Russian President Vladimir Putin called for special attention to be paid to the deployment of military units and infrastructure in the Arctic. “Russia is increasingly mastering this promising region and should have all the levers here to protect its security and national interests,” the president said at an expanded meeting of the Defense Ministry board. He pointed out the need to complete the formation of new formations and military units in 2014, which are part of the prospective combat strength of the Armed Forces. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu instructed the General Staff to develop a project for the deployment of military units in the Arctic.
In many ways, this decision of the Russian president is connected with the fact that the struggle for control over the Arctic region is rapidly intensifying. It includes not only the countries of the Arctic Ocean basin - the USA, Canada, Norway, Denmark, but also the powers of other regions, for example, the PRC. Polar research has shifted from the sphere of science to the economic sphere, which has led to a fierce political dispute between the states bordering the Arctic.
Fight for resources and communications
A natural question arises: why did the leaders of many countries declare the priority of developing territories that had not been given such close attention before? A partial response to this is provided by a study of the US Geological Survey conducted in the 2000 year. His conclusions say that up to a quarter of the world's potential oil and gas resources may be located in the Arctic region.
To date, more than 20 large oil and gas fields have been identified in the Arctic. For 10, the promise of development has already been proven. According to the estimates of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation, 6,2 reserves of a billion tons of oil and 15,5 trillion cubic meters of gas are concentrated on the 84,5 area of one million square kilometers. The most famous is undoubtedly the Shtokman field located in the Russian shelf zone of the Barents Sea.
The price of territorial disputes in the Arctic is huge. If Moscow succeeds in proving that the Lomonosov Ocean Ridge and Mendeleev Rising, which are reaching for Greenland, are a direct continuation of the Siberian continental platform, then Russia will be entitled to additional 1,2 million square kilometers in the Arctic and the development of colossal oil and gas fields in the Chukotka - Murmansk triangle - North Pole.
Leading world countries are trying to develop new oil and gas fields, using a variety of ways to claim their rights to areas rich in hydrocarbons.
Another, in the long term, equally important resource of the Arctic is transport communications.
The US National Center for Tracking Snow and Ice Cover reported that in September 2012, the Arctic Ocean ice cover had shrunk to a record high of 3,52 million square kilometers. In 2013, the summer minimum fits into the long-term downward trend in ice cover by 12 percent per decade.
In the current century, the Arctic Ocean is expected to completely free itself from ice. Forecasts for the timing of this event differ. Proponents of conservative ratings speak of 2040. There are also more radical predictions about the melting of the ice cap by the year 2020.
In any case, the route of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) is becoming more and more accessible for commercial shipping. In 2009, two German large-capacity vessels passed through the NSR, setting a new speed record on the South Korean Ulsan-Rotterdam line. Four vessels passed on the route in 2010, 2012 in 46, and 2013 in 60. The volume of traffic on the NSR is growing by tens of percent per year: in 2011-m - 0,83 million tons, in 2012-m - 1,26 million tons, in 2013-m - 1,5 million tons (estimate). Lloyd's register of 2021 is forecast on 15 million tons, to which should be added the order of 25 million tons of Russian hydrocarbons, which in ever-increasing volumes will be exported to the northern seas. Russian forecast for 2030 - 50 million tons per year.
The reason for interest in the SMP is simple and straightforward. The route from China to Western Europe along the "north" has a length of about thousands of nautical miles around 8,1. The path through the Suez Canal is longer on the 2,4 thousands of miles. If you want to go around Africa, add more 4000 miles. For the growing freight traffic from Europe to East Asia, using the NSR offers substantial profits - about one million dollars per one trip of a large container ship.
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 of the Year allows Russia to regulate to a certain extent the navigation on the NSR. This is our advantage, which cannot be lost and must be supported in all possible ways.
Note that for Russia, the NSR also has defense significance, since it provides completely open access to the oceans and an inter-theater maneuver with the forces and means of the Russian Navy.
So, the Arctic is becoming the scene of global competition for traffic and natural resources of global importance. World история does not know cases when such competition was conducted without taking into account military factors.
At the same time, the political regime or the peculiarities of the internal structure of the competing states do not matter. It may be recalled how much manpower and resources the leading world powers spent to establish control over the Suez and Panama canals. Quite democratic, Great Britain and Spain do not hesitate to use the threat of force in the centuries-old conflict around Gibraltar. The aforementioned “civilized” Great Britain, without a shadow of a doubt, sinks the Argentine cruiser “General Belgrano” with hundreds of sailors outside the declared military zone around the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). Before our eyes, the competition of power potentials of China, Japan, and South Korea is unfolding around several cliffs in the South China Sea. The list of examples goes on and on.
The situation in the Arctic is complicated by the fact that international legislation in relation to this region has significant gaps. It’s not a fact that it will lead to the “game of free forces”, which usually ended with wars, including world wars. But there is no doubt that Russia needs a serious deterrent potential in the region that will reliably rule out attempts by rivals to solve their tasks by force.
To the history of arctic groups
At the height of the Cold War, in the late 40s and early 50s, the strategic aviation US command successfully mastered flight routes through the North Pole. On these routes, strategic bombers were brought to the most important administrative and political centers and industrial areas of the USSR by the shortest routes. Since the 60s, the ICBM and SLBM flight paths have been passing over the Arctic.
In response, units of the radio engineering troops, part of the anti-aircraft missile forces, and regiments of anti-aircraft defense were deployed in the Arctic. In particular, the interceptors were based on the airfields of Rogachevo (Novaya Zemlya Island), Amderma, Alykel (Norilsk), Coal Mines (Chukotka). The companies and battalions of the air defense radio-technical forces were deployed on the islands of the Arctic Ocean in order to create a radar field at the distant approaches to the protected objects (locations of locations - Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya Island, Severnaya Zemlya Island, Novosibirsk Islands, Wrangel Island).
Operational airfields of long-range aviation (Naryan-Mar, Amderma, Nadym, Alykel, Tiksi, Cape Schmidt, Coal Mines) were located on the Soviet coast of the Arctic Ocean, where it was supposed to refuel strategic bombers before flying through the pole to strike at the continental US.
Combined arms units and formations were represented by motorized rifle divisions on the Kola Peninsula and Chukotka. Strategic missile submarine cruisers were located in the Barents and Okhotsk Seas. Operational stability of the strategic nuclear forces was ensured both by forces fleet, and the regiments of fighter-interceptors of air defense, the forces of which formed the system of fighter aircraft cover.
One of the ways to solve the task of ensuring the security of the country, the Soviet military-political leadership considered equipping air defense systems with long-range interception systems. These complexes were to ensure the interception of aircraft carriers of nuclear weapons at a considerable distance from the protected objects, forming the first echelon of the country's defense against EIS. As a result of the decisions made, the creation of such complexes, combining them with reconnaissance equipment into specialized systems, has become for many years one of the priorities for the development of the aviation component of the country's air defense system.
Soviet military leaders understood the importance and necessity of a long-range interception system and, accordingly, a long-range fighter. In their own time, they showed special perseverance in its implementation and conducting large-scale exercises in the Arctic with the involvement of new aircraft at the time (MiG-31, Su-27, A-50, Il-78 type tankers) and working out the issues of their combat applications in the aeronautical long-range interception system.
The long-range intercept aviation system was intended for detecting an aerodynamic means of air attack beyond the horizon of a probable enemy and destroying strategic bombers by aviation complexes to the point of launching cruise missiles by the enemy under conditions of massive use of all types of electronic and fire suppression by the enemy.
The ASDP included:
point of command and control.
During the period of danger, AK RLDN was on duty in the air in the main directions of an EHV strike, which made it possible to establish in advance the fact of the start of a massive raid and to ensure the possibility of long-range detection and tracking of air targets flying at low and extremely low altitudes.
In particular, in 1986, a large-scale research and development exercise "Arktika-86" was conducted, with the aim of further developing the Arctic direction of hostilities. Two AKLDN A-50 AK, mixed MiG-31 and Su-27, Il-78T tanker, RTV equipment were involved in the teachings. During the period of the exercises for the first time were performed:
The exercises allowed to form the desired appearance of a combat aircraft for operations in the Arctic: a two-seat fighter with a long range, powerful radar and the possibility of refueling in the air. When analyzing the exercises, it was noted that in long flights, pilots of single-seat fighters experience excessive psychophysical loads. This is especially true for the Arctic, with its difficult weather conditions, a long polar night and the lack of landmarks. This conclusion has become an incentive to create on the basis of the two-seater Su-27UB long-range interceptor. Already in 1987, the modified T10U-2 Sukhoy OKB with a refueling system and a new navigation system was tested in the North. The crew of Igor Votintsev and Nikolai Sadovnikov performed the long-haul flight Moscow - Graham Bell. The experience gained during those unique flights was later claimed to create a large family of Su-30 fighters, the highest point of which is today the Su-30CM combat aircraft.
However, in the 90-ies, the entire Arctic grouping of forces and means, figuratively speaking, was demolished by a mighty hurricane. There is nothing left. Subdivisions and units of ZRV, RTV and fighter aviation are disbanded. Airfields abandoned. A significant part of the material resources remained under snow and ice. Until very recently, there was almost no combat unit from Murmansk to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The radar field, fighter aviation and anti-aircraft missile cover ceased to exist. Our Arctic lands remained even without a hint of protection and defense.
Threats and Tasks
If we sum up the Soviet military activities in the Arctic, then we can say that it was mainly aimed at solving aerospace defense tasks. The exception is the western and to a lesser extent the eastern part of the Arctic region, where the tasks of ensuring the actions of the Navy were solved and limited land groups were deployed.
With the end of the Cold War era, aerospace threats from the North have not disappeared. They only transformed and complicated. In the Arctic Ocean, there is a growing threat of deploying high-precision long-range weapons in non-nuclear equipment. In particular, this applies to converted long-range SLCM carriers in conventional Ohio-type equipment. Above the Arctic, frontiers of launching hypersonic products may be located within the framework of the American concept of rapid global strike. In this regard, the northern aerospace direction may be the most threatening to the national security of Russia (taking into account the launch range and the minimum flying time of the means of destruction).
The most important task of the domestic Armed Forces in this region has been and remains to ensure the effectiveness of the nuclear deterrent forces (to cover combat areas and ensure the operational sustainability of groups of missile submarines).
The transformation of threats is also associated with climate change. If the Arctic Ocean is free from ice, not only US and UK attack submarines will appear in the region. The Arctic will become a region where US multi-purpose aircraft carrier groups are active, and in the future, possibly, China. It is obvious that they will be able to solve the tasks not only of combating domestic PKK CH, but also of controlling navigation and natural resources. In this context, U.S. AMH must be considered as the most complex typical threat.
It is more than likely that competitors will resort to indirect tactics, using real and contrived motives for the use of force of various kinds. On the example of recent detentions of ships with Russian cargo, we see that NATO is not shy about imposing restrictions on commercial shipping based on its own interests and disregarding world standards. Another method of indirect actions is actions under the flag of non-governmental organizations, pursuing both their own and external goals. A living example is the “humanitarian attack” of Greenpeace on the Prirazlomnaya platform.
In the light of traditional and new threats, the resumption and buildup of the military presence in the Arctic for Russia is absolutely necessary. Of course, the tasks before the arctic groupings of troops (forces) will be wider and more diverse in comparison with Soviet times.
Marine groups will have to solve not only the tasks of covering the NSNF in limited areas of combat patrols and nomination routes. Sustained permanent control over all ice-free Arctic waters is required.
The Navy must provide cover for the Arctic groups of troops and areas of mineral resources from attacks from sea directions and prevent the strengthening of enemy groups by the sea, disrupt the sea transportation of troops and supply of material assets of the enemy if necessary, and in turn ensure their own transportation of troops and MTS in the interests of the troops.
Aviation groups will have to solve not only the tasks of defeating strategic bombers and cruise missiles of a hypothetical enemy in flight, but also to carry out fighter air cover for areas of economic activity (oil and gas production on the shelf). At the same time, it is necessary to ensure, if necessary, cover for fleet forces (and caravans of ships with various material means) at the sea crossing on the NSR route. In addition, destroy enemy aircraft and nuclear missiles on the ground and in the air, disrupt the control of troops and weapons, destroy reserves, airborne and amphibious assault forces, disrupt the transportation of enemy troops and materiel, cover their troops and objects from attacks by air attack weapons and enemy air reconnaissance.
The grouping of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the Arctic will inevitably have to make a decisive contribution to the solution of the tasks of navigation, search and rescue and other types of support, the creation of a communication system. Without this, neither military nor economic activity is possible in the region.
A separate problem is the control and, if necessary, opposition to the intelligence activities of potential adversaries. The problem is complicated by Russia's lag in modern reconnaissance vehicles, such as satellite and UAVs.
Armament, equipment, infrastructure
Obviously, bringing the Russian grouping to a level that will reflect the existing and future threats will be a complex, lengthy and expensive process.
This, for example, fully applies to the Russian Navy. Considering the state of the fleet, the budget possibilities and the potential of the industry, the buildup of the Arctic group will last for decades. Moreover, it will require not only the construction of warships and support vessels for existing projects, but also the design of new ones designed for operations in difficult ice conditions. Another difficult task is the restoration of fleet bases abandoned in the 90s.
Of course, the priority activity is the repair, rehabilitation and new construction of airfields. These are precisely the pivot points (or nodes), with the help of which it is possible to easily project military efforts throughout the region and in a short time to deploy the necessary groups of troops and forces.
Recently it was announced that reconstruction of the Besovets airfields in the Republic of Karelia and Plesetsk in the Arkhangelsk region will begin soon. In the future, it will be necessary to restore the permanent presence of the Air Force on the airfields of Rogachevo (Novaya Zemlya Island), Alykel (Norilsk), Coal Mines (Anadyr, Chukotka). On the rest of the Arctic airfields (Graham Bell, Temp, Amderma, Tiksi, Cape Schmidt) it is possible to be on duty on a rotational basis - in units and squadrons.
On the restored airfields and some islands of the Arctic Ocean there is an urgent need to deploy over-the-horizon radar. The use of stations of this type will largely solve the problem of inconsistency between the spatial capabilities of the traditional control system and the combat capabilities of fourth and fifth generation fighters. At the same time, semi-autonomous actions of reconnaissance-strike and strike groups of fighters are provided at a distance from 1000 to 3000 kilometers from the location of the ZG radar station, which corresponds to the maximum radius of action of fighters from advanced airfields, depending on the direction of the enemy's VNS.
Under current conditions, a consistent build-up of an Air Force grouping is the fastest and most effective way to strengthen Russia's military capabilities in the Arctic. Perhaps this is the only thing that the Ministry of Defense can do in the near future.
The matter is facilitated by the fact that today the Russian industry is modernizing, producing or deploying the production of aircraft that are urgently needed for the Arctic grouping.
This is primarily a heavy fighter-interceptor MiG-31 in a modernized version of the "BM". This is a two-seat aircraft with a powerful radar, which provides early warning and simultaneous destruction of several air targets. Unlike the basic version, the MiG-31BM has an expanded arsenal of air-to-air missiles, which allows it to conduct air combat with enemy fighters at large and medium distances.
Possessing a significant modernization potential, the MiG-31 is promising as a base aircraft in solving problems of aerospace defense, a strategic reconnaissance aircraft, a long-range strike aircraft, and operational means of launching satellites for various purposes into near-earth orbits. If there is political will, the number of airplanes undergoing modernization can be significantly increased due to the machines that are in service in the Air Force and in storage.
At the same time, the Arctic grouping needs to be replenished with multifunctional combat aircraft capable of carrying out both fighter and attack missions.
In modern conditions, the most realistic candidate for this role is Su-30CM. In Russia there is a large-scale production of this type of aircraft. From 2013 of the year they come to the air force of the Russian Federation. Avionics and aircraft armament allow in one combat sortie to solve the tasks of defeating high-precision weapons of air and surface targets from a long distance.
The excellent flight performance of the Su-30, in particular, super-maneuverability, are also among the advantages in demand in the Arctic conditions. For example, they are in demand when flying from small aerodromes, as well as when escorting and expelling low-speed aircraft from protected airspace.
Like the MiG-31, the Su-30CM has a significant modernization potential. The likely retrofitting of this machine with long-range supersonic (and in the long run hypersonic) missiles will create a unique strike complex, allowing to hit any naval targets, including aircraft carriers.
A significant advantage of the aircraft is the well-adjusted rhythmic production and extensive experience in operating its progenitors - Su-30МКИ / МКА / МКМ abroad. As shown by international exercises with the participation of the Indian Air Force, Su-30MKI aircraft are superior to modern serial fighter jets of states with interests in the Arctic.
It is important to note that the Su-30CM is an aviation complex balanced in characteristics and capabilities. This allows you to avoid the formation of heterogeneous aviation groups, which is especially important in the difficult conditions of the northern airfields. The crew of two people will provide not only the solution of combat missions, but also accelerated training of flight personnel. The latter is relevant in view of the relatively small number of pilots trained in flights in the difficult geographical and meteorological conditions of the Arctic.
The most important prerequisite for the formation of the Arctic group was the resumption of production of Il-76MD-90А planes in Ulyanovsk. In the future, this will provide an increase in the number of tanker aircraft and AK RLDN. Today, these types of aircraft in the Air Force is too small to deploy a full-fledged Arctic grouping.
There is another important point that is often overlooked. Experience shows that from the beginning of shipments of aircraft, aircraft, radio equipment to the combat readiness of units passes from three to five years. Obviously, this term will be even longer with respect to the Arctic. Repair of airfields, deployment of support infrastructure, reconstruction of the control and communication system, training in flights in the difficult conditions of the Far North, organization of the search and rescue service in a deserted area - all this will require considerable time and effort. Therefore, it is important to start this work today, focusing on areas where you can quickly achieve success. In conditions when the most dangerous competitors surpass Russia in economic opportunities, our only way out is to work in advance.