Russia is developing cutting-edge air-dropped snowmobiles for its paratroopers. Is Vladimir Putin planning a takeover of the North Pole?
A few months ago, chief of Russia’s airborne forces, Col. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, initiated the development of the so-called air-dropped snowmobiles. Shamanov got such an idea after visiting the northern Yaroslavl region.
“Airborne snowmobile flies, shoots, and keeps the driver warm,” Shamanov said, as reported by the Russian newspaper Komsolskaya Pravda.
Behind such an intimidating name – ‘air-dropped snowmobiles’ – is a regular Taiga-551 snowmobile with the ability to be dropped from the back of an airplane or helicopter. The new machine weighs about 705 pounds and is powered by a liquid-cooled engine of 65 horsepower and is equipped with a 14.5-gallon fuel tank.
With this kind of vehicle, Russian troops are able to speed at 62 miles per hour when on the ground. Besides, the vehicle is equipped with heated handles.
The manufacturer of the snowmobiles, the Russkaya Mekhanika plant, has a deal with the Russian defense ministry to build 130 snowmobiles and 110 all-terrain vehicles in the next two years. The Russkaya Mekhanika’s top management told the press that they are planning to add some modifications and that the project will keep the company in business.
“First, this snowmobile has an armored fuel tank like those on combat helicopters,” the vehicle’s designer Andrey Zhogin told the Russia newspaper. “If shot through, it ‘self-heals.’ Second, it has a special cooling system that prevents the engine from overheating.”
Is Putin preparing for a war for the resources in the Arctic?
Russian defense ministry ordered to make the snowmobiles in such a way so that they could be dropped from a helicopter or airplane. The snowmobile’s designers are racking their brains over it as it’s not an easy task.
However, the designers have already came up with a plan that would add mounts for a machine gun as well as a grenade launcher, making the vehicles deadly dangerous and capable of shooting at targets.
Political experts around the world begin to ask questions as to why would Russian President Vladimir Putin want to build such vehicles especially for cold conditions of the North Pole.
And the answer might lie in Russia’s Arctic military build-up.
On March 16, the Kremlin ordered a snap Arctic military drills involving 38,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen. The exercises also included Il-76 planes practicing transporting paratroopers to the north.
In April, Putin ordered a massive military drills in the region involving nearly 40,000 soldiers, 100 aircraft, 41 warships and 15 submarines.
The moves clearly indicated that the Arctic suddenly became a strategic interest to Russia, which is why on April 1, NATO sent fighter jets and B-52 bombers into the region to practice intercepting Russian aircraft.
U.S. lags behind Russia in the Arctic
Ever since Russia ordered the build-up in the Artic, the Western media has been expressing its concern over the possibility of a war for the region.
“We’re not even in the same league as Russia right now,” Coast Guard Commandant Paul F. Zukunft told the Newsweek last month. “We’re not playing in this game at all.”
It must also be pointed out that while Russia operates 27 icebreakers – so essential to do search and rescue, lead other naval or commercial ships, or conduct heavy research – the U.S. has only two, both old and “there’s no money for new icebreakers,” according to the report of Fran Ulmer, chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission.
Russia really does have an advantage in the Arctic. The country has been operating there longer than other countries and is developing the Northern Sea Route.
Russia also has a technological and transporting advantage due to the development of nuclear icebreakers, which allow to reach any spot of the Arctic even in winter. No other country can afford such a thing.
Russia has 27 icebreakers, of which six operate on nuclear energy. By 2017, Russia plans to add one more icebreaker, while the two icebreakers of the U.S. operate on diesel fuel and are old.
However, it’s not only a technological advantage that Russia has. The U.S. does not have a fully-fledged Arctic strategy unlike Russia. And the thing is: Washington became interested in the Arctic not as long ago as Russia.
Will there be an Arctic war by 2030?
As of today, Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have made partial claims over the valuable regions of the Arctic. American experts estimate that 15 percent of the earth’s remaining oil, 30 percent of its natural gas, and 20 percent of its liquefied natural gas are stored in the Arctic sea bed.
According to some pessimistic forecasts, by the year of 2030, the world will face a deficit of energy resources, which will lead to a confrontation between major powers. Many Arctic explorers agree that the possible Arctic war would begin on the Lomonosov Ridge, where there is a vast amount of crude oil and natural gas.
Russia’s Academy of Military Science recently published a report, in which it stated that there is an increasingly active struggle among the Arctic Council nations – Russia, the U.S., Denmark, Iceland, Canada, Norway, Finland, Sweden – for the access to Arctic resources and exploration of the Northern Sea Route.
According to the estimates, the Northern oil reserves can provide for the U.S. economy for as long as 60 years, while gas resources – for over 400 years.
The exploration of the Arctic is possible only under combined efforts of all Arctic Council nations, as even the most powerful economies – American and Canadian – cannot do it alone.
That is exactly the reason why the world must be talking about a dialogue rather than a confrontation in the region.