Arctic icefield becomes host to RuNavy underwater navigation

Perceiving the Arctic as a crucial point for its defense strategy, Russia is now directing its Navy to kick-start training for underwater navigation beneath the Arctic ice cap. This order has been forwarded to the Northern Fleet of the Russian Federation. 

Top 5 best submarines in the world - Yasen class, Russia
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Scheduled for 2024, these hands-on exercises are principally targeted at the Russian Northern Fleet’s nuclear submarines. As stated by sources quoting the fleet’s press service, the program encompasses an extensive variety of theoretical and practical training, all geared towards a better grasp of navigating under the Arctic ice. 

The Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defense has officially declared these theoretical and practical exercises to take place during the winter season of 2024. The press release highlighted, “Navigating beneath the ice will become one of the pivotal tasks for the submariners of the Northern Fleet in 2024.”

US Navy will block the 'Russian Arctic' to prevent an attack
Photo credit: US Navy

Under the ‘Arctic Ice Field’

BulgarianMilitary.com asked a Russian expert, a retired officer from the fleet of the Russian Federation, and asked him to explain the essence of the planned training.

According to him, first of all, the training involves learning about the unique characteristics of the Arctic environment. This includes understanding the ice thickness, the patterns of ice drift, and the impact of weather conditions on ice formation.

Poseidon's carrier has a hull from the never-completed Oscar-II sub
Photo credit: EurAsian Times

Next, trainees work on developing their navigation skills. This involves learning how to use sonar systems and other navigational tools to detect and avoid underwater obstacles, including ice keels that extend downwards from the ice cap. They also practice navigating in conditions of limited visibility, which is a common challenge in the Arctic.

Another key aspect of the training is learning how to manage emergencies. This includes practicing evacuation procedures in the event of a submarine malfunction, as well as learning how to deal with potential hazards such as ice pressure or rapidly changing weather conditions.

Finally, the training also involves exercises to improve the crew’s endurance and resilience. Operating a submarine under the Arctic ice is physically and mentally demanding, and these exercises help prepare the crew for the harsh conditions and long periods of isolation.

Russian Kilo-class submarines fired torpedoes in the Black Sea
Photo credit: Russian MoD

The Northern fleet

The Russian Northern Fleet is a significant component of the Russian Navy, and it boasts a substantial number of nuclear submarines. The Borei-class submarines are one of the most advanced in the Russian Northern Fleet. These are fourth-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. Currently, there are four operational Borei-class submarines: Yury Dolgorukiy, Alexander Nevsky, Vladimir Monomakh, and Knyaz Vladimir.

Another significant class is the Delta IV, which are nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine. There are six operational Delta IV submarines, including Tula, Bryansk, Karelia, Novomoskovsk, Verkhoturye, and Ekaterinburg. The Oscar II class is a series of nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines. There are two operational Oscar II class submarines in the Northern Fleet: Orel and Smolensk.

Russia's new silent Borei-class sub carrying 16 nukes to be tested
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The Sierra II class is a series of nuclear-powered attack submarines. There are two operational Sierra II class submarines in the Northern Fleet: Pskov and Nizhny Novgorod. Yasen-class submarines are nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines. There is one operational Yasen-class submarine in the Northern Fleet: Severodvinsk.

Finally, the Akula-class submarines are nuclear-powered attack submarines. There are six operational Akula-class submarines in the Northern Fleet: Pantera, Gepard, Vepr, Tigr, Volk, and Leopard. In summary, the Russian Northern Fleet has a total of 21 nuclear submarines, divided into six different classes.

The importance of the Arctic for Russia

yasen-m submarine russia
Photo credit: Naval Post

The Arctic region is of significant strategic importance to Russia for several reasons. First, it serves as a natural barrier, providing a level of protection against potential threats. The harsh and inhospitable conditions of the Arctic make it difficult for any potential invader to navigate, thereby offering a form of natural defense.

Of course, the Arctic is home to a significant portion of Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces. The Northern Fleet, which includes nuclear submarines, is based in the Arctic. These submarines are capable of launching intercontinental ballistic missiles, and their location in the Arctic makes them hard to detect and reach, thereby enhancing Russia’s strategic security.

Third, the Arctic provides Russia with a vantage point for monitoring and controlling the Northern Sea Route [NSR[. This sea route is becoming increasingly important due to climate change and the melting of Arctic ice, which is opening up new shipping routes. Control over the NSR not only offers economic benefits but also strategic advantages.

Finally, the Arctic is rich in natural resources, including oil, gas, and minerals, which are crucial to Russia’s economy. The ability to defend these resources is, therefore, a matter of economic security for Russia.

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