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Red Banner Northern Fleet

The mission of the Northern Fleet is to defend Russia's far northwestern Arctic region surrounding the Kola Peninsula. The Soviet Fleet of the Northern Seas was established in 1933, and in 1937 it was renamed the Northern Fleet.

By 2017, as competition for the Arctic mineral wealth was heating up and NATO continued to build up its military presence near Russias western borders, the Northern Fleet was becoming key to ensuring the countrys national security and economic interests. It also ensured the deployment of strategic missile submarines, control over the coastal areas adjacent to the Scandinavian peninsula and safeguarded the countrys economic interests in its zone of responsibility.

The Northern Fleet was more than just a fleet as it comprises missile and artillery divisions, a motorized infantry brigade, an air-defense division and a number of other land-based structures. Together, they have under their control the entire Arctic region, with the exception of its eastern part. The presence of the Northern Fleet was effectively pushing the launch sites of enemy cruise missiles hundreds of kilometers away from Russias northern borders.

The rise of Northern Fleet to a position of preeminence in the Soviet Navy under Admiral Sergei Gorshkov was associated with nuclear power and nuclear weapons. The Northern Fleet became the primary basing area for the largest concentration of Soviet nuclear-powered surface and submarine forces. The Soviet Union developed the world's largest fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers. Nuclear power plants provided the electricity for the region's vast military-industrial complex. Once an ocean-going force, the Northern Fleet's principal mission is now to defend Russian borders.

The Northern Fleet is headquartered at Severomorsk, at the top of the Kola Peninsula near Murmansk, with additional home ports at Kola, Motovskiy, Gremikha, and Ura Guba.

The Russian Northern Fleet underwent significant changes since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since the end of the Cold War the total number of ships in the Northern Fleet declined by 40%, with many ships placed in reserve status. As of 1996 the fleet provided home ports for thirty-seven nuclear submarines, twenty-two other submarines, forty-seven principal surface combatants, and ten coastal and smaller ships. The naval aviation contingent included a complement of twenty Su-39 fixed-wing aircraft and ten antisubmarine warfare helicopters on board the Admiral Kuznetsov , which heads the air defense of the Barents Sea. Shore-based naval aviation included 200 combat aircraft and sixty-four helicopters. The Northern Fleet has two naval infantry brigades, one coastal defense regiment, and an air defense missile regiment.

Upon exiting the Northern Fleet home waters, ships must pass between the North Cape of Norway, Bear Island, and/or Svalbard, which are outliers of Norway. This portion of the Barents Sea is sometimes referred to by NATO as the Barents Strait. A line drawn along 30 EAST longitude is used by NATO forces to designate Russian platforms as either "in-area" or "out-of-area." At the southern end of the Norwegian Sea, Russian ships are confronted with two more choke points. The first is the Greenland-Iceland-Norway (GIN) Gap and approximately 100 miles further south is the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom (GIUK) Gap.

Except for occasional exercises in the Norwegian Sea, Russian surface presence in the North Atlantic is routine, but has declined substantially in recent years. There are usually no surface combatants, unless they are transiting between the Kola Peninsula and Baltic Sea or enroute to or returning from duty in the Caribbean, West Africa, or the Mediterranean. Again, while activity has diminished significantly in post Cold War Russia, the Northern Fleet does house a substantial submarine fleet, many units of which are capable of polar, under-ice operations. Assets include Typhoon and Delta class platforms.

The harsh Arctic weather and continuous ice flow experienced by the Northern Fleet makes basic maintenance difficult and complex. Operations like underway replenishment are nearly impossible. These problems, coupled with allied controlled choke points and long lines of communication, present serious obstacles for the Russian Northern Fleet.

Russia dispatched a group of vessels to the Arctic with the aim of restoring a permanent naval base for the Northern Fleet. Russian media say the detachment, including two amphibious assault ships and an anti-submarine vessel, set off from Severomorsk, near the Norwegian border, on 06 September 2014. It carried personnel and equipment to a Soviet-era military base on the eastern New Siberian Islands. Icebreakers would be used for some parts of the journey. In 2013, 10 ships went to the New Siberian Islands to deliver the first equipment and supplies to rebuild the base, which was abandoned in 1993. Russia is boosting its naval presence in the Arctic as other countries such as Canada and Norway seek to claim its rich natural resources.

Today Northern Fleet seamen continue to improve combat training and military craftsmanship, and they vigilantly stand difficult duty. Northern fleet is combat-ready, reliably it stands on the guard of the northern boundaries of the fatherland.




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