Zapad 2021 – Day 5 (September 14)

This day featured a smaller version of the earlier regional grouping of forces exercise (featured September 12) being played out Obuz-Lesnovsky, this time with foreign attaches watching the action. Large grouping of artillery, an armored counterattack, tactical and army aviation support. At Brest there was a large combined paradrop of Russian-Belarusian paratroopers (76th DIV) and equipment. Ashuluk featured a sizable air defense exercise, repelling a massed aerospace attack with electronic and life fire missile launches. Kaliningrad training ranges proved quite busy, there was a paradrop at Pravdisnky and a coastal defense exercise featuring the 336th Naval Infantry brigade at Khmelevka. It looks like the VDV’s 45th Guards Spetsnaz Brigade also made an interesting paradrop at Mulino, though otherwise the range was quiet compared to the previous day’s action.

At Brest

There was yet another paradrop over the Bretsky training range, again the 76th Air Assault Division. According to the Belarusian MoD, 20 Il-76MDs delivered 400 Russian and Belarusian paratroopers with 39 pieces of equipment (a battalion worth of BMD-4Ms). They flew from Kresti, about 1000km in total, and dropped from 600m using D-10 parachutes. Belarusians were loaded at the Machulishchi airfield near Minsk, and joined the Russian transport fleet enroute to Brest, dropping with D-6 parachutes. Once the force landed, they seized initial defensive lines. Their objective was to block three bridges, preventing enemy forces from disrupting the deployment of the main Russian-Belarusian forces. Essentially they closed of ground lines of communications along an advance.

76th lined up
Looks like I found a 40min video of this, and it shows a lot of prep/loading, less polished or edited.

174th “Domanovsky” Air and Air Defense Forces Training Ground

A security unit from the 483rd Air & Air Defense Force Protection and Maintenance Battalion was attacked as OPFOR sought to destroy a target/facility the unit was guarding. However, Belarusians brought in armored vehicles and repelled the attack with heavy machine guns. The enemy then regrouped and sought a different way in, used UAVs to recce the area. The UAV was destroyed by a machine gun fire. Yet, the OPFOR was determined to relaunch the attack. Belarusian forces repelled the second attack, useing machine guns and grenade launchers to destroy everything that was left of OPFOR.

An Osa-AKM-equipped battalion from the 147th Air Defense Regiment was joined by a S-300PS battalion from the 377th Air Defense Regiment in engaging enemy aircraft, helicopters, and UAVs. Emphasis on camouflaging firing positions, and securing the air defense units’ equipment.

Obuz-Lesnovsky, 230th Combined Arms Training Range

At Obuz-Lesnovsky foreign defense and military attaches observed exercises by Russia’s 1st GTA and Belarusian units at the training range. Some personnel from CSTO and SCO member states were also present. A delegation of the CIS executive committee and the Secretariat of the Council of CIS Defense Ministers and a delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross were invited as well.

Observers witnessed a combined-arms operation. The show was intended to demonstrate what the regional grouping of forces could do in action. First, Belarusian units stopped the forward detachments of an opposing force, which gave time for the main force to prepare defensive lines. Then a ‘joint’ artillery group (army self-propelled artillery, MLRS, and VDV artillery units) destroyed enemy artillery and command posts. This appears to consistent with other scenarios where Russian artillery attempts to attain artillery superiority, and induce disorganization, by going after enemy fire positions and C2. The enemy tried to use aviation, but this too was repelled by air defense systems. A “mixed tactical group for combating UAVs” was formed, including air defense, EW, and NCB troops (recall NCB troops have MLRS and other capabilities).

Artillery component seemed to involve over 100 weapon systems including 2S5  Giatsint-S self-propelled artillery, 2S1 Gvozdika, BM-21 Grad 122mm MLRS and BM-27 Uragan 220mm MLRSs, 2S19 MSTA-S SPA. More than 1000 salvos were launched hitting 200 targets.

There’s a good T-80U counter offensive captured in this video along with a logistics convoy at the end.

Rotary aviation provided cover for defensive positions, Mi-24s and Ka-52s. Meanwhile a flight of 4x Su-34 conducted SEAD missions, though with high explosive fragmentation bombs. Have yet to read of a single SEAD exercise where actual anti-radiation missiles are used. After repelling the enemy’s attack, the joint Russia-Belarusian force launched a counterattack with T-72B3s and T-80U (also T-72B for Belarus), together with supporting artillery, and army aviation. In the end, they were able to restore their positions, retake lost ground from OPFOR, while substantially attriting the enemy force.

During Zapad, Russians tested a better means for transport and delivery of fuel, namely a new generation of fuel trucks, the ATZ-12-10-63501 fuel tankers. This vehicle is on a 9×9 chassis of Kamaz-63501 truck, with a capacity of 12,000 liters, and ability to fuel 10 vehicles simultaneously. Special polymer self-sealing coating prevents leaks even if damaged by small arms fire. There were also the newer ATs-14-63501 fuel tankers. Reportedly, logistics personnel using these vehicles can fill up a tank company with fuel within 10-15 minutes.

In general while tanks are more exciting, logistics are often the more important conversation.

ATZ-12-10-63501 (what a great name it just rolls off the tongue, way better than Il-76MD-90A)

ATs-14-63501 another well named vehicle

At Mulino

Units from a special purpose VDV brigade, which has to be 45th, were deployed to correct aviation strikes (tactical air control role?), and reconnoitering the landing zone for follow on forces in advance of an airborne assault. They dropped using special parachutes Stayer, as part of the Yunker-O system ofor high-altitude paradrops. The groups flew in from Zhitovo in Ryazan and parachuted from Il-76MDs at about 8,000 meters. After they landed, additional aircraft flew in with cargo using PGS-1500 and UPGS-250 parachute systems, dropping at about 1500m: heavy weapons, ammunition, reconnaissance and destruction equipment, food. Interestingly, an An-26 then delivered forward air observers using Dalnolet and Tandem-400S systems. The Tandem system is for specialists who have no parachute training, basically they jump in tandem with a paratrooper, so these air controllers don’t have parachute certification. Equipment landed using a specialized parachute-cargo system that is equipped with GLONASS global positioning. It can be steered in any direction, or land in self-navigating mode at the desired location. In addition, they have developed a way to paradrop 82mm mortars to these units.

Also, a Silok-01 radio-suppression system was deployed to protect a command post against makeshift/commercial drones, employing improvised explosive devices. The system blocked GPS navigation, control, and data transmission to/from the drones in question. Also, R-330Zh Zhitel radio jamming was employed, although few details offered.

At Ashuluk – Russian forces created a unified air defense system, including means to detect and repel an air attack, defend Russian forces, and operate everything from a single center. Press releases generally emphasize air defense operating in a unified information space, and simulating a contested environment with opponent’s employing EW. There seemed to be a large aerospace attack/air defense exercise taking place, simulating defense against a massed missile-aviation strike (MRAU). Approximately 60 air targets generated. Su-35 and Mig-31BM units trained in being directed to enemy air targets (doesn’t say if it was via AWACS or ground control). Air defense units conducted both electronic launches and live fire missile launches against aerial targets and simulated missiles.

Tu-95MS strategic bombers conducted a test of the Western MD’s air defense system. They practiced penetrating air defense, and destroying ground-based air defense systems, along with navigation without visual orientation. This is a pretty odd exercise description given what the Tu-95MS’ role is, and its certainly not penetrating air defense or destroying ground-based AD.

Kaliningrad

Pravdinsky

Elements of the 76th Air Assault Division conducted a paradrop over Pravdinsky training range. Around 300 personnel and several BMD-2KU vehicles were involved. Only 10 Il-76s MDs were used. The Baltic Fleet’s Su-27s achieved air superiority, which allowed for military transport aviation to fly in. Su-24s also bombed OPFOR’s ground forces before the landing party arrived. Once on the ground, paras seized the bridgehead and defended it from OPFOR’s attacks, destroying OPFOR’s forward detachments.

In addition, at Dobrovolskiy, Su-24s and Su-30SMs conducted “precision” strikes (doubtful) against enemy command posts, and forces. Also looks like there was a SEAD component to this exercise. Bomb strikes conducted at altitudes from 200m to 2000m.

Khmelevka, Kaliningrad Oblast

At Khmelevka the 336th Naval Infantry Brigade assault detachments and supporting artillery engaged OPFOR’s amphibious force using 2S9 Nona 120 mm gun-mortar systems and BTR-82A APCs. This exercise was part of a larger drill practiced that day at Khmelevka with overall 1000 participants. Naval infantry units were raised on alert, deployed to the beach where an enemy amphibious attack was inbound, prepared defense positions and fired on targets imitating landing craft.

Khmelevka also featured an interesting EW exercise. Using drones, Leer-3 electronic warfare units (these systems use Orlan-10 drones), worked in conjunction with Zhitel, Borisoglebsk-1, and Lava-RP. They practiced jamming enemy radio-controlled explosives (maybe IEDs?), electronic support missions which involve detecting emitting targets, active jamming of enemy forward air controllers, and precision guided weapons. 100 troops involved with 20 pieces of specialized equipment. No photos so we have to imagine all the precision guided weapons they were able to jam.

Medical unit MT-LB

Baltic Fleet

Naval forces held an air defense exercise involving 2x Steregushchiy-class corvettes Stoikiy and Steregushchiy, and Neustrashimyy-class frigate Yaroslav Mudry. The surface action group detected an incoming enemy air attack represented by Su-24s and Ka-27s belonging to the Baltic Fleet’s naval aviation component. Ships defended themselves with EW, also employing A-190 main gun and AK-630 CIWS guns. They then shifted to artillery fire against different targets at sea and land targets imitating coastal defenses.

Seems there was another fleet defense exercise in Baltiysk for special purpose PDSS units. PDSS prevented diversionary forces from penetrating the Baltic Fleet base during a loading operation. They practiced patrolling in speedboats along Kaliningrad’s maritime channel, deploying divers, and UUVs.

Northern Fleet

The 14th Army Corps continued their multi-day battle with enemy forces engaged in an amphibious assault on the Kola Peninsula. This time the training was at a range in the Kandalaksha region south of Murmansk, i.e. more on the White Sea coast which tells us it was the 80th Arctic Motor Rifle Brigade whereas the earlier training was by the 200th MRB. The exercise featured a massed artillery strike against opposing forces with 2s1 Gvozdika and mortars, practicing maneuver defense, laying ambushes, and camouflaging equipment. Units fired at targets at a range of 100m-3000m with ATGMs, and various RPGs.

Looks like PG-7VR tandem warhead

Meanwhile the rest of the corps were on the offensive near Pechenga, and on the Sredniy and Rybachy peninsulas. A total of 3,000 troops are involved and 500 pieces of equipment. This describes the overall set of exercises taking place, emphasis placed on jointness, ground force coordination with air power. The counteroffensive phase is the final part of the exercise, earlier they trained in positional and maneuver defense at Pechenga and Kandalaksha, along with coastal defense against an amphibious landing at Sredniy.

Bastion-P Coastal Defense Cruise Missile batteries based on the island of Alexandra Land (Franz Josef Land archipelago), conducted launches against an enemy surface action group. Strike conducted against a target at sea, maximum effective range. Target coordinates relayed by the Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate, Admiral Kasatonov. Kasatonov was doing its own training in targeting surface combatants, but with simulated electronic launches. The target struck was being observed by Il-38, and the strike confirmed by the aircraft. Here is the twist, the Bastion-P battery did not belong to the Northern Fleet, it was a Baltic Fleet coastal defense unit that was delivered to Alexandra Land some weeks ago in advance of this exercise.

Special thanks to Konrad Muzyka for helping me put some of these writeups together.

Also there was a concert at Baranovichi

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