From Arctic sky, a look at shelf

The air field of Kotelny will be one of several reopened bases in the Russian Arctic.

Russia’s development of new air force bases in the Arctic are linked with the country’s growing oil and gas activities in the region and the upcoming delimitation of the Arctic shelf, an analyst says.


Russia is investing six billion roubles on the refurbishment of five Arctic airfields, all of them former Soviet bases abandoned in the early 1990s. The new facilities are developed by the Federal Agency of Special Construction (Spetsstroy) and will be completed by October 2015, newspaper Izvestia reports.

According to Leonid Ivashov, President of the Russian Acadamy of Geopolitical Problems, the new bases will serve as protection points for the oil and gas industry. In addition, they will play a role in the delimitation of the Arctic shelf, he believes. ”Today, the West does not recognise Russia’s right for major parts of the shelf and prepares for the protection of its claims by military force”, he says. ”Therefore, we must as soon as possible strengthen and unify our command structures in the Arctic zone”, he adds.

As previously reported, the bases stretch from the westernmost to the easternmost parts of the Russian Arctic, from the Franz Josef Land to the Wrangel island. In addition, bases will be built and upgraded in the Sredny Island on the Archipelago of Severnaya Zemlya and Rogachevo at Novaya Zemlya.

There are also plans for the upgrade of several more air bases in the region, representatives of Spetsstroy confirm to Izvestia. As previously reported, the Russian Northern Fleet in a major operation in September 2013 reopened the Temp airfield at Kotelny in the New Siberian Islands. Russia might also upgrade its bases in Tiksi, Naryan-Mar, Alykel, Anadyr, as well as Severomorsk.

According to former Head Air Force Commander Petr Deyneken, all the bases will have air defence radars and aircraft controller points. The Rogachevo facility at Novaya Zemlya fleet will serve as base for a fleet of MIG-31s.

Talking to his top military brass late 2013, President Putin underlined that “we are returning to the Artic and must possess all instruments of power for the protection of our national security interests”.