The Russian Defense Ministry is to base MiG-31 long-range interceptors at the Rogachyovo Arctic base on the island of Novaya Zemlya by the end of the year to defend against attack from the north, Izvestia reported on Tuesday quoting military sources.
"The MiG-31 squadron will be the main element of Russia's developing anti-missile defense system - the MiG-31 is capable of intercepting not only strike aircraft, but also cruise missiles with nuclear warheads from the Barents Sea to the shores of the Laptev Sea," the source said.
Military analyst Anatoly Tsyganok says the MiG-31BM has a range of 900 miles (1,450 km) on internal fuel, which can be extended to 3,355 miles (5,400 km) with air-to-air refuelling.
Although Russia does not have complete ground-based radar coverage across its northern areas, he explained, the two-seat MiG-31 can intercept targets up to 124 miles (200 km) away thanks to its advanced radar and long-range missiles.
The MiG-31, the fastest fighter-interceptor in service anywhere in the world, has recently been the subject of a comprehensive upgrade to MiG-31BM standard.
The modernized version boasts upgraded avionics and digital data-links, a new multimode radar, color multifunction cockpit displays, and a more powerful fire-control system. It can simultaneously track up to 10 targets.
Earlier this year, the Air Force said it was testing a new advanced air-to-air missile, which aviation analysts told RIA Novosti was likely to be the K-37M (also known as RVV-BD or AA-X-13 to NATO). This could be deployed on the MiG-31BM, significantly enhancing its long-range interception performance against cruise missiles.
An Air Force representative said there will be no problem basing the advanced supersonic MiGs on the frozen island, as the airfield has a good runway and a full range of facilities for those based and living there, including their families.
Russia has based the 63 Fighter Squadron equipped with Sukhoi Su-27 fighters at Rogachyovo since 1993.