Arctic Interceptors

On January 16, Russia’s Northern Fleet announced the deployment of long-range MiG-31BM fighter-interceptors for “experimental” combat duty on Novaya Zemlya. They will secure the RF state border and expand the protected airspace over the Northern Sea Route.

The Russian fighters will operate from the airfield at Rogachevo (Рогачёво).

MiG-31BM combat radius from Rogachevo

Here’s another handy map.

From Rogachevo, the MiG-31BM’s approximately 1,500-km combat range would allow it to cover an arc from the northern Norwegian Sea, Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, and Severnaya Zemlya to the Taymyr peninsula. In other words, the entirety of the Northern Fleet’s Barents and Kara Sea bastion.

The 1,500-km is something of a WAG; the actual radius depends on variables like exact mission profile, ordnance loading, external fuel tanks, and aerial refueling.

Russia is renovating and maintaining at least two other air bases in the Arctic — Nagurskaya on Franz Josef Land and Temp in the New Siberian Islands.

Airfield at Rogachevo

The MiG-31BM aircraft (likely a three-aircraft flight) are detached from the Monchegorsk-based 174th Guards Fighter Aviation Pechenga Red Banner Regiment named for B. F. Safonov. Part of the 45th AVVSiPVO, the regiment has about 20 MiG-31s. The unit was established only in 2019. Its aircraft flew training missions from Rogachevo in 2020.

The 45th also maintains a SAM regiment — one battalion of 12 S-400 launchers and two battalions of S-300PM SAMs — at Rogachevo.

The MiG-31BM presence may not be entirely for strategic air defense. There are reports that Russian naval air regiments are getting the hypersonic Kh-47M2 Kinzhal system — essentially an air-launched Iskander ballistic missile — for their MiG-31s (MiG-31K).

As “experimental” suggests, the MiG-31BM deployment may or may not be permanent or become a routine part of Russia’s military posture in the Arctic.

As far back as 2013, the RF MOD said it planned to base a group (probably 4-6) of MiG-31s on Novaya Zemlya. Putin ordered the establishment or reconstruction of various Russian military facilities in the Arctic at that time.

Pacific Fleet Naval Aviation reportedly began flying the MiG-31BM from Anadyr in late 2020.

If the climate and weather on Novaya Zemlya doesn’t put you off, the archipelago’s history as one of the USSR’s main nuclear test sites might (although the Russian Navy says serving there is safe, if you believe that).

It also plays a role in the modern GULAG. The MOD sent one of Aleksey Navalnyy’s top supporters to Rogachevo for his conscript service before moving him to an even more remote outpost 200 km north of the airfield.

One response to “Arctic Interceptors

  1. Worth noting of course that Soviet Air Defense Aviation maintained plenty of interceptor bases and radar nets in the Arctic during the Cold War. But they were abandoned (and bemoaned) after the USSR collapsed.

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