Edited by Desi Tzoneva
It has recently been reported that Russia has begun forming a new costal defence division in Chukotka (the Russian far north-east region bordering the state of Alaska, US, across the Bering Strait). According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, this new division will become an important part of the consistent defence system, which is meant to protect sparsely-populated coastal regions of the country. The system includes territories from Primorsky Krai to the Kola Peninsula and will be a part of the Russian Pacific fleet. The deployment should be completed by 2018.
At the present moment, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation do not have a separate coastal defence division. The only exception is the 126th Separate Coastal Defence Brigade of the Black Sea fleet (former 36th Separate Brigade of the Ukrainian navy, which took a military oath and joined the Russian Armed Forces in 2014).
It is remarkable that during USSR times, Chukotka was garrisoned with a separate division. However, this unit had nothing to do with the coastal defence or the navy. It was the 99th motorised rifle division which was relocated to Anadyr during the height of the Cold War in 1983. At that time, both Russians and Americans were busy creating a nuclear fence in Europe. The US used Pershing II Weapon Systems, while the USSR was armed with RSD-10 Pioneer (SS-20 Saber according to NATO classification). The flight time for the missiles from both sides was mere minutes. Any counter-air or missile defence systems were completely useless. Americans felt safer though, since they were separated from the Soviet missiles by an ocean. This was the main reason why the USSR deployed the SS-20 in Chukotka. Thus, the Russians took aim both at Western Europe and the US territory. The flight time of the Soviet nuclear missiles to the American cities equalled the time in which the American missiles would reach Moscow and St. Petersburg from US bases in Germany. Obviously, the SS-20 located in Chukotka could only hit Alaska and the most northern states. The missile impact zone included the radar warning unit “Clear” of the missile warning system BMEWS based in Alaska, AN/FPS-108 Cobra Dane on the isle of Shemya, ELINT locator “Parks” in North Dakota and the US Navy nuclear submarine base, Bangore, near the city of Seattle.
SS-20 were deployed in the underground shelters in Chukotka. In order to defend Chukotka from a possible attack across the Bering Strait, the 99th motorised rifle division was urgently relocated to Anadyr. The aim of the soldiers was not only to defend the missile launch positions, but also to protect the strategic Anadyr airport. The airport was a base for missile carrier jets which patrolled the US border. There was a special storage depot for them named “Portal” or “Object-C”, built in 1958.
The 6th light infantry division of the US army was based at the other side of the Bering Strait.
At the end of the 80s and during the 90s, the entire Soviet military infrastructure in Chukotka was abandoned and the 99th motorised rifle division was disbanded in 1996. On the other hand, the US military infrastructure kept extending. Now Alaska houses a whole network of the most important US military objects. This network includes the Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, which holds the 11th Air Force (11 AF), Alaskan Command (ALCOM), Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR), Joint Task Force-Alaska (JTF-AK), the 673rd Air Base Wing, the 3rd Wing, the 176th Wing and other tenant units. The neighbouring Fort Richardson is the base of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. The air base holds F-22 Raptors, which are meant to intercept the Russian strategic missile carriers which resumed patrolling the transpolar American borders.
The Russian military completely finished its relocation to Chukotka only in 2014. First of all, it rebuilt the airfield. Anadyr once again became a jump-up base for the strategic missile carriers TU-95MS and TU-160, which fly there on a regular basis from Engels, the Russian Air Force in the Privolzhsko-Uralsky military region. Now Chukotka will also have a new costal defence division.
After the division is deployed, it is obvious that the Russian command will start the setup of short-range ballistic missile systems Iskander (SS-26) with regular or nuclear warheads. Although the SS-26 are tactical systems and they are no match for the SS-20, the destruction range of 500 kilometres allows them to reach the vital US infrastructure object in Alaska. In such circumstances, the F-22 may fail to intercept the Russian strategic forces in case the US units of missile warning systems are disabled.