A group of Russian warships from the Northern fleet, led by the flagship Udaloy class destroyer Severomorsk, has entered the Norwegian Sea to begin naval drills, including flight deck exercises, Sputnik reported Friday, citing the Russian Defense Ministry.
The latest development comes after Britain’s Royal Navy escorted a Severomorsk destroyer, a tanker and a tug out of the English Channel earlier this week. The three Russian ships were heading east before entering the North Atlantic to conduct anti-aircraft and anti-submarine drills, the Telegraph reported.
“The crew of the destroyer will continue ship training and drills for providing anti-aircraft and anti-ship defense with a number of vessels in the Norwegian Sea, as well as hold rescue operations from flight decks using Ka-27 [Helix] helicopters,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement, referring to the latest naval drills.
In March, nearly 76,000 troops, 65 warships, 15 submarines, 16 auxiliary ships, and more than 10,000 combat and support vehicles participated in Northern fleet exercises in an attempt to test Russia's defense capability in the Arctic, Sputnik reported, adding that the country is planning to hold at least 4,000 military drills in 2015.
A senior member of Russia’s Defense Ministry recently said that Moscow had planned to develop a “self-sufficient” military force, including air force and air defense units, which would be based in the territory it owns in the Arctic.
“The Russian military group in the Arctic will be built up on the mainland and on the islands,” the official told TASS, a Kremlin-owned news agency. “This buildup is already in progress. By 2018 there will emerge a self-sufficient group incorporating radio reconnaissance companies, the way it was in the past.”
The Russian Defense Ministry also announced Friday that the country’s armed forces will be equipped with 30 percent new weapons by 2016, despite its struggling economy, which, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, will take about two years to recover from the current turmoil, exacerbated by Western sanctions.