Phase Two of Zapad is upon us, i.e. the main stage of the exercise. Most of the designated forces have arrived at their ranges, dug in and started exercises. At sea simulated electronic fires took place, but will turn into actual launches in the coming days. Putin is coming on Monday to the live fire exercises in Leningrad Oblast (Luzhsky range outside Luga) so everyone has to look really good at whatever they’re doing tomorrow. Odds are the big show really kicks off when he gets there.
BLUF: Russian ground forces spent the day fighting NATO formations, airborne units, and leveling things with artillery. Logistics units were busily setting up fuel dumps, comm systems, forward command posts and the like. Engineers and sappers worked on demining. The Navy got really busy, sinking NATO submarines in the Baltic and wiping out surface action groups in the Barents, while VKS and combat aviation provided close air support.
Borisovsky Training Range (right outside Borisov in Belarus): Latest T-72B3s from 1st Guards Tank Army continued practice at the range, this is likely 6th Separate Tank Brigade and maybe elements of the 4th Kantemirovskaya Division. They wiped out remaining diversionary groups and of course crushed the enemy’s main forces. Other ranges, including Luzhsky, Pravdinsky, and Strugi Krasniye had similar tasks.
The Western MD’s independent MTO brigade (material technical support) setup a fuel dump at Borisovksy supposedly big enough for 120 tanker trucks (600 cubic meters of different fuel types).
If you want to see what real maskirovka looks like when done by professionals, you have to check out the situation around Borisovsky. It’s quite impressive.
BRM-1K recon vehicle (gold medal for camo job)
Forests around the range full of polite looking people
Waiting for NATO (sorry Veishnoria or whatever)
Osipovichskiy Training Range (outside Asipovichy in Belarus): Russian detachments began taking up defensive positions, while sapper units practiced demining. Seems things are just getting started at this range, but probably will host live fire exercises from airborne and ground units in the coming days.
(hope this photo is right, it’s what the MoD posted but that’s no guarantee of accuracy)
Luzhsky Training Range (at Luga): MSTA-S artillery and mortar units spent the day in live fire exercises at Luga. These appear to be from the artillery regiment assigned to the Tamanskaya Division (1st Guards Tank Army). Other equipment included MSTA-B and BM-21 Grad.
Judging from the photos the weather was uncooperative.
Motor rifle units are practicing here as well, apparently they engaged and wiped out enemy airborne units after drawing them into a kill zone. In this scenario the NATO airborne units were mounted on high mobility but lightly armored equipment, meanwhile Russian forces consisted of a tank battalion and self-propelled artillery in support. It sounds like Operation Market Garden all over again and Russian forces got to play the role of the Panzer division.
UAV units are also training at Luga, supposedly more than 30 systems have been employed for recon and ISR, particularly to provide targeting coordinates for artillery. Apparently aerostats, or unmanned balloons are also being used. Su-25s were overhead as well destroying enemy armored columns with Su-35s providing air cover. Seems mostly unguided rocket and gun fire.
Combat aviation took out over 20 enemy vehicles, helicopters training include Ka-52 and Mi-28N. Their job was recon and close air support. Same as Su-25s, training only listed unguided weapons – possibly saving money given there are three more days. Su-24s did some bombing runs at a range in Kaliningrad to wipe out enemy command points and other fixed targets.
Some new command and control equipment is being tested out this time at Zapad, including a high bandwidth system (1MB-20GB). There was news early on a few days ago of logistics units setting up this communications system.
VDV Airborne – VDV were busy setting field command posts and communications equipment for encrypted comms. Their range seems to be Strugi Krasniye near Pskov where the 76th is based.
Raining here too
VKS Aerospace Forces – Ground based air defense and air superiority fighters were busy defending against enemy air strikes. S-400, S-300, Pantsir-S1 were working with radar systems Nebo, Kasta and Podlet, along with command and control system Fundament. Air cover provided by Mig-31, Su-35s, and Su-27 variants. Enemy forces as usual were simulated by Russian forces, including combat aviation. Apparently Tu-22M3 bombers practiced attack runs at low and high altitude. Seems this is taking place by Kaliningrad and likely the range near Luga.
Northern Fleet – A surface action group led by Peter the Great (Kirov-class guided missile cruiser) launched anti-ship missiles at an amphibious landing group in the Barents Sea (the actual enemy stand ins were tugs SB-523 and Nikolay Chiker). Targeting support provided by Il-38 from naval aviation and it seems a SSN was also around to finish off the enemy with torpedo attacks. For now strikes are being simulated electronically but supposedly live fire missile strikes are yet to come in the next 3 days.
Two Oscar II SSGNs (Project 949A) ventured out and sunk an enemy surface action group in the Barents Sea. Scouting was first done by a diesel-electric Kilo (877) from the Kola Flotilla together with a Tu-142 long range maritime patrol aircraft. These were simulated fires with live fire exercises still to come, but the setup was interesting.
Baltic Fleet – The Baltic Fleet had a good day, seems their Ka-27PL helicopters found and sunk an enemy submarine with depth charges – and then they supported the rest of the fleet in sinking another one. That’s two NATO submarines sunk in a day’s work.
Southern MD – Ashylyk range near Astrakhan is hosting various air defense exercises although it’s unclear if they’re part of Zapad or another multinational event that’s supposed to take place called Combat Commonwealth 2017. Su-34s are also drilling overhead. Combat Commonwealth 2017 began on September 4th, with countries of the CIS including Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic and Armenia. These will feature air defense, aerospace forces and combat aviation.
Eastern MD – PLA Navy ships arrived in Vladivostok in preparation for upcoming naval exercises with the Pacific Fleet which will take place 18-26 September. Phase one will be coastal defense and phase two at sea north of Hokkaido with 11 ships involved altogether.
BMP-2 (someone went pro at maskirovka olympics)
Artillery fire near Luga
MSTA-S being camouflaged (really strange looking trees)
T-90M and BMPT are making an appearance at the training range by Luga