Kavkaz 2020 – September 25 (Day 5)

The main event took place this day. Large airborne parachute drop from Il-76MDs, a heliborne operation with more than one helicopter regiment involved, combined artillery – MLRS -Iskander strike with numerous arty battalions, and a host of air defense exercises at Kapustin Yar. Tactical and rotary aviation involved in support, several air strike exercises at Ravesky and Kapustin. Coalition forces conduct a massed air and artillery strike, flank maneuvers, double envelopment, and destroyed OPFOR. Prudboy hosts a large artillery exercise, meanwhile the Black Sea Fleet finally makes an amphibious landing, while Caspian Flotilla does another one of its own. Separate exercises take place in Abkhazia, S. Ossetia, and Armenia.

VDV and VKS sections shifted to Kapustin Yar since the main exercise takes place there, with VVP watching, and most of the forces are pulled in for the show.

Thanks to Konrad Muzyka for helping put some of the info together.

Exercise map

the big board

Kapustin Yar (Astrakhan)

This one is the big show piece event, since VVP is personally at the range to observe the activities of the day. A ‘coalition’ scenario got wargamed with forces from other countries participating in a large counter-offensive that destroyed OPFOR. Land and air delivered fires effected a massed strike against the enemy, they achieved superiority in firepower, while airborne forces landed to delay enemy reserves from being brought into action. With large flanking strikes long two axis the coalition created a double envelopment, then executed a large strike that forced enemy forces to surrender. Lots of things got blown up, some new gear and vehicles were on display for VVP, like TOS-2, etc. 

Gerasimov explaining things

Gerasimov faces

Forpost drone feed at the command center

Forpost drone feed

Air defense units fielding S-400, S-300V4, Buk-M3 ran an exercise using the latest high velocity targets designed to simulate enemy tactical-operational missiles and aircraft. Again, we have Saman, Adjutant and U-95 targets listed. Maybe 10 launches or so. Meanwhile PVO-SV units used 35 missiles and 7000 rounds in their air defense exercise against 55 targets of various types. Units consisted of Pantsir-S, Stela-10M, Stela-S MANPADS and something they called ‘Izvoz’ (don’t know that one, might be bad copy by the press release). 

S-400 engagement

2x battalions of Iskander-M conducted launches using 9m728 cruise and 9m723 SRBN missiles. According to the scenario they executed a massed strike against enemy critically important objects. The force included one battalion with Tockha-U, and a battalion of Tornado-S (300mm MLRS). They fired 2 cruise, 3 Iskander-M ballistic missiles, and 3 Tochka-U. Tornado-G MLRS employed some new warhead that detaches from the missile and parachutes directly over the target (presumably an airburst weapon). The massed strike included 9 self-propelled artillery battalions and 8 MLRS battalions. That’s quite a bit. So we’re talking 3x missile (12 TELS), 9 MLRS + 9 SPA. One artillery battalion was dedicated to counter-battery fire, eight focused on the massed strike.

In the videos we can see a timed launch of 3x 9m723, 2x9m728 and 4x Tornado-S 300mm MLRS. Actually I think we’re promised Tornado-S, but we are getting BM-30 Smerch 300mm – either way, same effect.

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Drones were used to reveal and then fix enemy positions, involving about 20 different UAS.

Orlan-10 drones at the range

VDV component –

57x Il-76MD transports flew in two columns to Kapustin Yar from Taganrog and Ulianovsk. The aircraft were about 30 seconds flight time apart, and holding 3km separation between the two columns which were heading for a pair of landing zones. The idea is to reduce the time for unloading VDV paratroopers. Together they dropped 900 airborne, 118 pieces of equipment, including 10x BMD-4M. Altitude was about 600-900 meters.

Airborne parachuting in

Mi-8 with Ka-52 escorts airlifted Tigr vehicles belonging to Airborne units, along with VDV troops who rappelled from 20-25 meter heights onto the field. Another VDV heliborne operation, with some Ka-52 strikes as well on targets at 2.5km ranges. Mi-8, Mi-26, and Mi-24 helicopters were involved in a large operation airlifting more than 1170 paratroopers belonging to a VDV brigade (56th Air Assault BDE) and Pakistani special forces. Initial forces loaded on Mi-24s seized the landing zone, mobile reserves were delivered by Mi-26s using Typhoon vehicles. Mi-8s lifted in D-30 howitzer batteries. All together they brought in 40 pieces of equipment using more than 80 helicopters and ~1200 troops.

56th VDV landingAirborne landedD-30 howitzers

VKS executes a ‘massed’ air strike with 78 aircraft, LRA (long range aviation) and tactical aviation. We have the whole Sukhoi family of Su-34, 30, 27, 25, 24, 24MR and Tu-22M3 bombers. This is in effect their aerospace assault. First Su-27s ran an airsweep at 1500 meters ahead of the strike. Presumably recon aircraft Su-24MR went in second, followed by two squadrons of Su-25s which penetrated air defenses, and two flights of Su-24Ms whose job it was to work with reconnaissance capabilities and Strelets targeting system to strike air defense systems Then 4 flights of Su-30SMs also struck the air defense systems. Su-34s followed with strikes against critically important objects and armor columns. Seems the strikes were largely with unguided bombs at fairly low altitude. Two squadrons of Tu-22s brought in 1500kg bombs to drop on command and control points.  More than 20 Su-25SM3 were involved, flying from an airbase near Volgograd to drop FAB-250s. The rest dropped more than 100 bombs, flying from 4 different airbases. These strikes were made at 200-400 meters. In total about 60 aircraft participating from 4th AAD. Presumably the rest were Tu-22M3s or some other aircraft to make for 78 total.

TOS-2 220mm thermobaric MLRS systems were used for the first time with TBS-M3 rockets. This is a wheeled chassis successor to TOS-1 using Ural as opposed to the T-72 chassis. Supposedly it has better range in terms of missiles, and a more advanced fire control system. More importantly it has its own crane for reloading and does not need a specialized transporter-reloader vehicle. Also it has some personal EW protection system. Another battalion, composed of 9x TOS-1A destroyed an enemy motor rifle battalion, guessing most of the fires came from these systems while TOS-2 was wheeled out so VVP could see something new and interesting. While we’re on the subject, a different unit of motor rifle troops used RPO-PDM thermobaric launchers (successor to RPO-A Shmel I think) to destroy enemy targets and fortifications at a range of 800 meters (pretty good for a short range system).

TOS battery

The newest Uran-14 firefighting UGV also got used to douse damaged equipment. Allegedly it can be remotely controlled over 1km+ that would be impressive since Uran-9 in Syria had a lot of trouble with distance remote operation. Uran-6, another UGV, was used from mineclearing.





Engineer-sapper units created a flame barrier 2km in length to prevent an enemy armored assault, combined with an anti-tank trench that they had dug earlier. They also used a 122mm mine laying system to deploy a minefield at range. A different unit used minelayers, GMZ-3, to cover one of the flanks with a separate minefield. This tracked minelayer uses a much more modern nav system, which allows them to get precise coordinates on the minefield being put down and the work of each vehicle (6 in total) as they lay the field. Supposedly they can lay the minefield at a speed of 6-16 km/h.

Armored push

Armored assault

Armenian forces are at this range conducting a joint flanking maneuver with Russian units, with 8x Mi-28Ns, and 4x Su-25s supporting. They must be part of the larger air strike scenario that played out on this day. Belarusian forces also involved in this exercise, working jointly with Russian units. The Russian component included elements of 20th CAA from Western MD, which could be serving as reinforcements in this scenario. They were not identified.


Prudboy training range (Volgograd)

MLRS batteries from units belonging to Southern MD executed a large strike using more than 20 Tornado-G 122mm systems at about 20km range. They destroyed a supposed adversary force consisting armored vehicles and artillery. Within about 20 seconds they discharged more than 500 rockets, targeting provided by drones belonging to a motor rifle drone detachment (looked like Eleron-3).

Tornado-G batteries

command post launching drones at prudboy

Medical specialists practiced medivac with Mi-8AMTSh helicopters, and restoring combat capacity among front line units.

Ashuluk training range (Astrakhan)

Western MD air defense units belonging to 6th Air and Air Defense Forces Army in Leningrad oblast are returning home via rail. They finished their live fire exercises against various targets including Favorit (hypersonic missile), Strizh-M (high altitude), and Armavir-MVU (low altitude aerodynamic).

Raevsky training range (Krasnodar)

Air defense regiment belonging to 4th AAD trained in defending a command point from an enemy missile strike. S-400s and Pantsir-S1s conducted electronic launches from prepared positions, and while ‘on the move’ so to speak, with quick stops to prepare for the engagement. Part of the exercise was focused on the transition from moving to quickly engaging an incoming missile strike in an EW contested environment.

A sizable exercise involved elements of the 7th Mountain Airborne Division, setting up defensive positions in higher terrain to prepare for an enemy landing. This event offered an opportunity to test integration between Ratnik infantry combat system and BMD-2KU C2 vehicle.

Black Sea Fleet

Black Sea Fleet units conducted a landing near the banks of Vityazevo (Vityazevskaya Spit). This is on the Russian Black Sea coast near Krasnodar. Su-34s and surface combatants (11 ships) conducted strikes against coastal defense forces and enemy ships to prepare the beach for landing. Minesweepers cleared an opening for the amphibious landing group (project 02668 Vice-Admiral Zaharyin, and 2x project 266ME – Kovrovets & Valentin Pikyl). Nearby 10x Su-25M3s destroyed an enemy airfield to deny the adversary air support. They used recon info from a detachment that was deployed earlier into the area to determine which buildings to engage.

BSF amphibious landing

BSF landing

Air defense artillery drills

BSF ships practicing air defense

Caspian Flotilla

Buyan-M missile corvettes Veliky Ustyug & Grad Sviyazhsk worked to eliminate the effects of chem/bio use by an adversary at sea (interesting exercise). OPFOR employed a drone with a capsule containing chemical agents. They planned to attack the Russian navy with this chem agent, I guess this is the sort of adversary which has drones and chemical weapons, but not anti-ship missiles. The Russian ships shot down the drone, but the chem agent got into the air and slimed the ship surfaces, so the crew had to get on their hazmat suits, seal the ship, and clean the surfaces.

Iranian ships trained with Russian counterparts in providing assistance to vessels suffering combat damage, followed by a joint search and rescue for sailors overboard. The event involved tug SB-738, several Russian diver boats project 23040 (RBK-946 and RBK-933). The Iranian attack boat Paykan served as the victim, simulating combat damage after suffering an air attack from OPFOR.

Iranian ships

Naval infantry conducted a landing at Zelenomorsk supplemented by floating cranes used as transports. Mi-8s lifted the initial naval infantry assault in, followed by units on ships. Some combination of BTR-82As and infantry delivered via two transports (VTR-79, VTR-139). About 600 naval infantry unloaded supported by 16 ships altogether. They had air and combat helicopter support. The exercise is interesting because Russian forces continue to find ways to adapt ships in order to provide sea lift or amphibious landing capacity.

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A battalion of Buk-M3s at Zelenogorsk training range in Dagestan defended against an enemy aerospace attack. These units detected incoming enemy missiles aimed at the naval infantry forces at the range, destroyed them before they got near the target area, and then displaced from their firing positions.

Abkhazia – Tank crews belonging to Russian and Abkhazian units, using T-72B3s, employed a tactic called ‘tank trident’ which allowed them to inflict maximum damage to naval forces belonging to an adversary more than 1km out at sea. Basically it seems to be just firing from covered positions and quick displacement against naval targets. Other units defended ground lines of communication and airspace surrounding in the more mountainous section of Abkhazia, using motor rifle, artillery, and air defense units.

T-72 practicing fire and displacement through berms 


South Ossetia – Motor rifle elements from the 4th military base practicing at the training range Dzartsemi (58th CAA) conducted a counter offensive. BMP-2s in the center, T-72B3 armor on the flanks, creating ‘tank wedges’ to break through enemy lines. Reserves destroyed enemy VIEDS. About 1500 soldiers and 300 pieces of equipment involved, fairly standard motor rifle kit: T-72s, BMP-2s, Tunguska-M1s, Strelas, 2s3 Akatsiya SPA, and 120 mm Sani mortars. This exercise uses a lot of references from the Syrian war and may be the only actual ‘counter-terrorist’ exercise taking place against a simulated force of ISIS-like opponents. I recognize this is S. Ossetia in Georgia but nonetheless they’re reporting implementation of tactical maneuver terms largely born from the Syrian experience and they’re not doing that elsewhere.

South Ossetia motor rifle assaultSouth Ossetia

Armenia – At the Alagyaz training range Russian Mig-29s and Armenian Su-30SMs conducted strikes against a supposed adversary armored column (who knew on Sunday Armenia would find itself in a real war with Azerbaijan, where its Su-30s are essentially the country’s highest valued aerospace assets). The exercise included low altitude flight (1500-3000 meters at 300-800km/h), more than 50 electronically simulated launches, training against radar detection, and procedures in the event of an emergency/equipment failure. Army aviation units executed a heliborne landing using about 10 Mi-8MTV helicopters as a separate exercise at the range. These same helicopters were used to train in medivac of wounded. Other trainings included rebasing to reserve airfields.

Armenian commanders

Armenian commanders

Some interesting odds and ends:

PLA at the exercise – Kapustin Yar

PLA officer holding a thing
PLA using Igla MANPAD
Gerasimov look alike, South Ossetia, resting Gerasimov face
Presidential security team with snipers and ATGMs (SPB FSO)
Some interesting vehicles on display
BMPT firing Ataka missile
BREM practicing T-90A recovery

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