954th test base, [954 IBPV] military unit 87366
Koy-Sary, Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan
The 954th Anti-submarine Weapons Test Base of the Russian Navy [954-ya Ispytatelnaya Baza Protivolodochnogo Vooruzheniya Voenno Morskogo Flota RF], located at Cape Koy-Sary on Lake Issyk-Kul near Karakol (formerly Przhevalsk ), is unofficially called the sixth fleet of Russia in the marine environment. On the basis of the Russian Navy in Kyrgyzstan, diving equipment and new models of underwater equipment are tested.
Issyk-Kul in translation from Kyrgyz means "hot lake". The water in it does not freeze all year round, due to a combination of deep-water physics, slight salinity and underground thermal activity. There are no such reservoirs in Russia, therefore, samples of the latest torpedoes are brought to Issyk-Kul to find out how they will behave in water when immersed and raised to the surface. Over 170km long and 70km across, Lake Issyk-Köl is the world's second-largest alpine lake. It is the tenth largest lake in the world by volume (though not in surface area), and the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea.
Lake Issyk Kul is a Ramsar wetland of globally significant biodiversity and forms part of the Issyk-Kul Biosphere Reserve. The lake has wider historical interest as a way station along the Silk Road, the ancient overland trade route between Europe and the Far East. Significant ruins dot the shores. Some historians have argued that this part of central Asia was the point of origin for the Black Death (plague) that moved along the Silk Road to Europe and Asia during the fourteenth century. The facility remains one of the main objects of discussion in the media of Kyrgyzstan and among the civic activists. The latter doubt the safety of the tests carried out at the facility and accuse Russian sailors of violating environmental standards. In the water area of the lake, allegedly constantly carry out explosions, and the reservoir is exposed to chemical and radiation pollution.
In March 2008, Kyrgyz newspapers reported that 866 hectares (2,140 acres) around the Karabulan Peninsula on the lake would be leased for an indefinite period to the Russian Navy, which is planning to establish new naval testing facilities as part of the 2007 bilateral Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation, Mutual Help, and Protection of Secret Materials. The Russian military will pay $4.5 million annually to lease the area. India also plans to invest in the facility to test all types of torpedoes such as heavy weight torpedoes and those that have thermal navigation system.
The road from Karakol to the base itself takes about half an hour, most of it passes almost off-road. The base itself, as usual, is fenced with a high fence with barbed wire, observation towers are located around the perimeter. The military unit here does not exist free of charge - Russia pays the cost of renting an object: a land plot and part of the lake. The amount is determined by intergovernmental agreements. There are no conscript soldiers here - the base works on a contract basis. The length of stay of servicemen is not limited and depends on their own desire, they mainly serve "long enough". Citizens of Kyrgyzstan make up about 40% of the base’s personnel. The 954th test base of the Navy, deployed in Issyk-Kul, is in many ways unique. First, it is considered the highest mountain base of the Russian Navy, since it is located at an altitude of 1609 meters above sea level - in no country in the world do such objects exist. According to military experts, the Issyk-Kul water is as close as possible to sea water, which allows you to track how torpedoes behave in real conditions. Finally, the location of the landfill in a closed reservoir excludes the possibility of tracking tests and intercepting test samples by ships of other countries, which helps to ensure the safety of the research. In 2017, the 954th test base of the Russian Navy, along with the Kant CSTO air base, the seismic laboratory in Maili-Suu and the military communications center in Kara-Balta, became part of the combined Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan.
However, mainly electric motors are tested at the test site, the damage from which is several times less than, for example, from a water bike. During the test, the water area does not overlap, there is no such possibility as, in fact, no need - the tests are carried out in areas close to the center of the lake, where no one bathes. Tests are carried out once every few months. The military emphasizes that the tested samples do not carry any danger, neither combat units, nor even some radioactive elements in them. The engines are mostly electric, and therefore launching a torpedo harms the ecology of the lake in less than one scooter.
This place is considered ideal for such tests - the location of the test area in the closed water body excludes the possibility of tracking the tests and intercepting the test samples by vessels of third countries. In addition, by agreement between Russia and Kyrgyzstan of July 5, 1993, the base was recognized as Russian property. The base also includes the Russian-Kyrgyz joint venture Lake, which is developing new and testing serial torpedo weapons.
The test area on Issyk-Kul is also ideal because of the water of the lake, which is similar in composition to sea water - where torpedoes are used. Russia had a training ground in Feodosia in the Crimea, but so far it has not been used. There is also a training ground on Lake Ladoga, but it is not for all types of weapons, since the lake has fresh water, and salt water is needed for testing sea torpedoes. In Issyk-Kul Lake, the composition of the water is closer to the sea.
Since the end of 1942, when Stalin personally signed the order on its creation in Issyk-Kul, the Ulan naval weapons test complex worked with tens of thousands of “items”. The enterprise has long since become completely private, but the regime of secrecy remained on it, as in the Soviet years. The history of the naval base dates back to 1943, when the test site of the Dagdiesel plant producing torpedoes was evacuated from Issyk-Kul from Dagestan.
Since 1955, when the test center of the Navy was officially launched on the coast, samples of diving equipment and underwater vehicles were tested at the facility. However, tests are carried out on Issyk-Kul torpedoes, which are commonly called products among sailors, but this has been extremely rare in recent years. All experiments are conducted in compliance with safety and environmental protection requirements, as required by Kyrgyz law and international agreements reached by the Kyrgyz Republic and the Russian Federation.
There was a time when more than 1,500 people worked at Ulan, and now there are about a hundred of them left. In Soviet times, 5-6 tests were carried out per day, but now it is good if such a volume is tested per year.
They do not contain combat units and fuel. And they do not work in those areas of the lake where people rest. Tests are conducted in the center of Issyk-Kul. After testing, no engine elements or other test items remain in the water: 90 percent of the units fulfill their tasks and float. The remaining products are taken from the bottom of Issyk-Kul by divers. Sewage treatment plants are installed at the base itself, which minimize the possibility of pollution of the reservoir as a result of tests onshore.
The military has several boats and ships at its disposal, the largest of which is the 55-meter “Andrei Lezhnin”, named after the sailor of a military base who died many years ago. The vessel is 15 meters longer than the yacht of the president of Kyrgyzstan. They delivered the ship to the lake in parts by rail, and then by car. The captain of Lezhnin, the senior midshipman Alexander Troyanov, once served in the Pacific Fleet, and after retirement became a civilian specialist in the Sixth Russian Fleet.
In addition to tests, the Russian military is engaged in research activities. So, in 2006, divers of the Navy base participated in an archaeological study of the bottom of Issyk-Kul, conducted by the National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic, during which many historical artifacts were raised from the depths.
The sailors of the naval base try to interact closely with the local population, providing the necessary assistance as much as possible and allocating equipment for various activities. In addition, the Russian military periodically organizes Open Days in part, so everyone can see what the regime’s military facility is like. Finally, the staff constantly holds meetings with schoolchildren, and also annually actively participates in preparations for the joint celebration of Victory Day.
The presence of the Russian military on the territory of Kyrgyzstan has a positive effect on the budget of the region. Every year, Russia pays a lot of money for renting the land where the base is located, as well as part of the lake, which sailors use for testing. At the base itself, about 40 percent of the personnel are local residents who receive salaries equivalent to Russian. It is impossible to see conscript soldiers at the facility, since only contract soldiers are serving at the naval base.
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