likely to be supplied to the 80th Motorized Rifle Brigade. Thus, all ground formations of the Northern Fleet will be armed with the tanks, Defense Ministry sources said.

As the Arctic brigades are deployed far away from potential combat areas, their delivery by sea is considered. The action plan of the Northern fleet has changed and warships constantly sail in the Arctic. As a rule, a group comprises one first-rank warship, several amphibious assault ships and auxiliary vessels. The assault ships carry units from Northern fleet brigades and airborne units.

Landing and counter-assault operations and redeployment are trained in Yamal. Warships have not engaged in the area since World War 2.

The Ivan Gren and the Petr Morgunov new amphibious assault ships of project 11711 were included in the Northern Fleet due to the necessity to redeploy Arctic troops. The Vladimir Andreev and the Vasily Trushin ships under construction are likely to be deployed in Kamchatka.

Airlifting is also envisaged. The aviation of the Northern Fleet and the Northeastern Command received Kamov Ka-29 combat-transport helicopters and other vehicles. Ka-29 can patrol Arctic latitudes. It is armed with various weapons and can carry 16 soldiers. The helicopters can be carried by the amphibious assault ships of project 11711.

On April 26, 2020, airborne forces for the first time landed from an altitude of 10 kilometers on Franz-Joseph Land. The paratroopers are the first units to fight any adversary in northern latitudes. Arctic troops have to arrive to back them. The 80th Brigade trains redeploying to other potential combat areas by the ground.

Russia is currently the only country in the world operating such a major ground force in the Arctic, the Izvestia wrote.

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