Russia enters Christmas with rocket splash-down next to Norway's Vardø radar
“Tempo danger area” reads the Notice to Airman (NOTAM) issued by Russia for a nearly 90 km north-south stretch in the outer Varanger fjord in the period December 21st to 25th.
The NOTAM also reads “Impact area for Russian missiles” and has a corresponding warning further northwest in the Barents Sea, between Bear Island and Svalbard in Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Although no space launches have yet been announced for the period, the warnings could be related to a splash-down from a rocket bringing one or several Arctic satellites into orbit.
Russia has one Soyuz 2.1 rocket announced for launch in the morning of December 16, the Arktika-M No.2, to set off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Vardø is a small fishing village on a little island on Norway’s coast to the Barents Sea. The huge military radar facility forms the skyline. In clear weather, if you look east across the water, you can see the shoreline of Russia’s Fishermen Peninsula, a northern appendix of the Kola Peninsula.
Officially, the operator of the facility has never said the word “Russia” when explaining what the radars in Vardø are looking for.
The Norwegian Intelligence Service writes in a public statement about the new radar: “The GLOBUS system ensures continued access to important and relevant information of national importance.”
The radar complex has long been a thorn in the side of Russia’s security relations with Norway. Moscow fears the radars could be used to track intercontinental ballistic missiles and monitor activities of the Northern Fleet.
Russia’s ballistic missile submarines in the north are all based at Gadzhiyevo which is just 150 kilometers east of the radar system in Vardø.
Several other military temporary danger areas in the Russian EEZ of the Barents Sea are active in the days ahead. The largest one goes all up to 74 degrees North, but Russia’s Northern Fleet does not specify what weapons are to be tested, or why it covers such a huge area. The NOTAm is activated from December 15th to 17th.
This area is traditionally the main exercise area for both submarines and surface warships. It is also here Russia tests-launches submarine-based ballistic missiles crossing the skies of the Arctic towards targets on the Kamchatka Peninsula.