Once a fleet of rusting Soviet-era ships largely tied to piers on the Kola Peninsula, the Northern Fleet is the beneficiary of a nearly two-decade effort by Moscow to revitalize the force. Progress has been uneven, with missed production deadlines and certain ship classes shelved indefinitely, but the Northern Fleet today is better organized, equipped, and trained than ever. Elements of the fleet have been battle-tested, and the rest have been assessed in scheduled and snap exercises. It is becoming more competent, confident, and assertive. Close encounters with NATO and Scandinavian allies at sea and in the air reflect a force in transition from a largely defensive posture toward one capable of effective, offensive operations.
1. VADM James R. Fitzgerald and RADM Richard F. Pittenger, USN (Ret.), “ASW: Will We Ever Learn?” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 145, no. 4 (April 2018).
2. Mikhail Tsypkin, “The Challenge of Understanding the Russian Navy,” in The Russian Military Today and Tomorrow: Essays in Memory of Mary Fitzgerald, Stephen J. Blank and Richard Weitz, eds. (Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, July 2010), 331–58.
3. Vladimir Putin, “Decree from the President of the Russian Federation on Implementation of Plans for the Construction and Development of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Other Troops, Military Formations and Bodies and the Modernization of the Military-Industrial Complex,” No. 603, 7 May 2012.
4. Michael Kofman, “Shipbuilding Updates from Russia’s Naval Salon (MBMC-2017),” Russian Military Analysis blog, 9 July 2017.
5. Thomas Nilsen, “Nuclear-sub Builder Sevmash Now Has 30,000 Employees,” The Barents Observer, 9 December 2020.
6. H. I. Sutton, “Russian Navy to be First to Field Hypersonic Cruise Missiles on Submarines,” Forbes, 15 September 2019.
7. TASS, “Russia Test-launches Tsirkon Hypersonic Missile from Ship for First Time,” 27 February 2020, https://tass.com/defense/1124339.
8. Michael Kofman, “Fire aboard AS-31 Losharik: Brief Overview,” Russian Military Analysis blog, 3 July 2019.
9. H. I. Sutton, “Russia’s Newest Submarine, Khabarovsk, Could Redefine Underwater Warfare,” Forbes, 9 June 2020.
10. Vladimir Putin, “Decree from the President of the Russian Federation on the Military-Administrative Division of the Russian Federation,” No. 374, 5 June 2020.
11. Thomas Nilsen, “Putin Heightens the Strategic Role of the Northern Fleet,” The Barents Observer, 8 June 2020.
12. Roger McDermott, “Moscow Plans to Upgrade the Status of the Northern Fleet,” Eurasia Daily Monitor 16, no. 58 (24 April 2019).
13. See Heather A. Conley and Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., “The Ice Curtain, Modernization on the Kola Peninsula, a Center for Strategic & International Studies Brief,” 23 March 2020; and Thomas Nilsen, “Is This Russia’s New Coastal Base for the ‘Doomsday Nuke’ Drones?” The Barents Observer, 26 January 2021.
14. Nurlan Aliyev, “Russia’s Military Capabilities in the Arctic,” International Centre for Defence and Security, 25 June 2019.
15. Thomas Nilsen, “Russia Deploys Missile System 70km from Norway’s Vardø Radar,” The Barents Observer, 7 August 2019.
16. Vladimir Isachenkov, “Russia Revamps Arctic Military Base to Stake Claim on Region,” Associated Press, 4 April 2019.
17. Russian Ministry of Defense, “NF Carrier-based Aircraft and Helicopters Began Flights from the Admiral Kuznetsov Heavy Aircraft-carrying Cruiser to the Airfield in Severomorsk,” 2 March 2017, https://structure.mil.ru/structure/okruga/north/news/[email protected]#txt.
18. Mathieu Boulègue, “Russia’s Military Posture in the Arctic Managing Hard Power in a ‘Low Tension’ Environment,” research paper, Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, June 2019, 19.
19. Frédéric Lasserre and Pierre-Louis Têtu, “Russian Air Patrols in the Arctic: Are Long-Range Bomber Patrols a Challenge to Canadian Security and Sovereignty?” Arctic Yearbook 2016, 305–14.
20. Richard Connolly, “Document Review: Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Field of Naval Activities for the Period until 2030,” Russian Studies Series 2/19, NATO Defense College, 22 January 2019, www.ndc.nato.int/research/research.php?icode=574#_ednref17.
21. Michael Kofman, “It’s Time to Talk About A2/AD: Rethinking the Russian Military Challenge,” War on the Rocks, 5 September 2019.
22. Connolly, “Document Review.”
23. Dave Johnson, “Russia’s Conventional Precision Strike Capabilities, Regional Crises, and Nuclear Thresholds,” Livermore Papers on Global Security No. 3, February 2018, 70, https://cgsr.llnl.gov/content/assets/docs/Precision-Strike-Capabilities-report-v3-7.pdf.
24. The Economist, “Russia’s Economy Is Isolated from the Global Rout,” 26 March 2020.
25. Gordon H. McCormick, “The Soviet Presence in the Mediterranean,” RAND Corp., P-7388, October 1987.
26. “Russian Naval Detachment Calls at Syria’s Tartus,” TASS, 9 January 2021.
27. Artur Gruszczak, “NATO’s Intelligence Adaptation Challenge,” Globsec, 2018-03, www.globsec.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/NATO%E2%80%99s-intelligence-adaptation-challenge.pdf.
28. See Joshua Tallis, “To Compete with Russia and China at Sea, Think Small,” Defense One, 12 May 2020.
29. VADM Andrew Lewis, Commander Second Fleet and NATO Joint Force Command for the Atlantic, noted that a Combined Maritime Force Atlantic was proposed to U.S. Navy leadership in early 2021. See AEI webcast, “Defending the Seas: Gray-zone Threats in the Maritime Domain,” https://youtube/SK4lS1jjTFg.
30. Chief of Naval Operations, A Blue Arctic: A Strategic Blueprint for the Arctic, 5 January 2021.