Russia tests air defense system in Novaya Zemlya, as US and Norwegian warplanes train together in the North

The exercise, which didn't include missile firing, came after Norwegian F-35s drilled with U.S. B-2 strategic bombers in the North Atlantic.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - March 18, 2020
The S-400 air defense system was deployed in Novaya Zemlya in 2019. ( via The Independent Barents Observer)

Shortly after NATO forces this week conducted a historical operation with two U.S. B-2 stealth bombers and three Norwegian F-35 fighter jets in the North Atlantic, Russian air defense forces carried out a test with the S-400 system deployed in Novaya Zemlya.

The training was part of a planned scheme and is conducted on a regular basis, the Northern Fleet informs. However, the timing appears not to be coincidental.

Arctic airspace

The objective with the drills was the protection of the airspace over the Northern Sea Route against enemy intruders, the Russian military says. Involved in the training were bombers Su-24 and fighter jets Mig-31BM that identified approaching enemy aircraft, as well as air defense radio-technical units.

The simulated enemy air targets were exterminated, the Northern Fleet reports.

Actual firing with the S-400 missiles was not conducted.

Three Norwegian F-35s fly together with a U.S. B-2 strategic bomber over Iceland. (Matthew Plew / U.S. Air Force)

Arctic S-400

The S-400 is becoming an increasingly deployed weapon system for the Russian Northern Fleet.

The system became operational in Novaya Zemlya in 2019. It is based at a site near the Rogachovo air base, about 8 kilometers from the settlement of Belushya Bay on the southern island of the archipelago.

It replaced the S-300 that had been deployed on the remote island since 2015.

Defense shield

Russia has over the past years significantly upgraded its capacities in the Arctic. The country’s armed forces now have several new military bases in the region at their disposal. Among them are the ones in the Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya and New Siberian Islands. Additional bases are being built at Wrangel Island, Cape Schmidt, Severnaya Zemlya, Tiksi and elsewhere.

According to Northern Fleet Head Commander Aleksandr Moiseev, the S-400 system will in the course of the next years be deployed in all of Russia’s Arctic divisions.

“This means that our North will be protected against all kinds of air attacks, be it from aviation, cruise missiles or ballistic missiles,” Moiseev told military news agency Krasnaya Zvezda.