On September 17, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation announced the return of troops from the Russian-Belarusian strategic exercises “West-2021”. They will finally arrive at their bases by mid-October. The week-long maneuvers involving 200,000 people became the largest in the region in modern history. Record attention of NATO intelligence assets was riveted on them. What new was tested and shown at the maneuvers, Izvestia sorted out.
A special feature of the exercises, which lasted from September 10 to 15, was the development of the concept of a unified battlefield, sources in the Ministry of Defense told Izvestia. In addition to the troops themselves, drones and robots, rear structures were integrated into it. The decisions were made taking into account the situation in other strategic directions, including the northern one.
In addition to the troops of the Western Military District (ZVO), Belarus, and other allies and partners of Russia, units of the combined arms armies of the Central Military District and a large number of paratroopers from all over the country took part in the West-2021 exercises.
The largest and most spectacular stage was held in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Mulino training ground near Nizhny Novgorod on Monday 13 September. The largest maneuvering platform in the Western Military District made it possible to deploy 20,000 troops at once, up to 160 tanks, and use about a hundred helicopters and aircraft.
We paid special attention to robotics. For the first time, the Ministry of Defense demonstrated a reconnaissance and strike version of the Forpost-R unmanned vehicle. From it, they used the KAB-20S adjustable bombs of the light class developed specifically for drones. They weigh only 20 kg, but with a high-precision hit, this is enough to disable any equipment. They were paired with heavy shock Orions and light Swallows. In addition, the UAV was illuminated with a laser target for corrected shells and mortar mines “Gran”.
The Ministry of Defense reported that for the first time in the world, ground-based robotic systems Uran-9 and Nerekhta operated jointly with the troops. At Zapad-2021, armed robots were included in battle formations and a general tactical battle scheme. So, in the course of a maneuverable defense, they were instructed to cover the redeployment of friendly troops, the latter remaining in positions.
The prototypes of the B-19 infantry fighting vehicles were also demonstrated to the President of Russia. The newest uninhabited Epoch tower, developed for a new generation of armored vehicles, has been mounted on the base of the familiar BMP-3. The resulting hybrid has lost the 100-mm cannon, a landmark for the “treshka”, but received advanced optics and electronics, as well as ultra-long-range guided missiles “Kornet”.
Over the past five to six years, Russia has advanced very far in terms of joint actions, the organization of coalition groupings and the use of troops in different strategic directions, military expert Viktor Murakhovsky said.
– At the completed exercises, the option was worked out when sufficiently powerful enemy groups capable of delivering massive air-missile strikes were stopped during a defensive operation, and then defeated during counteroffensive operations, the expert said. – At the same time, their strikes were successfully repelled, and, in turn, our high-precision weapons of destruction as targets were destroyed by the enemy’s command posts, his aviation, starting positions of high-precision weapons.
From north to south
Although the exercises officially covered mainly the Western Military District, in parallel, no less interesting events unfolded in neighboring regions. Many episodes were played not only in Belarus, but also at the training grounds of the Kaliningrad region. For obvious reasons, the group of forces of the Baltic Fleet stationed there cannot be transported for combat training to the rest of Russia.
Most of the other polygons were chosen so that the most active episodes took place far from the borders of neighboring states. Nevertheless, the largest Russian war games aroused great interest in NATO. The Ministry of Defense recorded a record 63 flights of foreign reconnaissance aircraft and 20 drones near the borders of Russia in a week.
The real scale of West-2021 stretched from the far North and the Arctic to the south-west, including the Black and Mediterranean Seas, noted military expert Viktor Murakhovsky. In addition, from the depths of Russian territory, significant forces of those types of armed forces and combat arms were connected that have the ability to quickly reinforce groupings in the necessary directions and deliver long-range strikes with precision weapons. First of all, these were the Aerospace Forces.
Simultaneously with the Western Military District, large-scale exercises were held in the Northern Fleet. Up to 50 of his ships and vessels went to sea, including the largest surface units. The cruisers “Peter the Great” and “Marshal Ustinov” worked on naval targets depicting an enemy landing group with their “main caliber” – heavy anti-ship missiles. Submarines and coastal missile systems were also shot.
The Russian-Belarusian exercises also affected the south of our country. At the Ashuluk training ground, anti-aircraft gunners of the two countries trained to repel massive missile and bomb strikes. Only at this training ground in the Astrakhan region in the European part of Russia can long-range S-400 systems be used.
The actions of the light forces, primarily the Airborne Forces, were also noticeable this year. For the first time in Russian history, the parachute landing of an entire battalion of the 76th Guards Airborne Division along with armored vehicles was landed. In addition to 600 fighters in night vision goggles, about three dozen modern BMDs took part in it. The detachment worked out the capture of the enemy’s airfield to take on it military transport aircraft with reinforcements.
The methodology of actions of helicopter formations of the airborne forces of the “new type” continues to be tested. A landing force in 30 vehicles landed in the near rear of the enemy. This time, in addition to D-30 howitzers and ammunition for them, the helicopters also deployed new light Sarmat-2 vehicles, which increased its mobility and firepower.
The landing party was not left alone. To develop success, a specially formed armored group made up of Belorussian tanks and the latest Russian BMD-4M made its way to it. During the exercises, for the first time, they used the new capabilities of these airborne combat vehicles. By adjusting fire from drones, they successfully fired with 100-mm shells at a distance of up to 9 km from closed positions. This made it possible to organize powerful fire support without endangering them.
The paratroopers were supported by two flights of specially allocated Mi-24 and Ka-52 combat helicopters, bombers and Su-35S fighters.
In total, according to the Ministry of Defense, in the active phase of the Zapad-2021 exercises from September 10 to 15 on the territory of Russia and Belarus, about 200 thousand military personnel were involved, 80 aircraft and helicopters each, up to 760 units of military equipment, including 290 tanks, 240 guns, multiple launch rocket systems and mortars, as well as up to 15 warships.
Anton Lavrov, Anna Cherepanova
Photo: T-72B3 tanks during the main stage of the West-2021 exercises at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region / Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation