New Russian Fighter Aircraft and Anti-aircraft Heading to the Arctic

Russia is continuing its Arctic militarization by sending additional forces to the Arctic.

Sergey Shoygu, Russia’s Defense Minister, confirmed that his Ministry is working on establishing a new naval fighter and anti-aircraft regiment by the end of 2015.

The announcement was made during a conference between top-ranking Russian officers.

Shoygu said that: “By the end of the year the formation of naval fighter and surface to air-missile regiments should be complete,” according to the Ministry’s website.

Anti-aircraft Regiment

An upgraded Pantsir-S1 is combined short to medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system. The Pantsir-S1 was upgraded to sustain Arctic operations.
The Pantsir-S1 is combined short to medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system. It was upgraded to sustain Arctic operations.

Russia’s intention to add a new anti-aircraft regiment to its Arctic command is most likely based on future deployment of ground troops and the establishment of new military bases.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the Arctic one of its main priority. The vast amount of available oil, rare metals and resources will strongly help the Russian economy. The Northern Sea Route (NSR) is also a vital part of Russia’s economy and a military presence in the Arctic will keep the NSR safe. The new anti-aircraft regiment might also have a role in the Northern Sea Route protection, enhancing its security and boosting other countries’ confidence in sailing through the NSR.

A few months ago, Russia announced that its Pantsir-S1 short to medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system would be upgraded for Arctic operations.

The Pantsir-s1 is one of Russia’s best anti-aircraft weapon system. It is slowly replacing the ageing Tunguska-m1 tracked self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon system and has been in service since 2012.

The fact that Russia is upgrading its anti-aircraft weapon systems to withstand Arctic conditions is a proof of its commitment to the security of the region. Protection of airfields and intercontinental ballistic missiles positions (mobile or static) will most likely be tasks for the Pantsir. The Pantsir can also deploy along ground troops to ensure a protection against incoming aircraft.

 

Pantsir-S1 infographic. Courtesy of Ria Novosti
Pantsir-S1 infographic. Courtesy of Ria Novosti
S-400 Triumf Anti-Aircraft Weapon System
S-400 Triumf Anti-Aircraft Weapon System

Additional S-400 will most likely be deployed along the Pantsir-S1. Capable of reaching more than 400km, the S-400 mobile platform can be quickly deployed to engage aerial targets. It’s 48N6 missile, with an operational range of 250 km, can reach speed up to Mach 6.2 – more than enough to quickly destroy its targets.

New airfields being built in Russia’s Arctic will definitely need a defence system capable of detecting incoming targets and destroy them before they have the opportunity to destroy Russian aircrafts. The S-400 is definitely the weapon of choice to provide this much-needed security.

Naval Fighter Regiment

A Russian Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker from the Northern Fleet
A Russian Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker from the Northern Fleet

In addition to the anti-aircraft regiment, Shoygu also announced a new naval fighter regiment. The Northern Fleet’s 279th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment , HQ at Severomorsk-3, is currently comprised of Su-33 and Su-27 UB/UTC.

The Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker-D is a carrier-based air superiority fighter. Its primary task is to provide Russian warships with aerial defense against enemy aircraft. The wings of the Su-33 Flanker-D are foldable for carrier operations. However, the Russian Ministry of Defence decided to give the Russian Naval Aviation’s carrier based fighters a frontline task between the cruises of the Navy’s sole aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.

The roughly 12 to 16 operational jets (out of an official strength of 24) of the 279th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment fly the missions mainly from Severomorsk-3, their home base 15 miles (24 km) east of the city of Murmansk; a short flight of roughly 80 miles (135 km) to the Norwegian border.

Adding to that, the R-27EM missiles carried by the Su-33 can intercept anti-ship missiles. It also carries a RBK-500 cluster bomb, capable of damaging enemy warships or provide close air support to ground troops.

MiG-29K jet at Zhukovskiy LII air field during MAKS 2007.
MiG-29K jet at Zhukovskiy LII air field during MAKS 2007.

However, the Russian Navy is currently replacing the ageing Su-33—expected to retire in 2015—with Mikoyan MiG-29K Fulcrum-D. The MiG-29K carries laser-guided and electro-optical bombs. It also carries air-to-surface missiles for anti-ship role and air-to-air missiles.

The new naval fighter regiment will mostly likely be equipped with Su-33—until the MiG-29K take over—and Su-27UB, the same aircraft used by the 279th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment.

With the Admiral Kuznetsov fully repaired and back to sea, both aircraft will be able to rotate between carrier-based operations and land-based tasks.

Russian Su-27UB
Russian Su-27UB. Courtesy of Igor Bubin from Planespotters.net.

The Su-27 is equipped with a “Phazotron N001 Myech coherent Pulse-Doppler radar with track while scan and look-down/shoot-down capability. The fighter also has an OLS-27 infrared search and track (IRST) system in the nose just forward of the cockpit with an 80–100 km range.

The Su-27 is armed with a single 30 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-1 cannon in the starboard wingroot, and has up to 10 hardpoints for missiles and other weapons. Its standard missile armament for air-to-air combat is a mixture of R-73 (AA-11 Archer) and R-27 (AA-10 ‘Alamo’) missiles, the latter including extended range and infrared homing models.”

Russia’s militarization of the Arctic has become one of Putin’s main priority. We can clearly affirm that Russia is the most advanced nation when it comes to Arctic operations and the deployment of two new regiments is yet another sign of Russia’s intention to have the strongest military presence within the Arctic nations. Although Putin based its militarization of the Arctic on economic development, it is obvious that he is also aiming at demonstrating Russia’s willingness to become the superpower it was in the past.

 

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Jonathan Wade, CD

Jonathan Wade is the director of the ‘The Sentinel Analytical Group’ and a decorated veteran of the Canadian Forces. Specialized in tactical, strategic, intelligence and geopolitics analysis, Jonathan has a fondness for technical details. His military experience brought him valuable insight on the realities of conflicts and war. A combat veteran of Afghanistan, Jonathan brings in in-theatre experience. Jonathan writes about Russia, Canada and Arctic.