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Russia sends first military training flight to North America via North Pole since Soviet time

A Russian Su-35 fighter jet takes flight. (Sergey Vladimirov/Flickr)
March 30, 2018

Russia has continued its ongoing military tests, this time with a training flight via the North Pole to North America, Reuters reported this week. The training flight was the first of its kind since Soviet times.

The Russia Information Agency (RIA) cited Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who said the flight was carried out by Russian anti-submarine aircraft.

Shoigu did not give any more details on the flight or name the exact aircraft that conducted it, though it coincides with recent Russian interest in ramping up its defenses on the icy northern flank.

The Northern Fleet, which operates in the waters along Russia’s north shore, has been granted a vast amount of modern weaponry and military equipment since the beginning of the year.

Russia’s expansion of its northern defenses should be viewed as precisely that – defense – said Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to RT: “We won’t threaten anybody, but using our advantages of a territorial nature in this case, we will ensure the security of Russia and its citizens. In this sense, the Arctic region is extremely important for Russia.”

The state-of-the-art hardware upgrades to Russia’s northern defenses include “five combat speedboats, seven logistics vessels, nine aircraft and 10 anti-air radar systems,” RT listed, among hundreds of other pieces of equipment that were granted last year.

During the first three months of 2018, the fleet added new Ilya Muromets icebreakers, as well, which was the first to be built specifically for the Navy in more than 40 years. RT reported that the Elbrus military logistics vessel is also slated to join the fleet, with several other vessels currently being tested before deployment.

Russia currently has four military bases in the Arctic circle, though Russia’s interest in the area is not only limited to military infrastructure. Russia’s unique fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers are also a top priority, which serve both military and civilian purposes. The vessels accompany other ships through the ice along Russia’s northern coasts.

The successful Arctic flight is just another of the many military tests Russia has already conducted in recent months in its quest to not only beef up its arsenal, but also display its force to the world.

Earlier this month, The Russian Aerospace Forces successfully tested the air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missile, a system with potentially intercontinental strike capabilities. And during a speech to his country following re-election, Putin flaunted Russia’s capabilities with a mock video showing a nuclear missile attack on the state for Florida.