Russia is to have 14 operational airfields in the Arctic by the end of the year, state media quoted defence officials as saying on 13 January.
Ten airfields will be constructed by the end of 2015, in addition to the four already in use, deputy defence minister Dmitry Bulgakov reportedly said, according to the state-controlled Sputnik news agency.
While the United States has been pivoting its forces and its strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific region to better counter China, Russia has been increasingly focusing its efforts in the Arctic.
In addition to opening up the bases and the basing of the MiG-31s at Murmansk, Russia is expected to deploy a number of Pantsir-S1 ground-based air defence systems in the region, and is also upgrading its Mil Mi-8 ‘Hip’ helicopters to function in the harsh conditions.
Russia is also increasing its special forces presence in the Arctic by more than 30%, with the revamped 61st Independent Naval Infantry Regiment to be stationed alongside the re-formed 200th Independent Infantry Brigade at Sputnik Base, Pechenga, inside the Arctic Circle (16 km from the Norwegian border and 65 km from the Finnish border).
Overarching all of this is the formation of Russia’s Arctic Joint Strategic Command, which was activated on 1 December 2014. This new command, which is based on the Northern Fleet and headquartered at Severomorsk, is being equipped with assets and personnel transferred from Russia’s Western, Central, and Southern (but not Eastern) Military Districts, with which it will be on a par.
As demonstrated by these developments, such has been the build-up of Russia’s military presence in the Arctic that NATO recently warned that no other country has better prepared its forces for operations in the region.
Full article: Russia to build more Arctic airfields (IHS Janes 360)