Tag: Drills

As Russia threatens, Sweden ponders joining NATO

Vladimir Putin’s mock attacks on Scandinavia could make the Swedes end 200 years of neutrality

SWEDEN’S Aurora-17 drill, which continues until the end of September, is the biggest war game that the supposedly neutral country has carried out for 23 years. Not only does it involve 19,000 of Sweden’s armed forces (about half of them), including its Home Guard, but also more than 1,500 troops from Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, France, Norway and America.

All except Finland are members of NATO, the big western alliance.

The size of the exercise and its main focus, the defence of Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea some 350km (220 miles) from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, is a reflection of how insecure Sweden feels.

Vladimir Putin, having gobbled up Crimea and attacked Ukraine, is flexing his muscles near the Baltics and Scandinavia. Russia’s massive Zapad-17 military exercise, which finished this week, involved sending 100,000 troops to Belarus and the Baltic to practise repelling the “Western Coalition”.

Foreign observers were banned, as they never are from NATO exercises. (Perhaps luckily: a Russian helicopter reportedly fired missiles at spectators by mistake, though the government denies this.)

There have been plenty of other causes for disquiet. In March 2013 Russia sent two Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers, escorted by four Sukhoi Su-27 jet fighters, across the Gulf of Finland to within 40km of Gotland.

Su-27UB , Su-27P and Tupolev Tu-22M3

The planes only veered off after carrying out what NATO analysts believed was a dummy nuclear attack on targets in Sweden. After many years of static or declining defence spending, Sweden had to rely on Danish F-16s, part of NATO’s Baltic air-policing operation, to respond.

In 2014 a Russian submarine penetrated the Stockholm archipelago, departing without being found. Since then Russia has stepped up the frequency of menacing, no-notice military drills in the region.

Small wonder many Swedes think they should end 200 years of neutrality by joining NATO. If they did, any Russian attack on Sweden would be treated as an attack on America and its 28 NATO allies.

All the main Swedish opposition parties want to join, apart from the ultra-nationalist Sweden Democrats, who like many European populists have a curious fondness for Mr Putin.

Polls suggest that a plurality of Swedes favour NATO membership. A Pew survey earlier this year found 47% in support of membership and 39% against.

But for now the Social Democratic-Green coalition government, in office since 2014, wants to get as close as possible to NATO without actually joining it.

Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defence minister, is the author of a policy that tries to square the contradictions in the country’s security policy.

Part of the “Hultqvist doctrine”, as it is known, is to improve Sweden’s neglected capacity for self-defence. Military spending is rising—by about 5% annually in real terms over the next three years—and conscription is being reintroduced next year.

Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defence minister

The other part is building closer defence co-operation with its non-NATO neighbour, Finland, as well as with America and Baltic littoral states in NATO. All of which Aurora-17 is meant to demonstrate.

Both Sweden and Finland also entered into a “host country support agreement” with NATO, which allows alliance forces to move through their territory and pre-position kit by invitation.

Mr Hultqvist himself is suspected of hankering after NATO membership. But for now the government has ruled it out. There is still a good deal of anti-Americanism on the Swedish left (which Donald Trump does little to dispel).

There is also a fear, expressed by the foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, of provoking Mr Putin (who has promised to “eliminate the threat” were Sweden to join NATO). Many observers doubt that Finland, where popular support for NATO is lower, would be ready to make a joint decision in favour of membership—something Swedish NATO boosters see as crucial.

There are good reasons why NATO itself might be keen for Sweden (and Finland) to join its fold. Defence of its Baltic members would be much harder without guaranteed access to Swedish ground and airspace. As a member, Sweden would be far more integrated with NATO’s command-and-control systems. Interoperability of its forces with those of the alliance would improve, making them more effective in a fight.

Sweden’s NATO question is being fudged for now, but it will loom large in next year’s general election. If the Swedes do eventually make the jump, Mr Putin will have only himself to blame.

This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “A funny kind of neutrality”

 

Large-scale multinational Dragon-2017 military exercises begin in Poland

The large-scale Dragon-17 military exercises, in which more than 17 thousand servicemen from Poland, NATO countries, and other countries are taking part, began in Poland, Radio Poland reported.

According to the Deputy Minister of Defense of Poland Michael Dvorchik, the purpose of the exercises is to work on joint actions of Polish and foreign troops in a threatening situation.

“The scenario assumes that a neighboring country intends to gain access to resources in the territory of our country. An attempt is made to destabilize the political situation and disrupt the work of state administrative bodies and local authorities. An attempt to seize the territory is undertaken through hybrid actions,” he said.

Dvorchik noted that, although this is a hypothetical scenario, it is based on situations that have been observed recently.

“We are talking, for example, about the situation in Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea,” he said.

 

Belarusian president comments on military cooperation with Russia

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. AP Photo/Sergei Grits

Military cooperation between Belarus and Russia is in the two countries’ national interests and is not aimed against anyone, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said while reviewing the troops that took part in the Zapad-2017 joint drills at the Borisovsky training range.

“We maintain the necessary defense capabilities and take joint measures to counter military threats to Belarus and Russia, as well as to improve the capabilities of the regional forces,” the Belarusian leader said.

At the same time, Lukashenko stressed that “joint military activities and cooperation with Russia in conducting drills are not aimed against any country and only serve defense purposes.” He also pointed out that by boosting military cooperation, Belarus and Russia did not threaten anyone. “We have never threatened anyone and we have no intention to do that,” Lukashenko said.

“Threats and wars never came from our land, but those who invaded this land were always repelled. This is the idea behind our drills. There is no other idea and should not be,” the Belarusian president noted.

On Wednesday, the Zapad-2017 joint Russian-Belarusian military drills, which kicked off on September 14, concluded at the Borisovsky training range in Belarus.

The exercises, held at six training ranges in Belarus and three training ranges in Russia, involved up to 12,700 troops (with 10,200 troops in Belarus), around 70 aircraft, up to 680 pieces of military equipment, including 250 tanks, up to 200 guns, mortars and multiple-launch rocket systems, as well as ten vessels.

Observers from seven countries, including NATO member states, monitored the drills.

 

 

 

Estonian Observer Reports that the Russian-Belarus 2017 Drills Appear to have conformed to the OSCE Vienna document Guidelines

MINSK REGION, BELARUS. A helicopter insertion during Zapad 2017, joint Russian and Belarusian military exercises, at Borisovsky range. Ramil Nasibulin/BelTA/TASS

TALLINN, Sep 20, BNS – Representatives of seven countries invited to observe the Zapad large-scale Russia-Belarus joint military exercise in Belarus under the Vienna document were shown action of defensive nature and also the number of personnel that they saw was smaller than the declared maximum numbers, an Estonian observer who was present at the exercise said.

“What we saw was basically of defensive nature by all means,” the observer, Lt. Col. Kaupo Kiis, told BNS on Wednesday. He said that the joint Russia-Belarus exercise, just like the military exercises held in Estonia, started with an imitated invasion by an enemy, which was then halted and the enemy eventually driven out of the country.
On the first day operations of the air force took place, on the second day it was action by the ground forces and on the third day an air defense operation took place. On the last day, Wednesday, a large-scale operation took place that was watched also by the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, foreign defense attaches and representatives of NATO, the UN, the Red Cross and the OSCE.

Kiis said that the number of personnel seen by the observers was smaller than what Belarus had declared.
“The kind of number of people that was declared by the different sides we never saw. There may have been more, because Belarus is big, but I guess that I didn’t see 5,000 on different days combined,” the officer said.

Moscow and Minsk have said that 12,700 personnel were to take part in Zapad, including about 7,200 from Belarus and about 5,500 from Russia. Of the Russian personnel up to 3,000 were to take part in the exercise in Belarus. Representatives of NATO meanwhile have questioned these numbers as too small.

Kiis pointed out that the exercise was held in two stages, of which the observers invited under the OSCE Vienna document saw the second stage. “We don’t know what happened in the first stage because Russian soldiers were given honors after the end of the first stage,” he said.

Kiis said that the actions of offensive nature spoken about in international media may have taken place in the first stage, but since he did not see it, he can not confirm of deny this

“This is all that was shown to us, that was spoken to us. I can speak about these things,” he said.
The active phase of the exercise lasted from Sept. 14 through 20.

“And one more thing — we could not speak to conscripts, regardless of our repeated requests, to ask about their opinion. We could speak though to senior officers of various ranks on both the Russian and the Belarusian side,” the Estonian observer said.

The Estonian officer was an observer at Zapad alongside officers from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Sweden and Norway. Each of the countries sent two observers.

 

Watch Russia’s Battlecruiser Launch a Granit “Shipwreck” Anti-Ship Missile

Kirov-class battlecruiser Pyotr Veliky

The Kirov-class battlecruiser is a class of nuclear-powered warship of the Russian Navy, the largest and heaviest surface combatant warships (i.e. not an aircraft carrier or amphibious assault ship) in operation in the world (28,000 tons fully loaded).

Among modern warships, they are second in size only to large aircraft carriers, and of similar size to a World War I era battleship. The official designation of the ship-type is “heavy nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser” (Russian: тяжёлый атомный ракетный крейсер). The ships are often referred to as battlecruisers by western defense commentators due to their size and general appearance.

Originally built for the Soviet Navy, the class is named for the first of a series of four ships to be constructed, Kirov, which was renamed Admiral Ushakov in 1992. Original plans called for the construction of five ships, however the last was cancelled. In Russia this class of ship is usually referred to by the designation Project 1144 Orlan (sea eagle).

Only the Pyotr Veliky is currently operational. Admiral Nakhimov is projected to re-enter the Russian Navy in 2018.

Russia planned to reactivate the remaining two vessels by 2020, but recent reporting suggests that the reactors in Admiral Ushakov and Admiral Lazarev are in a poor condition, and these ships cannot be safely reactivated.

The appearance of the Kirov class played a key role in the recommissioning of the Iowa-class battleships by the United States Navy in the 1980s.

This week, the Pyotr Veliky has been involved in battle-drills in the Arctic Ocean.

The Russian Ministry of Defense released a video of the Granit missile launch:

The SS-N-19 with its booster attached is about the size and weight of a combat loaded MiG-21 and carries a 1,650 high explosive charge or a 500kt thermonuclear warhead.

In the case of the latter, a near miss is still a certain kill, although it’s very unlikely that the Russians still deploy these missiles loaded with nuclear warheads.

Russian crew handles a massive P700/SS-N-19

The Russian Navy initially planned to return both Admiral Ushakov and Admiral Lazarev to service after several years of disuse. It was later indicated that the condition of the reactor cores of both ships was such that it would prove difficult, expensive and potentially dangerous to remove the spent nuclear fuel and repair the cores.

As a consequence, it is likely that both ships will be scrapped. The modernization of Admiral Ushakov seems unlikely due to an alleged nuclear incident which may have left one of its reactors damaged with scrapping to start in 2016 or later.

Other sources disagree, stating that all four ships will be modernized and returned to service. In 2014 some maintenance work was performed on Admiral Lazarev (the only cruiser located in the Pacific). Skepticism was expressed regarding the ability of Sevmash shipyard to simultaneously modernize two Kirov-class battlecruisers.

Modernization of Admiral Nakhimov is ongoing (to be completed by 2018) with the modernization of Pyotr Velikiy to last from 2018 until 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

Russian Helicopter Mistakenly Fires At Vehicles During War Games

Kamov Ka-52 Alligator Attack Helicopter

Despite the conjecture of recent days, Radio Free Europe has released footage that appears to confirm that one of a pair of Kamov Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters did fire rockets at onlookers at the 2017 Zapad wargames in Russia. A car was said to have been hit.

There are no reports of any fatalities. Russian news services claim that one of the Ka-52s suffered from a malfunction which resulted in an accidental firing whilst performing a display for spectators.

 

 

 

Danish sailor dies aboard HDMS Absalon during Baltic Sea drill

HDMS Absalon (L 16)

A Royal Danish Navy able seaman died in an accident aboard support ship HDMS Absalon on Monday, September 18.

According to the Danish defense forces command, the sailor sustained a severe head injury while the ship was at sea, taking part in an international drill in the Baltic Sea.

The ship called for a rescue helicopter immediately and rendered first aid to the sailor, the command said. All efforts to save the sailor were unsuccessful as the doctor pronounced the sailor dead upon arriving aboard the ship.

At the time of the incident, HDMS Absalon was northeast of Bornholm, where ship and crew participated in the Sweden-hosted exercise Northern Coasts. The international drill is set to conclude on September 21.

HDMS Absalon is one of the two largest Danish Navy ships designed for command and support roles. The ship was launched in 2005 and commissioned in 2007.

 

 

Latvian Defense Ministry considers using former Soviet army facilities for drills

Skrunda-1, is a ghost town and former Soviet radar station located 5 km (3 mi) to the north of Skrunda, in Raņķi parish, Latvia. It was the site of two Dnepr radar (NATO “Hen House”) radar installations constructed in the 1960s.

RIGA, Sept 19 (LETA) – In view of rapid growth of the Latvian Home Guard and enhanced allied presence in Latvia, the Latvian Defense Ministry plans to develop the existing military training grounds and is also considering using former Soviet military facilities in Latvia for training purposes, Viesturs Silenieks (Greens/Farmers), the ministry’s parliamentary secretary, told the press after the meeting of the parliamentary committee.

The committee on defense, interior affairs and corruption prevention today met behind closed doors and discussed with the Defense Ministry officials development of the military training grounds.

Silenieks said that there were no plans for construction of new military training grounds in the next few years but some of the existing training areas would be upgraded and the ministry was thinking also about using the former Soviet military facilities or other abandoned sites such as quarries in isolated locations for training purposes.

“We are looking for the sites that would require minimal investment,” the Defense Ministry’s parliamentary secretary said.

 

Foreign reporters remark upon openness of Belarusian-Russian army exercise Zapad 2017

IVATSEVICHI DISTRICT, 19 September (BelTA) – Foreign reporters, who are accredited to cover the Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017, have remarked upon the exercise’s openness, BelTA has learned.

About 50 reporters from Ukraine, Germany, France, the UK, the USA, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia came to the Domanovo army exercise area to cover the second stage of the Zapad 2017 exercise. Nora Thorp Bjornstad from Norway was one of them.

“I think everything is sufficiently open. It is very important. We’ve talked to colleagues from Norway and Sweden. They are satisfied, too,” said the Norwegian reporter.

“We were quite surprised to receive accreditation. We thought it would be quite difficult to achieve. We are glad to be here. People in Belarus are very hospitable,” she noted.

Nora Bjornstad works for a European printed media and does not specialize in military affairs. However, people in Europe are interested in the Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017, this is why not coming to observe the exercise would have been a mistake, she noted.

Observers and military attaches from more than 60 states were invited to one of the central episodes of the Zapad-2017 military drills

A mixed unit consisting of one battalion of air defense missile systems S-300 and one battery of air defense missile systems Osa worked together with battlefield air defense units in the Domanovo exercise area on 19 September. In line with the concept of the exercise the mixed unit had to repulse group strikes of the enemy’s air force units, which were simulated by two Mi-8 helicopters and four Yak-130 aircraft. Two Osa air defense missile systems and Igla portable air defense missile systems successfully destroyed the targets. As many as 150 personnel and 45 military and special vehicles were used in this episode of the Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017.

The Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017 began on 14 September to end on 20 September. In Belarus the regular army exercise areas Lepelsky, Borisovsky, Losvido, Osipovichsky, and the Air Force exercise areas Ruzhansky and Domanovo are used for the exercise in addition to two regular sectors of terrain in Vitebsk Oblast — Dretun and Glubokoye. In Russia the army exercise areas Luzhsky, Strugi Krasnyye, and Pravdinsky in Kaliningrad Oblast, Leningrad Oblast, and Pskov Oblast are used for the exercise. Some 12,700 military personnel are taking part in the Zapad 2017 exercise.

 

Zapad-2017: Large-scale Russia-Belarus military strategic exercise in photos

The main stage of Zapad-2017 military exercises, at Luzhsky range near St. Petersburg. Mikhail Metzel/TASS

The drill involves almost 12,700 servicemen, about 70 planes and helicopters and up to 680 equipment units, including about 250 tanks, almost 200 weapons, multiple launch rocket systems and mortars, as well as 10 ships.

Under the scenario of the exercise small groups of militants had infiltrated into Russia’s territory across the border to have merged into several large units each having a strength of up to 500 men for staging terrorist attacks and acts of sabotage.

Servicemen of a Russian Baltic Fleet unit takes part in Zapad military exercises, at Pravdinsky range. Mikhail Metzel/TASS

They seized a large number of light aircraft and drones at airfields near the border. For this reason air defense artillery systems Pantsir-S1, air defense missiles Strela-1 and other counter-weapons had to be used.

On the ground, the enemy was attacked with support provided by artillery and armored vehicles, including T-90 tanks, the newest tank support vehicles Terminator, front-line bombers Sukhoi-24, fighter-bombers Sukhoi-34 and also Mi-24, Mi-28 and Ka-52 helicopters.

The drill involves almost 12,700 servicemen, about 70 planes and helicopters and up to 680 equipment units, including about 250 tanks, almost 200 weapons, multiple launch rocket systems and mortars, as well as 10 ships. Mikhail Metzel/TASS

The concerted attack against the hypothetical terrorists on the ground was accompanied by an air assault. The intruder forces were sealed off and eliminated.

The strategic exercise Zapad-2017 is the last phase of joint training by the armed forces of the Union State of Russia and Belarus this year.

Observers and military attaches from more than 60 states were invited to one of the central episodes of the Zapad-2017 military drills. Mikhail Metzel/TASS
Russia’s air defense artillery systems Pantsir-S1, air defense missiles Strela-1 and other counter-weapons were used. Mikhail Metzel/TASS
The main stage of Zapad-2017, joint Russian and Belarusian military exercises, at Luzhsky range. Mikhail Metzel/TASS
MINSK REGION, BELARUS. A helicopter insertion during Zapad 2017, joint Russian and Belarusian military exercises, at Borisovsky range. Ramil Nasibulin/BelTA/TASS
MINSK REGION, BELARUS. Belarus’ Mil Mi-8 helicopters take part in Zapad 2017, joint Russian and Belarusian military exercises, at Borisovsky range. Ramil Nasibulin/BelTA/TASS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese warships arrive in Russia’s Primorye region for joint naval drills

Vitaliy Nevar/TASS

VLADIVOSTOK, September 18. /TASS/.

A group of Chinese warships has arrived in Russia’s Far Eastern port of Vladivostok to participate in the second stage of the joint naval drills dubbed Maritime Cooperation-2017, Spokesman for Russia’s Pacific Fleet Captain First Rank Vladimir Matveyev said. According to him, Russian and Chinese crews greeted each other with an international salute.

Upon entering the port of Vladivostok, the group of ships of the Chinese Naval Forces greeted the Russian Navy with an international salute,” Matveyev said. “The Shijiazhuang destroyer, which leads the group, fired a 21-gun salute. In response, mariners of the Pacific Fleet welcomed the Chinese with an artillery salute,” he added.

The second stage of the Russian-Chinese naval drills will take place on September 18-26 at the Russian Pacific Fleet’s base. The coastal stage, scheduled to be held in Vladivostok on September 18-21, will involve Russian and Chinese marines.

The sea stage will take place in the Sea of Japan and the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk on September 22-26.

The first stage of the joint naval exercises was held in the Baltic Sea in July.