Issue 3 – 21 August – 27 August 2023
Key takeaways from last week’s developments
- Ocean Shield 2023 naval exercise ended most likely on 21AUG;
- Simultaneously to the Ocean Shield 2023, Russians increased their naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea by deploying a recently commissioned Steregushchiy-class corvette;
- Kronshtadt and Ufa submarines continued sea trials in the Baltic Sea;
- The Baltic Fleet’s air component carried out exercises aimed at repelling unmanned vehicle strikes;
- Ground activities probably aimed at preparing the military personnel to participate in the Ukraine war.
Ocean Shield 2023 naval exercise ended most likely on Tuesday (21AUG). We observed a high training rate for all of the components of the Baltic Fleet. A separate document by Rochan Consulting will provide an extensive summary and analysis of the exercise.
Even though the Ocean Shield 2023 naval exercise is over, the Western Military District Press Service reported ongoing sea trials of the recently launched submarines in the Baltic Sea, including submerging tests.
Last week, the Kaliningrad Oblast’s air component practised the protection of high-priority targets from unmanned vehicle (both aerial and surface) strikes. In contrast, the activity of the ground component suggests that the emphasis was placed on training ground units, probably in preparation for the deployment to Ukraine.
Ground domain activities
On Friday (25AUG), a reconnaissance company (divers) from 390th Maritime Recon Point, subordinate to the 1233rd Reconnaissance Center, conducted parachute water jumps. The personnel were equipped with wetsuits, diving equipment and special parachute systems. According to the press release, more than 70 soldiers participated in the drill that involved jumping from a Mi-8 transport helicopter. The 396th Mixed Helicopter Regiment (MHR) provided rotary-wing capabilities. A reconnaissance company consists of eight groups of divers (most likely eight soldiers in each group). Seventy troops involved in the above exercise imply that most of the reconnaissance company (divers) military personnel undergo parachute jumps. The divers were also assisted by several rescue vessels (boats).
Last weekend, the Russian MoD also released two press statements regarding the activities of the 336th Naval Infantry Brigade (336th NIB) and the 11th Army Corps (11th AC). On Saturday (26AUG), 100 military personnel from 336th NIB’s sub-units conducted a grenade launchers (RPG-7, AGS-17) live-fire exercise. On Sunday (27AUG), 500 military personnel from the 11th Army Corps’ (AC) sub-units (motorised rifle regiments, command, logistics and reconnaissance battalions) conducted a similar activity.
Both exercises, which were relatively small in size, were thus conducted during the weekend, which is uncommon. It is, therefore, possible that the live-fire exercises were likely attended by soldiers who will shortly be deployed to Ukraine to strengthen the Russian groupings there (troops rotation and/or replacements) of the 336th NIB and 11th AC task groups currently operating in Zaporizhzhia Oblast/Donetsk Oblast (336th NIB) and Luhansk Oblast (11th AC). This is evidenced by the extensive range of weapons used, which small-unit tactics drills, and activities performed (camouflage, target classification, firing at the maximum possible ranges during the day and at night), the number of involved military personnel and the fact that they are subordinate to various 336th NIB and 11th AC sub-units.
|Date||Lower echelon||Higher echelon||Event|
|25AUG||Reconnaissance company (divers)||390th Maritime Recon Point||Parachute jumping (into water) training|
|26AUG||Personnel from 336th NIB sub-units||336th Naval Infantry Brigade||Live-fire exercise (RPG-7 and
AGS-17 grenade launchers)
|27AUG||Personnel from 11th AC sub-units||11th Army Corps||Live-fire exercise (small arms, machine guns, sniper rifles, RPG-7 and AGS-17 grenade launchers)|
Table 1. Summary of Baltic Fleet’s ground component activities carried out between 21-27AUG
Air domain activities
The air component of the Baltic Fleet conducted several exercises last week. We observed a high training tempo across the two units responsible for defending the airspace of the Kaliningrad Oblast – the 34th Mixed Aviation Division (34th MAD) and the 44th Air Defence Division (44th ADD). The focus was on the destruction of unmanned vehicles.
The 34th MAD started the previous week with air combat training. On Monday (21AUG), Su-27 fighters from the 689th Fighter Aviation Regiment practised repelling an air attack on strategically critical military facilities. Over ten Su-27 fighters took off to intercept, detect, identify and destroy a simulated enemy aircraft during an air battle. Sorties were carried out both during the day and at night.
On Wednesday (23AUG), a Mi-24 attack helicopter squadron from the 396th MHR performed a live-fire exercise to destroy simulated enemy ground and naval targets such as high-speed unmanned surface vehicles (USVs). Over ten helicopters conducted air strikes using S-8 unguided rockets and GSh-23L autocannons.
Last week, strategic air defence assets of the 44th ADD also exercised to protect high-priority targets such as command posts or mobile missile systems from unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strikes.
Also on Wednesday, the 142nd Electronic Warfare Battalion subordinated to the 44th ADD, conducted electronic jamming using 1RL257 Krasukha-4, R-934B Sinitsa and R-330Zh Zhitel electronic warfare systems, which combined cover a waveband to four gigahertz. This allows an attack on airborne radio-electronics (for example, V/UHF UAVs radio frequency links). More than 100 military personnel and 20 pieces of special military equipment from the battalion participated in the exercise.
On Thursday (24AUG), an anti-aircraft battalion equipped with a Pantsir-S1 missile system from the 183rd Air Defence Missile Regiment (also 44th ADD) conducted a second part of the field exercise. The battalion practised intercepting low-flying and low-speed targets simulated by the Baltic Fleet’s naval aviation helicopters (from 396th MHR) and UAVs. In addition, the battalion carried out live firing with a 2A38M 30 mm autocannons at targets simulated by star shells fired by 2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled artillery guns. About 50 military personnel and ten pieces of special military equipment were involved in the exercise.
The exercise probably took place at the Pravdinsk Training Area.
On Saturday (26AUG), Ka-27PL/M anti-submarine warfare helicopters from the naval helicopter squadron subordinate to the 396th MHR practised searching, detecting, classifying, tracking and destroying a simulated enemy submarine. According to the MoD’s press release, the exercise involved modernised helicopters equipped with acoustic, radio and magnetometric sensors and the Kopyo-A radar. For training purposes, the enemy submarine was simulated by the Improved Kilo-class (Project 636.6) submarine Ufa.
|Date||Lower echelon||Higher echelon||Event|
|21AUG||689th Fighter Aviation Regiment||34th Mixed Aviation Division||Air combat training (Su-27)|
|23AUG||Attack helicopter squadron||396th Mixed Helicopter Regiment||Live-fire exercise (Mi-24)|
|23AUG||142nd Electronic Warfare Battalion||44th Air Defence Division||Radio reconnaissance and jamming (1RL257 Krasukha-4, R-934B Sinitsa and R-330Zh Zhitel)|
|24AUG||Anti-aircraft battalion||183rd Air Defence Missile Regiment / 44 ADD||Live-fire exercise (Pantsir-S1)|
|26AUG||Naval helicopter squadron||396th Mixed Helicopter Regiment||Anti-submarine combat training (Ka-27PL/M)|
Table 2. Summary of Baltic Fleet’s air component activities carried out between 21-27AUG
The activities described above also indicate that Russians have updated their training curriculums to include lessons learnt from the war in Ukraine, especially regarding opposing forces’ use of UAVs/USVs.
NATO Baltic Air Policing interceptions
The Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence reported nine Russian aircraft intercepted by forces conducting a NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic States between 21AUG-27AUG. The table below lists the interception details.
|21AUG||1 Tu-134, 2 Su-27||3|
|25AUG||1 Il-20, 1 Tu-134, 2 Su-27||4|
|JAN||4 Il-20, 2 Il-76, 6 Su-27, 2 Su-30||14|
|FEB||3 Il-18, 3 Il-20, 2 Il-76, 5 Tu-154, 10 Su-27, 2 An-124||25|
|MAR||1 Il-18, 3 Il-20, 2 Il-76, 1 Il78, 2 Tu-134, 6 Su-27, 2 Su-30, 1 An-148, 1 An-12, 1 unidentified||20|
|APR||1 Il-18, 6 Il-20, 3 Il-76, 1 Il-78, 5 Tu134, 24 Su-27, 2 Su-30, 2 An-26, 2 An-72||46|
|MAY||4 Tu-134, 10 Su-27, 1 An-26, 2 An-72||17|
|JUN||10 Il-20, 2 Il-76, 2 Il-78, 6 Tu-134, 1 Tu-154, 4 Tu-22, 17 Su-27,
10 Su-30, 5 Su-24, 1 An-12, 2 An-26, 2 An-72, 1 Tu-204, 4 An-30
|JUL||3 Il-20, 1 Il-76, 1 Tu-134, 1 Tu-154, 8 Su-27, 1 Tu-204||15|
|AUG||1 Il-18, 3 Il-20, 1 Il-76, 5 Tu-134, 2 Tu-154, 2 Tu-22, 14 Su-27,
7 Su-30, 1 An-26, 2 Su-35
Table 4. Monthly summary of the number of intercepted Russian aircraft near the Baltic States borders in 2023 (NATO Baltic Air Policing mission) (Source: Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence)
From the beginning of 2023, forces conducting a NATO Baltic Air Policing mission in the Baltic States intercepted 242 Russian aircraft.
Naval domain activities
On Tuesday (22AUG), military personnel (divers) from the 473rd Special Detachment of Anti-Sabotage Forces and Means (Leningrad Naval Base, Kronshtadt) conducted underwater small arms firing and hand-to-hand combat training. The exercise aimed to practice repelling the attack of simulated sabotage groups of a potential enemy, which included the search and neutralisation of sabotage explosives threatening vessels stationed in the Leningrad Naval Base.
On Thursday (24AUG), the Lada-class (Project 677) submarine Kronshtadt conducted a dive to a depth of 100 meters during ongoing sea trials. Kronshtadt, which is being constructed by Admiralty Shipyard in Saint Petersburg, was laid down in JUL2005 and launched in SEP2018. The vessel began sea trials in DEC2021. The submarine is planned to be deployed to the Northern Fleet.
A day later (25AUG), the Western Military District press service reported on a search and rescue exercise conducted by the Kashtan-class (Project 141C) rescue ship SS-750. The exercise sought to test the provision of emergency assistance to a submarine lying on the bottom (depth of 50 meters) of the sea using an AS-30 deep-submergence rescue vehicle (DSRV). Improved Kilo-class (Project 636.3) submarine Ufa played the role of a damaged submarine. Ufa, like Kronshtadt, has undergone sea trials in the Baltic Sea since JUL2022 after which the submarine will join the Pacific Fleet. The submarines’ submerging depth suggests that these activities took place in the Gotland Deep.
A task group consisting of the following vessels assisted the maneuvres:
- Parchim-class (Project 1331M) anti-submarine corvette Kazanets;
- Alexandrit-class (Project 507) minesweeper Aleksandr Obukhov;
- Project 23040 SAR/diving boat RVK-2166/Askhat Ziganshin;
- Grachanok-class (Project 21980) anti-saboteur ship P-471 Vladimir Nosov;
- Project 20340G hydrographic survey ship Aleksandr Yevlanov.
On 27AUG, Steregushchiy-class (Project 20380) guided missile corvettes Boikiy and Soobrazitelny from 128th Surface Ship Brigade (Baltiysk Naval Base) passed under the Storebaelt Bridge (Denmark) and headed north towards the Kattegat. The purpose of the deployment remains unknown. Last week, we covered the deployment of the Steregushchiy-class (Project 20380) guided missile corvette Merkury* to the Mediterranean Sea. Merkury was spotted on 16AUG near the Portuguese coast. On 27AUG (Sunday), it reached Algiers as part of a military cooperation programme between Russia and Algeria.
Last week, we also covered the deployment of the Altay-class (Project 160) medium seagoing tanker Yelna to the material-technical support point in Tartus. The tanker will most likely arrive there within the next few days to join the Russian task group involved in the conflict in Syria.
Last week (KMD Issue 2), we reported that the Vishnya-class (Project 864) medium intelligence ship Vasiliy Tatishchev passed through the Great Belt. The ship did indeed pass under the Storebaelt Bridge but headed south towards the Baltic Sea and probably entered the Baltiysk Naval Base.
*Steregushchiy-class (Project 20380) guided-missile corvette Merkury is not officially assigned to the Baltic Fleet. The corvette was to become part of the Black Sea Fleet. However, Merkury temporarily operates as part of the Baltic Fleet due to the Ukraine Conflict, the closure of the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, and the inability to join its target unit.