Zapad 2021 – Day 6 & 7 (September 15-16)

Zapad appeared largely over and things were dying down across training ranges. There was a military police exercise at Brest, and several live fire exercises for principal surface combatants of Russia’s Northern Fleet in the Barents Sea. Otherwise, most units were preparing for closing ceremonies and returning home on the 16th.

September 15th

At Brest (Belarus)

Belarus and Russian military police conducted an exercise in joint defense against a diversionary group attempting to break through to their camp, detaining opposing forces, and providing medical support to wounded. It looked a bit like a capture the flag exercise with blanks, smoke grenades and flares. The enemy diversionary group planted some kind of black jihadist flag in the MP camp and then a firefight broke out. Medical detachments got to use their Linza vehicle, based on the Typhoon-K.

Northern Fleet

A surface action group composed of Kirov-class battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy and Slava-class guided missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov were out in the Barents to conduct a live fire exercise with anti-ship missiles. Their target was an opposing amphibious landing group. The two ships fired P-700 Granit (SS-N-19) and P- 1000 Vulkan (SS-N-12) missiles respectively at a target imitating enemy ships. This appears to be the final exercise for these cruisers in the Barents and they’re returning to port.

Marshal Ustinov firing P-1000

The naval contingent with Udaloy-class Severomorsk has left port Dudinka where they conducted a port call, and cultural activities, along with various ship defense and counter-saboteur exercises. They’re not heading home though, further into the eastern Arctic, to New Siberian Islands via the Laptev Sea.

September 16th

Looks like Russian units are headed back to base. A closing ceremony was held 230th Obuz-Lesnovsky Combined-Arms training ground in Belarus.

The Alexandrov Ensemble also performed a concert for Russian and Belarusian troops involved in the exercise.

Russian forces at Mulino also held a closing ceremony involving foreign contingents who participated as part of the coalition.

I thought the Kazakh contingent looked pretty impressive in this year’s events

Seems the Russian military is headed back to their bases, bunch of reports and videos of vehicles loading onto rail wagons and aircraft headed back.

Northern Fleet ships are returning to port, including the Oscar-II SSGN (K-266 Orel and Delta IV K-51 Verkhoturye) which had originally set sail on the 11th. 14th Army Corps units are returning to base from their various exercises. A total of 8000 participants were involved in Northern Fleet activities during this event, with more than 800 pieces of equipment. They conducted a total of 6 missile launches, including P-700 Granit, P-1000 Vulkan, P-270 Moskit, Kh-35 by Bal CDCM, and P-800 by Bastion-P.

First Guards Tank Army units are heading back from Mulino, they had a few more drills on the way back, but are definitely home in time to vote in the Duma elections… Iskander-M units at Mulino are also returning to Kursk, thus confirming it was the 448th Missile Brigade of the 20th CAA, that was involved in Zapad missile strikes at that training range.

Russian units (logistics, engineering and combat and combat support troops) are packing and are heading to their permanent bases. There is no time to rest, though. On the way home, they will practice air defense operations, along with defending against sabotage and reconnaissance groups.

The head of the Main Directorate for Military Police, Colonel General Sergei Kuralenko, remarked that during the exercise MPs fulfilled 140 training-combat tasks, and provided support for 128 convoys/columns. About 2,500 military police took place in Zapad and 600 pieces of automotive equipment. These exercises involve quite a few MP units, and military auto inspection (VAI) is also part of military police. Consequently, the 2500 number is not unrealistic, but fairly reasonable given the different roles MPs play at these exercises.

Zvezda showed that there were well established MP field camps set up at these training ranges

Thanks to Konrad Muzyka for working on this with me like we did for Kavkaz-2020. It’s been fun covering Zapad, though a busy week and I had to take a break in the middle of it.

Some additional photos I found of interest:

Rare sight: T-80U with Drozd APS

Not sure what vehicle this is, but it has clear uses when camping

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.



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

Zapad 2021 – Day 3 (September 12)

Russian aerospace forces had a busy day, conducting strikes in support of exercises, intercepting enemy air attacks, engaging in various opposing force scenarios and working in conjunction with ground-based air defense. This seemed to be a finale day for exercises in Belarus, with the focus on Obuz-Lesnovsky, exercises featuring defense with artillery and air support, counteroffensives, heliborne operations with VDV troops to recapture a settlement. Tank and attack helicopter based exercises at Mulino, heavy day for various armor drills, and a fair bit of rotary aviation employed. Baltic Fleet conducted a large amphibious landing, simulating both amphibious attack and coastal defense. Northern Fleet practiced anti-submarine warfare, anti-ship warfare with SSGNs, and a large coastal defense exercise led by 14th Army Corps on the Kola peninsula.

Special thanks to Konrad Muzyka for helping me put a number of these together. We were worried with less media coverage there would not be as much to write about, but that seems to have been less of a problem than earlier imagined. Apologize for any awkward sentences, there’s a lot to cover and not much time for good editing to be had here.

VKS Aerospace Forces – Air defense units and Western MD tactical aviation repelled an enemy air attack, the exercise involved 10 different tactical episodes where units trained in intercepting air targets, attacking ground forces, and bombing fortified positions. Enemy forces were played by Su-35S, Su-34, Mi-8, Mi-28N, Mi-35, Ka-52. Su-30SM and Mig-31BMs in the role of interceptors, destroying enemy air targets which were attempting to conduct a massed aviation strike (MRAU). A total of 40 aerodynamic targets were destroyed, imitating enemy cruise missiles and aircraft. The way this is written I think the MoD release got a few items mixed in terms of the size of OPFOR. If the OPFOR is composed of real aircraft then naturally they use simulated electronic launches (except in that rare occasion when a pilot accidentally arms his 30mm in a training dogfight, like back in Kavkaz-2020).

In a different set of exercises Su-35S crews intercepted Su-30SMs at about 10,000 meters. Su-30SMs played the role of opposing forces. Each enemy aircraft had to be detected by radar, presumably ground based since no mention of AWACS, and this is a combined exercise with air defense components of VKS. Su-35s sortied from Ryazan, simulating electronic launches at beyond visual range 100km+

Near Smolensk, there were a series of strikes by Su-34s and Tu-22M3s, which appeared different than the exercise in Belarus discussed later in this post. They dropped bombs from relatively low altitudes of 1000m against underground command centers, cement bunkers, and other types of ground targets. Su-30SMs provided fighter cover. Approximately 20 aircraft belonging to tactical and long range aviation employed in this event.


At Ruzhansky – (210th Air Force and Air Defense Forces Aviation Range)

Reconnaissance discovered a large grouping of opposing forces along with their airfield with aircraft. Air support was called in to destroy it. Altogether 20 Russian and Belarusian aircraft flew in and dropped 50 bombs, launched 130 unguided missiles, firing 850 30mm rounds. The first to appear were Belarusian Su-30SM fighters, which carried out additional reconnaissance over the area and established air control. Then bombers and combat helicopters arrived to destroy the enemy. The strike package included Belarusian Yak-130s, Mi-24s, but also Russian long-range aviation’s Tu-22M3s. An image of a Su-24 with fuel tanks deploying flares was published by the Belarusian MoD, which confirms that Russia deployed these in support. A CSAR mission was also conducted after a helicopter was presumed to have “crashed.” A pair of Mi-24s provided air cover for combat search and rescue.

Belarusian Yak-130s

At/around Domanovsky in Brest – (174th Air Force and Air Defense Forces Training Range)

Subunits of the Belarusian 147th Air Defense Regiment (equipped with Osa-AKM air defence system) conducted two tactical episodes at the range. They provided anti-aircraft cover for ground troops, shielded them from air attacks of a simulated enemy. The second episode involved a live-fire exercise with missiles engaging high-speed small-sized and low-altitude air targets. The regiment deployed two batteries to the range with each battery assigned three targets. The first one simulated a high-speed target (200-400 m/s) flying at an altitude of 1-4 km. The second and third targets simulated OPFOR fire support helicopters hovering at a low altitude.

An air assault battalion from the 38th Air Assault Brigade made a march from Domanovo to Brest training range. During the march, they crossed be Mukhovets River east of Brest. Their objective was to flank opposing forces and cut off potential escape routes. The 38th riverine operations seem to have been linked to the one conducted the previous day by the Russian company from the 15th MRR. They too crossed Mukhovets and flanked the opposing force from an unexpected direction, occupying the necessary area and blocking escape routes. Not clear if this took place on the 12th or 13th of September.

This appears to be the video of that motor rifle unit in action. The comms back and forth here are kind of worth listening to.

During the night of 12/13 September Belarusian, Russian, and Kazakh paras did a night jump from Il-76s over the Brest range. First Russian were dropped to secure the landing site. The second wave followed with Belarusian and Kazakh subunits.  The drop included elements of the 38th Airborne Assault Brigade (Belarus), 76th Airborne Division (Russia), and the 35th Airborne Assault Brigade (Kazakhstan).

At Obuz-Lesnovsky (230th Combined Arms Training Range)

On the last day of the defensive phase of Zapad, Lukashenko paid a visit to this training ground, while Russia sent deputy minister of defense Evkurov. Officially, Belarus has stood up a motor rifle battalion as a part of force generation activities in support of Zapad. They might be staggering final events, having the big joint activity with Belarus on Day 3 at this range, and then the Russian one at Mulino on Day 4.

On the ground, units subordinated to the regional grouping of forces (RGF), which included elements of the Russian 4th Tank Division, 76th Air Airborne Division, Kazakh 35th Airborne Assault Brigade as well as Belarusian mechanized formations (and a newly stood up Belarusian motor rifle battalion) conducted an air assault. The scenario was first a joint force repulsing an enemy attack, setting the conditions for an effective counteroffensive, and defeated the enemy. This seemed like a fairly set-piece scenario for the regional grouping of forces, but it was a big show day for 4th Tank division and its T-80U counterattack, supported by Belarusian forces. Also they lit the range pretty well with all sorts of towed artillery, SPA, and MLRS. More than 100 pieces of artillery were used, including 2S1 Gvozdika, 2S5 Giatsint-S, and MSTA-S, BM-21 Grad and BM-27 Uragan MLRS.

OPFOR tried to conduct a counterattack with armored vehicles, but was stopped in part by a 400-meteter multi-row firewall. This is essentially engineer-sapper units (1st GTA) blowing up a ton of flammable liquid in an anti-tank trench. Engineer units then used UR-77 and UR-83P demining vehicles to clear a path for a counteroffensive. Counteroffensive followed with what seems to be all ground units deployed. Artillery, TOS-1As thermobaric weapon systems, VDV forces and elements of the 4th Tank Division, and T-72B3, T-80U. Also media claiming something called a T-90UBKh, but I think this a typo. The counter offensive was naturally a success, restoring the forces original positions.  

Zvezda had a good video with a sample of the different events at the range

Another part of this day’s events featured heliborne operations, lifting units into a captured settlement. The mock settlement was kind of a village, basically a set of rural looking dwellings. Airborne units surrounded the settlement with BMD-4s, then troops rappelled from Mi-8 helicopters (seem they can simultaneously deploy 5 soldiers from a helicopter via rope systems). Ka-52s supported the airborne operation, while soldiers cleared the village.

Aviation was also busy. This included Mi-24s from 50th Mixed Aviation Base Belarus and Ka-52s from Russian army aviation. Russia also deployed Tu-22M3s and Su-34s, flying from homebased airfields. The latter (4x Su-34) conducted SEAD missions against enemy air defense and traditional bombing missions. Belarusians also deployed their Su-25s and Yak-130s for ground support roles.

Since the start of Zapad, an EW group from 1st GTA has been busy suppressing radio signals of opposing forces using active jamming stations: R-934BVM “Borisoglebsk-2”, R-330Zh “Zhitel”, R-378BVM. EW units conducted a radio-electronic strike against enemy lines of communication (radio), and suppressed about 100 enemy targets which were capable of radio-electronic effects (translation a bit rough here).

Radio-electronic warfare troops

Back in Russia

Luzhskiy – Approximately 30 tank and artillery crews from elements of the 6th CAA fired at targets out of direct line of sight ~6km, from established firing positions, while conducting reconnaissance at night. A couple of battle drills mentioned: tank carousel, roving tank, and tank-scout. Tank carousel is well known from Syria, where tanks cycle through a firing position in order to sustain fire on a target at a sustained rate. Roving, or maybe nomadic tank is a better term for it, (shrug on translation here) is when a tank shifts between several firing positions to confuse a force as to the actual disposition of the defenders and where they’re concentrated. The tank fires from each spot moving along a route to make it seem like there is a much larger armored unit there. Tank-scout I’m unsure about. At Luzhskiy there are about 2000 troops and more than 500 pieces of equipment, including 4 aircraft and 10 helicopters.

At Mulino

Over what appeared to be a Mulino training ground, Mi-35s and Mi-24s helicopters provided air support and cover for ground units. They delivered strikes against manpower and armored vehicles. Attack helicopter crews employed Shturm-V and Ataka-M ATGMs and S-8 unguided rockets. The mode of attack was based on a ‘helicopter carousel’: helicopters created a circle style battle formation, which allowed for continuous delivery of fire on opposing forces’ positions. With that approach, they engaged communications, command posts and communication routes. Also, possibly during the same event at Mulino, Mi-28N, Ka-52, Mi-35 and Mi-24 attack helicopters conducted aerial reconnaissance, launching rocket strikes against ground targets, while providing air cover for ground forces. This could be a description of the abovementioned exercise. Helicopter crews arrayed themselves into pairs, and squadrons, employing terrain masking at low altitude flight.

I think this is the actual video from that helicopter event

Elements of the 4th Tank Division (possibly a BTG) conducted an ambush, thwarting an enemy offensive. Separated from the main forces, camouflaged T-80 tanks opened volley fire at the advancing enemy columns (opposing forces were represented by moving targets). Tank crews worked out hitting targets at distances from 700m to 2.2km, and then deployed smokescreens to displace from their positions.

An NBC subunit cleaned up a mock chemical attack. According to the exercise plan, two crews of the RHM-6 CBRN reconnaissance vehicles found a “contaminated” area, determined the type of contamination, and the substance used. Terrain samples were then transferred to a headquarters. All the equipment in the contaminated zone was disinfected by ARS-14KM vehicles. The NBC unit also created an aerosol curtain to camouflage friendly forces. The thermobaric detachment used RPO-A Shmel thermobaric grenade launchers to destroy enemy forticications.


Air defence units belonging to the 44th Air Defence Division, together with the Baltic Sea Fleet’s ships and naval aviation component repelled an enemy airstrike. Combat crews deployed to areas from which they were supposed to provide air cover, readying S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems.  There they sought to detect and destroy air and ballistic targets represented by real airframes. The air situation was complicated by massed ‘raids’ conducted by Su-30SM and Su-24s and the presence of an An-26 military transport aircraft. These aircraft imitated an enemy air force across a range of altitudes and speeds. The exercise simulated Russian air defense systems operating in an EW-contested environment.

During the exercise, the simulated enemy force delivered cruise missile strikes with a density of up to seven targets hit per minute. The Fleet’s Su-27s took to the skies in order to intercept enemy cruise missiles, together with air defense systems (launches simulated electronically of course). The interesting part here is that each year you see more air crews training in cruise missile interception. The Baltic Fleet ships involved in this drill also made electronic launches at air targets. In total, more than 10 aircraft were involved in the exercise. The grouping of naval and ground forces was represented by four air defence battalions, and seven ships of the Baltic Fleet. On the whole it doesn’t sound like OPFOR was particularly large, but interesting to see greater integration with naval forces performing AD missions.

At Pravdinsky Training Range

Attack of OPFOR was stopped by elements of the 11th Army Corps with air support. Fighters achieved air superiority. Su-34s aircraft struck the positions of the “enemy”, its command posts, and weapons and logistics depots. Mi-24s, Su-24s and Su-30s were also involved in ground support operations. Concurrently, artillery delivered concentrated mass fires on targets and destroyed tanks and armored vehicles.  

Consequently, favorable conditions were created for the transition from defense to offense. The enemy was struck by a tank subunit using the “tank carousel” technique.  On top of that, the use of artillery and frontal aviation effectively defeated the identified “enemy.” Elements of the 76th Airborne Division are at Pravdinsky as well, but unsure what role they fulfil.

Baltic Fleet

At Khmelevka, Baltic Fleet (336th) and Northern Fleet (61st) naval infantry units conducted an amphibious landing. Chief of the Russian Navy, Nikolai Evmenov, was present at this event personally. NF naval infantry had to seize a platsdarm and then enable the rest of the forces and equipment to land. BF naval infantry played the defenders in this scenario. First, supporting ships conducted artillery strikes along the coast to suppress defending fire positions. Then Su-30SMs and Su-24s from the Baltic Fleet provided strike support for the landing. Looks like first Raptor high-speed patrol boats unloaded groups of combat engineers to help clear a path through supposed mines on the beachhead, and set signals to designate the landing area for arriving forces. Looks like 4x Rapucha-class LSTs then unloaded naval infantry, more than 40x BTR-80 in total. This is a sizable amphibious landing for Russian forces. Along with the LSTs deployed two large aircushion landing craft (LCACs), the Zubr-class ships (Pomornik) Mordoviya and Evgeniy Kocheshkov. Looks like LCACs delivered the support units, 2s9 Nona mortars and a R-149 command vehicle.

SF and BF naval infantry then practiced their respective tasks, assault vs coastal defense. BF units were raised on alert, deployed to the area where they detected an incoming amphibious landing and began to setup positions. They defended the coast with Nona mortar systems, BM-21 Grad, and their BTR-82A APCs. Photos suggest Shilkas used on the beach as well. Altogether, about 10 ships involved in this event, more than 200 pieces of equipment, and approximately 2000 troops.

Project 1131M small anti-submarine ships Kabardino-Balkaria and Aleksin in conjunction with Ka-27PL ASW helicopters searched for a supposed enemy submarine in the Baltic Sea. Working on detection, classification, etc. they eventually found and sunk a hypothetical enemy submarine using a mix of RBU-6000 anti-submarine rocket launchers and torpedoes. Crews also practiced in live fire artillery exercises against small sea going and aerial targets.

Northern Fleet

14th Army Corps held a sizable exercise at Pechenga, simulating a defense against enemy forces on the Kola peninsula. Approximately 300 pieces of equipment including T-80BVMs, 2S1 Gvozdika and 2S3 Akatsiya SPA, venerable MT-LBs, ATGM units, and various air defense systems belonging to PVO-SV like Tunguska. They also had drones and naval aviation supporting. Su-24s from the fleet’s mixed aviation regiment joined in to conduct bombing runs against enemy forces. The exercise included practicing how to camouflage forces, better known by everyone as the dreaded maskirovka. Also electronic warfare, jamming and creating false targets. The exercise helped test signals and communications equipment, in total involving about 2000 troops from the Northern Fleet.

Northern Fleet surface combatants formed a surface search and strike group, essentially a surface action group whose primary mission is anti-submarine warfare. Seems these were small anti-submarine warfare ships, (project 1124M Grisha-class corvettes) Snezhgorsk and Yunga, working with Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft, and Ka-27PL ASW helicopters to search for enemy submarines with sonar buoys.

Meanwhile the Northern Fleet’s SSGN that had sortied on 11th September, an Oscar-II class submarine K-266 Orel, conducted a live fire exercise using P-700 Granit. The submarine fired submerged against a target imitating a large surface combatant at over 100km from its own position.

Orel firing

Supporting activities

Military transport aviation (VTA) prepared to deploy airborne forces, a total of 60 crews including Il-76 and An-26. They began loading VDV units at airfields.

VDV units at Strugi Krasnyie trained with indirect fire from BMD-4M, seemed like they were talking about firing airburst fragmentation munitions using predetermined coordinates from Orlan-10 drones.

Klyazma River – Western MD engineering units built a floating brigade across the Klyazma River in the Vladimir Region. OPFOR destroyed ground lines of communication, which forced the engineering units to restore a crossing over a river using heavy mechanized bridges TMM-3M2. Mi-28Ns provided air cover.

Engineers setting up a bridge to enable crossing of armor and motor rifle units.

Some media adds here

I think Chief of the Russian Navy Evmenov might be actually standing there to the right of the Zubr, as a camera man is kneeling at the ramp, it kind of looks like him.

Zapad 2021 – Day 2 (September 11)

September 11 featured a large joint exercise at Pravdinsky, representing the main tenets of maneuver defense. Air defense, EW, and tactical aviation units practiced intercepting enemy cruise missiles, drones, and penetrating strike aircraft. Airborne units were training and positioning for more active phases of the exercise coming up. A panoply of interesting reconnaissance and targeting activities, using KRUS Strelets to enable recon-fire/recon-strike loops. Northern Fleet forces sortied a SSGN and SSBN, conducting simulated fires against enemy surface action groups. Meanwhile the Baltic Fleet ran an amphibious landing exercise, and live fire exercises with CDCMs.

I took a break on Sunday which put me a bit behind, but got to see my football team lose their first game of the season. Of course that was more of a dynamic event with a motivated OPFOR.

Special thanks to Konrad Muzyka who helped me put some of these items together, it always easier with another person looking.

VKS Аеrospace Forces

Tu-22M3 and Su-34 aircraft conducted bombing runs on a training run near Smolensk (Dorogobuzh?). They bombed ground targets, denoting armored vehicles, concrete shelters, camouflaged and fortified underground command posts. Ground targets were struck from a height of around 1,000 m. Air cover provided by Su-30SMs. Altogether 20 long-range and tactical aviation aircraft were involved in this operation. (sadly no pictures)

After their deployment to operational airfields in the Ryazan region, Su-35s were sortied to intercept 10 air targets here played by Su-30SMs. The latter were detected by radio-electronic troops of the WMD. Before the OPFOR Su-30SMs entered a zone of air defense responsibility, they were ‘engaged’ by simulated electronic launches at a distance of over 100 km.

Mig-31BM units belonging to 6th AAD Army intercepted enemy aircraft at medium altitudes. These were simulated by Su-24M bombers operating as the opposing force. They then detected a group of enemy drones which could not be identified on IFF. The Migs broke up into pairs to engage enemy drone systems, preventing a hypothetical strike against Russian powerplants.

VDV Airborne – Strugi Krasnye

This proved a really interesting battalion level exercise on 10th/11th. 76th VDV division deployed 600 paratroopers with 50 pieces of equipment. Air cover provided by Su-30SMs, Ka-52s, and Mi8AMTSh helicopters, along with air control with A-50U AWACS and Il-22-SURT. Paratroopers seized an enemy airfield, marched to another mission 100km away. on their way they also practiced overcoming minefields. Looks like they had 50 BMD-4M, BTR-MDM Rakushka, and some lighter vehicles as well, along with air defense systems (Stela-10MN, ZU-23-2, Igla, Verba). Part of the activity included the column practicing repelling an enemy attack.

I’m going to dedicate more time to this because we found a great map discussing the exercise, and after staring at it for some time, decided it was worth unpacking this a bit more. Konrad spent more time on this on his blog:

The 51st parachute regiment & 234th air assault regiment are from 106th division, while the 237th air assault are from 76th division. 51st is holding left flank, 237th is holding far right, a reinforced 234th is holding the main line in the center and defending against an attack on the right. The exercise is using stand in numbers under the system of exercise number -10 = actual unit number i.e. 61st – 10 = 51st regiment.

Sector division between the 51st, 234th, and 237th regiments.
Konrad made this explainer

Separately, 106th VDV from Tula were airlifted by military transport aviation (VTA) from Ryazan region to Ulianovsk. Earlier at Dyagilevo airbase the 106th had assembled a full BMD-4M battalion for loading aboard transport aircraft to be paradropped. They will be doing a drop with 300 troops and more than 30 BMD vehicles at Zhitovo, using 23 x Il-76MD.

106th getting ready

At Savasleika in Nizhny Gorod region, the 31st Air Assault Brigade which is based in Ulianovsk, began practicing rappelling from helicopters. This unit is training with using Mi-8AMTSh to airlift D-30 howitzers, and new ground mobility vehicles, Sarmat-2, which packs 3 people, 12.7mm MG and AGS-17 30mm Grenade launcher. 31st usually experiments with force structure and new tactics, air lifting equipment, and the like.

31st training
Playing around with Sarmat-2

6th CAA at Mulino – Military Police destroyed an enemy diversionary group which attempted to penetrate the army’s command post. OPFOR was being played by Spetsnatz units, their mission was to sabotage the enemy command post and place mines in the area. Defending forces consisted of security and MPs, using blank rounds and smoke charges to simulate combat conditions. Snipers belonging to a motor rifle detachment practiced stopping light enemy vehicles and armor with ASVK and SVD rifles, firing at the engine blocks. They then used KRUS Strelets to relay the coordinates of enemy units to supporting artillery.

MP units training

Radio-electronic warfare (EW) troops practiced disabling groups of enemy drones, forcing 20 UAS to land. In this exercise enemy drones planned to conduct strikes against military infrastructure with the aid of UCAVs. Radar units detecting incoming drones at different altitudes, then relayed their coordinates to those operating Borisoglebsk-1 and Zhitel EW systems. EW units then disrupted drone communication and navigation systems.

At Luzhsky – Western MD rotary aviation (most likely army aviation units based in Leningrad region) practiced a new tactic for destroying enemy forces with Mi-8, Mi-28N and Ka-52 helicopters. Pairs of helicopters would predeploy and sit masked on cleared positions in the forest. They then would await enemy forces to break through, takeoff from their hidden positions, and destroy targets (this one is new to me). They’re describing hit and run tactics using terrain masking.

Ashuluk training range – S-400s and Pantsir-S1 units belonging to Western MD are training at this range in repelling aerospace attack, namely defending against MRAU (Massed Missile-Aviation Strike), destroying cruise missiles simulated by target imitators, enemy drones, and tactical aviation. Air defense units will work in concert with tactical aviation.

Pravdinsky and Khmelenvka – Drone units using Orlan-10, Forpost are being used extensively as part of the exercises taking place in Kaliningrad, along with UGVs like Platforma-M. These are being employed to find and fix targets, conduct battle damage assessment, armed reconnaissance, and also to clear paths through minefield.

Platforma UGV

At Pravdinsky, there was a large exercise integrating units from the Army Corps, VKS air defense, and the fleet’s land based naval aviation components. With support from artillery and aviation they fortified a defensive line with the goal of then conducting a counterattack. The scheme includes ‘complex’ defeat of an opponent’s forces, which in practice means a set of coordinated strikes from different elements of the joint force being deployed. Ground forces used self-propelled artillery (2s3 Akatsiya) and Uragan 220mm MLRS, also BM-21 Grad, in conjunction with drones for ISR. Su-30SMs conducted strikes against enemy targets in depth, such as command posts, logistics dumps. The fleet’s Su-24s and Su-30SMs struck with unguided FAB-250s.

Uragan BM-27s firing
Motor rifle units with anti-tank support in positions
Effects from fires – possibly being observed by drone

Meanwhile a pair of Su-27s assigned to the Fleet’s tactical aviation units at Chkalovsk practiced intercepting enemy cruise missiles with air-to-air missiles. Not sure if it was part of the same exercise, but sounds like this was all one large activity.

The use of airpower then set conditions to transition from defense to counteroffensive with motor rifle (BMP-3) and armor (T-72B3), thereby preserving the force. Artillery fires in this exercise were further coordinated with operations by Mi-24 helicopters operating at low altitudes. To simulate enemy fires they used flares, and target imitators. PVO-SV units practiced air defense with Tunguska and Igla systems. Countermine systems also engaged using UR-77 to blast corridors through enemy mine fields. A detachment was airlifted by helicopters, presumably to the rear or flanks of the opposing force. About 300 pieces of equipment, 5000 troops, and 20 aircraft are involved in this exercise at Pravdinsky. The description in this exercise reflects an increasing focus on maneuver defense in Russian military discussions, and lays out its central precepts – engaging a superior force to degrade them, retreating to reserve lines to avoid being pinned, massing artillery and airpower against them as they concentrate, which sets the conditions for a counteroffensive – and preserving the force with minimal losses.


Brest training range – Russian forces together with Belarusian units began digging in to prepare their positions against air attack. They trained in repelling enemy reconnaissance groups, snipers prepared positions, and others setup security posts. Also at Brest there’s a whole discussion about topographers belonging to the tank regiment deployed there using systems like Kaleidoscope (and 1T134M) to create full 3D maps of the area, with accurate measurements. This helps artillery units and those in predetermined positions have a much better sense of the area and fire with greater accuracy.

Recon units penetrated behind enemy lines, and employed KRUS Strelets targeting systems. Their goal was to find enemy armor concentrations, command and control points, fuel and ammo dumps, along with railroad hubs for unloading equipment. With Strelets they were able to relay coordinates to supporting artillery and aviation for strikes.

Elements of the 96th Reconnaissance Brigade deployed three different types of reconnaissance drones (namely quadrocopters) to ascertain the positions of an enemy force. This allowed them to make a detailed map of the terrain of the area where the conditional enemy forces were located. Quadrocopters were flown to 100 meters, which allowed them to deploy without detection. Data was then transmitted to fire systems to destroy targets.

Elements of a Belarusian SOF unit (unclear which) returned home from Ivanovo where they practiced with the 98th Airborne Division. Belarusian SOF unit conducted a riverine operation combing with seizing an island. The attack on the island (retaking it from diversionary groups which had seized it), was carried out from several directions. The first group of divers were deployed to a splashdown area by a Mi-8MTV-5 helicopter. The second group landed on special wing-type parachutes and immediately entered into a battle. Some ‘militants’ tried to escape from the island in a motorboat, but they were destroyed using a combat drone.

Northern Fleet – As part of its Arctic expeditionary group NF practiced destroying an enemy surface action group in the Barents. Ships involved include Sovremenny-class destroyer Admiral Ushakov, Gorshkov-class frigate Admiral Kasatonov, coastal defense cruise missile batteries fielding Bal (SSC-6) and Bastion-P (SSC-5). CDCMs deployed from their bases to firing positions along the Kola peninsula. Bal CDCMs fired together with Admiral Ushakov against targets 100km from the coast. Meanwhile Admiral Kasatonov, and Bastion armed CDCM units, conducted simulated electronic fires against naval targets, and worked on coordinating the targeting process.

Two nuclear powered submarines got underway, K-266 Orel (Oscar-II), and K-51 Verkhoturye (Delta IV). PDSS units helped protect the submarines against enemy diversionary groups during their departure. Minesweepers conducted counter-mine operations to help get the submarines clear, forming two minesweeping groups including Elnya, Soloevetskiy Yunga, Yadrin, and Kotelnich. Also looks like a NF Mig-31BM intercepted a Norwegian P-3S Orion over the Barents, most likely there to conduct intelligence on Russian submarines departing from their bases.

Delta IV departing

Baltic Fleet – A battalion of Bal CDCMs conducted simulated electronic strikes against an enemy amphibious landing groups. The training involved deploying to launch points, setting up and camouflaging equipment, reload drills, and securing the launch site.

Elements of the Baltic Sea, and Northern Fleet conducted a bilateral amphibious operation on the Khmelevka Training Range. Respectively, these are the 336th and 61st Naval Infantry Brigades. The latter has been training with the Baltic Sea Fleet naval infantry throughout the entire August. The exercise was observed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Admiral Nikolai Evmenov. The 61st Naval Infantry Brigade was first deployed to seize a bridgehead and ensure that equipment landed for a deeper an offensive into unfamiliar territory. The 336th Naval Infantry Brigade was tasked with defending beach areas.

A detachment of fire support ships first delivered an artillery strike along the coast to suppress 336th artillery positions. Engineers were then brought by Raptor fast-attack craft first to clear and mark lanes for follow on forces. After the engineers cleared a lane, several BTR-80/82 vehicles were deployed to the shore from the four Project 775 large landing ships. In the meantime, Evgeniy Kocheshkov Project 1232.2 Zubr LCAC with Nona 120mm mortars and R-149MA1 command and staff vehicles.

Zvezda coverage offers some good videos of this exercise

Support activities

Specialists in EW provide cover for command posts and important industrial facilities, along with electronic support functions like reconnaissance and identifying transmitting targets. They will emphasize counter-UAS, using experience gained dealing with enemy drones in Syria. There are approximately 300 EW specialists and 50 pieces of equipment involved in Zapad, including Krasukha-S4, Krasukha-2.0, Zhitel, and Borisoglebsk.

Combat service support (MTO) components will practice repair, evacuation, providing field service, etc. A repair and maintenance battalion has been deployed from Western MD’s independent MTO brigade. Prior to the active phase of training, MTO units will train in repairing vehicles, using 20 different types of equipment (KET-L, BTS-4, B3EM-K, TRM, MTO-UB-2). Also mobile repair stations with cranes, for example BAKM 1040 BK, which can lift 4.95tons. More footage to follow later in the exercise.

Nice map floating around showing the extent of simultaneous intelligence collection activity taking place