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7 Oct, 2021 12:59

Russia mulls new Arctic Fleet to patrol thawing ice of Far North as part of plans to make new waterway major trade route – reports

Russia mulls new Arctic Fleet to patrol thawing ice of Far North as part of plans to make new waterway major trade route – reports

Russia’s top admirals are reportedly considering creating a brand new branch of the Navy to specialize in combat in the frosty Arctic region, where receding sea ice has opened up unprecedented opportunities for merchant ships.

A source told Moscow’s TASS on Thursday that “the question of setting up the Russian Arctic Fleet as a new structure is being looked into. It would be a separate formation within the naval forces, and would be charged with ensuring the safety of the Northern Sea Route and the Arctic coast, currently covered by the Northern and Pacific Fleets.”

According to the unnamed official, the new detachment would be able to focus on the increasingly tense region, while freeing up other groups to focus on their combat mission. While it would initially be made up of vessels reassigned from other areas, “in the future, it will be replenished with ships and special equipment for performance in the Arctic.”

Also on rt.com Gearing up for a very Cold War? Russia reopens Soviet-era lab to develop weapons for icy Arctic conflict

With ice covering less and less of the region’s waters every year, global warming has created a bustling new maritime highway for trade and transport. Moscow expects at least 80 million tons of goods to flow through the frosty waters by 2024, slashing journey times between northern Europe and Asia. The country even pitched the route as an alternative to the Suez Canal when the latter was temporarily shut down by a container ship that blocked the waterway.

Russia has staged a series of military drills in the Arctic region in recent months, including sending a detachment of vessels and amphibious landing ships to take part in exercises on islands off the northern coast of Siberia.

Also on rt.com WATCH: Warships from Russia’s Northern Fleet hold tactical exercises simulating battle on remote arctic New Siberian Islands

Last year, a specialist research lab that tests weapons to ensure they will work in the bone-chilling conditions and harsh climates of the region was reopened, having been shuttered after the fall of the USSR. Scientists are now using the facility to work on a number of different weapons, including rifles, and specially constructed grenade launchers that can survive extreme temperatures as low as -60 degrees Celsius (-76 Fahrenheit).

However, later on Thursday, another source familiar with the situation told RIA Novosti that there are “no plans” to create an Arctic Fleet, and that the Northern and Pacific Fleets are well-placed to defend the region.

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