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Analysis: New Russian army air defense unit on combat duty for Arctic Region - Part 2

Russia continues to strengthen military power in the Arctic region with new air defense units. The region is essential to Russia’s future economic and military vitality. As a result, substantial budgetary increases have boosted Russian military and economic activity in the Arctic over the course of the past decade.
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The S-400 air defense missile system was deployed in Novaya Zemlya, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, in 2019. (Picture source Russian DoD)

In March 2020, B-2 bombers and US and Norwegian F-15 and F-35 fighter jets trained over Iceland and flew far to the north.

Besides strategic aircraft in the Arctic, Russia may shortly face another challenge — submarines with cruise missiles. The melting Arctic ice provides a possibility for nuclear submarines of the potential adversary to enter the Northern Sea Route.

The Pentagon published the Arctic strategy in November 2013. It said the US Navy should be ready for a broad range of problems and unforeseen circumstances and work to promote the freedom of navigation. In July 2019, Commanding officer of the US Groton submarine base Captain Paul Whitescarver told the Daily Express that the Navy plans to spend more money in the Arctic from 2020. Specific attention will be paid to tactical skills.

The Soviet 10th air defense army comprised one corps and three divisions. Two defense hubs were geographically evident. The first one was in Karelia, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions. The high concentration of air defense weapons had to protect submarine bases and the important seaport and shipyard center of Severodvinsk.

The second air defense hub stretched from Novaya Zemlya to Kamchatka. The fourth air defense division operated there with headquarters in Belushya Guba.

The Soviet Air Defense in the Last Years of the USSR reference book said it comprised two fighter jet regiments armed with Tu-128 and Su-27 and two radar regiments. There was only one antiaircraft missile regiment in the division. It protected Novaya Zemlya, division headquarters and an air regiment.

It was possible to deploy a proper air defense in the Arctic comprising several dozen antiaircraft and radar regiments, but it was a costly business. Therefore, they staked on timely detection of adversary aircraft near the North Pole instead of interception. Two radar regiments of the 4th division created a total radar space from Novaya Zemlya to Kamchatka.

Tu-128 aircraft also engaged in patrol. It is an interceptor plane that can fly for several hours at a distance of hundreds of kilometers from the airfield. It can timely identify targets and intercept them at a maximum distance.

At present, the Russian air defense in the Arctic has the same principle. The 45th air force and defense army has two air defense divisions: the 1st is headquartered in Severomorsk and the 3rd in Rogachevo in Novaya Zemlya. The 1st division is the successor to the 10th army. Its regiments defend the territory from Karelia to Novaya Zemlya.

How can one division cope with the missions fulfilled by one corps and two divisions in Soviet time? All regiments of the 1st division are armed with S-400 and Pantsir launchers. The 21st corps and the 23rd and 5th air defense divisions were armed with outdated S-75, S-125 and S-200.

The formation of the 3rd air defense division began in 2017 and it developed into a combat-ready formation in 2020. In late February, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said the Russian Arctic and northern air defense was reinforced. “The Northern fleet got another air defense division,” he said.

The staff matrix of the 3rd division differs from the Soviet 4th division. It has more antiaircraft missile regiments. Besides one regiment in Novaya Zemlya, the 414th regiment went on combat duty in Tiksi in April 2020. Another regiment is expected to appear shortly to the north of Dudinka in Dixon settlement.

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