For the first time since the Cold War, Russia has announced plans to begin flying regular fighter patrols over the North Pole with an eye toward intercepting American military aircraft.
According to sources within the Russian Ministry of Defense, two squadrons of MiG-31BM intercept fighters will be tasked with conducting routine patrol operations over the North Pole. In a previous era, these flights were meant to provide Russia with the means to intercept and shoot down nuclear-capable bombers launched by the United States, but despite degrading tensions between the U.S. and Russia in recent years, it’s unlikely that preventing a nuclear strike is what Russia has in mind with these flights. Instead, the patrols will be launched from both eastern (European Arctic region) and western (Siberia) Arctic airstrips to enable Russia to control the airspace spanning north from mainland Siberia to the North Pole.
One squadron, hailing from Russia’s 317th Composite Air Regiment, will be stationed at the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Yelizovo airport in northwestern Siberia. The other, part of the 98th Guards Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment, will fly out of Monchegorsk Airfield in the Murmansk region of Russia near Finland.