Russia says its combat aircraft flew dozens of patrols over the Arctic during 2018 and that it expects to continue those activities from various bases in the region this year. The ability to conduct persistent, localized air operations would be critical for the Kremlin during any potential conflict in the increasingly strategic part of the globe. It will also help the Russians realize their economic ambitions there during peacetime.
In 2018, Russian Tu-142 Bear and Il-38 May martime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, as well as Su-24MR Fencer tactical reconnaissance jets, flew more than 100 sorties in total above the Arctic circle, according to a statement from Russia's Ministry of Defense on Jan. 1, 2019. These flights occurred over Russian national territory and out in international airspace.