Northern Fleet

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Coordinates: 71°22′2″N 24°34′3″E / 71.36722°N 24.56750°E / 71.36722; 24.56750

Northern Fleet
Russian: Северный флот
Severnyy flot
Great emblem of the Northern Fleet.svg
Northern Fleet's great emblem
FoundedJune 1, 1733;
Soviet iteration: August 5, 1933
Country Russia
Branch Russian Navy
TypeFleet
RoleNuclear deterrence;
Naval warfare;
Amphibious military operations;
Combat patrols in the Arctic/Atlantic;
Naval presence/diplomacy missions in the Atlantic and elsewhere
Sizec. 33 surface warships plus additional support ships/auxiliaries
c. 35+ active submarines
Part ofMedium emblem of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (27.01.1997-present).svg Russian Armed Forces
Garrison/HQ
AnniversariesMay 11th
EngagementsWorld War II
DecorationsOrder of Red Banner.png Order of the Red Banner
Commanders
Current
commander
Adm.[1] Aleksandr Moiseyev
Notable
commanders
Adm. Vladimir Vysotskiy
Adm. Feliks Gromov
Adm. Ivan Kapitanets
Adm. Vladimir Chernavin
Adm. Semyon Lobov
Adm. Vladimir Kasatonov
Adm. Arseniy Golovko
External video
on RT Documentary official YouTube channel (in English)
video icon Submarines of the Northern Fleet: The Beast Division – Part 1 on YouTube
video icon Submarines of the Northern Fleet: Beast Division – Part 2 on YouTube

The Northern Fleet (Russian: Северный флот, Severnyy flot) is the fleet of the Russian Navy in the Arctic.[2]

According to the Russian ministry of defence: "The Northern Fleet dates its history back to a squadron created in 1733 to protect the territories of the Russian Empire, sea trade routes and fisheries in the White Sea near the coast of the Kola Peninsula. The order of the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy of 25 May 2014 determined 1733 as the year of foundation of the Northern Fleet, and June 1 as its annual holiday".[3]

In its modern iteration, the Arctic Ocean Flotilla of the former Imperial Navy evolved into a full fleet of the Soviet Navy in 1933 as the Northern Flotilla. After being awarded the Order of the Red Banner in 1965, it was officially known as the Red Banner Northern Fleet. During the Soviet era the Northern Fleet operated more than 200 submarines, ranging from diesel-electric to nuclear-powered ballistic missile classes.

On 1 December 2014 the fleet became the core element of the newly established Northern Fleet Joint Strategic Command, including all Russian armed forces located in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk Oblasts and on Russia's offshore islands along its Arctic coast. It is co-equal in status with Russia's Military Districts. The Northern Fleet is tasked with responsibility for operations and defense in the Arctic seas along Northern Russia, including the Barents Sea and Kara Sea, as well as the northwestern maritime approaches to Russia including the Norwegian Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

The Northern Fleet's headquarters and main base are located in Severomorsk, Murmansk Oblast, with secondary bases elsewhere in the greater Kola Bay area. The current commander is Admiral Aleksandr Moiseyev, who has held the position since May 2019. In June 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order making the Northern Fleet an independent military-administrative entity, effective January 1, 2021.[4]

History[edit]

Arctic Sea Flotilla and White Sea Flotilla[edit]

On June 19, 1916, the Imperial Russian Navy formed the Arctic Ocean Flotilla (Флотилия Северного Ледовитого океана, or Flotiliya Severnogo Ledovitogo okeana) during World War I to safeguard transportation routes of Allied ships through the Barents Sea from the Kaiserliche Marine of the German Empire. After the October Revolution and the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, the Soviet Navy replaced the Imperial Russian Navy and formed the White Sea Flotilla (Беломорская флотилия, Belomorskaya flotiliya) in March 1920, based in Arkhangelsk. The White Sea Flotilla replaced the Arctic Sea Flotilla and was renamed as the Naval Forces of the North Sea, but was later disbanded in January 1923.

Soviet Navy[edit]

Northern Flotilla[edit]

The Northern Flotilla was formed on August 5, 1933, by transferring patrol boats Smerch and Uragan, D-class submarines Dekabrist (D-1) and Narodovolyets (D-2)[5] and two destroyers from the Baltic Fleet to Northern Russia. These ships departed from Kronstadt on 18 May 1933 and arrived at Murmansk on 5 August. Another destroyer, another patrol boat, another submarine, and two minesweepers joined the flotilla at Soroka in September 1933. Polyarny became the flotilla's main base, and a flight of MBR-2 flying boats joined the unit at Murmansk in September 1935.[5]

The Northern Flotilla was quickly expanded in the years after it was formed, receiving new ships, airfields, coastal and air defence artillery. On May 11, 1937, the fleet entered its current form when it was renamed to the Northern Fleet (Северный флот, Severnyy flot).[6]

World War II[edit]

The Northern Fleet blocked the Finnish military base at Petsamo through the Winter War of 1939 and 1940. By June 1941, the fleet included 8 destroyers, 15 submarines, 2 torpedo boats, 7 patrol boats, 2 minesweepers, and 116 airplanes.

In August 1940, the Soviets created the White Sea Military Base to defend the coastline, bases, ports, and other installations. The White Sea Flotilla was established in August 1941 under the command of Rear-Admiral M. Dolinin. Subsequent commanders were Vice Admiral Georgy Stepanov (in October), Rear-Admiral Stepan Kucherov, and Vice-Admiral Yuriy Panteleyev.

A Soviet landing party heading for Kirkenes, Norway

During the German-Soviet War of 1941 to 1945, the Northern Fleet defended the coastlines of the Rybachy and Sredny peninsulas, secured internal and external transportation routes, and provided support to the maritime flank of the 14th Army. Naval Infantry and up to 10,000 Northern Fleet personnel participated in land warfare including the Petsamo-Kirkenes Operation of 1944. Northern Fleet Naval Infantry units caused tens of thousands of German casualties fighting during the Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad, and North Caucasus campaigns.[7]

Among the air units of the Northern Fleet was the 121st Fighter Aviation Regiment. The Northern Fleet was reinforced with naval aircraft and ships from the Pacific Ocean and Caspian Sea. Great Britain and the United States temporarily provided HMS Royal Sovereign and USS Milwaukee to the USSR in exchange for the Italian ships captured during the war and destined to be divided among the allies. During the war, the Northern Fleet secured safe passage for 1,463 ships in external convoys and 2,568 ships in internal convoys.[8]

Its submarines, torpedo boats, and aviation sank 192 enemy transport ships and 70 other hostile military ships. The Northern Fleet also damaged a total of 118 transport, military, and auxiliary ships.[8] Soviet submarine K-21, under the command of Captain Nikolai Lunin, attacked the German battleship Tirpitz at 71° 22' 2"N, 24° 34' 3"E.[9] The К-21 logbook reports observation of two torpedo explosions, but no damage is reported by German sources.

Ships were lost fighting against unequal odds. Patrol boat Tuman, a former trawler, was sunk by three Kriegsmarine destroyers at the entrance to Kola Bay on August 4, 1941. The icebreaker Sibiryakov was sunk on August 25, 1942 by the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer while defending two convoys. The patrol ship Brilliant (formerly trawler Murmany) was sunk by a submarine.[10]

The Northern Fleet received the following awards:

Cold War[edit]

The White Sea Flotilla was reestablished under the fleet in December 1945 and the White Sea Naval Base in December 1956.[11]

The Northern Fleet was considered secondary to the Baltic and Black sea fleets until operational responsibility for the Atlantic Ocean was shifted in the 1950s because of more direct access.[5] In September 1955, the Soviet navy became the first to launch a ballistic missile from a submarine. In June 1956, Northern Fleet Zulu-class submarine, (NATO designation Zulu IV 1/2) “Б-67” (B-67) became the first to carry ballistic missiles.

The 2nd Cruiser Division was formed on 31 May 1956 at Severomorsk, Murmansk Oblast. Its ships included the Sverdlov-class cruisers (Project 68) Murmansk, Aleksandr Nevskiy, and Molotovsk, and the 121st Destroyer Brigade, with 11 Gnevny, Ognevoy, and Skory-class destroyers.[12] On 5 June 1969, the division was reorganised with the 170th Destroyer Brigade (8 Project 56 destroyers) and the 10th Anti-Submarine Warfare Brigade (10 Project 42 and 50 ASW vessels). On 1 April 1961, the division was renamed the 2nd Anti-Submarine Warfare Division.

On 1 July 1958, the Northern Fleet raised the Soviet Navy ensign over the first Soviet nuclear submarine, K-3 Leninskiy Komsomol. Following the 1958 voyage of USS Nautilus, the Leninskiy Komsomol (named for Vladimir Lenin's Komsomol) traveled under the Arctic ice and surfaced at the North Pole on 17 July 1962. Russian submarines have visited the North Pole region more than 300 times since then. Two nuclear submarines of the Northern Fleet made a journey under the Arctic ice cap and reached the Pacific Fleet for the first time in history in September 1963.[5]

More than 25 Soviet submarines did the same in the following years. The Northern Fleet was awarded the Order of the Red Banner on 7 May 1965. Two Northern Fleet submarines made a 25,000-nautical-mile (46,000 km; 29,000 mi) journey "around the world" (actually only between the Kola Gulf and the base at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy around South America) without surfacing in 1966. The Northern Fleet had almost 50% of the Soviet Navy's submarines by 1986.[5]

From 1968 to 30 November 2005, the 7th Operational Squadron [ru] was the main Atlantic operational force of the fleet. The Museum of the Air Forces of the Northern Fleet was opened on 20 August 1976, in the closed settlement of Safonovo, Murmansk Oblast. Aircraft carriers began entering service with the Fleet in the 1970s. The lead unit of the Kiev class of heavy aircraft-carrying cruisers, Kiev, became operational in 1977, and Admiral Gorshkov was commissioned in 1987. Large nuclear-powered missile-carrying cruisers, the Kirov-class battlecruiser and Kalinin, also entered service from 1980. Fortification of the southern reaches of the Barents Sea during the 1980s marked a Soviet naval strategy shift to an emphasis on bastion defense. Russia has continued to employ that strategy.

In 1982, the 175th independent Naval Infantry Brigade was formed at Tumannyy, in Murmansk Oblast.[13]

Russian Navy[edit]

The area of Joint Strategic Command Northern Fleet as for 2014-12-15[14]
Ships of the Northern Fleet

An analysis of the Northern Fleet produced by Chatham House in the UK notes that: "After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin paid little attention to the Arctic. During the 1990s, the Russian Arctic was at best considered a burden fraught with socio-economic problems. Little was done there until an ‘Arctic revival’ began in the 2000s, focused on reinvesting in a region that had previously been abandoned for more than 15 years".[15]

Units were disbanded in the 1990s including the 6th and 3rd Submarine divisions in addition to aviation units. Previous units also included the 1st Submarine Flotilla, and the 7th Submarine Division of nuclear attack submarines.[16] In 1989 the Soviet Navy had nearly 200 nuclear submarines in operation of which two-thirds were said to belong to the Northern Fleet. By 1996, only half were still in service.[17]

The 57th Naval Missile Aviation Division of Tu-22s and electronic warfare Tu-16s from the Baltic Fleet at Bykhov, Mogilev Oblast, in the Belorussian SSR transferred to the Northern Fleet in December 1991 as the 57th Combined Ship Aviation Division.[18] The division commanded the 830th and 38th Shipborne Anti-Submarine Helicopter Regiments and the 279th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment from Severomorsk-3 in Murmansk Oblast until disbanded on 1 May 1998.[19]

The 5th Naval Missile Aviation Division commanding the 524th and 574th Naval Missile Aviation Regiments. The 574th Regiment was based at Lakhta air base (Katunino), until disbanded in 2002. The 100th Independent Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment (in February 1993) and its personnel and equipment absorbed by the 279th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment.[19]

On 12 August 2000, the Kursk submarine disaster gained international attention when the Oscar-class submarine Kursk of the Northern Fleet perished in a torpedo accident during exercises in the Barents Sea near Murmansk Oblast, resulting in the deaths of 118 sailors.

Beginning in the early 2000s, however, a renewed emphasis was placed on modernizing the Russian Navy, including the Northern Fleet. As argued in the Chatham House analysis: "Moscow's intentions for the Arctic are not Arctic-specific, but are related to the Kremlin's global ambitions for reviving Russia as a great power. Russia's force posture in the Arctic is informed by the changing geopolitical environment around its strained relations with the West".[15]

The importance attached to the Northern Fleet is illustrated by the fact that it constitutes its own district command within the Russian Armed Forces equal to the Armed Forces' other military districts. In January 2016, Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu announced that the 45th Air Force and Air Defence Army had been formed under control of the Northern Fleet in December 2015. Its territorial control center assumed combat duty in July 2018.[20][21] Today both the 45th Air Force and Air Defence Army, as well as the 14th Army Corps, fall under the Northern Fleet Joint Strategic Command, which was established in 2014 and is a military-administered district of equal status to the other four military districts of the Russian Armed Forces. Its jurisdiction is primarily within the northern region of European Russia and the Arctic Ocean.[22] The formal status of the Northern Fleet as a command equal to that of other Russian military districts took effect on January 1, 2021.[23]

The Northern Fleet includes about two-thirds of all the Russian Navy's nuclear-powered ships. The flagship Kirov-class battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy is named after Peter the Great. The Fleet staged a series of major Barents Sea exercises in January 2004 involving thirteen ships and seven submarines including Pyotr Velikiy, Admiral Kuznetsov, with President Vladimir Putin was aboard the Typhoon class ballistic missile submarine Arkhangelsk. The exercise was marred by two RSM-54 SLBM launch failures aboard Novomoskovsk and Kareliya.[24]

Submarines have traditionally been the strongest component of the Northern Fleet. Several new classes of submarines are in production to replace older models including: Borei/Dolgorukiy-class SSBNs, Yasen-class SSGNs, Khabarovsk-class SSGNs and Lada-class conventionally-powered submarines. However, the existing nuclear-powered submarines of the Northern Fleet are also aging rapidly. It is currently unclear whether the new Yasen-class, and other potential follow-on models, can be produced in sufficient numbers, and on a timely basis, to replace aging older nuclear submarines on a one-for-one basis. In this regard, reports suggest that Russian third-generation nuclear submarines have not been modernized to a level to avoid block obsolescence before 2030.[25]

The Northern Fleet has also received attention with respect to technological upgrades. The Fleet has received new combat aircraft (deployed within the 45th Air and Air Defence Army), enhanced shore-based missile assets (both surface-to-surface and surface-to-air) as well as new systems such as the Samarkand electronic warfare systems in 2017 and the Barnaul-T air reconnaissance system in December 2021. Samarkand is designed to assess electromagnetic situation, search, detect and analyze radio emissions and Barnaul-T helps conduct reconnaissance round-the-clock.[26][27] Russia's Northern Fleet in 2018 resumed regular air patrols of the Arctic by long-range anti-submarine aircraft and its share of modern samples of weapons and equipment exceeded 56 percent.[28][29] An air defense regiment of the Northern fleet armed with S-400 SAM launchers went on combat duty in Novaya Zemlya in the September 2019.[30]

Ground force modernization has also been a priority focus through the creation of the 14th Army Corps within the fleet and broader equipment modernization. A tank battalion of a Northern Fleet's separate motorized infantry brigade received the final batch of 26 T-80BVM tanks and completed the rearmament procedure in November 2019.[31] The 76th Guards Air Assault Division and the 98th Guards Airborne Division, strategic reserve formations from the Russian Airborne Forces, might be deployed to help protect the Kola Peninsula, in certain circumstances.[15]

While the Northern Fleet has traditionally emphasized the deployment of larger warships and submarines, new missile boats (of the Buyan/M and Karakurt classes) have temporarily been able to deploy into Northern Fleet waters utilizing Russian internal waterways. In 2020, the Buyan-M class corvette Zelenyy Dol and the Karakurt-class corvette Odintsovo trained and conducted trials in Arctic waters having deployed to northern waters via the internal waterways. The deployment illustrated the Russian capacity to reinforce the Northern Fleet with cruise missile-armed light units, potentially drawn from the Russian Navy's two other western fleets or from the Caspian Flotilla.[32] In 2021, the Karakurt-class corvette Sovetsk also made the transit from the Baltic to the White Sea for missile exercises.[33][34]

In late 2021 it was reported that the Russian Navy was considering the possible creation of a new fleet, termed the Arctic Fleet, which would be oriented to employing "ships and special equipment suitable for the Arctic". The Northern and Pacific fleets would continue to focus on "combat missions". If established, it was envisaged that the Arctic Fleet would maintain infrastructure separate from the Northern and Pacific fleets.[35]

Sites[edit]

A map of naval bases, shipyards and spent fuel storage sites operated by the Northern Fleet

The Northern Fleet's main base is Severomorsk. There are six more naval bases at Polyarnyy, Olenya Bay, Gadzhiyevo (Yagelnaya/Sayda), Vidyayevo (Ura Bay and Ara Bay), Bolshaya Lopatka (Litsa Guba), and Gremikha. Civilian Arktika nuclear-powered icebreakers are based at Murmansk. Shipyards are located in Murmansk, Severodvinsk, Roslyakovo, Polyarnyy, Nerpa, and Malaya Lopatka. Spent fuel storage sites include Murmansk, Gremikha, Severodvinsk and Andreyeva Bay.

HQ Band[edit]

The band in May 2017

The Military Band of the Northern Fleet (Russian: Военный оркестр Северного флота) is a military band unit of the Russian Armed Forces that is a branch of the Military Band Service of the Armed Forces of Russia. It is based at the fleet HQ in Severomorsk. The band also takes part in national events and holidays in Russia such as the Victory Day and Defender of the Fatherland Day holidays as well as the Navy Day fleet parade. It has taken part in the ceremonial arrival of ships to the Northern Fleet Headquarters including the Vice-Admiral Kulakov[36] and the USS Nicholas.[37]

It had taken part in the funerals of many of the victims of the Kursk submarine disaster in the fall of 2000.[38] In mid-March 2018, it took part in a competition at the Murmansk Nakhimov Naval School, which was presided by Colonel Timofey Mayakin, the Senior Director of Music of the Russian Armed Forces.[39] In September of that year, the band as well as a band from Tromsø, Norway, where they performed Norwegian March and Farewell of Slavianka at the Murmansk Regional Philharmonic.[40][41]

Order of battle[edit]

From January 1, 2021 the Northern Fleet command was made a separate command within the Russian Armed Forces having equal status to the other Russian military districts.[23] As such, it consists of naval forces (the Northern Fleet itself), land forces (14th Army Corps, plus naval infantry and coastal defence troops), as well as aviation and air defence assets (45th Air Force and Air Defence Army).[42]

Additional capability in Arctic waters is provided by civilian icebreakers operated by the state-owned Rosatom company[43] as well as other companies (Rosmorport, Gazprom Neft) and a Project 21180 vessel built for the Russian Navy.[44][45] This icebreaker fleet, which includes four nuclear-powered vessels operated by Rosatom, has been described as "crucial to military access and operations".[15][46] Additional nuclear-powered Project 22220 (two in service[47] and three more building as of late 2021) and Project 10510 (up to three hulls planned) icebreakers have entered service, or are under construction/planned, to augment and replace those in service.

The Navy, in turn, is procuring a new "lightened" class of Project 21180M icebreakers[48] (which are two-thirds the displacement of the existing Project 21180 ship) with the first vessel planned for service entry in 2022. These plans were formalized under the terms of a presidential executive order and Arctic strategy unveiled in October 2020. The icebreakers are designed to ensure the capacity of year-round navigation along the Northern Sea Route.[49][50][51]

The Russian Coast Guard provides additional armed patrol vessels in Arctic waters with a further expansion of its capabilities anticipated in the 2020s.[52][53]

As of 2022, the Northern Fleet itself comprises about 33 surface warships (including major surface combatants, light corvettes, mine counter-measures vessels and amphibious units), though some units are under repair or otherwise not operational. Additional lighter patrol units, support ships and auxiliaries are also deployed. The Fleet also comprises around 35+ submarines (including ballistic missile submarines, cruise missile submarines, special purpose submarines as well as nuclear and conventional attack submarines). As with the surface fleet, some submarines are not operational; others are in reserve and inactive. Nevertheless, programs to modernize the Russian Navy are continuing with the Northern Fleet traditionally having a priority focus with respect to major combatants.[15]

Submarines[edit]

Surface warships[edit]

Aviation and Air Defence Forces[edit]

Northern Fleet Naval Infantry Forces

Northern Fleet Coastal Troops[edit]

Commanders[edit]

Name Period of command
Zakhar Zakupnev (Flag Officer First Rank) 29 May 1933 – 13 March 1935
Northern Flotilla
Konstantin Dushenov (Flag Officer First Rank) 13 March 1935 – 11 May 1937
Northern Fleet
11 May 1937 – 28 May 1938
Valentin Drozd (Vice Admiral) 28 May 1938 – 26 July 1940
Arseniy Golovko (Admiral) 26 July 1940 – 4 August 1946
Vasiliy Platonov (Admiral) 4 August 1946 – 23 April 1952
Andrey Chabanenko (Admiral) 23 April 1952 – 28 February 1962
Vladimir Kasatonov (Admiral) 28 February 1962 – 2 June 1964
Semyon Lobov (Fleet Admiral) 2 June 1964 – 3 May 1972
Georgiy Egorov (Fleet Admiral) 3 May 1972 – 1 July 1977
Vladimir Chernavin (Fleet Admiral) 1 July 1977 – 16 December 1981
Arkadiy Mikhaylovskiy (Admiral) 16 December 1981 – 25 February 1985
Ivan Kapitanets (Admiral) 25 February 1985 – 19 March 1988
Feliks Gromov (Admiral) 19 March 1988 – 14 March 1992
Oleg Erofeyev (Admiral) 14 March 1992 – 29 January 1999
Vyacheslav Popov (Admiral) 29 January 1999 – 15 December 2001
Gennady Suchkov (Admiral) 16 December 2001 – 29 May 2004
Mikhail Abramov (Admiral) 29 May 2004 – 26 September 2005
Vladimir Vysotskiy (Admiral) 26 September 2005 – 11 September 2007
Nikolay Maksimov (Vice Admiral) 12 September 2007 – 30 March 2011
Andrey Volozhinskiy (Rear Admiral) – Acting 30 March 2011 – 24 June 2011
Vladimir Korolev (Admiral) 24 June 2011 – November 2015
Nikolay Yevmenov (Admiral) November 2015 – 3 May 2019
Aleksandr Moiseyev (Admiral) 3 May 2019 – present

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Attribution: This article includes content derived from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1969–1978, which is partially in the public domain.

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