Russia Adds Remotely Piloted Aircraft to their Arctic Force


2015-11-24 For the Russians, the Arctic is a key region shaping their global position in the 21st century.

We noted in an article published on 6/5/14, that the Russians have a proactive policy in the Arctic as opposed to the U.S. policy of reluctance or benign neglect.

In its new national security strategy, Russia raised the prospect of war in the Arctic Ocean if Russia’s interests and border security were threatened by neighboring nations, likely considering the current circumstances of pending border agreements and disagreements between Russia and those nations.

To secure and guarantee its overall energy and security interests, Russia stated that “in a competition for resources it cannot be ruled out that military force could be used to resolve emerging problems that would destroy the balance of forces near the borders of Russia and her allies.” 1

According to authoritative Russian sources, Russia is willing— and able— to use the entire spectrum of instruments to settle legal status problems in disputed regions such as the Arctic, Caspian, and South China seas.

Russia, Canada, and the Arctic. Credit Graphic: Second Line of Defense
Russia, Canada, and the Arctic. Credit Graphic: Second Line of Defense

Russia’s 2007– 15 rearmament program plans to rebuild the submarine force, recommending building several dozen surface ships and submarines, including five Project 955 Borey nuclear-powered strategic ballistic missile submarines equipped with new Bulava ballistic missiles, two Project 885 Yasen nuclear-powered multipurpose submarines, six Project 677 Lada diesel-electric submarines, three Project 22350 frigates, and five Project 20380 corvettes.

With the end of the Cold War, the United States steadily closed some northern military bases, including the naval base on Adak and Fort Greely. These developments reflected the United States’ perception that a significant military presence is— since Soviet Union submarine force collapsed— no longer needed in the Arctic. Although the collapse of the Soviet Union seemed to make the challenges easier to resolve, the challenges in the Arctic facing now U.S. policy makers are much more complicated than expected in 1991. Threats are much more nebulous, long term, and complex.

Given the importance that Putin assigns to maintaining control of Russia’s energy resources, it is unsurprising that he has already outlined ambitious goals to develop Arctic hydrocarbon resources in coming years.

Indeed, the Arctic can be seen as to be part of the overall expansion of Russia’s role in providing global energy and shaping its influence via these means.

Now the Russians are deploying RPAs in support of their Arctic presence and engagement policies. 

Russia is planning to deploy Orlan-10 tactical UAVs with its forces in the Arctic. Credit; Orlan, Russia
Russia is planning to deploy Orlan-10 tactical UAVs with its forces in the Arctic. Credit; Orlan, Russia

According to an article published by TASS, the Russian News Agency, on November 23, 2015, Russia is deploying a squadron of drones to the Arctic region.

A squadron of the Orlan-10 and Forpost (Outpost) unmanned aerial vehicles for the Arctic region has been formed in Russia’s Eastern Military District. It is based near the administrative center of Chukotka Autonomous District Anadyr, head of the press service of the Eastern Military District Alexander Gordeyev told TASS on Monday.

The Eastern Military District comprises, among others, the Trans-Baikal territory, the Pacific Fleet and the 3rd Command of Air Force and Air Defense and is headquartered in Khabarovsk.

“The unit has been created in Chukotka Autonomous District near the city of Anadyr. To fulfill the tasks the squadron is equipped with the Orlan-10 and Forpost unmanned aerial vehicles,” Gordeyev said.

According to him, the unmanned aerial vehicles will perform the tasks of “the visual monitoring of the combat readiness of the units deployed to the Arctic zone, the condition of the military infrastructure facilities, the surveying of terrain and air patrol.”

“The unit will be soon replenished with new airborne devices capable of performing tasks at a distance of more than 1,500 kilometers,” Gordeyev said.

Until the 1990s, Russia had a ramified airfield infrastructure in the Arctic region.

Now the Russian Defense Ministry is restoring these Soviet-era airbases – the Temp [Speed] strategic airfield on Kotelny Island, the air strips in Tiksi, Naryan-Mar, Alykel, Anadyr, Rogachev [Novaya Zemlya archipelago], Nagursky settlement [Franz Josef Land] on the Kola Peninsula.

The groupings of the Air Force and the Aerospace Forces in the Arctic region are being expanded and 6 big military towns are being built. The military’s actions in the Arctic region are coordinated by Russia’s new Sever (North) Unified Strategic Command.