"All targets have been eliminated, the enemy has been neutralized, the tasks have been completed." It would be nice to personally verify the veracity of this message from the loudspeaker, and not just peer into the endlessly blue Astrakhan sky. But the eye simply has nothing to catch on, except for a tiny cloud of smoke rising in the distance... A few seconds before this, an S-400 air defense missile rushed to a target located tens of kilometers away... Five dozen journalists (mostly Russian) sitting on the podium were invited to the Kavkaz-2020 (Caucasus-2020), the annual exercise of the Russian army.
Five days of exercises at half a dozen training grounds in the area between the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, and the Volga: 80,000 people (of which 13,000 are military), dozens of aircraft, 250 tanks, 200 artillery pieces, and 450 pieces of armored vehicles, according to official figures. The goal is an (unofficially) NATO-sponsored show of power and increased engagement with "friendly" countries. Seven countries took part in the exercise, including China, Iran, and Pakistan. The Belarusian army also took part (despite the unrest in the country), which was also this week at the exercises "Slavic Brotherhood" (900 soldiers).
In connection with the coronavirus, fewer people were involved in the exercises than in the two previous large-scale exercises: Center-2018 (128,000 people) and Vostok-2019 (300,000). As usual, the exercise ended on Friday with a large-scale “show” featuring missile launches and the participation of aircraft, drones, helicopters, tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, and soldiers. An impressive picture of what a "high intensity" conflict might look like. Vladimir Putin, as usual, attended the final chord at the Kapustin Yar test site, where in the past nuclear and missile tests were carried out.
The press could get there by a Mi-26 helicopter, the largest ever built: it can hold up to 85 people.
Two days earlier, the journalists had been dropped off from their outdated Tu aircraft at the Ashuluk training ground (2,100 square kilometers), in the middle of a real wasteland. The air defense exercises began with a raid on the army positions of Su aircraft at low altitude, that is, under the radar coverage. The answer was carried out in three stages: the elimination of enemy reconnaissance drones, aviation, and missiles, mainly with the help of the S-400, Buk M2, and Pantsir-S complexes. In the end, Russian fighter-bombers razed the enemy airbase to the ground.
The targets in the exercise were the Armavir and Strizh missiles, which, as it was specified on the poster, could play the role of the American Tomahawk and F-16. "The targets were found and destroyed," General Pavel Nezhelayev, who led the exercise, stated. After each operation, a senior officer would appear in front of the cameras to make a clear statement. The priority is images, which will then be shown on federal TV channels. The numbers were not announced, however, real ammunition was clearly used to ensure the quality of an undoubtedly spectacular performance.
Russian troops had to land on the coast of the Caspian Sea held by the enemy. The approaching fleet provided control and clearance of the area. Combat helicopters Mi-28 fired missiles at the hostile artillery. Then a parachute landing was dropped on the enemy's position. Special forces on light boats were the first to appear on the shore, they opened the way for the marines with equipment. Submarines were reportedly involved in the operation.
In just an hour, the coastline stretching to the horizon was taken under control. As the chief of staff of the Caspian Flotilla, Rear Admiral Nikolai Yakubovsky, noted, the operation carried out is distinguished by increased complexity, since it involves naval, air, and ground forces against an enemy with serious capabilities. According to him, all this once again demonstrates the high level of preparation of the fleet.
A new scenario: this time the Russian army was to prevent the enemy from landing on the Black Sea coast. Taking positions in the trenches, T-72B3 tanks opened barrage. Each shot shook the ground at the Raevsky training ground near Novorossiysk (one of the main bases of the Black Sea Fleet is located there). Drones were sent for reconnaissance. In addition, a "technically complex" landing operation was launched and successfully carried out, Airborne Forces Colonel Andrei Sukhovetsky, who became the army's official representative in this segment of the exercise, assured.
"With a few exceptions, we did not see any new technology today," notes an expert, well acquainted with the Russian armed forces. Although Putin likes talking about high technologies and "invulnerable" missiles, the army everyday life is much more prosaic: the budget is small, and they often have to modernize already proven equipment, an example of which is the T-72B3 tanks. Moreover, after recovering from the past decade, the army is preparing for a difficult time. Thus, the draft budget for next year, presented ten days ago, assumes a 5% reduction in military spending, an unprecedented step since 2014.