Russia’s Northern Fleet kicks off major exercise

A file photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Nikolai Yevmenov (C) and Russian Ground Forces colonel general Aleksandr Dvornikov (R) at the joint drills of the Northern and Black sea fleets on board the Russian guided missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov in the Black Sea, off the coast of Crimea January 9, 2020. A Northern Fleet exercise is currently underway in the Russian Arctic. (Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin/Reuters)
NATO aircraft are in the skies over the Barents Sea watching as nuclear- and diesel submarines, surface warships, support vessels on Monday sailed out from the Kola Peninsula.

The large military exercise comes less than a week after Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited the Headquarters of the Northern Fleet. In his address in Severomorsk, Shoigu underlined that the USA and its NATO allies are building up marine forces along Russian borders.

The strengthened military presence is evident also in the Arctic, the Defense Minister said.

“The USA and its allies are boosting their military concentration in the Arctic, they increase the intensity of military preparedness and expand and modernize military infrastructure,” Shoigu said.
The numbers of warships taking part in the exercise this week are not detailed, but the press service of the Northern Fleet has published photos showing a flotilla of five surface vessels sailing out from the Kola Bay.

That includes two anti-submarine corvettes of the Grisha class and three mine-sweepers, the photos show.

In addition, one Delta-IV ballistic missile sub from the Gadziyevo, other nuclear submarines, and diesel-electric submarines from Polyarny are said to participate.

Focus on economic facilities in Arctic Russia

The Northern Fleet said in the statement that the exercise is an interspecific command-staff drill taking place under the leadership of Navy commander-in-chief, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov.

The first stage includes the deployment of nuclear submarines and naval forces into the sea. On land, army marines units are moved to their pre-defined areas, while air force and air defence units have started to transfer to operational airfields in the Arctic.

Particular attention during the exercise will be paid to ensure the safety of Russia’s economically important facilities in the Arctic, the press statement of the fleet said.

Two NATO maritime patrol aircraft, a US Navy P-8A Poseidon and a Norwegian P-3 Orion were met by a Russian MiG-31 fighter jet over the Barents Sea on Monday, news agency Interfax reported.

After the foreign military aircraft turned away from the state border of the Russian Federation, the fighter jet returned to the base, the military informed Interfax.

Although not linked directly with the Northern Fleet exercise, the press service of the Defence Ministry could inform about 10 long-range strategic bombers taking part in cruise missile shootings towards ground targets in the Komi Republic on Sunday.

Both Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers participated, and an Il-78 tanker provided for mid-air fueling of the strategic bomb planes.

Northern Fleet ships simultaneously in Black Sea

Simultaneously as the major exercise started in the Barents Sea region, the Northern Fleet’s large landing ship “Aleksandr Otrakovsky” sails the Black Sea together with landing ships transferred from the Caspian Flotilla.

The vessels are exercising unloading of anti-aircraft missile systems and other military equipment.

Also, the Northern Fleet’s landing ship “Kondapoga” was this weekend observed in the Bosphorus sailing into the Black Sea.

Russia is currently building up huge military forces near its southern border to Ukraine.

The Defence Ministry has posted this video showing both naval forces, anti-aircraft missile units and navy soldiers on Kola.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s military launches scaled down annual Arctic exercise, Radio Canada International

Finland: Finnish Defence Minister tells party leaders shrinking fighter fleet would be “irresponsible”, Yle News

Iceland: Iceland talks Arctic, Trump’s ditching of climate accord, with U.S. Secretary of State, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norway strengthens its Arctic military in new defense plan as security concerns grow in the region, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian hypersonic ‘Dagger’ demands rethink of North American defences, experts say, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Arctic Sweden to welcome thousands of international troops for Northern Wind exercise, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: NORAD modernization to dominate agenda of Canada-U.S. defence relations, experts say, Eye on the Arctic

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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