IMINT Analysis – Grodno Training Range
In response to the growing threat from NATO and possible interference in Belarusian domestic affairs, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence is conducting a country-wide readiness exercise. For background stories please click here and here.
What the MoD continues to stress, both in ministry’s press releases as well as in interviews of high-ranking officials is that one of the main goals of the drill is to prepare forces to take (defensive) actions in the Grodno Tactical Direction.
The following subunits have been assigned to this mission:
- Tank battalion, 6th Mechanised Brigade;
- Mechanised battalion, 6th Mechanised Brigade;
- Air assault battalion, 103rd Air Assault Brigade; and
- Artillery divizion, 111th Artillery Brigade.
In addition to that, according to various press releases, the following subunits may have been deployed to the Grodno Training Range:
- Electronic warfare battalion, 48th EW Brigade;
- Air defence divizion, 740th Air Defence Regiment;
- Artillery divizion, 456th Missile Brigade; and
- EW battalion, 16th EW Brigade.
On top of that, Grodno itself houses the 6th Mechanised Brigade, the 557th Engineering Brigade, the 74th Communication Regiment as well as the 250th Protection and Maintenance Battalion. West of the city, in Labna, an S-300PS-equipped 1st Air Defence Regiment is deployed.
Based on these pieces of information, we have concluded that the bulk of these forces may have been deployed into the Grodno Training Range and, therefore, we have acquired a satellite image of the site to see whether there has been any movement there and if so, what is the size of forces deployed there.
The weather has been problematic in the last few days. The area was either completely covered with clouds or they covered significant parts of the polygon. On 25th the weather was good enough for a decent shot. It covers some 22 sq km, which is around 80% of the range. All western approaches to the range are visible, but the northern part of the area was fully covered in clouds.
Surprisingly, the range was almost empty. Apart from some 10 vehicles, some MBTs and armoured vehicles, and a small field camp, there was nothing there.
There could be several possible explanations for why this has happened:
- Units mobilised are not (yet) deployed at Grodno Training Range;
- They are concealed and we cannot see them;
- The scope of the exercise is purposefully exaggerated and abovementioned units have not moved into designated areas. (I have read reports, which state that military vehicles just move around cities and countryside and are not deployed for exercises). In addition, I have assumed that these drills are battalion-level only. These images suggest it could be a company-level.
- They were deployed, but they already left.
We will continue to monitor this particular site as well as other training ranges in Belarus. If you, Dear Reader, have a piece of information, which may pinpoint the location of forward-deployed Belarusian units, please do let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will happily take a closer look.