Thursday, September 06, 2018

Rushing to the Sound of the Guns

The scheduled September Russian exercise in the Far East is interesting apart from being an exercise basically useful for seeing if Russia can mobilize to stop China. But the exercise has another interesting feature:

Russia's defense minister said the country will hold its biggest military exercises in almost 40 years.

Sergei Shoigu said on August 28 that the drills, called Vostok-2018, will involve almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 aircraft, both the Pacific and Northern Fleets, and all Russian airborne units. They will take place in the central and eastern military districts, in southern Siberia, and the Far East. [emphasis added]

Strategypage discusses the Russian airborne forces (VDV), which have a new personnel carrier:

VDV will have control of about ten percent of Russian military personnel. This is also the most skilled lethal personnel in the Russian military. They are a diverse group. Russia has ten Spetsnaz special operations brigades with about 12,000 of these elite troops in service. The Spetsnaz brigades contain about 1,600 troops, at full strength, and the army is still having a hard time getting volunteers for these units. Airborne forces consist of four divisions and four separate brigades of airborne (parachute and air landing) troops with a total strength of 35,000 troops. There will also be several support brigades, including a training brigade. There are about 9,000 marines, which include several hundred naval commandos. VDV will also have some support troops based with their fighting units. In 2016 a further expansion of the VDV was announced, to include more contract troops as well as special VDV support (logistics, communications, transportation and so on) that would eventually add another 20,000 personnel.

The main Russian army is only getting propaganda wonder weapons:

The Russian Army is ordering more than a hundred of its vaunted new tanks and armored fighting vehicles. Moscow ordered 132 T-14 Armata main battle tanks and T-15 heavy infantry fighting vehicles, with the first nine delivered this year. Despite this news, the Russian government has made it clear it will not buy enough of the new vehicles for the entire Russian Army, relying instead on older equipment.

Yeah, I wasn't worried that the Abrams would have to face off against hordes of Armata tanks.

With most of Russia's army second tier at best (with the vaunted battalion tactical groups simply the useful parts of their brigades that can be scraped together with working equipment and trained personnel), Russia is relying more on the VDV.

The second tier forces have to be the bulk of the army in any theater. But they will need to be reinforced and stiffened by better quality forces. So the VDV has to be mobile as well as better trained and equipped in order to reinforce any local army under threat (or that is tagged for offensive operations against a small neighbor, of course).

UPDATE: Russia describes the exercises:

“The maneuvers are not directed against other countries and are in line with our military doctrine, which is defensive in character,” Valery Gerasimov, the chief of Russia’s general staff, was quoted as saying by Interfax.

I'm inclined to believe Gerasimov, although their definition of "defensive" is generally expansive.

Truly, Russia is preparing to defend their Far East from any invader.

Why get all specific under the circumstances?