The Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet announced a missile battalion attached to its tactical group, armed with Bastion coastal defense systems and stationed on the Alexandra Land of the Franz Joseph Land archipelago in the Arctic, had passed a final check for the winter training period. A statement issued by the fleet’s press office explained: “During the final check, the missile troops practiced going on alert, preparing the hardware and bringing it out of hangars, making a march and deploying Bastion launchers in a positioning area on the coast of the Barents Sea.”
A series of drills was conducted held with the help of computer generated simulations, and without physical launches.
The exercises were intended to check whether the Bastion combat teams were operating within the required time parameters for deploying launchers in freezing temperatures of the Arctic.
The Bastion coastal defense missile system is armed with Oniks supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles with an operational range of 370 miles.
Oniks missiles are capable of hitting various types of surface ships operating as part of amphibious assault formations, convoys, surface action and carrier strike groups, and also sole ships and radar-contrast land targets under intensive fire and electronic counter-measures.
The missiles are in service with the Northern Fleet’s Arctic units stationed on the Alexandra Land and Kotelny islands.
The activity in the Arctic fits a pattern of behaviour highlighted by Royal Navy expert Iain Ballantyne when he spoke to Express.co.uk earlier this month after Russia carried out a series of military exercises in east Mediterranean against a “mock enemy” – which, Mr Ballantyne said, could only mean NATO.
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Mr Ballantyne said in doing so, Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, was sending a pointed message to the West about his intention to plough on regardless of the worldwide health crisis.
He said: “Like other nations Russia has triggered a widespread military response to the coronavirus within its own borders while also sending medical specialists from its armed forces to Italy, in order to help battle the virus there.
“However, while NATO – quite sensibly – curtailed or called off some major combat training exercises, the Russian military has made a point during the pandemic of carrying on with business as usual.
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“This may merely reflect the fact that they have unity of purpose as a single state, rather than trying to work as part of a multi-national defensive coalition like NATO.
“The Alliance has many different players to co-ordinate, all of whom will have different national priorities, especially in this time of global crisis.
However, Mr Ballantyne pointed to a recent incident close to British waters.
He explained: “Above and beyond long-planned exercises, there have also been major deployments by Russian Navy units into waters close to the shores of NATO nations.
“These have included sending seven warships – two frigates, three corvettes and two amphibious assault vessels – into the North Sea and through the English Channel.
“This was unprecedented for its size, at least in recent years.”
With specific reference to the Arctic, the US Navy announced in December it would begin deploying submarine-hunting P-8 Poseidon aircraft to a remote airstrip in the Aleutian island chain in a bid to keep watch over Russian and Chinese activity.
US Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said: “A fuel farm up there that Air Alaska is using to fuel its planes, it has de-icing platforms that we could use for fresh water washdowns for the P-8.
“They have lodging up there that is supposedly coming forward to us on a rental availability, so it really isn’t a big bill.
“If I had a blank check for everything, it would be terrific to ice-harden ships but with the demand we have right now it is unaffordable.
“But we need to get up there. I can commit to the fact that we’re trying to figure out how we do service that.”
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