The Arctic. A “Shamrock” Bursts into Blossom

By Artur Kovalivsky

The Arctic has become the subject of hot debate among politicians; 22% of all undiscovered world resources are located in this region. A growing number of countries are declaring their rights to possess these resources. Russia is also defending its interests, claiming that the Lomonosov Ridge and Mendeleyev Heights constitute a direct continuation of the Siberian continental plateau. Owing to global warming the number of impassable glaciers will decrease, freeing the way to the immense reserves of hydrocarbons.

The Arctic is now the subject of dispute only in the halls of the UN. However, it will not always be this way: Over time this region may become the cause of conflicts. Russia understood this, and began the ambitious construction of the military base “Arctic Shamrock” in 2007 on Alexander the First Island of the Franz[CQ] Josef Land archipelago. The base has a staff of 150, and various kinds of military equipment have been upgraded for its servicing and combat duty. Russia utilizes ground, airborne, maritime equipment (including icebreaking equipment), various anti-aircraft defense systems and electronic reconnaissance facilities in the Arctic. Let us consider the most interesting and important models of Russian Arctic military equipment.


TREKOL cross-country vehicles, which accommodate 8–14 persons and are capable of operation at temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius, have become the main means of transportation under such harsh climatic conditions. DT-10PМ and DТ-30PМ Vityaz twosection carrier vehicles, which operate at temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius, have been successfully tested for the performance of durable expeditions, and are used for the most extreme and impassable territories of the Arctic. The machines have covered a distance of 2,400 km with full autonomy of operations, maintaining a microclimate within the equipment and its modules.

А-1 combat snowmobiles and AM-1 all-terrain vehicles have been used for the first time for personnel transport. They feature a capability of attaching skis, a grenade launcher, small arms and even an 82-mm mortar, a gasoline fuel tank with a self-healing coating, an increased trunk compartment for two 20-liter metal gas cans, and a pre-start engine heating system.

As of now, these are the main types of ground equipment available in the Arctic, however, their ranks will be joined by heavy combat equipment in the form of various modifications of armored personnel carriers (APC) and possibly even Т-14 Armata tanks. The recent presentation of a new type of tank armor, designated as 44S-SV-Sh (developed by the Steel R&D facility), provides testimony to this; a specific feature of this armor is its capability to be operated in Arctic climate without the loss of its properties.

The promising Rystar infantry combat vehicle (ICV), which has a gas-turbine engine and an electric transmission, is being tested at the Kurganmashzavod factory. It has been developed specifically for the Artic, because expendable liquids begin to freeze in piston petrol and diesel engines at temperatures below minus 10 degrees Celsius. The gas-turbine engine starts and operates even at temperature of minus 50 degrees Celsius. These vehicles will be used in motorized-infantry brigades not only in the Arctic, but in the entire Sub-Arctic region.


Perhaps the main innovation is the Мi8АМТSh-VА transport and attack helicopter, designed for operation in Artic and extreme northern conditions. The Мi8АМТSh-VА is a highly upgraded version of the Мi-8АМТSh-V.

This helicopter is equipped with two 2,700 horsepower VK-2500 engines that feature a TA-14 auxiliary power unit, which, unlike the previous versions of this helicopter, are entirely manufactured in Russia. The Arctic modification of the helicopter is outfitted with new navigation equipment, including a position monitoring satellite system (PMSS-М) and inertial equipment of the BINS-SP-1 type, which is also installed in SU-35S and Su-57 fighters. The Arctic helicopter will be also equipped with the PKV-8 digital autopilot and RPA500 location equipment to search for people in distress. The helicopter can be fitted with Shturm or Ataka antitank guided missiles (ATGM), or Igla air-to-air missiles. The Мi-8АМТSh-VА is equipped with the Vitebsk electronic warfare system (EWS) for the defense against hand-held air defense systems (MPADS). A crucial difference between the Arctic modification and other versions consists of four additional fuel tanks, which make it possible for the helicopter to cover a distance of 1,500 km, while other modifications are able to fly only 500 km.

The world’s largest helicopter, the Мi26Т2, and the shipborne version of the Kа-52K helicopter, will be adapted for Arctic conditions. Special attention will be focused on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles at the “Arctic Shamrock” base, ranging from Orlan-10 and Forpost light reconnaissance vehicles to variations of strike Orion-E strike drones, which are being developed specifically for the Arctic regions featuring flight duration of 24 hours; as well as the civilian Altair heavy drone that features an imposing flight duration of 10,000 km and operation during 48 hours.


The incorporation of the most powerful and hi-tech air defense (AD) facilities available in the inventory of the Armed Forces of Russia was one of the first measures taken by Russia for strengthening its positions in the Arctic.


This production of the Almaz-Antei concern is capable of killing any type of air borne targets, from stealth aircraft to strategic aviation employing active electronic jamming. In addition, S-400 is capable of killing theater ballistic missiles. Its maximum range is 400 km, and it can hit a target with a speed of 4.8 km/second at altitudes ranging from several meters to several dozens of kilometers.


The Pantsyr-SА short-range air-defense missile system is an upgraded version of the Pantsyr-S1, for use in the Arctic.

The system is mounted on the DT30PМ two-section tracked-transporter for terrain crossing capability. The Pantsyr-SА installed on this platform has a maximum speed of 45 km/h by road and 5-6 km/h afloat, at that, with an impressive driving distance of 700 km.

Another difference between PantsyrSА and Pantsyr-S1 is the absence of the 2А38М 30-mm cannon in the Arctic version, which has been replaced by an increased number of surface-to-air missiles, 18 instead of 12. The Arctic version is also equipped with the new S-range radar, capable of engaging four targets simultaneously from a distance up to 20 km, and at an altitude ranging from 5 m to 15 km.


The Tor-М2DТ, as with Pantsyr-SА, is the Arctic modification of the Tor anti-aircraft missile system, which can operate under conditions of extreme cold weather. The anti-aircraft missile system is installed on the chassis of a DТ-30PМ carrier. The TorМ2DТ is armed with 16 vertical-launch surface-to-air missiles with a maximum range of 12 km and a maximum interception altitude of 10 km. Tor is able to hit up to four airborne targets simultaneously. A specific feature of the new modification of the Tor anti-aircraft missile system is the ability to be fully automated, which turns Tor into an unmanned missile system.

The Podsolnukh radar has been deployed and adapted for operation at low temperatures for early target detection in the Arctic. It is able to detect, identify and track up to 300 maritime and 100 airborne targets at a distance of 450 km.


Military fifth-generation icebreakers are being developed specifically for the military facilities of the Arctic. These icebreakers are able to perform not only the functions of icebreakers, but also those of combat ships patrolling Arctic waters. Launched in 2016, the diesel electric military icebreaker Ilya Muromets, of design 21180, became the lead ship of this class.

Military icebreakers of the fundamentally new design 23550 are being built; they are able not only to perform icebreaker functions, but also to carry on board Kalibr cruise missiles, Ka-27 helicopters, and two Raptor fast attack craft. The keel of the first ship of such class, the Ivan Papanin, was laid on April 19, 2017; the keel of the second icebreaker, Nikolai Zubov, will be laid in 2018.


The construction of the required infrastructure in the Arctic has been given priority status. A considerable increase in the number of aircraft is planned in this region in the future; about nine aerodromes for all classes of aviation equipment will be restored and built from scratch for this purpose.

Proceeding from the above, it is possible to conclude that Russia has taken the development and defense of its sector of the Arctic seriously, which will help more confidently and significantly claim its rights for these and other contested regions of northern territories in the future


Our partners