The air base in Chkalovsk in Kaliningrad has been reopened after five years of reconstruction. This is one of the most important military airports for the naval aviation of the Baltic Fleet. That reports the press service of the Western military district. This means that about 20 aircrews can relocate back to Chkalovsk from their temporary base in Chernyakhovsk.
Chkalovsk has received what appears to have been much needed maintenance, but it has also been expanded significantly. This means that it is an airport with greater capabilities that reopens. The runway, taxiways, and apron have been fitted with concrete surfaces, which permits operations with all modern civilian or military aircraft. The runway has been made longer from 2600 meters to 3100 meters, and it has been improved so it is possible to operate more than one aircraft at a time. Last year, an An-26 transport aircraft did a test landing on the runway, during which they also verified the new electronic navigation systems that have been installed. I have illustrated the improvements to the airport with this graphic where you can move the slider to compare the satellite images from 2012 and 2018.
In addition to the purely flight related improvements, the reconstruction also includes facilities for maintenance of aircraft and equipment to support their operations. I am not personally a master of satellite forensics, so I will not speculate too much about what we see in the zoomed out comparison graphic below. But clearly there has been a lot of building activity to the West and South of the airfield.
The airport in Chkalovsk is a good example of the improvements that the Russian military experiences these days. There is money for investments in the support structure, even whilst Russia is fighting two minor wars in Syria and Ukraine. The geographical location in Kaliningrad gives Chkalovsk a strategic significance, and with a larger airfield there is flexibility to increase the size of the air detachment in Kaliningrad or to have other types of aircraft visit on a rotational basis.
In general, the military aircraft in Kaliningrad are operated by the 72nd Aviation Base of the Baltic Fleet. Until now, they have worked from three different airfields, but it is expected that they will concentrate their forces in Chkalovsk in the future.
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