Skip to main content

From Tsentr to Union Shield, Russian fall exercises in 2019

MSTA-S SPGs mobilizing near the Ukrainian border


The Russian army loves it’s grandiose main exercises. Not only do they present a great venue for strategic signaling and shows of force, but they also allow Russia to test its mobilization, logistics, command and communication capabilities with a realistic amount of forces.

The this years main exercise Tsentr 2019 ( Center 2019), was announced last December. The exercise will have foreign components from following countries:
- China
- India
- Kazakhstan
- Kyrgyzstan
- Tajikistan
- Pakistan
- Uzbekistan

The largest foreign participant will be China. The PLA will send over 1600 men into Russia. The Chinese force will consist of mechanized infantry and air-force units. During the previous similar exercise, the Vostok 2018, the Chinese mechanized units operated withing the Russian formations, but it’s unknown how well the integration actually works and whether or not these composite units are actually capable of conducting demanding combat operations.

Based on the preliminary information from the Russian armed forces, the Tsentr19 will have two focus points. The first one is the co-operation in central Asia and the second one is the defense of the Russian assets in the Arctic region.

The two parts of the Tsentr 19 will most likely have very little interaction below the highest levels of the Russian command structure. But conducting them simultaneously does present the Russian high command with an opportunity to exercise controlling and supplying two theaters of operations at the same time.

Marines of the Pasific fleet received brand new T-80BV tanks just in time for the Tsentr19.


The operations in the Central Asia are expected to be a mix between basic level mechanized warfare and counter insurgency operations, mostly aimed at strengthening the ties between the participating countries. The Arctic branch on the other hand will be mostly an area denial exercise.

The real key benefit to Russia is the test of the mobilization and deployment of the participating troops from different regions ranging from Stavropol to Vladivostok. During the preparation phase of the last years Vostok 18, Russia dug out large numbers of older equipment like the T-62M:s and moved them across Russia to the Ukrainian border under the disguise of the exercise.

The Union Shield 2019 is a different kind of beast. 12 000 soldiers from the Russia’s most elite mechanized formations will be exercising with their Belorussian counterparts in the outskirts of Moscow. Russia has openly stated that the exercise will be held in Moscow in order for it to not look like a provocation or threat to its western neighbors.

The Tsentr19 mobilizes the Russian second and third tier echelons and after they are deployed, the heaviest hitting forces of the 1st Guards Tank Army will move out in full combat readiness in Union Shield 19. The combination of the Tsentr 19 and Union Shield 19 looks awfully lot like an invasion exercise.

While the set up of the exercises makes it somewhat unlikely that they will turn into anything nefarious, the trend of the Russian main exercises is still clearly visible: Preparation for a major ground war in Europe.

Contradicting these comforting measures, Russia has alarmed several brigades in the Western and Southern Military Districts for snap drills. These units are stationed in the regions surrounding Ukraine. These combined arms drills will contain unknown number of aviation assets.

Its also noteworthy that many of the Russian neighbors, despite the Russian reassurances, are holding sizable defense/readiness exercises at the same time as Tsentr19 is running.

by: Petri Mäkelä

ps. Here is my piece of the most threatening Russian exercise so far, the Zapad 2017.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Quick guide to identifying the Russian tanks Part 1: main platforms and T-72 variants

As most of the western nations have reduced their inventories to a few or mostly one type of main battle tank model in their active inventories, the myriad of tank platforms and distinct versions employed by the Russian armed forces may feel overwhelming. Here is a quick guide to identifying Russian MBTs. When you come across an image (or the actual thing), follow the steps to identify it properly. Family of the tank Russian Armed Forces currently operates, or at least storage, the following tank platforms/families: -           T-55 (<2000 in storage) -           T-62 (2000 in storage) -           T-64 (2000 in storage) -           T-72 (2000 active duty, 8000 in storage) -           T-80 (2000 active duty, 5000 in storage) -           T-90 (350 active duty, 600  in storage) -           T-14 (20 in field testing) So how can you identify what type of a tank are you looking at? There are two features that can be used to distingu

The Hammer and the Sickle - Potential Russian Pincer-Offensive

For the past weeks the social media has been filled with sightings of Russian troops moving towards the regions bordering Ukraine. The buildup was initially called an exercise, but in the most recent press releases Kremlin has been rather clear that the troops have been deployed there as an operational deployment, if Russia feels a need to act upon any real or imaginary escalation in Donbass. The troops will stay in the region as long as President Putin sees it necessary. Russia Serna-Class landing crafts of the Caspian flotilla The initial buildup was focused on occupied Crimea that has so far received an additional VDV airborne regiment, multiple mechanized battalion tactical groups and heavy artillery units equipped with at least the enormous 240mm 2S4 Tulpan mortars.  Additional trains and convoys have been spotted in Rostov, Krasnodar and Voronezh regions. The Russian controlled Belarusian military has also been alerted and multiple, very Russian looking units are operating in the

Russian Battalion Tactical Group southbound from Saint Petersburg

  A social media video of a Russian train loaded with military vehicles surfaced 20.8.2020. The video was supposedly filmed south of Saint Petersburg. While videos of Russian convoys and trains laden with tanks are not rare, there are some interesting features in this one. It seems to feature a fully functional Russian battalion tactical group. The maneuver unit is clearly based around a motorized rifle battalion that is equipped with the venerable MT-LB tracked armored personnel carriers. In the Russian system a Motorized Rifle unit can be classified as either mechanized or motorized in the west depending on the set of vehicles it is equipped with. This battalion has at least 35 baseline MT-LBs, which is consistent with the 3 vehicles per platoon and 3 platoons + ATGM-section per company structure that is typical with the battalions of the motorized rifle brigades.   The battalion also has its integral command and communications assets in the form of two R-149 unified command