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Matua Island as a new eastern outpost
Why Russia needs a new military base in the Kuriles?
The change in the status of the Sea of Okhotsk in 2014 to "internal" and the transfer of 52 thousand square kilometers of international waters under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation forced a new look at the defense of the eastern borders. To ensure the safety of the water area of the Sea of Okhotsk and a significant part of the east coast of Russia, it was necessary to build a full military base on one of the islands of the Kuril chain. Matua's choice was obvious. In May-June, the Ministry of Defense jointly with the Russian Geographical Society organized an expedition to explore the island.
Secrets of the island of Matua
During the Second World War, the island of Matua was one of the most powerful fortified areas of Japan. Significant military formations were based on a small island, all necessary infrastructure was equipped, and a layered defense system was planned. Fortunately, the success of the Kuril landing operation forced the Japanese to surrender the island without a fight. In comparison with the less fortified Paramushir and Shumshu, Matua was a real fortress, and in the event of an assault, Soviet troops would have suffered serious losses.
It is still not known for sure what exactly the Japanese guarded so zealously, but even a small part of the fortifications studied amazes imagination. Powerful fortifications, underground bunkers with concrete walls of one meter, large-caliber guns and mass of equipment. A military airfield with three runways, which may have been heated by thermal springs ...
According to different versions, at Matua, the Japanese could equip a secret transshipment base of the submarine fleet, a top-secret scientific laboratory, or even a repository for the values of the empire. What exactly is there is only to be learned, and in 1945, the Soviet troops found only Stroybatovtsy on the island, whose mission was to preserve the facility. According to Evgeny Vereshchagi, the head of the regular Kamchatka-Kuril expedition, the island was obviously prepared by the Japanese garrison for surrender to the Soviet troops. All of the most valuable, probably, was burned, blown up or drowned in the ocean. But, perhaps, something remained inside the island - underground utilities were found, not just carved in basalt, but also trimmed with wood.
Expedition of the Russian Geographical Society and the Ministry of Defense began to study the island only recently, but the researchers still have more questions than answers. We studied only a small coastal part of the island, and the main discoveries are ahead.
According to deputy commander of the Pacific Fleet Vice Admiral Andrei Ryabukhin, the expedition is tasked to study the infrastructure that existed on the island and the possibilities of its application and use in today's conditions. The second - engineering, radiochemical and bacteriological exploration of the area.
In just a month of work on Matua (the expedition left Vladivostok 7 in May and arrived on the island 14 in May), the participants of the expedition did a gigantic job. Thus, a survey of the coastal and plains of the island of Matua has been completed. Total investigated 97 infrastructure facilities of the island. These are bunkers located in the coastal and flat parts, observation posts, range-keeping posts, artillery and machine-gun dots. In particular, if we talk about dots, then by now 50 of 86 artillery and machine guns has been inspected.
The search explorations of the Ainu bay on the island of Matua have been completed. During the Second World War, there was an 127 millimetric battery of universal guns at six positions, nine machine-gun and artillery dots that operated as part of the Japanese garrison's battalion defense post. As a result of the detailed survey, detailed schemes of underground and ground fortifications, as well as of the defense area as a whole, are compiled. According to the participants of the military-historical expedition, according to these data it is possible to uncover the plan of the Japanese garrison command for conducting defensive operations. Military-historical staff of the expedition also analyzed the status of pumping, diesel, drilling stations, storage tanks for water and fuel. Each object has been described, the plan of a binding to the terrain is made. Some structures, possibly in the future will be used, taking into account the modernization and modern technologies. The first such facility, which will soon enter service, will be the concrete runway of the Japanese airfield.
In addition, a partial reconnaissance of the island was conducted - a study of the south-eastern part of the island was carried out to assess the modern landscape. The origin of lowlands and elevations to 200 meters has been studied. Excavation work was carried out to clean up a series of coastal cliffs up to 30 meters in height, and to set reference sections (drilling holes) to 4 meters in depth to determine the age of the island. The total length of the research route was about 300 kilometers. Discovered ancient lava and weathering crust, the age of which, according to scientists, is not less than a few tens of thousands of years. Also, scientific research teams determined that the island of Matua during its existence was exposed to at least 30 tsunami.
The work of the expedition continues today. In detail, the fortification works are being investigated, and underground communications are being cleared. Already in a short time - after the preparation of the coastal area of the island for the approach of a large landing ship - additional equipment can come to the island. However, the near completion of the expedition should not wait - according to representatives of the Ministry of Defense, work expeditions on the island - not one year.
The key to the Sea of Okhotsk
The official expedition is not yet answering the riddles and secrets of Matua. Nothing sensational was found: neither underground bunkers, nor laboratories, nor weapons. Anyway, the main value is the island itself and its unique geographical position. Matua is located approximately in the middle of the Kuril ridge near the Kruzenstern Strait. This point can be called a castle at the gate to the Sea of Okhotsk. By controlling the straits between the islands, you can not only guarantee the safety of inland waters, but also ensure the unimpeded exit of your own fleet to the Pacific Ocean. At the same time, the island can be considered as a reference point for strategic aviation.
According to a number of experts, "It makes sense only the naval component of the expedition," says Vladimir Gorlov, an associate professor of the Department of Economic and Social Geography of Russia at the Faculty of Geography of the Moscow State University named after MV Lomonosov, "and, first of all, The infrastructure of the island and completely restore it for the needs of the modern Russian armed forces.In the future this island is represented as a stopping point, but not so much of the fleet as of aviation.Since at present the Kuril islands are full of The problem of the development of the aviation communication is acute, because now all aircraft landing from the mainland to the Kurile Islands have to turn around and fly back almost immediately, for the simple reason that they run out of fuel. The appearance of the aerodrome in Matua seems very promising in connection With the need to strengthen the military situation of Russia in the south of the Far East. "
According to the expert, the expedition is also needed for publicly covering up the construction of modern military infrastructure. “For the realization of the naval component of the development of the island, it is necessary that it be and to some extent scientific, including itself, for example, the conduct of specialists of such scientific studies as the study of near-island currents and the geology of the island. After the party they might try to uncover the secrets of Matua. - says Vladimir Gorlov.
However, experts interviewed by EastRussia believe that for military purposes the infrastructure on the island will begin to be used in the very near future. "Most likely, the results of the naval component of the expedition, to which it will come by the end of the year, will require clarification of some details, but on their basis it will be possible to make any final decision to create the Matua base as a defensive point on the Russian borders," - Concluded a leading researcher of the Center for Japanese Studies Viktor Pavlyatenko.
"Let's remember how two years ago the naval base in the Arctic, on the island of Kotelnyy was deployed at lightning speed. The approach of the ships - the development of the airfield - the reception of aircraft - the approach of the ships - the wintering of the garrison - and the process has started, "another EastRussia interlocutor cites. "Regarding Matua, the decision has probably already been made - so in the near future the country will see many impressive reports about the development of military infrastructure on the Far Eastern island."
Reference: Matua Island
Matua is an island of the middle group of the Great Ridge of the Kuril Islands. It is administratively included in the North-Kurilsky City District of the Sakhalin Oblast. Uninhabited. Area - 52 km², length from northwest to southeast about 11 km, width 6,4 km. On the island there is an active volcano Sarycheva with height of 1446 m, a small creek of Hespo with drinking water. It is covered with bush and stlanik. In the hollows - thickets of shrub alders. There are foxes and small rodents. Steller's sea rookeries. In the vicinity there is a ringed seal. Nests of guillemots, cormorants, gulls. Separated by the Golovnin Channel from the island of Raikoke, located at 18 km to the north; The Strait of Hope - from the island of Rasshua, located in 28 km to the south-west. The island is characterized by an abnormally cold climate of the Northern Kuriles, with a lot of precipitation, cloudiness, frequent fogs and strong winds.