Zapad is over, but exercises and drills go on across Russia, like an echo bouncing across the military districts. In this final blog entry on Zapad I’ll give a sense of what the Russian military has been doing since Zapad officially ended. Most of these exercises are not part of Zapad 2017, but as always, it’s a bit hard to tell. Some seem like a continuation on the very same theme, perhaps for 2nd echelon forces or those that couldn’t get their training done during the week of the event. This is the final blog entry on Zapad – covering this exercise was mildly exhausting.
Russia’s Fleets had a few interesting exercises and live fire drills even though the main event had ended. Central and Southern MDs are quite active with large scale air defense and artillery exercises. Thousands of Russian troops are still at ranges in the far east, Siberia, North Caucasus and southern Russia.
A host of naval infantry, spetsnaz and special designation support units are conducting drills geared towards their specific mission sets and there is a wave of exercises across bases outside Russian territory, including: Transnistria, Abkhazia, and Tajikistan.
Western MD – A few photos of Russian units heading back.
Some interesting announcements cropped up after the last day of Zapad:
Western MD – There was a special command and control training with topographic and geodesic support units (sounds like those controlling satellites) for providing navigation at different levels to Russian forces. More interestingly, in the ‘strategic direction’ (suppose northwest) they worked out how to ensure the accuracy of missile units and artillery. They also worked on detecting jamming sources and how to adjust satellite navigation guidance for said jamming. About 250 servicemen involved all together. Sorry the translation is somewhat awkward given the terms involved, but this may have been one of the technically more important exercises and of course no photos available for something like this.
Southern MD – There’s a large scale air defense and artillery exercise ongoing at two ranges, Kaputsin Yar and Yeysky (near Rostov-on-Don). An artillery battalion from a motor rifle brigade garrisoned in Volgograd were drilling at the training range Prydboi. This ‘division’ of artillery employed MSTA-S in support of a motor rifle battalion. Drones were used in the exercise, including to simulate enemy drones to which the artillery division had to react, i.e. quickly pack up from firing position and get themselves road mobile. Around 500 servicemen and 100 piece s of artillery took part. The exercise will conclude with 120mm Hosta mortar fires and Tornado-G MLRS. A sniper unit is training at the same range, about 50 men total, together with a Spetz recon team.
At Kaputsin Yar, Russian air defense units from their base in Abkhazia ran live fire exercises with OSA-AKM, Strela-10M, and Igla MANPADS. About 300 servicemen and 30 pieces of equipment listed. Total it seems 1500 men and 400 pieces of equipment running air defense drills in Southern MD.
Eastern MD – As drills continue in this district, Spetsnaz units in Khabarovsk conducted raids against two enemy camps. They arrived via Mi-8AMTSh helicopters, and were retrieved after a 10km march. Meanwhile in Zabaykalsky Krai (by Mongolia) Su-30SM heavy multirole fighters provided air cover for the insertion of airborne units. The Su-30SMs practiced dog fighting and dealing with various forms of electronic warfare.
At the Joint Sea 2017 exercise with China’s PLAN the two sides worked on submarine rescue with Bester-1 and LR-7 submersible vehicles.
Central MD – More than 500 artillerymen are currently running live fire exercises in Orenburg at the Totskoye range. They located the target with drones and then concentrated fires with BM-21 Grad, MSTA-S and other types of artillery. About 120 pieces of equipment total. Meanwhile in Western Siberia a S-400 unit is conducting live fire exercises against incoming enemy missile strikes.
Tajikistan – Artillerymen from Russia’s base in Tajikistan destroyed a terrorist convoy carrying weapons. They detected them with Zastava drones, locating the supposed convoy of cars, and then opened up with 120mm Sani mortars.
Transnistria – Not to be left out of the war, Russian units ran some live fire drills in this long frozen conflict, with about 350 servicemen and 30 pieces of equipment involved. The machinery looked rather dated and worn, older BTRs and BRDMs. Still the ‘peacekeeping’ unit gave it their go to demonstrate that a battalion of Russian forces was still alive and quite operational in this breakaway region.
Don’t forget about us, we’re still peacekeeping.
Caspian Flotilla – Naval Infantry belonging to the flotilla (two battalions) hit the mountain training range of Adanak in Dagestan for some exercises in reconnaissance with the KRYS ‘Strelets’ system. About 600 naval infantrymen and some Nona self-propelled mortars were involved. They were working out integration between identifying targets with the personal kit system, relaying them to supporting mortar artillery using the same system, and then servicing the target.
Baltic Fleet – Select units of 11th Corps still have some work to do, practicing for ‘counter-terrorism’ drills. I’m not sure when the last incident of terrorism occurred in Kaliningrad but one suspects it’s a low probability event. In reality they were working on dealing with infiltrators, who had seized Russian army uniforms and were seeking to take over key technical facilities on the base, i.e. enemy special forces units. Seems they sorted out NATO, but there are still a few scenarios to be worked out regarding adversary SOF. The exercise is relatively small, about 150 servicemen and 20 pieces of equipment, including some drones, and high speed boats.
The Baltic Fleet’s S-400 units may have only held electronic launches during Zapad. Now they are moving to Ashylyk range in Astrakhan for live fire exercises against high altitude, low altitude, maneuverable and ballistic targets. The scenarios are meant to recreate combat conditions, force the batteries to camouflage, displace, and work under enemy suppression. Quite possibly the reason for this is that the Baltic region right now is filled to the brim with various ISR and intel collection assets from different countries due to all the exercises picking up every wave and particle recordable – so perhaps they wished to do some S-400 launches away from so many prying eyes. About 200 servicemen and 20 pieces of equipment are involved according to the official announcement.
North Fleet – In the course of exercises in the Barents, White and Laptev Seas (also New Siberian Islands) the fleet fired 13 different types of missiles from ships, submarines and CDCMs. The Fleet’s commander, Vice Admiral Nikolai Evmenov explained that the scenarios modeled existing and possible threats. Meanwhile on Kotelny archipelago it kind of wasn’t over. The specialized Arctic brigade made a landing via LST Kondopoga. The units included several BTR-80s, MT-LBTs, and Vityaz all terrain vehicles. After the landing, four platoons mimicked an assault to seize a strategic height on the island.
Peter the Great’s surface action group still had some work left on the way home. Orel, the Oscar-II SSGN and Peter the Great (Kirov-class) held some interesting duels in the Barents Sea. Peter the Great worked on ASW, and fired its ‘Vodopad’ ASROC system, while the Oscar practiced torpedo attacks.
(looks like Dmitri Donskoy is out there with them)
Necessity is the mother of invention (is there anything exercise balls can’t do?)