Rondeli Russian Military Digest

Rondeli Russian Military Digest: Issue 1, 5-11 August, 2019

Author: David Batashvili

Rondeli Russian Military Digest is a weekly brief that delivers to the readers key activities by and developments within the armed forces of the Russian Federation. Researchers, civil servants and everyone else interested in what is going on in the military of one of the most dangerous nations on the planet – tune in and enjoy.


Geostrategic Activities

War in Ukraine – Shooting continued daily on the frontline in Donbass, Ukraine during the week of 5 August-11 August 2019. According to the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation Press Center, five Ukrainian servicemen were killed and four were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces during the week.

War in Syria – During the week of 5 August-11 August 2019, Russian forces continued their participation in the Assad regime’s offensive against the rebels in the wider Idlib region. According to a variety of sources collected by Live Universal Awareness Map, Russian aircraft attacked numerous locations in the area, including towns Kafr Zita and Khan Shaykhun, and villages Hish, Kafr Sajinah, Kabani, al-Khader, Marand, Madaya, al-Sarmaniya and Sheikh Dames. Russian artillery also supported Assad’s offensive, attacking the town of Al-Lataminah.

According to the commander of the Iranian Navy Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, „Iranian and Russian armed forces have signed a classified deal to expand cooperation through a series of projects, one of which will be joint military drills in the Persian Gulf before the end of the year.“ The admiral said the agreement was a "turning point" in military-to-military ties between Iran and Russia. Other areas of the future Russian-Iranian exercises reportedly include the Indian Ocean and the Caspian Sea.

Russian media reported an ongoing development of the Russian naval base in Tartus, Syria. The base will soon have a “ship repair complex” of the Black Sea Fleet which will serve the Russian naval vessels on missions in the Mediterranean.

The Arctic Game – A group of the Northern Fleet ships left their bases in the Murmansk area for an annual Arctic expedition. The voyage is conducted for the eighth year in a row. It is set to continue for two months and to include Taymyr Peninsula and the archipelagos of Novaya Zemlya, Severnaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land. The main fighting ship in the group is Udaloy I / Project 1155 Fregat class anti-submarine destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov. The ships will conduct a number of exercises, including landing operations.

The Arctic Game – Russia deployed Bal coastal missile systems to Sredny Peninsula, few dozen kilometers from the Norwegian border and an intelligence radar in the Norwegian town of Vardø. The deployed Bal systems almost certainly belong to the 536th Coastal Missile Brigade of the Northern Fleet.

Sredny Peninsula where Bal anti-ship missiles have been deployed. Source: thebarentsobserver.com

The Arctic Game – Ships were reported to deliver weaponry to a new Russian Arctic military base that is being constructed in Tiksi, Sakha Republic. The new base will house an air defense unit. Russian media had previously reported the unit was going to be armed with S-300V4 surface-to-air missile systems.

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) reported its combined US-Canadian forces’ intercept of two Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers in the Alaskan and Canadian air defense identification zone.

The Royal Air Force intercepted Russian aircraft in two separate instances. The first intercept was conducted in reaction to two Russian Tu-142 maritime patrol aircraft approaching UK airspace. The second was conducted from an air base in Estonia, after one Tu-95 strategic bomber and two Su-27 fighters approached Estonian airspace.


Structural Changes

Russian Western Military District announced establishment of a new permanent helicopter base in the Gulf of Finland. The new base was constructed by the 6th Air and Air Defense Forces Army and is located on the Gogland Island, between the coasts of Finland and Estonia.

Location of the Gogland Island. Source: newsnowfinland.fi

Russian Ministry of Defense introduced a project to add the fifth military district to the existing four. The new district is to be based on the Northern Fleet which had been designated a separate “strategic command” back in 2014.

Russian military is going to establish special cyber defense units, said officials in the Russian Ministry of Defense. According to the Russians, the units will be staffed exclusively with “officers with special higher technical education”.


Rearmament and Modernization

The 448th Missile Brigade located in Kursk Oblast near Ukraine’s border received the first set of the new “helicopter-type” unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

One of the mechanized units located in the Russian Far East region of Primorsky Krai received the last batch of Orlan-10 UAVs for a new UAV unit under its command. The readers are welcome to use the interactive map of the Russian armed forces to look up Russian units based in Primorsky Krai.

The 536th Coastal Missile Brigade, north of Murmansk, is now known to be newly armed with Bal mobile anti-ship missile systems. The brigade belongs to the Northern Fleet and had already been known to possess Bastion-P anti-ship systems.

Oscar II / Project 949A Antey class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine Omsk returned to its station at the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky naval base, after four years of repairs. The submarine belongs to the Russian Pacific Fleet.

Russian air force publicly demonstrated its new Kinzhal nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile for the first time at an air show in Dubrovichi, Ryazan Oblast. The new Russian Su-57 multirole fighters also participated in the show.

Russian military released a video of the “first flight test of the Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik” stealth combat UAV. According to a Russian UAV expert, the new drone will have to be tested for “at least two years”.



A Russian military communications satellite was launched into orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome (in Kazakhstan) with a Proton-M rocket. Future space launches in the interests of the Russian armed forces are planned to be conducted from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Arkhangelsk Oblast, instead of Baikonur.



In the Baltic Sea, Russian armed forces conducted Ocean Shield 2019 naval exercise on 1-9 August. According to the Russians, the exercise involved 49 warships, 20 support vessels, 58 aircraft and over 10,600 troops. The main forces participating in the drills belonged to the Baltic Fleet. Ocean Shield 2019 reportedly appeared “to be focused on disrupting an enemy air campaign and attacking an adversary naval grouping”.

The Southern Military District conducted a large-scale exercise involving air and air defense forces. The district’s 4th Air and Air Defense Forces Army participated, as well as the Black Sea Fleet’s land forces and naval aviation, along with various other units based in the Southern Military District. The exercise took place across the North Caucasus, as well as in the occupied regions of Crimea (Ukraine) and Abkhazia (Georgia) and in Astrakhan and Rostov Oblasts. Russian Defense Ministry website separately highlighted participation in the exercise by the S-300 surface-to-air missile systems that are permanently based in occupied Abkhazia.

Russian Northern Fleet conducted an anti-submarine exercise in the international waters of the Norwegian and Barents Seas. Certain areas were closed for civilian shipping. The Northern Fleet’s anti-submarine corvettes, submarines, Tu-142 and Il-38 maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, and MiG-31BM interceptors participated.

Over 2,000 troops from various artillery and Iskander-M missile units of the Western Military District drilled in Leningrad Oblast. Another exercise in this district involved all of its Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Protection units.

The Eastern Military District conducted a large-scale Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Protection units’ exercise of its own, involving about 2,000 troops. The drills took place in Zabaykalsky Krai, Primorsky Krai and Sakhalin Oblast.

Missile firing drills on the Kunashir Island – one of the disputed Kuril Islands claimed by Japan – caused a Japanese diplomatic protest. Kunashir has been hosting a battalion of Bal mobile coastal defence missile systems since 2016.

Bal anti-ship missile system. Source: военное.рф



Five scientists from the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre were killed in an explosion that took place at a platform in the White Sea. U.S.-based nuclear experts have suggested the explosion occurred during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile, while according to a Russian official the scientists had been working on developing “a small nuclear reactor”. The accident caused a spike in radiation levels in the area.

Two waves of explosions at an ammunition depot near the city of Achinsk in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Siberia caused evacuation of over 16,000 local residents. One person was killed and 32 were injured in the accidents.


*The weekly number of exercises in the Russian armed forces is very large. Therefore, all cannot be included in this digest. The exercises that are included, are selected by the author for their strategic significance, particularly large scale, involvement of numerous units and locations, and/or involvement of other nations’ territories under the Russian occupation.

Back to full list
© 2024 Georgian Foundation For Strategic and International Studies. All Rights Reserved.