Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 419

419 Arctic Yearbook 2014 The NF is responsible for the protection of the Northern territories - the largest of the Russian fleets - which is stationed at several large naval and air bases on the Kola Peninsula and along the coasts of the Barents and White seas. It plays a crucial role in securing Russian sovereignty over its part of the Arctic. The NF includes 30 nuclear-powered submarines, from which 7 are nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), protected by surface ships. Russia’s only aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” is also dedicated to the NF, however its primary role is to project power to the Atlantic Ocean and beyond. The fleet also includes 17 cruisers, destroyers and frigates, including the flagship of the Navy, “Pyotr Velikiy”, a nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser, and 33 auxiliary vessels. According to the latest news, 40 new ships and logistics vessels will be supplied to the NF by 2020, including 6 multi-role nuclear and conventional submarines, 2 large landing vessels, a destroyer, 5 frigates, 5 trawlers and 21 logistics vessels. As confirmed by fleet commander Admiral Vladimir Korolyov: “it is planned to replenish the Northern Fleet with new vessels and upgrade those in service by 2020 as part of the state armaments program and by 2016, the amount of new equipment should reach 50 percent, by 2020, it has to rise to 85 percent” (Lenta.Ru 2014). Priority has also been given to the modernization of Russian nuclear arsenals, including the building of Russia’s first multi-purpose nuclear submarine - Yasen class (NATO classification Severodvinsk), which officially started service in 2013. An additional 4 Yasen class submarines are planned to be completed by 2020 (Staalesen 2012). Currently, Moscow is preparing a detailed plan for this new structure, which should become operational by the end of 2014 (Ria Novosti 2014b). The new command structure, “Northern Fleet - United Strategic Command (SF-USC)” will include the NF, Arctic warfare brigades, part of the Air Force and Air Defence units as well as additional administrative structures. The new command will be subordinate to the Commander of the NF (Admiral Vladimir Korolev in 2014) and will be responsible for protecting Russia’s Arctic shipping and fishing, oil and gas fields on the Arctic shelf, and the country’s national borders in the north (Pettersen 2014a). Specifics of Russian Arctic Capabilities: Icebreaker Fleet and Nuclear Deterrence One of the crucial enablers of the NF is the unique icebreaker capability of Russia. In the geographical context and circumstances of the Arctic, the icebreakers have a superior strategic importance. Icebreakers guarantee necessary level of access to territories - without the access there is no real, only a theoretical capability to deploy forces or to use the territory for military or economic purposes. The unique capabilities of Russia’s icebreaker fleet gives it a central position in Russian strategic thinking and considerations. In this context it is a crucial factor that Russia has the world’s largest and most powerful icebreaker fleet. At present, Rosatomflot possesses 18 icebreakers of which 6 are active nuclear-powered and 12 are diesel-powered.11 The Kremlin has been actively using icebreakers created mainly for the purpose of supplying and servicing the country’s Northern settlements, including the export of natural resources, ensuring naval and civilian ship traffic across thick ice along the route (Ragner 2008). At the moment, the icebreaker fleet is largely capable of fulfilling needs in the Russian Arctic, but while capacity is bound to diminish, the need for icebreaker services will increase as petroleum activities and transport increases in the Barents and Kara Seas. In a not too distant Ru