Russian navy holds live-fire exercise in Norwegian Sea for second time in a month

The Russian Navy destroyer Severomorsk sails in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey, March 15, 2019. The Severomorsk took part in a naval exercise in the Norwegian Sea earlier this week. (Yoruk Isik/Reuters)
Northern Fleet warship Severomorsk tested its weapons systems outside the coast of northern Norway.

The Russian navy is expanding its area for live shootings in the north. Traditionally, such drills have taken place outside the Kola Peninsula in the Russian sector of the Barents Sea. It therefore came as a surprise when the two large warships Pyotr Velikiy and Marshal Ustinov in mid-April conducted missile shootings north of the Lofoten archipelago (northern Norway).

Last month’s shootings raised questions about such unusual behavior was a one-time-event, or marking the start of a new “normal” for the Northern Fleet exercising west and southwest of the North Cape.

Senior Research Fellow Kristian Åtland with the Norwegian Defence Research Institute (FFI) is expert on Russian military developments in the north. He says naval vessels en route to- and from assignments use to run various drills while in transit.

“Such drills may include the use, or simulated use, of the vessels’ anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine systems.”

Åtland, however, is surprised by the recent expansion of the Northern Fleet’s live-shooting activity.

“Live-fire missile drills have traditionally taken place in the Barents Sea, but the activity now seems to be expanding into the Norwegian Sea, as indicated by recent NOTAMs and missile launches in international waters off the Norwegian west coast,” he says.

“The Norwegian Sea constitutes the outer perimeter of the Northern Fleet’s maritime defence zone,” Kristian Åtland explains.

“The recent pattern of Russian activities in the Norwegian Sea may be seen as way of signaling that Russia has long-term security interests in this area.”

Additional to shooting with its near-defence artillery systems like 100-mm AK-100 and AK-630, the Northern Fleet claims in a press statement (in Russian) to have launched Kinzhal anti-air missile (NATO name SA-N-9 Gauntlet).

The Norwegian military has monitored the Russian navy vessel all along its voyage outside Norway’s coast.

Lt. Col. Ivar Moen is spokesperson for the Armed Forces. He says Norway always monitor Russian navy vessels sailing outside the coast.

“We routinely monitored the ship. Severomorsk conducted artillery shooting when sailing the waters outside Nordland and Troms,” Moen says in a phone interview with the Barents Observer.

Severomorsk is the main base for the Russian Northern Fleet. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Press service of the Northern Fleet on Thursday informed that Severomorsk was sailing back into the Barents Sea after conducting training on air defense in the northern part of the Barents Sea. Within a few days the warship will make port call to its home base Severomorsk, of which it is named after.

Severomorsk has been on a long-mission voyage since last year, sailing the Mediterranean Indian Ocean and the Atlantic, visiting ports in India, Tanzania, Algeria, South-Africa and Cyprus.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s 2019 budget slim on hard power Arctic commitments, experts say, Radio Canada International

Finland: US, Norwegian troops join military drill in Arctic Finland, Yle News

Norway: Norway releases Russian man detained over suspicion of espionage, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Quick progress on Russian upgrades to High Arctic airbase, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Cross-party talks to expand military marred by political feud, Radio Sweden

United States: Warming climate puts bonds between Arctic nations to the test, Alaska Public Media

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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