Rondeli Russian Military Digest

Rondeli Russian Military Digest: Issue 24, 27 January – 2 February 2020

Author: David Batashvili

Rondeli Russian Military Digest is a weekly brief that reports 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.

For a comprehensive geographic view of the Russian military structure see our Interactive Map of the Russian Military Forces.


Geostrategic Activities

War in Syria – In the week of 27 January – 2 February 2020, Russian air force conducted multiple strikes against the rebel targets in the wider Idlib region, in support of the Assad forces’ offensive in the area. Civilian targets were among those attacked by the Russian aircraft. Presence of the Russian Special Forces servicemen was reported as well. Combined offensive operations by the Russian, Iran-aligned and Assad forces succeeded in further pushing back the rebels, and taking over additional territory, including the city of Maarrat al-Numan.

Results of air strikes in Ariha town. Source: BBC

War in Ukraine – One Ukrainian serviceman was killed and eight were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces in Donbass in the week of 27 January – 2 February 2020. The shooting on the frontline occurred every day of the week.

On 31 January 2020, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) identified two Russian Tu-160 heavy strategic bombers entering Canada’s Air Defense Identification Zone.

Russia has provided, apparently in the form of military aid, 33 BRDM-2MS armored patrol cars to Myanmar.

The Northern Fleet’s Project 22010 Kruys class special purpose intelligence collection ship Yantar arrived to the Russian Bellingshausen Station, on the King George Island in Antarctica. At the same time, Dmitry Medvedev, presently serving in the position of Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia, wrote that “Russia has strategic interests in Antarctica,” and “has the leading place in studying Antarctica.”

Yantar in Antarctica. Original map source: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, from University of Minnesota

Yantar recovering a crashed MiG-29 on the seabed. Source: H. I. Sutton, from Popular Mechanics, 2017


Structural Changes

Information in the Russian sources indicates that by late 2019, the 1724th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment in Birobidzhan, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, had been transformed into the 38th Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade. The new brigade is armed with S-300V4 surface-to-air missile systems.


Rearmament and Modernization

According to the Russians, they have introduced a new type of hypersonic missile for the Pantsir-S medium-range surface-to-air missile system.

The Air Force Academy branch in Krasnodar received a new batch of the Yak-130 jet trainer and light fighter aircraft.

The Caspian Flotilla received additional Bal mobile coastal defense missile systems. The flotilla had already had a coastal defense battalion consisting of two batteries of the Bal systems, based in Kaspiysk, Republic of Dagestan.

The Bal system. Source: Flot.com



Russian Cosmos-2542 satellite reportedly appeared to be spying on an American KH-11 type reconnaissance satellite USA-245. Cosmos-2542 had been launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on 25 November 2019 – an event reported in Issue 16 of this digest.



Russian Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Protection Troops conducted an exercise spanning Altai Krai and Chelyabinsk, Orenburg, Samara and Sverdlovsk Oblasts. 700 troops from the Central Military District’s NBC Protection units participated.

1,000 Russian troops of the 7th Military Base (a mechanized brigade-sized unit in occupied Abkhazia, Georgia) conducted military drills. Meanwhile, the 7th Base’s recon units conducted an exercise of their own in the occupied region’s mountain areas.

Troops of the Black Sea Fleet’s 22nd Army Corps (occupied Crimea, Ukraine) conducted a tactical airborne landing exercise.


Arms Exports

Russia has completed delivery of the second regimental set of the S-400E surface-to-air missile systems to China. According to the Russian sources, China “also received more than 120 advanced anti-aircraft guided missiles of two types.”

Vietnam has signed a contract to acquire at least 12 Yak-130 jet trainer and light fighter aircraft.

Yak-130. Source: Vedomosti

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte stated that his country intended to buy 12 Russian military helicopters.

Russia has reached an agreement to sell Mi-38T military transport helicopters to “one of the countries in the Middle East.” The deliveries are set to take place in 2021-2022.


* 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.

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