Russia’s Northern Fleet issues missile NOTAM for Bear Gap

Warships at the Russian Northern Fleet’s Arctic base of Severomorsk on May 13, 2021. (Maxime Popov/AFP via Getty Images)

The impact areas are in the strategically important Bear Gap, the waters between mainland Norway and Svalbard where the shallow Barents Sea meets the deeper Norwegian Sea.

Russia’s Northern Fleet notes the impact of missiles will happen sometime from August 11 to 15, from 5 in the morning to 18 in the evening.

There is no publicly available information about what kind of missiles or how many. Neither the press service of the fleet in Severomorsk nor Russia’s defense ministry in Moscow have detailed any pre-announced exercises involving the western Barents Sea.

The Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) differs from previous Russian navy warnings in the so-called Bear Gap as they now stretch much further west into the Norwegian Sea. All previous NOTAMs near the Bear Gap in the period after Russia’s all-out war on Ukraine in February 2022 have been northeast or east of Bear Island.

Bear Gap strategically important 

Russia’s Port Administration for Northwest and the Arctic, located in Murmansk, has published similar warnings to seafarers indicating there will be rocket firing in the area. If so, the Northern Fleet will most likely send warships to the two zones that are in international waters, but part of the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). These are also important fishing grounds for Norwegian, Russian, and EU trawlers. When warnings of missile impact – and rocket shootings – are issued, most fishermen chose to stay away.

The Bear Gap is a military term for the strategically important waters between North Cape, Bear Island, and further north to Spitsbergen Island. This is where the Barents Sea meets the deeper Norwegian Sea and by that access to the North Atlantic.

In a conflict scenario, keeping control of the Bear Gap would be important for the Russian Northern Fleet to protect its strategic missile submarines in the eastern Barents Sea from NATO forces.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Northern premiers say Canada can’t have Arctic security without infrastructure, The Canadian Press

China: Satellite imagery reveals construction progress on new Chinese Antarctic base, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark: Danish policy prioritizes low-conflict Arctic amidst Russian tensions, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Icelandic embassy suspends operations in Moscow, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Svalbard’s travails in a changing Arctic, Blog by Marc Lanteigne

Sweden: US bombers land in northern Sweden for first time, Radio Sweden

United States: Biden welcomes Finland to NATO, meets with Nordic leaders, The Associated Press

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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