The Russian plane touched down in light snow and heavy wind, then slid across the icy tarmac.
That the four-engine Ilyushin ll-76 aeroplane could land at all in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, on the Franz Josef archipelago, is a testament to Russia’s growing military might in this isolated part of the world.
Russia lately expanded the runway at its Nagurskoye airbase 3,500 meters high, meaning it can refuel and land most of its military plane here, including jet fighters, to explore the polar skies.
Russia’s heavy strategic bombers, such as “Bear” TU-95, were able to operate from here, army’s Maj. Gen. Igor Churkin confirmed.
Russia’s military forces granted media organizations, rare access to the army’s southernmost outpost on the Alexandra Land island earlier this week. It’s one of the expanding numbers of Arctic bases that Russia has upgraded or built in recent years.
Arctic Trefoil, which means construction on the base, was completed in 2017. It lies just 257 kilometres west of the westernmost part of Norway’s Svalbard archipelago.
The new base is built to accommodate around 150 soldiers and is designed to assure that Russia’s Northern Fleet can be self-sufficient and autonomous. It’s all part of what President Vladimir Putin states is a crucial effort to boost Moscow presence in the Arctic to secure the “future” of Russia.
Putin on Friday threatened to knock out the foreign foes wanting to bite off pieces of Russia’s territory. Without specifying or naming anyone, Putin said, “Many critics complained that his nation’s vast energy resources belong only to Russia and said our armed forces was the only solution.”