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Russia is conducting a large number of military exercises, a notable aspect of which is the deployment of MiG-31BM interceptors near Anadyr, on the Chukotka peninsula. Since the end of last year, these aircraft have been constantly on duty not only in Chukotka, but also on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. Satellite images released in early April showed the presence of several interceptors and military transport aircraft.

A series of major exercises already happened in the Russian Arctics during March, the most important of which was Umka 2021 (a Russian nickname for a polar bear cub). The drills involved nuclear submarines, various aircraft, as well as arctic motorised riflemen. This took place near the Franz Josef Land archipelago, where the Trilistnik (Trefoil) military base and the Nagurskaya airfield (both year-round) were established. Arctic motorised riflemen were also transferred to the exercise area. The troopers set up a field camp to conclude combat training over the hush terrain under temperatures below minus 30 Celsius.

The military exercises were carried out with the Russian Geographical Society participation which was engaged in research activities. The MoD of intends to continue this practice in future for a better investigation of the Russian Arctics.

The MiG-31s are to be extensively upgraded with the United Aircraft Corporation contracted to convert all of existing 110 MiG-31s to the BM version. The programme is well underway and scheduled to be completed by 2023, to extend the life of the aircraft until at least 2030s.

Yury Laskin