Rogachevo Air Base is located approximately 9 kilometers north-northeast of Belushya Guba (Belushya Bay) on the southern Yuzhny Island of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. This air base routinely hosted long-range strategic bombers and fighter aircraft to intercept U.S. reconnaissance aircrafts in the Arctic during the Cold War.1 Today, Rogachevo is commanded by the 45th Air Force and Air Defense Army of the Russian Northern Fleet which was formed in December 2015.2
Source: Google Earth
Satellite imagery indicates that sometime between July 2014 and August 2015 a new air defense missile base was established west of the Rogachevo air base accompanied be a regiment-sized unit equipped with the S-300P (NATO reporting name: SA-10 Grumble) surface-to-air missile (SAM).3 Upgrades to air defense capabilities on Novaya Zemlya occurred during 2018-2019 and included the deployment of additional radar, electronic warfare, signals intelligence forces and related equipment in addition to the deployment of the S-400 (an upgrade from the S-300P) with the latter occurring during the July-August 2019 time frame.
On September 16th the Russian Northern Fleet Press Service reported that the redeployment of forces and conversion to the S-400 system was complete.4 A few days later, on September 20th, the Press Service published a report on the ceremony celebrating the unit's achievement of operational status.5
The Importance of S-400s in the Arctic
Russia's military posture in its Western Arctic reflects the Soviet legacy of bastion defense comprised of concentric circles designed to protect strategic territory.6 The S-400s provide more advanced radar and electronic warfare systems capabilities which expand the range of Novaya Zemlya's air defenses. The airspace monitored and controlled from Rogachevo Air Base has now increased to 600 kilometers for detection and 400 kilometers for engagement, according to Russian assessments,7 although western analysts estimate the range to be between 200-250km based on the system's current configuration.The S-400 reportedly reduces deployment time from stowed position to launch to 5 minutes8and complements previously implemented enhanced defensive measures including the establishment of two Arctic motorized brigades, an Arctic naval group and a command and control center at the refurbished Severomorsk-1 airbase.
Russia's priority in the Arctic is to defend its northwest coast and the surrounding maritime domain around the Northern Fleet, Russia's most capable naval force which includes its only operational aircraft carrier, ballistic missile submarines, and surface combatants and submarines that are deployed worldwide. Russia's efforts to modernize its Arctic military posture includes refurbishing air bases and deploying advanced systems to defend and deny access to strategic bastions. The deployment of S-400 systems to Rogachevo Air Base enhances radar coverage around the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, plugging potential gaps between Nagurskoye Air Base on Alexandra Land and radar stations on the Kola Peninsula.
As Russia seeks to increase the Northern Sea Route's economic viability, Russia perceives greater strategic vulnerability in its Far North.9 The S-400s and similar air defense systems deployed across the Russian Arctic (Alexandra Land, Kotelny, and Wrangel Island among others) address this vulnerability as the growing network of assets seeks to restrict freedom of action and lay the groundwork for effective anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) operations.
The S-400s however pose a challenge to NATO in the region, potentially complicating aircraft freedom of operation in the Norwegian and Barents Seas, and potentially out to the North Atlantic. The system reinforces Russia's bastion defense and expands Russia's defensive capabilities potentially beyond the Barents Sea, while also complicating future efforts to reinforce regional allies during a time of crisis. On an operational level, the S-400 raises the potential costs for allies in the event of conflict, deterring them from deploying assets to the region.
Russian Exercising of Its Bastion Defense
Russia continues to demonstrate that its growing military capabilities in the Arctic can be deployed beyond the Kola Peninsula. In April, Russia issued a Notice to Airman (NOTAM) for the Norwegian Sea area along Norway's northern coast where Russian strike forces, including anti-submarine Tu-142s, long-range supersonic missile carrier-bombers Tu-22M3 aircraft, along with cruisers and submarines exercised bastion defense. It was reportedly the first time Russia has conducted such a complex exercise outside of the Kola Peninsula and Barents Sea, suggesting that Russia may be looking to expand its offensive operations and sea denial capabilities toward the Greenland-Iceland-UK (GIUK) Gap. Although incomplete, Russia's layering of air defense systems enhances deterrence against, and costs to the U.S. and NATO in the Arctic.
Satellite imagery of the Rogachevo Air Base S-400 air defense missile base is located at 71.606747o N, 52.387603o E, approximately 3.2 kilometers west of the air base. It occupies an irregular shaped area that measures 700-meters-by-180-meters, encompasses approximately 104,600 square meters and is organized into a regiment-sized unit with:
- A headquarters and support area that appears to include the regimental headquarters, target acquisition battery, missile technical battery, transport company and maintenance company. Among the equipment visible are a number of 55K6E command post vehicles, a 91N6E Big Bird acquisition and battle management radar, a LEMZ 96L6-1/96L6E acquisition radar, two 5P85SM/SE2 self-propelled transporter erector-launchers (likely as spares or for training) and a number of support vehicles and trailers.
- Three firing battery areas. Each with four 5P85SM/SE2 self-propelled transporter erector-launchers and a single 92N6E Grave Stone engagement radar all these are positioned on concrete pads10and a number of support vehicles. A 42-meter-by-60-meter missile reload storage revetment that contains at least 39 S-400 twin missile reload packs (some double-stacked). A 42-meter-by-60-meter missile reload storage revetment that contains at least 39 S-400 twin missile reload packs (some double-stacked).
- A42-meter-by-60-meter missile reload storage revetment that contains at least 39 S-400 twin missile reload packs (some double-stacked).
- Several support, storage and parking areas are located around the base. The largest or which is the missile technical batteries parking area that contains 12 5T58-2 missile transporters and what may be a number of trailers.
At present, there are no permanent structures at the base. Major items of equipment identified in recent satellite imagery include,11
- 4+ 55K6E command post vehicles
- 1 91N6E Big Bird acquisition and battle management radar
- 1 LEMZ 96L6-1/96L6E acquisition radar
- 3 92N6E Grave Stone engagement radars
- 14 5P85SM/SE2 self-propelled transporter erector-launchers
- 12 5T58-2 missile transporters
- 39 S-400 twin missile reload packs (some double-stacked)
- 90-100 Support vehicles, trailers and shipping containers of various types
Russia's deployment of the S-400 system on Rogachevo Air Base signals the Kremlin's intent to further secure its northwest Arctic territory, exercise its military capabilities, and protect its most vital military assets in the Far North.
References and Notes
- The Russian Rogachevo Air Base, Airbus, 2019, https://www.intelligence-airbusds.com/en/9318-the-russian-rogachevo-air-base+&cd=16&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us.
- The Arctic Joint Strategic Command was established in 2014 around the core of the Northern Fleet, while the Northern Fleets 45th Air Force and Air Defense Army was established in December 2015. Thomas Nielsen, Northern Fleet Puts S-400 Air Defence System On Combat Duty At Novaya Zemlya, The Barents Observer, September 22, 2019, https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2019/09/northern-fleet-puts-s-400-air-defence-system-combat-duty-novaya-zemlya; Trude Pettersen, Northern Fleet Gets Own Air Force, Air Defense Forces, The Barents Observer, February 1, 2016, https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2016/02/northern-fleet-gets-own-air-force-air-defense-forces; and Russias Defense Ministry establishes Arctic Strategic Command, TASS, December 1, 2014, http://tass.com/russia/764428.
- The New S-400 Air Defense Systems Of The Northern Fleet In The Arctic Took Up Combat Duty, Northern Fleet Press Service, September 20, 2019, https://function.mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12253396@egNews; and Trude Pettersen, Northern Fleet gets own air force, air defense forces, The Barents Observer, February 1, 2016, https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2016/02/northern-fleet-gets-own-air-force-air-defense-forces.
- Ibid; and Sputnik International, Russia Deploys S-400 Systems to the Arctic, Sputnik International, September 16, 2019, https://sputniknews.com/military/201909161076812209-russia-deploys-s-400-systems-to-the-arctic/.
- Thomas Nielsen, Northern Fleet Puts S-400 Air Defense System On Combat Duty At Novaya Zemlya, The Barents Observer, September 22, 2019, https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2019/09/northern-fleet-puts-s-400-air-defence-system-combat-duty-novaya-zemlya.
- Keir Giles and Mathieu Boulegue, "Russia's A2/AD Capabilities: Real and Imagined,"U.S. Army War College Quarterly, Parameters 49, No. 1-2 Spring-Summer 2019.
- Arctic Fleet Anti-aircraft Missile Regiment in the Arctic is Completely Re-Equipped With New S-400 Air Defense Systems, Northern Fleet Press Service, September 16, 2019, https://function.mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12252594@egNews; and Russia has deployed S-400 in the Arctic, Observatory, September 18, 2019, https://newsobservatory.com/russia-has-deployed-s-400-in-the-arctic/.
- Nikolay Sokolov and Polina Poletaeva, The Air Defense Shield Is Strengthening In The Arctic: Russia Has Deployed S-400 Systems In Novaya Zemlya, RT, September 16, 2019, https://russian.rt.com/russia/article/668624-rossiya-s-400-arktika; A Northern Fleet Exercise in Protecting Russias Island Zone and Sea Coast Has Taken Place in the Arctic, Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, September 17, 2016, https://function.mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12096325@egNews; Dmitry Boltenkov, A Cold Hotspot, VPK Voyenno-Promyshlenny Kuryer, June 27, 2016, https://vpk-news.ru/articles/31210; Sneak Peak at Russias Under Renovation Arctic Base, RT.com, September 18, 2014, https://www.rt.com/news/188712-arctic-russia-military-base/; Mukhin, Vladimir. Airborne Troops Open Up Arctic; Airborne Infantry Reconnaissance Group Explores North Pole and Franz Josef Land, Nezavisimaya Gazeta Online, April 7, 2014; and Jones, Bruce. Russia Sets Up New Arctic Base, Jane's Defence Weekly, September 19, 2013.
- The concrete pads are themselves constructed from a number of smaller concrete pads that are connected by steel joints to allow them to flex somewhat on top of the semi-stable tundra they sit upon.
- These numbers should be viewed cautiously as there are a number of pieces of equipment present that are not clearly identifiable and are not included in these totals.