Military exercises are one of the most important elements of military readiness. They serve several key purposes, including practicing new ways of using troops, verifying command and control capabilities, trying out new ways of organizing and conducting combats, and testing the latest weaponry. International exercises broaden the range of objectives: they increase trust between participating nations and facilitate the development of common approaches to international security.
International military cooperation plays a significant role in the activities of the Russian Armed Forces. This is evidenced by statements of senior defense officials, as well as the actual practice of international contacts.
In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic and its associated restrictions have required adjustments of the Armed Forces’ activities in terms of international cooperation. Due to the unfavorable epidemiological situation, the number of activities were reduced, postponed, or canceled. In particular, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) anti-terrorist exercise ‘Mirnaya Missiya 2020’ (Peace Mission), the exercises ‘Rubezh 2020’ (Border), ‘Vzaimodejstive 2020’ (Interaction), and ‘Poisk 2020’ (Search) within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russian-Laotian exercise LaRos 2020, and the first Russian-Indonesian naval exercise Orruda 2020 have not been held. However, most of the planned bilateral and multilateral exercises were conducted.
The largest exercises took place from July to September. On the one hand, this may be due to the peculiarity of the academic year in the Russian army: it does not coincide with the calendar year and lasts from December 1 to October 31. Thus, the largest exercises are a kind of ‘exam’ for the Armed Forces and as such sum up the academic year. On the other hand, a number of exercises were shifted to the autumn period due to the unfavorable epidemiological situation – the situation was expected to stabilize by autumn, so the intensity of the exercises increased towards the end of the calendar year.
The ‘Kavkaz 2020’ Strategic Command and Staff Exercise: a Final Test for the Armed Forces
The major exercise to enhance the combat readiness of the Armed Forces in 2020 was the ‘Kavkaz 2020’strategic command post exercise, during which the preparation and conduct of operations to combat illegal armed formations (IAF) of international terrorist organizations was practiced. The aim of the exercise was to train troops in conducting combat operations under modern conditions and to increase the interoperability of military command bodies of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and partner States.
These large-scale exercises take place annually in a rotation of the four military districts. Thus, in 2017, the ‘Zapad 2017’ (West) exercise was held in the Western Military District (MD), and in 2018, the ‘Vostok 2018’ (East) exercise was held in the Eastern MD, and in 2019, the ‘Tsentr 2019’ (Center) exercise was held in the Central MD. The previous Kavkaz exercise was held in Southern MD in 2016. The ‘Kavkaz 2020’ Strategic Command and Staff Exercise (SCSE) was also held in Southern MD.
Soldiers from Armenia, Belarus, China, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia (a total of up to 1,000 personnel) took part in the ‘Kavkaz 2020’ SCSE. India and Azerbaijan were also expected to participate in the exercise; however, India refused to participate (officially, due to coronavirus; according to Indian media reports, because of China's participation in the SCSE), and Azerbaijan was only represented by an observer group. Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, and Tajikistan also participated as observers.
The ‘Kavkaz 2020’ exercise featured a variety of episodes. Experience from contemporary armed conflicts was taken into account in the preparation and conduct of the exercise. In this regard, emphasis was placed on countering cruise missiles and UAVs, fire and electronic warfare against the ‘enemy’, and the use of ‘vertical envelopment’, meaning an airlift into the rear of the enemy.
A tank unit of the Southern MD worked on disrupting the “enemy's” offensive: acting from an ambush, T-90A tank crews opened salvo fire on columns of “enemy’s” armored vehicles on targets at a distance of 700 to 2200 m, after which they changed positions under a smokescreen. As the episode continued, motorized rifle units of the Southern MD together with an airborne assault brigade of the Airborne Troops (VDV) stopped the “enemy”: first, a troop used Mi-8AMTSh Terminator helicopters to land in the “enemy’s” rear, to destroy their armored vehicles. Then Tornado-G multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) and Msta-S self-propelled howitzer (SPH) opened fire in order to prevent the deployment of “enemy” reserves. Fire support from the air was provided by crews of Mi-28N ‘Nochnoy Okhotnik’ (Night Hunter) helicopters and a wing of Su-25 attack aircraft. The episode was concluded with a counterattack: motorized infantry units on BMP-3 and Tunguska surface-to-air missiles (SAM), as well as crews of T-90A tanks “destroyed” the main forces of the “enemy”. Some 2,000 troops and about 100 pieces of equipment took part in the episode.
Soldiers of the engineering troops and CBRN defense units of the Southern MD used a “firewall” with a combination of firebombs and anti-tank mines to stop the “enemy” tanks from breaking through. The landmines were detonated over an area of more than three hectares, and more than 500 servicemen and about 70 pieces of equipment were involved in the episode.
Snipers from a motorized rifle unit of the Southern MD “destroyed” the “enemy” manpower moving to reinforce the main grouping using large-caliber ASVK and SVD rifles.
Anti-aircraft gunners of a motorized rifle unit of the Southern MD and a separate airborne assault unit of the VDV using the Tunguska-M1 SAM system and the Verba SAM system repelled an air and UAV attack by the “enemy”, destroying target missiles at heights of up to 2 km.
As part of the main episode of the exercise, which was observed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces, the landing of Russian VDV and Pakistan Special Forces equipment, as well as amphibious assault troops, was practiced. During the episode, the paratroopers on Mi-24 helicopters carried out the seizure of landing sites to ensure the landing of the main forces, after which Mi-26 helicopters carried out the landing of troops on protected Typhoon vehicles, and Mi-8 helicopters carried out the transfer of guns and ammunition for D-30 howitzers on an external sling. More than 1,170 paratroopers, up to 40 vehicles, and more than 80 army aviation helicopters took part in this episode.
For the first time as part of the exercise, ten BMD-4Ms were simultaneously landed from IL-76MD military transport aircraft.
The Caspian Flotilla marines used small arms and BTR-82AM to practice “destroying” the “insurgents” in the coastal zone, which took place at night.
At sea, the ships of Caspian Flotilla ‘Tatarstan’, ‘Velikiy Ustyug’ and ‘Astrakhan’ along with Iranian Navy missile boats ‘Joshan’ and ‘Paykan’ performed elements of joint maneuvering and practiced firing at sea and aerial targets. A joint search and rescue operation was also conducted.
Crews of the Black Sea Fleet ships ‘Pavel Derzhavin’ and ‘Dmitry Rogachev’ as well as anti-sabotage boats practiced searching for and blocking the sea supply channels of illegal armed groups and destroying their surface assets. The crew of the submarine ‘Kolpino’ of the Black Sea Fleet launched a Kalibr missile from an underwater position at a shore-based target.
The training ranges in Armenia, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia trained episodes of joint operations against IAFs under separate scenarios. In Armenia, at the Alagyaz firing range, the direct control of units during joint operations was practiced; in Abkhazia, at the Tsabal and Nagvalou firing ranges, they carried out the task of engaging a simulated enemy in the mountains and on the coastline; in South Ossetia, at the Dzartsemy firing range, search operations in difficult terrain were carried out as well as the blockage and destruction of IAFs and sabotage groups of the “enemy”.
A combined unmanned aerial vehicle team comprising Forpost, Orlan-10 and Eleron-3 UAVs was set up during the exercise to detect “enemy” defense systems and strike at ground targets.
In the exercise, 19 new types of weaponry have been tested, as well as the use of wind and solar generators.
The Russian Ministry of Defense specified that a total of about 80,000 people took part in the ‘Kavkaz 2020’SCSE, while the number of military personnel in the exercise conducted under one operational command did not exceed 12,900.
CSTO Multilateral Exercises
CSTO military exercises have been conducted on the territory of member states since 2004. In 2020, joint CSTO exercises were planned for all regions. Exercise plans, locations, and preliminary participants were agreed upon during the first staff talks, which took place via videoconferences on June 3–5.
The CSTO exercise was planned mainly for the autumn period, but it was agreed at the time, that the timing and preparation of the exercise could be adjusted to take into account the epidemiological situation in the CSTO states. As a result, only three of the planned exercises were conducted.
Exercises with the forces and means of logistics of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) ‘Echelon 2020’ took place on August 17–20 at the Kapustin Yar training range in the Astrakhan region, which was one of the stages of a large-scale rear special exercise of the Russian Armed Forces. Soldiers from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan took part in the exercise.
Participants in ‘Echelon 2020’ practiced the tasks of deploying a logistics command post, organizing logistics during a joint CSTO operation to localize a border armed conflict, transporting military troops, and protecting and defending command posts. Also, for the first time during the exercise, units of the South MD deployed a point to maintain a reserve supply of drinking water capable of delivering up to 30 cubic meters of water per hour.
‘Nerushimoe Bratstvo 2020’
The ‘Nerushimoe bratstvo 2020’ (Unbreakable Brotherhood) exercise, in which issues of preparing and conducting a peacekeeping operation were practiced, took place on October 12–16 at the Losvido firing range in the Republic of Belarus. The aim of the exercise was to delineate the roles and responsibilities between the command of the peacekeeping force and their mission. Military personnel from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan took part in the exercise in the Eastern European region of collective security.
During the ‘Nerushimoe bratstvo 2020’, peacekeeping operations were practiced, including patrolling terrain, escorting convoys, blocking and searching of populated localities in the area of responsibility, and interaction with the police and rescue units. At the final stage of the exercise, the peacekeepers used the Silok anti-drone system against a swarm of improvised UAVs: it was set as follows – according to “reconnaissance data”, one of the opposing sides planned to destroy the bridge set up by the peacekeepers by dropping bombs from the UAVs, thereby “cutting off” the settlement. The use of the system made it possible to preserve the crossing and deny the area above the buffer zone to drones. There was also a response to an ammonia tanker explosion detected by a UAV of the Republic of Belarus while on an aerial reconnaissance mission. In addition, for the first time in Belarus, the delivery of humanitarian cargo on the external sling of a helicopter was practiced. Previously this method had only been used in Russian strategic exercises. The humanitarian cargo, weighing 3 tons, was placed on a fixed Mi-8 helicopter platform. Russian Mi-24 attack helicopters and Belarusian Armed Forces Mi-8 helicopters provided cover and fire support for the cargo delivery.
Command and Staff Training Exercise of the KSOR CSTO Command
On November 11–12, one of the Russian VDV’s formations in the Moscow Oblast hosted a training session with the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Force (KSOR) Command, during which a decision was made to conduct a joint operation. The purpose of the exercise was to test the prospective structure of a CSTO KSOR command post-deployment based on an airborne command post. Representatives of the Ministries of Defense and the Ministries of the Interior and Emergency Situations of the CSTO member states participated in the CSTE.
Military cooperation on a bilateral basis is also important. The Russian Defense Ministry not only maintains cooperation with its traditional partners but also seeks it outside of the scope.
In October, a joint exercise of the Southern MD and the Abkhaz Defense Ministry was held at the Tsabal and Nagvalou training ranges of Abkhazia. The goal of the exercise was to improve the cohesion of the forces engaged in joint combat missions. The scenario of the exercise was reminiscent of the ‘Kavkaz 2020’exercise, which had taken place a month earlier, as it was set in the mountains and seaside regions: the troops of the joint group practiced maneuverable defense of the shoreline against a maritime landing by a simulated “enemy”. The joint forces practiced maneuvering the defense at the shoreline and defeated the “enemy's” surface asset.
A Russian-Algerian air defense exercise was held at the Ashuluk training range in the Astrakhan region onAugust 25 to 28. As part of the exercise, training sessions were held on driving combat vehicles, loading the launcher, operating the automated air defense control systems Universal-1E and Fundament, and repelling a massive missile airstrike. The Algerian military studied the organization of combat planning, equipment maintenance, and its preparation for combat use. The main event of the exercise was a live firing. Even though the scale of the exercise was quite modest, the Russian Defense Ministry noted the importance of Russian-Algerian cooperation.
In February, military reconnaissance units of the two countries trained at the Pambak training range in the Republic of Armenia, where special and tactical training tasks were practiced, armored vehicles were driven, and training firing was carried out. Special attention was paid to individual reconnaissance training and the use of technical reconnaissance equipment.
In March, a special fire-fighting exercise of fire brigades from the Russian military base and the Armenian Emergencies Ministry was held at the Gyumri military garrison's military compound.
In July, during a routine exercise in Armenia as part of the Joint Air Defense System, soldiers of the two countries practiced countering reconnaissance and attack drones of the “enemy”.
The first Russian-Belarusian exercise in 2020 took place on February 18–21 at the Strugi Krasnye and Zavelichye training ranges and the Kislovo landing site in the Pskov Oblast. During the joint exercise between the Russian VDV and the Special Operations Forces (SOF) of Belarus, a landing, capturing an object, carrying out a raid, and engaging in defensive combat were practiced. First, the combined unit landed on an airfield seized by the “enemy”, destroyed its control room and combat outpost, and blocked the reserve from reinforcing the main forces. Then they carried out an offensive, blocked a simulated insurgency, and finally seized and held an advantageous line against the “enemy” to prevent the deployment of its main forces. There were also firing exercises with hand-held grenade launchers and small arms, with BMD-2 weapons, and tank crews firing a 100-mm cannon and a twin machine gun.
The Russian-Belarusian exercise ‘Slavyanskoe bratstvo 2020’ (Slavic Brotherhood) took place on September 14–25 at the Brest, Gozhsky, and Ruzhansky training grounds in the Republic of Belarus. It was a counter-terrorism exercise aimed at practicing interaction between units, carrying out joint tasks. Soldiers from the Republic of Serbia have also been planning to join the exercise but were pressured by the European Union to refrain from joining any military exercises for six months. While ‘Slavyanskoe bratstvo’ took place against the backdrop of the unstable internal political situation in Belarus, it had long been planned and was not related to the current political situation. On the Russian side, paratroopers from the Pskov, Ivanovo, and Tula VDV units took part in the exercise; on the Belarusian side, units of the Republic's SOF took part.
During the exercise, military personnel from the two countries carried out a number of tasks involving blockading of a populated area and the destruction of suspected “insurgents”. The training exercises included firing D-30 howitzer’s and 2S9 Nona-S self-propelled guns (SPG) at “enemy” command posts and firing points, hostage rescue and building seizure tasks, searching for and detaining “terrorists” in the surrounding area, providing first aid and evacuating the “wounded”.
There was training in the parachute landing of troops and equipment from IL-76MD aircraft in unknown terrain with the subsequent seizure of “enemy” targets. In particular, the seizure of the hydro-technical junction was carried out. A waterway was crossed with the support of the army aviation: paratroopers from the two countries trained in crossing the Mukhavets River using Russian BMD-4M and BTR-MDM Rakushkaas well as Belarusian BTR-80 armored personnel carriers.
In addition, as part of the exercise, Russian Tu-160 missile carriers flew along the borders of Belarus to practice operational cooperation with the Belarusian Air Force's fighter aviation to provide air cover for actions of a joint tactical group on the ground. Six Tu-22 bombers bombed “enemy” targets on the ground during a flight over the republic's territory.
As the first one for the Black Sea region, the Russian-Egyptian Exercise ‘Most Druzhby 2020’ (Bridge of Friendship) took place in the Black Sea: in Novorossiysk and at the Black Sea Fleet's training ranges. The aim of the exercise was to develop military cooperation between the Egyptian and Russian navies and to exchange experience in repelling threats in areas of heavy shipping. Crews of the frigate ‘Admiral Makarov’, the destroyer ‘Orekhovo-Zuyevo’, the patrol ship ‘Dmitry Rogachev’ and the rescue tug ‘Professor Nikolay Mur’ took part in the exercise on the Russian side, while crews of the frigate ‘Alexandria’, the corvette ‘El-Fateh’, and the missile boat ‘M. Fahmi’ participated on the Egyptian side.
The exercise, which took place on November 17–24, had coastal and offshore phases. In the coastal phase, divers from the Egyptian and Russian Navy conducted an underwater inspection of the hulls of the vessels participating in the exercise prior to putting to sea. A pre-exercise conference was also held to discuss the exercise episodes and the organization of communication and interaction. In the offshore phase, participants repelled an attack by small “enemy” vessels, guarded and defended the ships, and fired at naval and air targets and “enemy” floating mines. They also practiced overcoming simulated minefields by escorting the ships behind trawls. In addition, the participants practiced assisting a ship in distress, Search and Rescue (SAR) tasks, and resupply at sea using ropes stretched between the ships, and actions to search suspicious vessels.
Even before India's refusal to participate in the ‘Kavkaz 2020’ SCSE (September 4–5), the Russian-Indian naval exercise ‘Indra Navi 2020’ was held in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. It aimed at strengthening the interoperability of the navies of the two countries and improve interaction in conducting multilateral maritime operations. The Russian Navy was represented by the destroyers Admiral Vinogradov’and ‘Admiral Tributs’ and the large naval tanker ‘Boris Butoma’. The Indian Navy engaged the destroyer ‘Ranvijay’, the frigate ‘Sahyadri’ and the tanker ‘Shakti’.
In the exercise, the crews practiced communication, joint maneuvering, and resupplying ships from tankers while on the move. The ships conducted artillery firing at sea and air targets and also “destroyed” an “enemy” submarine with rocket-propelled depth charges. In addition, Russian and Indian helicopter crews conducted cross-flights with landings on the decks of the Indian and the Russian destroyers.
On December 5, a one-day exercise was held in the Bay of Bengal involving the missile cruiser ‘Varyag’, the destroyer ‘Admiral Panteleyev’ and the medium sea tanker ‘Pechenga’ of the Pacific Fleet and the frigate ‘Shivalik’ and the corvette ‘Kadmatt’ of the Indian Navy. In this exercise, the two sides conducted communication training and practiced joint maneuvering. The exercise was aimed at enhancing interoperability between the fleets and sharing experiences.
For objective reasons, 2020 was not the most eventful year in terms of military cooperation between Russia and China. In September, Chinese servicemen took part in the ‘Kavkaz 2020’ CSTE, and on December 22, the two sides conducted a combined air patrol in the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, which was their second joint air patrol. The air group from the Russian Air Force side included two Tu-95MS strategic bombers, and from the PLA Air Force side four H-6K (架轰-6K飞机) strategic bombers. The objective of the patrols was to deepen and develop Sino-Russian comprehensive partnership relations, to further enhance the level of interaction between the two countries' armed forces, improve joint warfare capabilities, and enhance global strategic stability.
Mongolia is one of Russia's traditional military partners. On October 27–31, the thirteenth ‘Selenga 2020’Russian-Mongolian exercise was held at the Burundy training range in the Republic of Buryatia and Doitim An in Mongolia. In the exercise, military personnel from the two countries practiced eliminating suspected illegal armed groups. Due to pandemic-related restrictions, Russian and Mongolian troops trained on their own territories, with the exercise being commanded from the Burundy training range, where a team of Mongolian military officers arrived, and practical actions were monitored by online video surveillance.
In this exercise, new methods and techniques of countering insurgency were tested. For example, for the first time at ‘Selenga’, Russian troops used modern reconnaissance equipment and UAVs to collect data on a simulated enemy, after which they struck “enemy” control centers and depots using Tornado-G MLRS and Akatsiya SPH, supported by Su-25 and Mi-24 helicopters. Tank crews of the Eastern MD applied the experience of modern armed conflicts and fired at “enemy” targets at maximum range from closed firing positions with their T-72B tanks. A Pole-21 radio suppression system was used to suppress “enemy” UAV control channels. A tank bridge-builder was used to practice crossing a minefield and a moat, and Mi-8AMTShs underwent training in evacuating the “wounded” from the battlefield with an external sling.
A special task formation of the Mongolian Armed Forces also monitored the exercise at the Burundi training range. Units at the Doitim An training range, having received information about the location of the “enemy”, “destroyed” an illegal armed group.
Russian and Pakistani militaries have a mutual interest in developing military cooperation and therefore conduct exercises in both multilateral and bilateral formats. On November 5–21, at the training range of the Pakistani Armed Forces in Tarbela as well as at the Pakistani National Centre in Pabbi town, a joint Russian-Pakistani ‘Druzhba 2020’ exercise was held in which the sides exchanged their experience and practiced cooperation in operations to eliminate suspected IAF.
In the preparatory phase, the two countries' servicemen conducted individual and group training of personnel. The next stage included training and preparation for joint operations in a counter-terrorist operation. The exercise concluded with joint missions to eliminate suspected insurgents.
Participants in ‘Druzhba’ conducted firing exercises using standard SOF weapons at targets at a distance of 100 meters. For the first time, Russian servicemen used weapons and equipment of the Pakistani Army, including Glock pistols, M4 assault rifles, radios, and equipment. Russian and Pakistani snipers also shared their experience, as they trained together to eliminate “enemy” targets at distances of up to 600 meters.
In preparation for the final stage of the exercise, a landing from Pakistan Air Force Mi-17 helicopters was performed. After the landing, the troops practiced defending the landing area and repelled an attack by would-be terrorists at the landing site.
The main event of the exercise was an assault on the “enemy” base, which was conducted with the fire support of armored vehicles and aircraft of the Pakistani Armed Forces. In the exercise, the commandos of Russia and Pakistan practiced in liberating a town from terrorists – after having landed in a mountainous and heavily wooded area, the participants marched to the site and stormed more than 20 buildings with the “elimination” of suspected terrorists. The participants also performed first aid and “casualty” evacuation in the course of the operation. As part of the exercise, the Pakistani side conducted demonstration performances by the Army troops.
Four joint Russian-Syrian exercises are known to have taken place in 2020.
On January 18 to 20, an exercise was held to defend the port of Tartus, where the Russian naval base is located. The exercise involved searching for mines near the port, and a combined Russian-Syrian unit have “neutralized” an underwater sabotage group of suspected terrorists. Another exercise was reported on May 25 in the port of Tartus: Russian and Syrian navies once again practiced joint actions to protect the port from a group of “saboteurs”. The exercise involved a group of “saboteurs” attempting to plant an improvised explosive device on the seabed. The anti-sabotage gunboat ‘Raptor’ and the gunboat ‘Kinel’ arrived at the alleged location of the “enemy” and the fairway for gunboats was cleared by the minesweeper ‘Ivan Antonov’. Syrian Navy minesweepers and missile launchers also took part in the exercise.
Another defense exercise of the Russian naval base in Tartus, in which the joint actions of ground forces, navy, and aviation with the aim to find and neutralize a group of saboteurs were practiced, took place on December 24. In addition, an “attack” by an “enemy’s” UAV was repelled with the use of Tor and Pantsir-S1SAMs.
In addition, on August 21, it became known that a similar exercise was conducted in the port of Benias: while patrolling the waters, a suspicious vessel that did not respond to requests from shore was “discovered”. Afterward, the vessel was boarded to seize the crew and inspect the ship. In the course of the exercise, artillery fire was fired at a simulated enemy from Russian and Syrian ships, and the “destruction” of an “enemy” UAV was practiced.
Exercises to protect and defend the ports of Tartus and Benias are conducted regularly.
The 201st Military Base of Russia is stationed in Tajikistan; it is part of the Central MD and is the largest ground unit of the Russian Armed Forces carrying out tasks outside the country. Military specialists of the 201st Base not only participate in the training of Tajikistani soldiers but also regularly conduct joint exercises.
One of Russian-Tajikistani exercises aimed at strengthening interaction between units and ensuring unified approaches to the conduct of actions took place on November 20–28 at Liaur, Sambuli, and Khabr-Maidon training ranges in Tajikistan. During the march to the ranges, Russian servicemen practiced moving as part of a convoy, navigating in unfamiliar terrain. During the joint practical part, the units carried out protecting and defending facilities and blocking and destroying insurgent groups.
In one of the episodes at the Sambuli training range, Orlan-10 UAVs in co-operation with reconnaissance units, while monitoring the terrain, detected a border violation by a suspected insurgent group. After the decision was taken to destroy the group, the tasks of simultaneous use of Sani mortars, Gvozdika SPH, and Mi-24 helicopters with the support of BTR-82A were practiced. Joint operations were controlled using the Streletz reconnaissance, control, and communications system.
In the course of the main stage of the exercise, tasks were carried out at the Khabr Maidon training range to destroy a IAF numbering 1,200 men, which had broken through the border. To complicate the “enemy's ”offensive, engineering units deployed two 500-metre “firewalls”, artillerymen fired Grad MLRSs, and an electronic warfare team uncovered the enemy's electronic facilities and UAVs using the Borisoglebsk-2system. Then Russian and Tajik units launched a counterattack against the insurgent forces, which had been “drawn into” the firing bag, using Grad and Uragan MLRSs and 2S3 Akatsiya SPHs. Using a “helicopter carousel” technique that involved Mi-24 helicopters, the participants “destroyed” enemy manpower and armored vehicles using S-8 unguided aerial missiles.
On December 9 to 13, joint training of Special Forces of the Central Military District and the Armed Forces of Uzbekistan was held at the Termez firing range in Uzbekistan, in order to exchange experience in carrying out special operations to destroy insurgent groups. During the exercise, the sides practiced joint actions to capture an insurgent leader, as well as to clean up a populated locality occupied by militants.
In the training, the special forces of the two countries passed a complex special tactical obstacle course, practiced throwing knives and blades, as well as sparring in hand-to-hand combat. In the active phase, the troops carried out a joint operation behind “enemy” lines. According to the plan of the exercise, the insurgents, having crossed the border, seized a populated locality. After a reconnaissance mission using a UAV, the soldiers carried out an amphibious landing from a Mi-8 helicopter. After the landing, the special forces “destroyed” the guards, and the mortar crew opened targeted fire at the captured village. These “preparatory” actions enabled the main forces of the joint force, which arrived in Typhoon armored vehicles, to clear the buildings and capture the leader of the “group”. The operation ended with the mine-clearing units surveying and clearing the freed village.
The January 20–21 exercise near the Arabian Sea is not the first Russian-Japanese exercise, but it is the first anti-piracy exercise involving units of the Baltic Fleet and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships in the area. The Baltic Fleet unit was represented by the patrol ship ‘Yaroslav Mudry’, the tanker ‘Yelnya’ and the sea tug ‘Viktor Konetsky’, while Japan's ISAF unit was represented by the destroyer ‘Harusame’ (春雨).
On the first day after the kick-off conference, Russian and Japanese ships conducted joint training on maneuvering and signal exchange, including in the dark time of the day. The program for the second day was more intense: sailors from the two countries performed an episode involving the release of a vessel hijacked by suspected pirates. After encircling the hijacked vessel, the ‘Yaroslav Mudry’ and ‘Harusame’ took up positions to provide fire support and suppress firing points, while the assault teams seized the vessel and disarmed the remaining “pirates” on board. The episode was concluded with a joint inspection of the freed ship. During the exercise, the two sides also conducted small artillery and large-caliber machine gun firing at naval targets, while helicopters from Russian and Japanese ships' deck aviation carried out cross-flights with landings on the decks of the ship ‘Yaroslav Mudry’ and the destroyer ‘Harusame’ respectively.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only posed new challenges but also aggravated existing problems and controversies, including those in the field of international security. Therefore, a significant number of international engagements in the difficult context of the coronavirus pandemic demonstrates the genuine interest of the Russian defense authorities and relevant authorities in partner countries. As noted above, such interaction helps to build confidence and develops common approaches to international security.
It is important that in the planned exercises an initiative could take place – this provides an opportunity to find new forms and ways of using troops, taking into account the experience of contemporary armed conflicts and development of armed struggle means. In addition, testing of military hardware in the exercises enables significant improvements, while testing new and using already proven weapons in international exercises give partner countries an opportunity to study them in practice and, probably, to become interested in acquiring them.
The international exercises of the Russian Armed Forces in 2020 were, as before, defensive in nature and not directed against third countries – most often, the conventional enemy was IFAs, terrorist groups, and pirate gangs. At the same time, Russia and her partners demonstrated openness and invited international observers, third-country defense representatives, and military attachés to participate, and published information on exercises scenarios and numbers of participating servicemen and military equipment. Moreover, the Russian General Staff decided not to hold major military exercises near the borders of NATO member countries in 2020. The General Staff noted that this decision was aimed at continuing de-escalation of the situation in Europe and that in the future the Russian Armed Forces would be ready to adjust the exercise areas on a parity basis with NATO.
The combat training activity of the Russian Armed Forces in 2021 is expected to be no less than in 2020. A large number of bilateral and multilateral international activities are already planned and it is unlikely that the pandemic and its consequences will become a major obstacle to their implementation.
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By Olesya Zagorskaya
©New Defence Order. Strategy №4 (69) 2021