The deployment of S-400s to Rogachevo air base in the Novaya Zemlya archipelago is a critical part of Russia’s efforts to secure its Northwest Arctic territory and expand its defensive capabilities. By deploying S-400s to Rogachevo, Russia has enhanced its radar coverage around the Novaya Zemlya archipelago and raised the potential costs for NATO in the event of a conflict in the region.
Rogachevo air base is located approximately nine 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 aircraft 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
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 missiles (SAM).3 Upgrades to air defense capabilities on Novaya Zemlya occurred during 2018 and 2019 and included the deployment of additional radar, electronic warfare (EW), 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 16, the Russian Northern Fleet Press Service reported that the redeployment of forces and conversion to the S-400 systems were complete.4 A few days later, on September 20, the Press Service published a report on the ceremony celebrating the unit’s achievement of operational status.5 Why is this important?
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