Day two of Zapad saw Russian forces continue to fight off air attacks and incoming cruise missiles, but logistics units were getting in place to enable force flow into Belarus. As the adage goes, amateurs talk tactics while professionals talk logistics. Day 2 events include:
- engineers setting pontoon bridges
- communications arrays going up to establish a common operating picture
- smokescreens to cover ground movements
- air power coordinated with ground based air defense in covering the ground force
- the Navy practicing ASW, air defense, and counter sabotage
- numerous live fire drills with artillery, armor, air defense and combat aviation
Joint drills started in earnest between Russia and Belarus today. Armored and motor rifle battalions engaged in live fire exercises, tactical aviation and bombers flew overhead. A lot of ammo expended into targets at firing ranges. Belarus Air Force helped provide air cover for Russian ground units and armored formations moving into theater, run by a combined staff composed of officers from both countries. Part of the mission included recon flights over enemy formations.
Most of the action right now is at the Luga (south of St Petersburg) range which is seeing lots of artillery fires. From self-propelled and towed artillery to TOS-1A and Grad MLRS, Russia’s artillery units are letting loose. The combat aviation brigade is practicing at the same range, Ka-52s along with other helicopters.
(autobots assemble – activate tree camouflage)
Pontoon bridges are going up for armor to roll into Belarus. Engineers and sappers are building trenches, fortifications and setting up the logistics for ground forces to move in. CBRN troops put up an aerosol smokescreen at medium altitude near the Luga training field in an effort to cover troop movements. The screen covered a bridging operation (TMM-3 mechanical bridge) to defend against enemy air attack while forces were on the move.
Comms troops setup a high bandwidth comm systems running around 1000km between Russia and Belarus. This part is particularly interesting, since it reflects how Russia plans to maintain command and control, shield communications, and create a common operating picture of the battlefield. So far the coverage shows systems that go down to the battalion rather than company/squad level.
VKS – Aerospace Forces
Su-35s fighters escorted Tu-22M3 bombers to their forward airbases and have now arrived in Leningrad Oblast. Western MD’s lead in air power for this exercise seems to be 6th Air Force and Air Defense Army. As mentioned yesterday one Tu-22M3 ran off the runway and crashed.
VDV – VDV units in Rys light armored vehicles conducted recon in force missions around Pskov. The 76th is supposed to deploy in Leningrad Oblast and Kaliningrad later on during this exercise.
Central MD – This district is not only taking part in Zapad but prepping for joint exercises with Uzbekistan in early October. Interestingly air defense units with S-300 are shifting to the far east, Telemba range in Buryatia, to conduct live fire exercises as part of Zapad.
Eastern MD – Air defense units are headlong into live fire drills at Telemba, with 10 combat launches of later generation S-300 systems. Meanwhile Su-34 bombers from Khabarovsk are training in night time operations. Further east the air units based in Kamchatka have been raised on alert, with about 30 planes including Tu-142M3s, Mig-31BMs, and Il-38s conducting sorties.
Southern MD – Marines from the Caspian Flotilla held the line against enemy forces on the coast of Dagestan in time for airborne reinforcements. Not much info coming out of this district so far.
Around the Fleets
Northern Fleet – Units of the 14th Army Corps in Pechenga near Murmansk deployed several battalions from its motor rifle brigades for live fire exercises, defending against land and air attacks. This drill ran the gamut from T-72B3 tanks, artillery, MLRS, and infantry in trenches defending against an attacking ground force. About 1,500 troops were involved with 300 pieces of equipment. Peter the Great (Kirov-class) and Admiral Ushakov (Sovremenny-class) spent their time taking out incoming cruise missiles together with Mig-29K fighters operating from land.
Baltic Fleet – High speed boats and patrol ships worked with PDSS special diver units to battle enemy diversionary forces all day. Some PDSS divers stood in for the enemy, no doubt Navy SEALS, while the rest worked to defend against them. Corvettes were busy with air defense against incoming enemy aircraft.
Pacific Fleet – A project 971 Akula SSN (Kuzbass) and project 667BDR Delta III SSBN (Ryazan) ran a mock torpedo duel. The Delta was looking to handle an attack by an adversary SSN penetrating the SSBN bastion. The Pacific Fleet will also hold drills with China September 26 after Zapad, both in Sea of Japan and Sea of Okhotsk off the coast of Hokkaido. This is the second part of a naval exercise held in the Baltic Sea in July.
On the lighter side
It can’t be all gloom and doom. If you’re busy fighting NATO at the Luga firing range south of St. Petersburg then there’s good news, Russian armed forces setup a 100 person field movie theater to boost morale. I saw a photo of it and now can’t find it to post. And yes, there’s wi-fi so you can selfie every aspect of the exercise. There’s also a store to buy various Army kitsch – not sure what it looks like but probably “I defeated NATO in glorious existential battle for the motherland and all I got was this t-shirt.”
Gerasimov calling SACEUR. (good photo for a ‘caption this’ contest)
CBRN troops totally covered, except the part between his gloves and sleeve. That guy is probably going to die to chemical weapons NATO doesn’t have.