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Russia drops Arctic air force plans

Russia will not base MiG-31 interceptors on Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic. (Photo: Rusarmy.com)

The decision to establish a base of jet fighters on Novaya Zemlya was purely political and had not been agreed with the Air Force Command, a high-ranking source in the Russian Air Force says.

Location

Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu has turned down his predecessor’s plans to base a group of supersonic interceptor MiG-31 aircraft on Novaya Zemlya, a high-ranking source in the Air Force told Izvestiya

The source says there are many reasons not to transfer aircraft from the main land to the remote archipelago of Novaya Zemlya. The Russian Air Force only has about 100 MiG-31 planes, and many of them are in poor technical conditions and need major repairs and modernization. The airport of Rogachevo is in no condition to secure safe take-off and landing for fully loaded MiG-31 aircraft, which weigh 46-47 tons with full fuel tanks and armament. The radar-location system on the island is not good enough and will need supplementation by other planes.

The last reason why it is not a good idea to base a group of jet fighters on Novaya Zemlya is the social strain on personnel. Officers are reluctant to bring their families to live at such remote bases, and would probably prefer to quit the job instead of having to move to 71° north. 

Ex-commander of the Air Force Vladimir Mikhaylov says that it is too early to talk about a base of jet fighters in the Arctic: 

- In the current situation we don’t need any base there. First we have to deal with all the problems on the main land, and only then, when we are “tougher”, we will move on to Novaya Zemlya, he says to Izvestiya.

He underlines that if it should come to a situation in the Arctic the Russian Air Force can form an aviation group in short time. - The air force is a very mobile branch of the Armed Forces, so there is no reason to worry, Mikhaylov said.