Intelligence Summary Russia

Reporting from Janes on Russian Military Affairs

Janes provides a wide range of data, insight and news across global defence and security. Here you will find a summary and curation of content on Russia derived from Janes connected intelligence solutions, including Intelligence Review and OSINT Force Monitor.

Region of Focus: Naval Affairs

Russia’s naval shipbuilding industry in need of modernisation

26th May: The proliferation of open-source intelligence (OSINT) tools such as commercial satellite imagery has enabled assessment of these targets by a greater pool of analysts. Shipyards in many ways are easy targets for imagery analysts to examine. They have significant industrial footprints and although much work is carried out inside assembly halls, eventually the finished products – ships and submarines – have to be unveiled. The modern Russian shipbuilding industry has emerged from the Cold War’s shadows to some degree. It is now largely owned by semi-private companies that are answerable to shareholders.

Russia's Baltic Fleet to receive SSK boost 

21st May: Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, announced on 18 May that the Baltic Fleet is to receive additional diesel-electric submarines (SSKs) to “correspond to the volume of tasks facing the fleet”. The announcement was made as part of the admiral's congratulatory telegram sent to all the fleet personnel on the annual ‘Day of the Baltic Fleet'. In the telegram, Adm Evmenov stated, “The Baltic Fleet must be balanced in its forces and resources in order to maximally fulfil the tasks entrusted to it. This is a requirement of the times and of the situation that is taking shape in the new direction.”

Russian Navy to restructure Project 955/955A Borey SSBN deployment 

19th May: The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) is planning to restructure the deployment of its Borey (Project 955A)-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) fleet, according to local media reports. Following Russia's recent ‘Umka 2021' military drills, which took place in March within the Arctic circle, a review is now under way to better place the SSBNs to counteract threats and deployments of NATO forces that operate in the North, Russian newspaper Ivestia reported on 11 May. Previous information released by the Russian MoD has alluded to the SSBNs primarily being deployed to the 25 th Submarine Division/16 th Submarine Squadron of the Pacific Fleet, based in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.

Russian Navy commissions Project 885M submarine Kazan

10th May: The Russian Navy (VMF) commissioned the Project 885M (Yasen-M-class) nuclear-powered attack/cruise missile submarine (SSN/SSGN) Kazan in Severodvinsk on 7 May, the Northern Fleet announced on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) website later the same day. “The Kazan nuclear-powered attack/cruise missile submarine was developed by the Malakhit Design Bureau and has effective strike and electronic weapons that allow it to carry out missions throughout the world’s oceans,” VMF commander-in-chief Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov said during the commissioning ceremony. Kazan was laid down on 24 July 2009 and launched on 31 March 2017. Factory sea trials of the submarine commenced on 25 September 2018. The Project 885/885M armament suite comprises Oniks and Kalibr missiles, to which the Tsirkon hypersonic weapon could be added in the near future.

Russian Navy ships continue to visit Sudan

5th May: The Russian Navy’s Amur-class repair ship PM-138 was photographed in Port Sudan on 2 May, continuing a series of recent visits after Khartoum reportedly halted work on a Russian naval base on its Red Sea coast. Russian repair ships typically accompany flotillas on extended deployments, but an Amur class vessel was the Russian Navy’s primary presence at the Syrian port of Tartus until the facility was developed into a more significant base after Moscow began its military intervention in 2015. Sudanese sources reported that PM-138 is accompanying the Vishnya-class intelligence ship Vassily Tatischev and would remain in Port Sudan for around 48 hours.

Technology Developments

Rules of behaviour: Orbital warfare

25th May: As the ultimate high ground, space-based capabilities undeniably provide integral support to defence, intelligence, and security services. Robust and capable space-based services, such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, provide global command-and-control (C2) facilities to militaries that enable enhanced situational awareness via the monitoring and tracking of both friendly forces and threats. “Although space started off as a strategic domain, today it is very much used for operational and tactical advantage on the battlefield,” Kestutis Paulauskas, senior strategy officer of NATO's Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia, stated in a March 2020 article, ‘Space: NATO's latest frontier'.

Russia details Mi-28NM helicopter

20th May: The Mil-Kamov National Helicopter Building Center’s chief designer of combat helicopters, Vitaliy Shcherbina, detailed the Mi-28NM combat helicopter in an interview with the TASS news agency on 18 May. He said the helicopter’s armament suite has been expanded to include new guided missiles and unmanned combat aerial vehicles. This is in addition to Corsar and Forpost-R medium-endurance reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that have been integrated into the helicopter. The analogue drives of the baseline Mi-28N’s chin-mounted automatic cannon have been replaced with digital ones. The helicopter has also received a new dome-shaped radar mounted above the main rotor, which has new blades with an enhanced aerodynamic profile that have improved the helicopter’s speed and controllability, Shcherbina said.

HeliRussia 2021: Rosoboronexport plans to introduce upgraded Ka-52M to export market

20th May: Rostec’s Rosoboronexport plans to introduce the upgraded Kamov Ka-52M combat-and-reconnaissance helicopter to the global rotary-wing market “in the near future”, the arms exporter’s director general, Alexander Mikheev, told media the day before the opening of the HeliRussia 2021 International Helicopter Industry Exhibition being held in Moscow on 20–22 May. The Ka-52M is being developed by Rostec’s Russian Helicopters. ”During the last decade, Rosoboronexport delivered 850 helicopters worth USD20 billion to 35 countries,” said Mikheev.

Russia modernises Tor-M2 SAM system

1st Jun: Manufacturer Almaz-Antey is increasing the capabilities of the Tor-M2 short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system against tactical aerial targets, an industry source told Janes on 31 May. He said the Tor-M2 would receive new types of missiles: “Further modernisation of the system is planned to integrate a missile with a seeker that will complement the existing SAM with radio command guidance. It is also planned to incorporate dozens of compact missiles into the system to engage low-tier targets at ranges of 6–7 km.”

Foreign Affairs

UK and US confirm Russian responsibility for SolarWinds attack

6th May: The US and UK governments on 15 April 2021 attributed the high-profile SolarWinds intrusion campaign in December 2020 to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (Sluzhba vneshney razvedki: SVR). The move came as part of a package of sanctions and other measures aimed at Russia. Although media coverage portrayed these actions as driven by the SolarWinds intrusion, the emphasis in official comments was broader; the White House stated that the actions were taken “to impose costs on Russia for actions by its government and intelligence services against U.S. sovereignty and interests”.

States advance on agreeing international cyber norms

20th May: The digital revolution has brought tremendous social, economic, and political opportunities for societies, but it has also been accompanied by new threats that push the limits of even what science fiction has imagined. As Frédérick Douzet wrote in an article published in June 2020 in French geopolitical magazine Hérodote , “It [the digital revolution] has also grandly changed the strategic environment and the way powerful countries measure and confront each other”. Indeed, many states no longer deny conducting cyber operations. On the contrary, states develop offensive cyber capabilities and publish official doctrine exposing how they will defend themselves and use such capabilities.

Russia deploys Tu-22M3 Bombers to Syria

27th May 2021: Three Tupolev Tu-22M3 ‘Backfire' bombers landed at Humaymim airbase in Syria for the first time on 25 May, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on the same day. It released a video of the supersonic swing-wing bombers touching down at the airbase and said they would return to Russia after completing an unspecified period of training. “This is the first time that aircraft of this type are based at the Humaymim airfield,” it said. “Crews of the long-range bombers will acquire practical skills in training tasks in new geographical areas during flights in the airspace over the Mediterranean Sea.”

OSINT Force Monitoring

  • Satellite imagery shows continued activity at the Opuk training ground in Crimea in spite of Russia’s announced drawdown. Activity at the Angarsky training ground has reduced significantly.
  • Russian peacekeepers have deployed to support negotiations between Azeri and Armenian troops following an Azeri incursion over the Armenian border. • At least eight Pacific Fleet surface vessels are active in the Far East.
  • Images published to social media indicate the Northern Fleet has begun monitoring the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth taskforce in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • A squadron of five Caspian Flotilla vessels and an unknown number of 559th Bomber Aviation Regiment Su-34 will conduct joint exercises with the Kazakh navy between 18-24 May.
  • Russia completed the delivery of 30 T-72MS and 30 BRDM-2M vehicles donated to Serbia.
  • A Russian transport aircraft was photographed delivering equipment including helicopters to the Central African Republic
  • Three Tu-22M3 from the 52nd Heavy Bomber Regiment and possibly the 200th Heavy Bomber Regiment conducted a four-day deployment to Humaymim base in Syria. The deployment included a long-range patrol carrying Kh-22 missiles over the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The aircraft deployed for three days before returning to Russia.

To learn more about our OSINT Force Monitoring service please click HERE

 

Threat Intelligence

Case studies

May 2021

Region of Focus: Naval Affairs

Russia’s naval shipbuilding industry in need of modernisation

26th May: The proliferation of open-source intelligence (OSINT) tools such as commercial satellite imagery has enabled assessment of these targets by a greater pool of analysts. Shipyards in many ways are easy targets for imagery analysts to examine. They have significant industrial footprints and although much work is carried out inside assembly halls, eventually the finished products – ships and submarines – have to be unveiled. The modern Russian shipbuilding industry has emerged from the Cold War’s shadows to some degree. It is now largely owned by semi-private companies that are answerable to shareholders.

 

Russia's Baltic Fleet to receive SSK boost 

21st May: Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, announced on 18 May that the Baltic Fleet is to receive additional diesel-electric submarines (SSKs) to “correspond to the volume of tasks facing the fleet”. The announcement was made as part of the admiral's congratulatory telegram sent to all the fleet personnel on the annual ‘Day of the Baltic Fleet'. In the telegram, Adm Evmenov stated, “The Baltic Fleet must be balanced in its forces and resources in order to maximally fulfil the tasks entrusted to it. This is a requirement of the times and of the situation that is taking shape in the new direction.”

 

Russian Navy to restructure Project 955/955A Borey SSBN deployment 

19th May: The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) is planning to restructure the deployment of its Borey (Project 955A)-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) fleet, according to local media reports. Following Russia's recent ‘Umka 2021' military drills, which took place in March within the Arctic circle, a review is now under way to better place the SSBNs to counteract threats and deployments of NATO forces that operate in the North, Russian newspaper Ivestia reported on 11 May. Previous information released by the Russian MoD has alluded to the SSBNs primarily being deployed to the 25 th Submarine Division/16 th Submarine Squadron of the Pacific Fleet, based in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.

 

Russian Navy commissions Project 885M submarine Kazan

10th May: The Russian Navy (VMF) commissioned the Project 885M (Yasen-M-class) nuclear-powered attack/cruise missile submarine (SSN/SSGN) Kazan in Severodvinsk on 7 May, the Northern Fleet announced on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) website later the same day. “The Kazan nuclear-powered attack/cruise missile submarine was developed by the Malakhit Design Bureau and has effective strike and electronic weapons that allow it to carry out missions throughout the world’s oceans,” VMF commander-in-chief Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov said during the commissioning ceremony. Kazan was laid down on 24 July 2009 and launched on 31 March 2017. Factory sea trials of the submarine commenced on 25 September 2018. The Project 885/885M armament suite comprises Oniks and Kalibr missiles, to which the Tsirkon hypersonic weapon could be added in the near future.

 

Russian Navy ships continue to visit Sudan

5th May: The Russian Navy’s Amur-class repair ship PM-138 was photographed in Port Sudan on 2 May, continuing a series of recent visits after Khartoum reportedly halted work on a Russian naval base on its Red Sea coast. Russian repair ships typically accompany flotillas on extended deployments, but an Amur class vessel was the Russian Navy’s primary presence at the Syrian port of Tartus until the facility was developed into a more significant base after Moscow began its military intervention in 2015. Sudanese sources reported that PM-138 is accompanying the Vishnya-class intelligence ship Vassily Tatischev and would remain in Port Sudan for around 48 hours.

 

Technology Developments

Rules of behaviour: Orbital warfare

25th May: As the ultimate high ground, space-based capabilities undeniably provide integral support to defence, intelligence, and security services. Robust and capable space-based services, such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, provide global command-and-control (C2) facilities to militaries that enable enhanced situational awareness via the monitoring and tracking of both friendly forces and threats. “Although space started off as a strategic domain, today it is very much used for operational and tactical advantage on the battlefield,” Kestutis Paulauskas, senior strategy officer of NATO's Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia, stated in a March 2020 article, ‘Space: NATO's latest frontier'.

 

Russia details Mi-28NM helicopter

20th May: The Mil-Kamov National Helicopter Building Center’s chief designer of combat helicopters, Vitaliy Shcherbina, detailed the Mi-28NM combat helicopter in an interview with the TASS news agency on 18 May. He said the helicopter’s armament suite has been expanded to include new guided missiles and unmanned combat aerial vehicles. This is in addition to Corsar and Forpost-R medium-endurance reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that have been integrated into the helicopter. The analogue drives of the baseline Mi-28N’s chin-mounted automatic cannon have been replaced with digital ones. The helicopter has also received a new dome-shaped radar mounted above the main rotor, which has new blades with an enhanced aerodynamic profile that have improved the helicopter’s speed and controllability, Shcherbina said.

 

HeliRussia 2021: Rosoboronexport plans to introduce upgraded Ka-52M to export market

20th May: Rostec’s Rosoboronexport plans to introduce the upgraded Kamov Ka-52M combat-and-reconnaissance helicopter to the global rotary-wing market “in the near future”, the arms exporter’s director general, Alexander Mikheev, told media the day before the opening of the HeliRussia 2021 International Helicopter Industry Exhibition being held in Moscow on 20–22 May. The Ka-52M is being developed by Rostec’s Russian Helicopters. ”During the last decade, Rosoboronexport delivered 850 helicopters worth USD20 billion to 35 countries,” said Mikheev.

 

Russia modernises Tor-M2 SAM system

1st Jun: Manufacturer Almaz-Antey is increasing the capabilities of the Tor-M2 short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system against tactical aerial targets, an industry source told Janes on 31 May. He said the Tor-M2 would receive new types of missiles: “Further modernisation of the system is planned to integrate a missile with a seeker that will complement the existing SAM with radio command guidance. It is also planned to incorporate dozens of compact missiles into the system to engage low-tier targets at ranges of 6–7 km.”

 

Foreign Affairs

UK and US confirm Russian responsibility for SolarWinds attack

6th May: The US and UK governments on 15 April 2021 attributed the high-profile SolarWinds intrusion campaign in December 2020 to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (Sluzhba vneshney razvedki: SVR). The move came as part of a package of sanctions and other measures aimed at Russia. Although media coverage portrayed these actions as driven by the SolarWinds intrusion, the emphasis in official comments was broader; the White House stated that the actions were taken “to impose costs on Russia for actions by its government and intelligence services against U.S. sovereignty and interests”.

 

States advance on agreeing international cyber norms

20th May: The digital revolution has brought tremendous social, economic, and political opportunities for societies, but it has also been accompanied by new threats that push the limits of even what science fiction has imagined. As Frédérick Douzet wrote in an article published in June 2020 in French geopolitical magazine Hérodote , “It [the digital revolution] has also grandly changed the strategic environment and the way powerful countries measure and confront each other”. Indeed, many states no longer deny conducting cyber operations. On the contrary, states develop offensive cyber capabilities and publish official doctrine exposing how they will defend themselves and use such capabilities.

 

Russia deploys Tu-22M3 Bombers to Syria

27th May 2021: Three Tupolev Tu-22M3 ‘Backfire' bombers landed at Humaymim airbase in Syria for the first time on 25 May, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on the same day. It released a video of the supersonic swing-wing bombers touching down at the airbase and said they would return to Russia after completing an unspecified period of training. “This is the first time that aircraft of this type are based at the Humaymim airfield,” it said. “Crews of the long-range bombers will acquire practical skills in training tasks in new geographical areas during flights in the airspace over the Mediterranean Sea.”

 

OSINT Force Monitoring

  • Satellite imagery shows continued activity at the Opuk training ground in Crimea in spite of Russia’s announced drawdown. Activity at the Angarsky training ground has reduced significantly.
  • Russian peacekeepers have deployed to support negotiations between Azeri and Armenian troops following an Azeri incursion over the Armenian border. • At least eight Pacific Fleet surface vessels are active in the Far East.
  • Images published to social media indicate the Northern Fleet has begun monitoring the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth taskforce in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • A squadron of five Caspian Flotilla vessels and an unknown number of 559th Bomber Aviation Regiment Su-34 will conduct joint exercises with the Kazakh navy between 18-24 May.
  • Russia completed the delivery of 30 T-72MS and 30 BRDM-2M vehicles donated to Serbia.
  • A Russian transport aircraft was photographed delivering equipment including helicopters to the Central African Republic
  • Three Tu-22M3 from the 52nd Heavy Bomber Regiment and possibly the 200th Heavy Bomber Regiment conducted a four-day deployment to Humaymim base in Syria. The deployment included a long-range patrol carrying Kh-22 missiles over the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The aircraft deployed for three days before returning to Russia.

To learn more about our OSINT Force Monitoring service please click HERE

 

April 2021

Region of Focus – Crimea and the Black Sea

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet gains large amphibious assault ships 

28 Apr: Two 4,500-tonne Project 775 Ropucha-class large landing ships from the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet that participated in the recent naval exercises off Crimea are to be retained by the Black Sea Fleet, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced on 26 April. Alexander Otrakovskiy and Kondopoga entered the Black Sea from the Northern Fleet on 17 April to participate in live-fire exercises from 20 to 23 April. Each ship can land a reinforced tank company of 12 main battle tanks or 17 infantry fighting vehicles and up to 250 marines.

Russia deploys Inokhodets UAVs to Crimea 

16 Apr: Although not thought to host a permanent unit, Kirovskoye has seen a lot of activity in recent weeks as tensions between Russia and Ukraine have mounted. The Inokhodets UAV, also known under its marketing name of Orion, was officially adopted into Russian service last year when the first samples were delivered. The UAV, designated the Izdeliye 90 by its manufacturer, the Kronshtadt Group, was the first attack UAV to enter Russian service. 

Russian Caspian Flotilla amphibious vessels transfer to Black Sea 

9 Apr: Russian threat capabilities against Ukraine were added to on 7 April when Moscow’s Ministry of Defence announced that more than 10 amphibious landing and artillery ships are to be transferred from the Caspian Flotilla to the Black Sea Fleet headquartered at Sevastopol in the Crimea. The crews will first undertake training at the Caspian Flotilla naval base in Makhachkala, in Dagestan, before sailing to the Black Sea, where they will join similar Black Sea Fleet vessels. Initial training activities include coastal assault and navigation in shallow and confined waterways and sea areas. 

Technology Developments:

Russia’s surface fleet ambitions 

27 Apr: For many outside observers the decision of the Russian Navy (Voyenno-Мorskoi Flot, or VMF) to keep its 1970s/1980s-vintage capital ships in service seems like an anachronism. They are expensive to maintain, require large crews, and field increasingly obsolete weapon systems. Moreover, they regularly break down or catch fire, adding to the impression that these vessels are not up to the job. Yet there is something about the political symbolism that comes from sailing an aircraft carrier or a nuclear-powered cruiser into a crisis zone that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot resist. 

Russia employs Lantset-3 loitering munitions for first time in Syria 

27 Apr: Russian special forces have used the Lantset-3 loitering munition in Syria, the Rossiya (Russia) 1 state TV channel reported on 18 April. Lantset-3 was developed by Russian company ZALA Aero, which is partly owned by the Kalashnikov Group. The aerial vehicle is equipped with two cross-shaped wings, making it similar to the Hero loitering munition developed by Israeli company UVision. A low-noise electric motor is located in the tail section. The pneumatic-catapult-launched munition has a maximum take-off weight of 12 kg and an endurance of 40 minutes. An electro-optical surveillance system is installed in the nose of Lantset-3, which reportedly has a high-explosive warhead weighing about 3 kg. 

Russian frigate Marshal Shaposhnikov launches Kalibr missiles for first time

12 Apr:  The upgraded Project 1155M (Udaloy-class) frigate Marshal Shaposhnikov has launched the Kalibr sea-launched cruise missile for the first time from the Sea of Japan against a shore-based target, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 6 April. The ministry said in a press release that the missile hit the target near Cape Syurkum at a range exceeding 1,000 km. Marshal Shaposhnikov then launched a Kalibr anti-ship missile against a target in the Sea of Japan on 7 April, which destroyed a surface target at a range of 100 km, the MoD reported. 

Domestic Affairs:

Tsirkon hypersonic missile tests to be completed this year 

23 Apr: Russia will complete trials of its Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile before the end of the year, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told a 20 April Ministry of Defence board meeting. “We are planning to fit nuclear-powered submarines and blue water surface ships with this system,” he added. The Northern Fleet will receive 245 major weapon systems this year, increasing the proportion of modern equipment to 62.3%, according to Shoigu. In addition, the proportion of professional soldiers in the fleet will also increase from the current 97% to 99.2% by the end of the year. 

Russian MoD receives first BMP-3F amphibious IFVs 

8 Apr: The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 7 April that it has received its first batch of BMP-3F amphibious infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). “40 new BMP-3F amphibious IFVs have been delivered to Pacific Fleet naval infantry. The platforms are set to replace ageing BMP-2 vehicles,” the MoD said in a press release. The BMP-3F is more seaworthy than the basic BMP-3 IFV, according to the MoD, which specified, "The BMP-3F features a lighter bow break, a telescopic snorkel, and surge screens on its turret. The vehicle can swim at Level 3 sea state and can fire accurately at Level 2 sea state. It has a swimming speed of 10 km/h.” The amphibious BMP-3F has retained the basic vehicle’s armament suite. 

Foreign Affairs:

Russia begins partial drawdown after completing exercises on Ukrainian border 

29 Apr: Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on 22 April that the 58th Combined Arms Army and the 7th, 76th, and 98th Airborne Divisions would leave Crimea and return to their bases by 1 May. He also announced that, while the personnel of the 41st Combined Arms Army would also return to their bases, their equipment, including long-range multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), Iskander-K missile systems, and main battle tanks (MBTs), would remain in Voronezh until after the Western Military District’s (WMD’s) large-scale ‘Zapad (West) 2021’ exercise in September. 

Russia intensifies C-UAV operations in Syria 

27 Apr: The Russian military has intensified its counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (C-UAV) operations in Syria, the country’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on 15 April. An electronic warfare (EW) umbrella has been established to eliminate incoming hostile UAVs, with the Pole-21 and the Ratnik-Kupol jamming systems at its core. “The [Ratnik-Kupol] system jams the navigation system of a UAV, forcing it to land,” the MoD said. “The complex covers all altitudes at which UAVs typically fly.” 

OSINT Force Monitoring (A subscription-based service from the Janes Intelligence Unit):

  • Russian forces conducted and completed training exercises in Crimea. They now appear to have begun at least a partial drawdown in the region.
  • A taskforce comprising the 128th Surface Ship Brigade’s Steregushchiy I Class frigate STOIKIY (pen. 545), the tanker KOLA, and support vessel PM-82 passed through English Channel heading north towards the Baltic Sea.
  • The Northern Fleet began exercises with at least nine surface vessels in the Barents Sea.
  • The Spring 2020 Draft has begun, small numbers of civilians have begun the conscription process. • Russian forces, supported by Syrian forces, began an air, and ground campaign against ISIS-held positions in north eastern Syria.
  • Recruiters acting on behalf of Russian private military contractors have begun a limited recruitment campaign in Syria.
  • The Sudanese government suspended the agreement between Russia and Sudan on the construction of a Russian logistics base until the new legislature can approve it.
  • The Russian military has begun to prepare its equipment for the summer training period

To learn more about our OSINT Force Monitoring service please click HERE

March 2021

Region of Focus – Strategic Questions

Cyber hack raises questions over cloud computing vulnerabilities

17 Mar: On 8 December 2020, cyber-security company FireEye published a short blog post written by its CEO, Kevin Mandia, revealing that the organisation had been hacked and assessing that the activity was state sponsored. Although the company provided technical information, known as indicators of compromise (IOCs), that could help others look for evidence of the same threat actors on their own networks, FireEye remained tight-lipped on how the breach had occurred and the specifics of its attribution to a state-backed actor. Janes Analysis – “The right way forward is unclear. There are undoubtedly benefits to the SaaS model, especially when it takes away complex management and security tasks from organisations that do not have the resources to implement measures themselves.”

Beyond the ‘circles of doom’: a fresh look at Russian military strategy and NATO’s response

16 Mar: The 2014 annexation of Crimea and subsequent war in eastern Ukraine have resulted in the belief among many NATO countries that Russia has a new policy of hybrid warfare, that it is trying to build anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) bubbles throughout its sphere of influence, and that foreign governments are fair game to an army of Russian hackers and agents operating “below the threshold of war”. Janes Analysis – “Russia’s poor relations with Europe and the West are not new and have their origins in Moscow’s long and troubled history with its neighbours. The gradual break-up of the Soviet Union that is technically ongoing represents only the latest chapter in the saga.”

Opinion: Hybrid warfare in space: the inevitable exploitation of a new domain

08 Mar: The question of how hybrid warfare can be applied in space is a relevant one: specifically, has it already started to occur and, if so, how widespread is its adoption, what new tactics are likely to emerge, and what are the effects and challenges that are likely to be created?  Analysis – “Where does this go in the future? Given the vast numbers of communications satellites being launched, some argue that any effects in space will be minimised. Hybrid warfare has many colours, however, and cyberattacks against the vital infrastructure that maintains satellite operations is another viable strategy. Given the vast manoeuvre room afforded by outer space it seems likely we have only just started to see the range of space-based hybrid warfare that is likely to emerge.”

Technology Developments

Russia’s Il-112V transport aircraft resumes flight testing

01 Apr: Flight tests of Russia’s Ilyushin Il-112V light tactical transport aircraft were resumed by JSC Il, a subsidiary of Rostec’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), on 30 March. The second flight of the aircraft, built under a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD), was conducted from UAC subsidiary JSC Voronezh Aircraft Manufacturing Company’s (VASO’s) airfield and lasted 30 minutes. Janes Analysis – “The second Il-112V prototype is undergoing resource trails at the Zhukovskiy Central Aerodynamic Institute. Two more aircraft are being assembled at VASO under a contract signed with the Russian MoD at the Army 2020 defence exhibition held in Kubinka near Moscow last August. The aircraft’s weight is to be reduced by two tonnes to meet military requirements.”

Russian Navy to receive three nuclear-powered submarines in 2021

23 Mar: The Russian Navy (VMF) is to receive three nuclear-powered submarines by the end of the year, including the Project 955A (Borei-A-class) ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) Knyaz Oleg and the Project 885M (Yasen-M-class) guided missile submarines (SSGNs) Kazan and Novosibirsk, VMF commander Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov told the Ministry of Defence’s Krasnaya Zvezda ( Red Star ) newspaper on 19 March. Janes Analysis – “The VMF is also focusing on training its submariners, who participated in more than 60 training events using torpedoes, missiles, and sea mines in 2020–21. They continue to participate in joint live-firing exercises with surface ships and are training with the Kalibr missile system. Combat training of Russian submarine crews will be intensified in 2021, according to Adm Yevmenov.”

UAC delivers first re-engined Tu-160 bomber for testing

11 Mar: The aircraft with its four new NK-32-02 engines and other upgraded equipment was flown from the Kazan Aviation Plant to the Tupolev flight test and development base in Zhukovsky, near Moscow, where it will perform flight trails ahead of delivery to the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) later this year. “The aircraft has successfully passed factory tests. Today, the new missile carrier has been transferred to the Tupolev flight test base for preparation for the next stage of flights: preliminary tests,” Rostec said. Janes Analysis - “Known as ‘White Swan’ in Russia, the supersonic and variable-geometry Tu-160 has a weapons load of up to 40,000 kg, an unrefuelled range of 12,297 km, and a maximum speed of 1,800 km/h. As such, it is one of the most formidable assets in the air force’s inventory.”

Domestic Affairs

OSINT scrutiny reveals falsified aspects of Russian MoD videos

24 Mar: On 16 December 2020, the official website of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces produced a press release regarding the activation of a UR-100NUTTH (SS-19 Mod 4) Avangard intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silo at Dombarovsky in Orenburg Oblast. The silos at this location fall under the command of the 31st Missile Army in Orenburg and are manned by the 13th Missile Division based in Dombarovsky. Janes Analysis – “The technique appears to involve the reuse of old news footage deliberately presented as being a current event, involving a certain dedication of resource and expense, yet the recycled footage can be very easily – and rapidly – identified by OSINT experts as being sourced from elsewhere. One explanation may lie with the intended audience: the footage would likely bear scrutiny by an untrained eye, as it is sufficiently similar to the purported event to be superficially realistic.”

Enduring effect: The future of submarine-based nuclear deterrence

08 Mar: The fact that most of the world’s recognised nuclear powers are enhancing or establishing a submarine-based nuclear capability underlines the strategic importance of sea-based deterrence. As the ‘tectonic plates’ of great power rivalry shift more regularly but less predictably, nuclear matters – and deterrence itself – sit centrally in the global strategic balance once again. Janes Analysis - “Nuclear capabilities are having a security effect beyond just the orbat balance between nuclear powers. Underlining the strategic significance of even a relatively limited submarine-based nuclear deterrent capability, South Korea seems to be responding to North Korea’s developments in several ways. First, it is looking to enhance its ASW capability across the board.”

New Russo-Belarusian bases threaten NATO’s corridor to the Baltics

11 Mar: Russia and Belarus are building two new joint combat training centres either side of the strategic Suwalki Gap between Lithuania and Poland, which is only 60 km across. If closed it would seal off the Baltic states and all NATO Enhanced Forward Presence troops stationed there from the rest of Europe. Janes Analysis – “The capability to advance in strength with little warning, simultaneously from both sides of the Suwalki Gap, means that it could be sealed in less than two hours. The situation is aggravated by the forthcoming Russo-Belarusian military exercise ‘Zapad-2021’, which will take place in September. Always controversial and featuring hostile surprises, the exercise is a direct continuation of the Soviet ‘Zapad’ exercises and continues to rehearse the invasion of Western Europe by land, sea, and air on a gigantic scale.”

OSINT Force Monitoring (A subscription-based service from the Janes Intelligence Unit)

5 Mar: What appears to be a member of the Russian special forces (SSO) was spotted taking part in a training exercise with the Venezuelan military.

20 Mar: A squadron of four BALTIC FLEET vessels including the 71ST LANDING SHIP BRIGADE’s Ropucha Class LSTs KALININGRAD (pen. 102), MINSK (pen. 127), and KOROLEV (pen. 130) and the 128TH SURFACE SHIP BRIGADE’s Streregushchiy I Class frigate BOIKIY passed through the ENGLISH CHANNEL heading south.

24 Mar: Elements of the 56TH AIR ASSUALT BRIGADE began loading logistics equipment and BMP-2 onto trains in KAMYSHIN STATION. Sources suggest these vehicles are being transported to CRIMEA.

29 Mar: A pair of RUSSIAN AIR FORCE Tu-142 and Tu-160 conducted a joint training flight over the BARENTS, NORWEGIAN, and NORTH SEAS. At various points during the flight the aircraft were escorted by MIG-31BM likely part of a 98TH MIXED AVIAITION REGIMENT stationed at ROGACHEVO AIR BASE.

29 Mar: Images published to social media show what are believed to be either Russian special forces or PMCs helping evacuate wounded Venezuelan troops following a firefight at a checkpoint near the COLOMBIAN BORDER.

30 Mar: A convoy containing up to fifty vehicles believed to be operated by Russian-backed PMCs entered the CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC via its northeastern border with SUDAN. The convoy contained Ural-4320, civilian pick-up trucks, and Shchuka MRAPs, a vehicle heavily affiliated with Russian-back PMCs.

31 Mar: Iskander missile complex, believed to be belong to the 119TH MISSILE BRIGADE, was spotted moving north east through NOYAYA USMAN, VORONEZH.

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February 2021

 

Region of Focus – Modernisation:

Russian Airborne Troops to receive some 250 weapon systems this year

23 Feb: The Russian Airborne Troops (VDV) are set to receive more weapon systems this year, VDV deputy commander Major General Anatoly Kontsevoy told the Ministry of Defence’s Krasnaya Zvezda ( Red Star ) newspaper on 19 February. “Some 250 modern and upgraded weapon systems, as well as 10,000 airdrop systems, will be delivered to the troops,” he said. Janes Analysis – “The VDV is being re-equipped with modern armour, communication systems, and UAVs that will increase its reconnaissance and combat capabilities. Its air assault component is also being reinforced.” 

Russia advances coastal cruise missile defence modernisation with new units

09 Feb: On 5 January 2021, then US Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite announced plans for the US Navy (USN) to increase surface combatant operations in the Arctic. Surface combatants operating in the Arctic theatre will face a threat largely unnoticed by previous USN submarine operations: Russian coastal defence cruise missiles (CDCMs). The Arctic is the latest theatre with an increase in the proliferation of modern, capable CDCMs by the Russian military. Janes Analysis – “The Baltic and Pacific Fleets will host new CDCM deployments in coming years. In late 2020, a new Pacific Fleet CDCM unit operating the Bal and Bastion-P was announced as having formed on Sakhalin Island, with recruitment of contract soldiers underway. Although the operating location was not given, Sakhalin previously hosted the 648th OBRB, with battalions at Korsakov and Mys Crillon south of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.” 

Access denial: Russia revamps its Coastal Forces

03 Feb: Nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), surface warships, and carrier-borne aircraft are the well-known public face of the Russian Navy. Moscow’s maritime strategy, however, has long involved an important land-based element. Russia’s geography means that strategic choke points and key seaways around its coastline are easily dominated by land-based weapon systems and sensors. Amphibious forces also have an important role to play in protecting key coastal zones and carrying out offensive operations. Janes Analysis – “It is important to assess the Russian Navy Coastal Forces differently from comparable Western organisations, such as the United States Marine Corps and the UK Royal Marines. It is not predominately an amphibious assault landing or expeditionary force, but is instead focused on dominating Russia’s coastal regions.” 

 

Technology Developments:

Russia develops Molniya swarming UAV concept

02 Mar: Russia is developing the Molniya (Lightning) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for use in swarms. A mock-up of the UAV was shown to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu when he visited Kronshtadt’s production facility on 26 February. Molniya appears to be conceptually similar to the US Gremlin UAV and it is probably designed to detect and defeat the most sensitive parts of enemy defences, primarily air defence facilities, without risking the crews of manned combat aircraft and helicopters. Janes Analysis – “The Molniya UAV will probably be air-launched by transport aircraft so that swarms can be formed. Recovery is likely to be similar to that of the Gremlin, which is retrieved in flight. The specifications and technical features of the UAV are preliminary and may be adjusted to the requirements of the Russian Ministry of Defence.”  

IDEX 2021: Russia’s Rosoboronexport unveils combined C-UAV network

24 Feb: Russia's Rosoboronexport exporting company (a subsidiary of state corporation Rostec) unveiled a multi-layered counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (C-UAV) network at IDEX 2021 held in Abu Dhabi from 21 to 25 February. The network is meant to combine both soft- and hard-kill components. Janes Analysis – “The new C-UAV network is the first Russian effort to create a scalable and structured C-UAV asset, unite multiple EW and air defence systems, and combine soft- and hard-kill components.”

 

Domestic Affairs:

Role of Russian FSO expands beyond presidential protection

15 Feb: The Federal Protection Service (Federalnaya Sluzhba Okhrany: FSO) traces its history back to the Ninth Directorate of the former Soviet Committee for State Security (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti: KGB). In 1991, it became the Soviet Presidential Security Directorate, then later in 1991 the Main Security Directorate of the Russian Federation, and in 1996, it became the FSO. Despite the numerous name changes, relatively few practical changes to the service have taken place. Janes Analysis – “Even in Soviet times, the Kremlin relied on elements of the security apparatus monitoring and counter-balancing each other, a trend accentuated under Putin as new agencies have been formed to check on others. This has included the National Guard (Rosgvardiya), formed under a previous SBP head, Viktor Zolotov. In this context, the FSO provides the ultimate backstop, with a remit explicitly requiring it to watch and report on the activities of the other agencies.” 

Russia to base non-nuclear deterrence on hypersonic missiles

11 Feb: Russia’s non-nuclear deterrent forces will be based on various types of hypersonic missile systems, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told the nation’s military leadership during an annual operational mobilisation meeting on 9 February. “The capabilities of non-nuclear forces, primarily high-precision weapons, are being increased,” he said. Janes Analysis – “Russia is gradually shifting its non-nuclear deterrent forces from Kalibr cruise missiles to hypersonic weapons capable of defeating air defences at speeds exceeding Mach 5. Russia has already adopted the Kinzhal (Dagger) air-to-surface missile with a speed of Mach 10. The Strategic Missile Forces are armed with Avangard hypersonic manoeuvring glide vehicles mounted on UR-100UTTKh intercontinental ballistic missile systems.” 


Foreign Affairs:

OSCE identifies Russian 51U6 Kasta 2E1 radar in Ukraine

01 Mar: The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reported on 17 February that it had identified a 51U6 Kasta-2E1 target acquisition radar at a non-government-controlled training ground in Ukraine, which violates the 2015 Minsk agreement on weapon withdrawal. Janes Analysis - “Possible reasons that explain why the 51U6 Kasta-2E1 was covered with a tarpaulin range from concealment of what system it was to defiance or as a warning directed at Ukraine or the OSCE. The Kasta-2E1 is not a new system to the Russian Ground Troops, which raises the question why it was deployed to Ukraine.” 

Russia confirms Orion UAV strikes in Syria

25 Feb: The Russian Armed Forces have conducted operations with the Orion medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), including strike missions, in Syria, Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials told the Rossiya (Russia) 1 TV channel on 21 February. An Orion UAV shown in desert camouflage had 38 red stars containing either the Cyrillic letter ‘Р’ standing for a reconnaissance mission and ‘Б’ for strike mission. Examples of strike missions that destroyed targets were also shown. Janes Analysis – “Based on the Rossiya 1 report, it can be inferred that one of the weapons used by the Orion UAV is probably the OFAB-100-120 high-explosive fragmentation bomb produced by JSC SPA Bazalt. Possible precision-guided munitions were shown on Kronshtadt’s static display next to the Orion UAV at the Army 2020 defence exhibition held in Kubinka near Moscow on 23–29 August.” 


OSINT Force Monitoring:

FEB 2021: At least three UAVs, including two Orlan-10 and one ZALA 421-16, crashed in SYRIA.

18 FEB 2021: An unidentified Kilo Class patrol submarine and the tug NIKOLAI MURU left the BALTIC SEA and entered the ENGLISH CHANNEL heading south.

25 FEB 2021:  The 128TH SURFACE SHIP BRIGADE’S Steregushchiy I Class frigate STOIKIY (pen. 545) began counter-piracy operations in the GULF OF ADEN.

28 FEB 2021: A Russian Mi-35M crashed in HASAKAH near the Russian base in TAL TAMR. At least one crew member was reportedly killed, and others seriously injured.

Long Range Aviation Group Activity

Arctic Flight

06 FEB 2021: An A-50U departed IVANOVO and flew to OLENYA AIR BASE, MURMANSK.

09 FEB 2021: A pair of 121ST HEAVY BOMBER REGIMENT Tu-160 (tails. Red 04 Ivan Yarygin RF-94112 and Red 18 RF-94111 Andrei Tupolev), supported by an A-50U conducted a training flight over the BARENTS, GREENLAND, and NORWEGIAN SEAS. MiG-31 likely of the 98TH MIXED AVIATION REGIMENT, reportedly flying out of ROGACHEVO AIR BASE, provided escort at various stages of the 12-hour flight.

10 FEB 2021: An A-50U departed OLENYA AIR BASE, MURMANSK and returned to its base in IVANOVO.

Black Sea Flight

08 FEB 2021: An A-50U departed IVANOVO and flew to BELBEK AIR BASE, CRIMEA.

10 FEB 2021: A pair of 52ND HEAVY BOMBER REGIMENT Tu-22M3 (including tail. Red 35), highly likely supported by an A-50U conducted a training flight over the BLACK SEA. The aircraft were escorted by MIG-29 at various points during the five-hour flight.

Victory Day Parade Preparations

25 FEB 2021: 112TH MISSILE BRIGADE Iskander-M have departed their base in IVANOVO and at least three 54TH MISSILE DIVISION RS-24 Yars transporter erector launchers and a BSM support vehicle departed TEIKOVO bound for MOSCOW to begin rehearsals for the 2021 Victory Day Parade.

 

Details provided by the Janes Intelligence Unit (JIU). For more information on OSINT Force Monitoring, please reach out to the team: https://www.janes.com/defence-and-security-advisory/janes-intelligence-unit/

 

January 2021

Region of Focus – Treaties:

Putin signs five-year extension of New START treaty

01 Feb: Russia's State Legal Department said on the Kremlin website on 29 January that extension of the treaty was in the nation's national interests, allowing the transparency and predictability of strategic relations between Russia and the US and global stability to be maintained, as well as positively affecting the international situation and contributing to the development of the nuclear disarmament process. Janes Analysis – “The fact that Russia and the US are speaking the same language about extending New START provides grounds for cautious optimism. Extending New START by the full five years stipulated by the treaty gives Russia and the US the time necessary to negotiate a new strategic arms treaty, which will be complex with issues like verification, how to limit new weapons, and including China if the Biden administration wants to continue its predecessor's push to do the latter.”

Russia announces intention to withdraw from Open Skies Treaty

18 Jan: After the US declared its intention in May 2020 to withdraw from the treaty, 11 European countries – Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden – published a joint statement announcing that they would continue to implement the Open Skies Treaty, while calling on Russia to lift its restrictions on flights under the treaty. Janes Analysis – “With the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in August 2019 and now the Russian announcement that it intends to withdraw from Open Skies, the only strategic arms control treaty remaining is the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).” 

 

Technology Developments:

 

Russia takes first deliveries of Penicillin artillery reconnaissance system 

26 Jan: In March 2020 the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported that the first 1B76 Penicillin systems would be delivered to the “training centre for the combat use of missile forces and artillery, stationed in the Saratov region”, by the end of that year. Janes Analysis – “Russian brigade-level artillery assets typically include an array of fire-control apparatus and fire-locating systems. Examples may include artillery-locating radars such as the PRP-4 family of systems, which are based on the BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle hull.” 

Russian Ground Forces to receive more than 400 armoured vehicles in 2021

14 Jan: Russia’s Ground Forces (SV) will receive more than 400 armoured vehicles in 2021, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 11 January. “Under the Gosoboronzakaz [State Defence Order], the defence industry will hand over modern and modernised armoured platforms that have demonstrated high performance in various climatic zones,” the MoD said. Janes Analysis – “The delivery of some 2,500 land systems to the SV in 2019 increased the proportion of modern equipment in service from 54% to 60%. The delivery of approximately 3,500 platforms in 2020 increased this figure to around 70%.” 

Domestic Affairs:

Russian MiG-31BMs deploy to new Arctic base

18 Jan: A long-delayed project to upgrade Russian Northern Fleet Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) appears to be building momentum after a second boat was moved out of an upgrade hall. Video imagery of the Project 971I Schuka-B (Improved Akula)-class submarine Leopard being moved on a lift out of the Zvezdochka Ship Repair Centre facility at Severodvinsk shipyard after a rededication ceremony was posted online by the Russian Ministry of Defence’s Zvezda television channel on 26 December 2020.Janes Analysis – “The Northern Fleet only has one aviation unit equipped with the MiG-31BM, the 98th Separate Mixed Aviation Regiment, which is home-based at Monchegorsk on the Kola Peninsula. This follows other moves by the Northern Fleet Joint Strategic Command or military district to enhance air-defence capabilities along Russia’s northern coasts and Arctic islands.” 

Rearmament of Kozelsk missile division continues

08 Jan: The rearmament of Russia’s nuclear triad continues, with state media-released video footage on 4 January showing the loading of an RS-24 Yars (NATO reporting name SS-27 Mod 2) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) into a silo in Kozelsk, home to the 28th Guards Missile Division, in the Kaluga Oblast, southwest of Moscow. Janes Analysis – “The RS-24 development represents a significant step-up in capability over older systems such as the UR-100NUTTH and is part of a wider modernisation effort of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces. The missile is somewhat controversial in the West as it stems from an effort to introduce a modern MIRV-equipped ICBM potentially in breach of the US-Russian Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (STARTs).” 


Foreign Affairs:

Myanmar to acquire Pantsir-S1 SHORAD systems, radar stations, and Orlan-10E UASs from Russia

25 Jan: “The MoD said in a statement that the move is part of an agreement signed in Naypyidaw between Tatmadaw Commander in Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. The MoD provided no further details about the deal, including the value of the contracts, the delivery schedules, or the type of radar stations ordered, but pointed to the growing military-technical co-operation between Moscow and Naypyidaw since 2001. Janes Analysis - “Myanmar has relatively limited air-defence capabilities, consisting primarily of the short-range Kvadrat-MA, which is a modernised variant of the ageing ”Kub family”, as well as the medium-range Chinese HQ-12, and the obsolescent S-125 Pechora-2M. The addition of the Pantsir-S1 to Myanmar’s inventory will provide a much-needed boost to its SHORAD capabilities.” 

Belarus says exercise ‘Zapad 2021’ reflects NATO action

22 Jan: Joint Russian-Belarusian exercise ‘Zapad (West) 2021’ will be held on 10–16 September on both countries’ territories with a scenario reflecting the impact of NATO countries on Belarus’s internal affairs, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on 18 January, citing a report by Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin to President Alexander Lukashenko. Janes Analysis – “‘Zapad 2017’ was held on six ranges and two territories in Belarus and on ranges in Russia, involving some 13,000 servicemen, 70 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, and up to 680 land platforms, including 250 tanks and 200 artillery systems, multiple rocket launchers, and mortars. Representatives of seven states, including NATO members, observed the exercise.”

 

OSINT Force Monitoring:

4 JAN 2021: The 28th Missile Division was highly likely re-equipped with a silo-based RS-24 ICBM.

8 JAN 2021: The 34th Motorised Brigade (Mountain) highly likely received over 50 MT-LBVM1K.

26 JAN 2021: A pair of Tu-142MZ, escorted by MIG-31BM, conducted patrols over the Chukchi and Barents Seas. 

29 JAN 2021: S-400 highly likely belonging to the 568th Air defence Regiment took up active duty in the Samara region.

Mediterranean Sea Naval Activity

13 JAN 2021: The 4th Submarine Brigade’s Kilo Class patrol submarine NOVOROSSIYSK (pen. 555) and the tug NIKOLAI MURU left the Mediterranean Sea via the Straits of Gibraltar.

14 JAN 2021: The 43rd Missile Ship Division’s Admiral Gorshkov Class frigate ADMIRAL KASATONOV (pen. 461) entered the Mediterranean Sea, via the Straits of Gibraltar, accompanied by the tug NIKOLAI CHIKER.

26 JAN 2021: The 128th Surface Ship Brigade’s Steregushchiy Class frigate STOIKIY (pen. 545), the tanker KOLA, and the Northern Fleet’s tug NIKOLAI CHIKER docked in Limassol, Cyprus.

31 JAN 2021: The 128th Surface Ship Brigade’s Steregushchiy Class frigate STOIKIY (pen. 545) and the tanker KOLA left the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal.

Syria

Russia has deployed additional force to the Al-Qamishli region of Syria. A battalion sized element of the 108th Airborne Regiment deployed by Il-76MD on 18 JAN, followed by a contingent of Central Military District military police on 21 JAN also deployed by Il-76MD.

15 JAN 2021: Members of the 98th Airborne Division and 56th Air Assault Brigade were spotted training Syrian government forces in Khan Assubul.

Russian aircraft continued bombing targets in support of Syrian government forces.

Central African Republic

Russian-backed forces, highly likely private military contractors, continued to provide support to Central African Republic government forces. 

Russia has reportedly provided four helicopters to support this operation, two Mi-8AMTSh-V (tails. Yellow 73 and Yellow 74 RF-95603) and one Mi-8AMTSh have been identified as operating in the country by Janes.

Russian-backed forces have been identified operating on the frontline and taking part in combat operations, alongside CAR government troops, and providing close protection for senior CAR military and government figures including the Prime Minister, Firmin Ngrébada.

21 JAN 2021: Major-General Oleg Polguyev and an individual heavily affiliated with the Russian-PMC Wagner Group’s activity in Africa were photographed attending a security briefing chaired by the CAR’s Prime Minster, Firmin Ngrébada.

Details provided by the Janes Intelligence Unit (JIU). For more information on OSINT Force Monitoring, please reach out to the team: https://www.janes.com/defence-and-security-advisory/janes-intelligence-unit/

 

December 2020

Region of Focus – Modernisation:

Russian military’s proportion of new hardware exceeded 70% in 2020, says Shoigu

23 Dec: The Russian military’s proportion of ‘modern hardware’ exceeded 70% in 2020, said Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu at an annual meeting of the Russian Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) board on 21 December 2020. According to the minister, the Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) received three regimental kits of Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in 2020.Janes Analysis – “Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic the Russian defence industry has remained robust. According to Shoigu the State Defence Order for 2020 was 99.8% implemented in terms of deliveries and 99.7% completed in terms of repairs and upgrades.”

Russia takes delivery of first Su-57 fighter

04 Jan: Russia’s armed forces have taken delivery of their first serial production Su-57 fighter aircraft. Production aircraft #01 was delivered to the 929th State Flight Test Centre in Akhtubinsk in southern Russia on 25 December, according to Russian media reports. Janes Analysis - “The VKS has not announced which frontline aviation regiment or base will be the first to receive the new aircraft but Russian state news agency TASS on 25 December cited military sources as saying it would be in the Southern Military District.”

Russian MoD received 2,700 weapon systems in 2020

06 Jan: “The troops received 147 aircraft, the first reconnaissance and strike unmanned aerial systems [UASs] with Inokhodets [Pacing Horse] and Forpost [Outpost] unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs], seven surface ships and two submarines, more than 1,500 land platforms, some 300 missile and artillery systems, and approximately 150 air defence weapons,” said Krivoruchko. Janes Analysis - “In 2020 the Russian MoD gave priority to unmanned aviation, including tactical reconnaissance systems and UAVs armed with guided munitions. The first Russian armed UAVs and smart weapons for them were unveiled at the Army 2020 defence exhibition held in Kubinka near Moscow on 23–29 August. According to official statistics, the Russian military had three units with 91 UAVs in its inventory in 2012.”

 

Technology Developments:

Unmanned Armatas not to be produced

08 Dec: There will be no mass production of an unmanned T-14 Armata main battle tank (MBT), Rostec CEO Sergei Chemezov told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency on 7 December. Janes Analysis – “It can be seen that Russia is progressing towards greater automation and integration of artificial intelligence into its concept of operations. While the Armata family may not produce an unmanned variant, the Russian MoD appears set on development of Project Storm, which will pave the way for interconnected and unmanned T-72s equipped for urban warfare.” 

Russia tests ground-launched anti-satellite missile

21 Dec: On 15 December Russia conducted a test of a direct-ascent – or ground-launched – anti-satellite missile, according to a Pentagon statement. Russia has recently demonstrated two different types of space weapons. The first type of kinetic weapon was a direct-ascent antisatellite missile capable of destroying satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), which the Pentagon said Russia has tested multiple times. Janes Analysis – “The biggest ramification from using antisatellite weapons in combat is similar to how land mines can cause problems long after a conflict. Garretson said the world will have to deal with the disproportionate effects on civil and commercial infrastructure of the remaining space debris long after anti-satellite weapons are used in combat.”

Upgraded Northern Fleet Akula moves out of repair hall

05 Jan: A long-delayed project to upgrade Russian Northern Fleet Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) appears to be building momentum after a second boat was moved out of an upgrade hall. Video imagery of the Project 971I Schuka-B (Improved Akula)-class submarine Leopard being moved on a lift out of the Zvezdochka Ship Repair Centre facility at Severodvinsk shipyard after a rededication ceremony was posted online by the Russian Ministry of Defence’s Zvezda television channel on 26 December 2020.Janes Analysis – “It appears that Leopard was the lead boat of the latest round of upgrades to the Akula class and that lessons were learned during the upgrade process. Vepr , a Project 971U (Akula II) boat, appears to have benefited from this experience; it underwent a similar upgrade inside the repair hall at Nerpa shipyard in Olenya Bay on the Kola Peninsula over a two-year period that concluded in August 2020.”

 

Domestic Affairs:

Russian armed forces take on geographical challenges

07 Dec: The Russian Ministry of Defence does not have its own railway network and has to cooperate closely with the country’s state-owned railway company, the Joint Stock Company Russian Railways (OAO Rossiyskiezheleznyedorogi: OAO RZhD). The OAO RZhD was set up in 2003 to replace the old Ministry of Railways and to run the 84,000-km railway track network on a more commercial basis. Janes Analysis – “Although there is little indication that the Russian government is making any moves to expand or widen its network of inland waterways in the near future, ongoing and planned developments for other aspects of Russia’s strategic infrastructure reflect the military’s strategic needs.”

Putin equates Northern Fleet to a military district

24 Dec: The decree confirms the Northern Fleet and will be treated “as a combined-arms strategic territorial Formation of the Armed Forces, which carries out the tasks of a military district … to protect the integrity and immunity of Russia”, according to the document. The decree is to become operative on 1 January 2021.Janes Analysis – “In order to respond to NATO’s military modernisation in the Arctic the Northern Fleet is being reinforced with modern weapon systems, including nuclear-powered submarines, frigates, landing ships, surface-to-air missile systems, antisubmarine warfare aircraft, and auxiliary vessels.”


Foreign Affairs:

Russia seizes initiative in Nagorno-Karabakh

07 Dec: Azerbaijani military forces entered Lachin on 1 December, the last of three districts ceded to Azerbaijan under the ceasefire agreement to end six weeks of fighting in NagornoKarabakh. The move into Lachin followed Azerbaijani forces entering Aghdam on 20 November and Kalbajar on 25 November. Janes Analysis – “The outcome of the Nagorno-Karabakh sixweek conflict has added even more complexity to neighbourhood relations in the South Caucasus at local, regional, and international levels. Locally, the priority will be to consolidate the ceasefire, stabilise ethnopolitical tension around Nagorno-Karabakh, delimit the borders, protect cultural and religious heritage, and prepare the ground to facilitate the rebuilding of trust with all stakeholders.” 

Japan protests Russian deployment of S-300V4 air-defence system to disputed Kuril island

07 Dec: Tokyo protested through diplomatic channels, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato on 2 December, reiterating the Japanese government’s opposition to the deployment of military equipment to the disputed islands of the archipelago, all of which are controlled by Russia. Janes Analysis – “The long-standing feud relates to a few islands (Iturup/Etorofu, Kunashir/Kunashiri, and Shikotan) and the rocky Habomai islets, all of which Russia seized after the Second World War.” 

 

OSINT Force Monitoring:

15 DEC 2020: Captain Andrei Saloshin was appointed commander of the 43RD MISSILE SHIP DIVISION.

19 DEC 2020 onwards: In response to an escalation of fighting by rebel forces in the CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Russia has deployed a force of “military instructors”, highly likely private military contractors, and RUSSIAN AIR FORCE aircraft to support government forces. 

  • RUSSIAN AIR FORCE Il-76 and An-124 have been identified delivering supplies and equipment to BANGUI AIRPORT
  • At least two Mi-8AMTSh attack-transport helicopters have been deployed and are currently being used to fly combat patrols in and around the CAR’s capital BANGUI
  • Russian backed forces in the region have been identified conducting combat patrols with CAR troops and providing training to CAR troops.
  • Russian backed forces have been identified operating Ural-4320 transport trucks, Toyota pickup trucks, and unidentified MRAPs previously seen in service with Russian backed mercenaries in LIBYA

 

22 DEC 2020: A total of 15 Russian aircraft including pair of 182ND HEAVY BOMBER REGIMENT Tu-95MS (including tail. Red 53 RF-94195), at least two Su-35S, and an A-50U conducted a joint training flight PLAAF aircraft over the SEA OF JAPAN. 

28 DEC 2020: The 128TH SURFACE SHIP BRIGADE's STOIKIY (pen. 545), the tug YAKOV GREBELSKIY, and the tanker KOLA passed through the STRAITS OF GIBRALTAR heading east into the MEDITERRANEAN SEA.

29 DEC 2020: Three Russian troops were injured after an ATGM struck their BTR-82A in IDLIB.

31 DEC 2020: Civilians in HOUN protested the presence of Janjaweed and Russian backed private military contractors in the city.

1 JAN 2021: The NORTHERN FLEET has officially been re-designated as a military district.

Details provided by the Janes Intelligence Unit (JIU). For more information on OSINT Force Monitoring, please reach out to the team: https://www.janes.com/defence-and-securityadvisory/janes-intelligence-unit/

November 2020

Region of Focus – Cyber:

No direction home: GNSS could be augmented with LEO satellites, signal verification

17 Nov: Recent history has shown that GNSS jamming can cause disruption. Reports of GNSS jamming in Israel in June 2019, which affected civil aviation around the country, blamed Russian electronic attack systems deployed to neighbouring Syria. Platforms like the R-330Zh were reportedly deployed to Hmeimim airbase, northwest Syria, where Russia maintains a sizeable deployment. Janes Analysis – “It seems unlikely that a single technology or approach will emerge to guarantee the integrity of GNSS transmissions. Instead, a combination of measures may be taken that could help to ensure GNSS signals worldwide are protected from nefarious interference.”

Social media disinformation disrupts EU missions worldwide

20 Nov: Disinformation campaigns that target the EU’s military and civil security missions in Africa and elsewhere to undermine their credibility are rising, according to EU officials. A new approach to analyse and counter the problem will be launched in the coming months. “Policy-makers are under pressure to make decisions quickly regarding regions in crisis. If Russia sows enough doubt about things to delay EU decisions by a week or even a day, that can make a big difference out in the field.”

Technology Developments:

Update: Russia’s Southern Military District receives over 200 pieces of equipment

06 Nov: Russia’s Southern Military District (SMD) received over 200 new and modernised pieces of equipment within a month, the SMD’s press service announced on the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) website on 3 November. Equipment. Janes Analysis – “Judging from past MoD figures, the delivery of new and upgraded equipment to different armed services based within the SMD has gradually dwindled from around 2011. As the ratio of upgraded and modern equipment in the SMD’s inventory increases, reported to account for 66% in the summer of 2019, the focus is shifting away from the Southern and Western Military Districts to the Central and Eastern Military Districts.”

Russia’s CBRN Troops test TOS-2 MRL

17 Nov: Russia’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Protection Troops are testing the TOS-2 Tosochka multiple rocket launcher (MRL), the service’s commander, Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, told the Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) newspaper on 13 November. Janes Analysis – “The TOS-1A MRL is among Russia’s best-selling ground platforms. In July the director general of Rostec’s Rosoboronexport, Alexander Mikheev, said it has been among the top five most popular Russian land systems for almost 20 years of Rosoboronexport’s existence.”

Russia developing tactical hypersonic missile

18 Nov: The Russian defence industry is embarking upon the development of a tactical hypersonic surface-to-surface missile based on the Shipunov Instrument-Making Design Bureau Hermes family of guided weapon systems, according to a 3 November article published in the Russian daily Izvestia. Janes Analysis – “This development may be seen in the context of Russia’s continued drive to introduce hard military power into its force structure. The Russian MoD has emphasised the need for standoff weaponry and extensively pursued long-range precision munitions linked to real-time reconnaissance systems.”

Domestic Affairs:

Russia sends peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh after brokering ceasefire

11 Nov: Russian peacekeepers have arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh after Moscow brokered a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the disputed enclave. President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced in a joint statement on 10 November the ceasefire and complete cessation of hostilities at midnight Moscow time. Janes Analysis – “Russia brokered a shaky ceasefire on 10 October, the first of three brokered that month. However, this latest ceasefire is likely to succeed as it is enforced by Russian peacekeepers and the agreement stipulates some major territorial concessions by the Armenian side.”

Vanishing act: policing new Arctic routes as ice cover retreats

18 Nov: As the polar ice mass above the Arctic Circle rapidly retracts due to global warming, diminishing ice is leading to increased maritime access to Arctic sea routes. The decrease in permanent sea ice, especially from June to September, has exposed coastal borders, driven increased military activity, and set the stage for the Arctic region to play a prominent role in geostrategic competition. Janes Analysis – “Ice-free conditions between the east Siberian Sea and the western Beaufort Sea increased by nearly three months between 1979 and 2012, and the volume of September ice decreased between 1980 and 2018 by about 69% (declining by an average of 70,000 km 2 a year). With the Arctic melt season lengthening, future maritime activity is likely to be an order of magnitude greater by 2050.”

Foreign Affairs:

Russia releases details on naval base in Sudan

12 Nov: Details of a proposed Russian “logistical support point” in Sudan were published by Russia’s legal information website on 11 November. The document has been approved by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and submitted to President Vladimir Putin for his approval. Janes Analysis – “The document included co-ordinates showing the Russian base will be comprised of three areas that are currently inside the Sudanese navy’s base on the north side of Port Sudan, including about 200 m of wharf.”

Sudanese navy gets Russian training ship

26 Nov: Three Egyptian warships, the Perry-class frigate Alexandria, Gowind 2500-class corvette El Fateh and Ezzat-class missile attack craft M Fahmi , passed through Istanbul and entered the Black Sea on 15 November for the week-long exercise, which was held from 17-24 November off the coast of Novorossiysk. Janes Analysis – “Russia and Egypt usually conduct exercise ‘Friendship Bridge’ in the eastern Mediterranean, and the intention behind holding the joint exercise in the Black Sea this year could be related to a third country: Turkey. Relations between Egypt and Turkey have not recovered since the overthrow of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, whom Turkey had strongly supported, in 2013.”

 

OSINT Force Monitoring:

Peacekeeping in Nagorno-Karabakh

Russian forces deployed peacekeeping elements, reportedly 1,920 troops, from multiple units to enforce a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. The primary element of the taskforce is comprised of the 15th Motorised Brigade, which has deployed two battalion tactical groups equipped with BTR-82A, Orlan-10, Leer-3, and mortars. The taskforce is also supported by Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters from the 3624th Air Base and 332nd Helicopter Regiment.

Long range communications for the taskforce appears to be provided by a combination of 15th Motorised Brigade and 91st C3 Brigade units who deployed with some of the first flights into Nagorno-Karabakh.

  • Logistics support has so far been provided by the 30th Motorised Brigade and 92nd Missile Brigade’s logistics units who have both been identified as deployed mobile power generators to the region.
  • Engineering support including the deployment of Uran-6 EOD UGVs has been provided by elements of the 28th Pontoon Bridge Brigade, the 12th Engineer Brigade, and the 15th Motorised Brigade’s engineering company.
  • Other units operating in the region include the 102nd Military Base who have been manning some checkpoints and transportation, the 80th Tank Regiment who have also been spotted manning checkpoints.

Other Operations

  • During November several Russian ships including the destroyer Vitse Admiral Kulakov, the intelligence vessel Viktor Leonov have been identified as operating of the north eastern coast of Scotland in the Moray of Firth.
  • A pair of Russian warships; one Udaloy Class and one Slava Class, were spotted passing through the Singapore Straits.
  • Russian backed PMCs are reported to have deployed a radar to a suburb west of Sirte in the first week of November.

OSINT Force Monitoring Details provided by the Janes Intelligence Unit (JIU). For more information on OSINT Force Monitoring, please reach out to the team: https://www.janes.com/defence-and-security-advisory/janes-intelligence-unit/

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