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18 Jan, 2019 15:29

Reinforcing northern flank: Russian Arctic troops to get first Pantsir-SA air defense system in 2019

Reinforcing northern flank: Russian Arctic troops to get first Pantsir-SA air defense system in 2019

Russian troops are expected to receive their first Pantsir-SA this year – a variant of the medium-range anti-aircraft system, designed specifically to operate in the extremely harsh conditions of the Arctic region.

The new machine is expected to head for testing “within days,” Deputy Defense Minister Aleksey Krivoruchko said on Tuesday. The high-ranking official has visited a factory, where the new system is produced, personally inspecting various weaponry systems in development.

Pantsir-SA was first shown to the public back in 2017, when it was featured during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow. The system is mounted on a DT-30 twin off-road vehicle which has already been tested by the harsh arctic weather. The tracked vehicle can pass through weak and rough terrain, such as swamps and deep snow.

The arctic modification of the battle-tested system appears to be a bit different, compared to its wheeled cousin, Pantsir-S, which has seen action during anti-terrorist operations in Syria. Pantsir-SAs are equipped with 18 anti-air missiles against 12 of a Pantsir-S, yet it lacks any autocannons.

Over the past few years, Russia has been actively ramping up its defenses in the Arctic, constructing new bases, launching icebreakers, ramping up its coastal and air defenses – and even tidying up junk to keep the snowy region clean.

The Russian military has also tested a handful of weapon systems made specifically to be used in the Arctic.

Apart from that, Russia has updated its navigation rules for other nations’ warships attempting to sail past its northern coastline. Starting from 2019, such a voyage will require prior notification to the country's Defense Ministry.

Meanwhile, other players have shown interest in the Arctic region as well – and it has all the potential to become the arena for a new geopolitical standoff. The US has also ramped up its military activities there. Washington plans to test waters there, seeking to reopen the Adak military base on the Aleutian Islands. The facility, located close to Russian borders, was operational between 1942 to 1997 – and now the Navy seeks to send several surface ships and maritime reconnaissance aircraft there.

“The concept is, yes, go up there,” US Navy secretary Richard Spencer said last week. “We're developing them as we speak.”