Control over these waters is important in a conflict scenario. A Russian submarine is more difficult to detect in the deeper Norwegian Sea (darker blue colors). Map: Google Earth / NotamMap / Barents Observer

Northern Fleet with missiles warnings north and south of Bear Island

Russia’s missiles’ impact areas are in the strategically important Bear Gap, the waters between mainland Norway and Svalbard where the shallow Barents Sea meets the deeper Norwegian Sea.
August 07, 2023


Russia’s Northern Fleet notes the impact of missiles will happen sometime from August 11 to 15, from 5 in the morning to 18 in the evening.

There is no publicly available information about what kind of missiles or how many. Neither the press service of the fleet in Severomorsk nor Russia’s defense ministry in Moscow have detailed any pre-announced exercises involving the western Barents Sea.

The Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) differs from previous Russian navy warnings in the so-called Bear Gap as they now stretch much further west into the Norwegian Sea. All previous NOTAMs near the Bear Gap in the period after Russia’s all-out war on Ukraine in February 2022 have been northeast or east of Bear Island.

Russia’s Port Administration for Northwest and the Arctic, located in Murmansk, has published similar warnings to seafarers indicating there will be rocket firing in the area. If so, the Northern Fleet will most likely send warships to the two zones that are in international waters, but part of the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). These are also important fishing grounds for Norwegian, Russian, and EU trawlers. When warnings of missile impact - and rocket shootings - are issued, most fishermen chose to stay away. 

The Bear Gap is a military term for the strategically important waters between North Cape, Bear Island, and further north to Spitsbergen Island. This is where the Barents Sea meets the deeper Norwegian Sea and by that access to the North Atlantic.

In a conflict scenario, keeping control of the Bear Gap would be important for the Russian Northern Fleet to protect its strategic missile submarines in the eastern Barents Sea from NATO forces. 

Russian Bastion Defence in relation to Norway and the Bear and GIUK Gaps. Source: Mikkola / RAND Europe report







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