Russia Activates Arctic Air Base
Kremlin getting serious about polar ops
In early October, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin vowed that Russia would never “surrender” its claims in the Arctic.
He wasn’t kidding. Now Temp airfield, located on Kotelny Island in the far-north Novosiberian region, is being reactivated.
The airfield became operational in 1949 but was shuttered in the mid-1990s and its infrastructures preserved for future use. In the intervening 20 years, Russian Arctic policy has become more aggressive, in line with similar polar retrenchment by the U.S., Canada and European countries. Reactivating Temp airfield gives Russian air force planes a new, more northern base for patrols over the icy region.
In 2012, a helicopter crashed during Russian specialists’ visit to Kotelny Island. Nobody died, but the mishap halted reactivation activities. This year people and equipment were delivered by sea. Back in September, an expedition set sail with 150 people and 40 machines and vehicles.
The reactivation process proceeded quickly and, at the end of October, the first An-72 transport landed at Temp. Currently, the base possesses air traffic control equipment, accommodations, a water supply, a power station and heating. The airfield is meant to eventually handle planes as large as the four-engine Il-76 airlifter.
Temp is expected to operate year-round and in all weather. There are plans to continue the Arctic expansion with the reactivation of another dormant airfield, Tiksi in Yakutsia. The Kremlin claims the Arctic bases will help safeguard the northern shipping lane and adjacent polar claims.