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: Army 2021

Army 2021: Russia orders Shturm unmanned battle tank system

26th Aug: Russia's Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed the first contract for a prototype of the Shturm (Project Storm)  unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) system based on the T-72 main battle tank (MBT) at the Army 2021 defence exhibition being held in Kubinka from 22 to 28 August, the TASS news agency reported on 24  August. Shturm is a concept based on four T-72B3 MBTs developed by Russia's third Central Scientific Research Institute and T-72 manufacturer Uralvagonzavod.

Janes Analysis: Samuel Bendett, adjunct  senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security think-tank, told Janes on 24 August that the Russian military is seeking to develop technologies for urban warfare operations with minimal possible  soldier involvement, based on its experience in Syria.

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Army 2021: Russian MoD procures equipment, Rosoboronexport signs export contracts 

1st Sep: The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed 41 contracts worth RUB500 billion (USD6.8 billion) with  27 defence enterprises during Army 2021 for the delivery of 1,300 new weapon systems and the refurbishment of 150 existing systems, while Rostec's Rosoboronexport arms exporter inked deals worth  EUR2 billion (USD2.36 billion), Russian officials said at the defence exhibition in Kubinka, near Moscow, from 22 to 28 August. Deputy Defence Minister Alexey Krivoruchko announced the domestic contracts  on 24 August. The MoD signed a contract for 30 upgraded Kamov Ka-52M combat helicopters with Rostec's Russian Helicopters. In 2022 the helicopters will start receiving Vikhr-M guided missiles with a  range of up to 10 km.

Janes Analysis: The Russian MoD mainly ordered cutting-edge systems and high-precision weapons at Army 2021. The exhibition also saw the first export contracts for the upgraded Pantsir-S1M SPAAGM and the Krasukha and Repellent-Patrul EW systems.

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Army 2021: Kronshtadt displays expanded range of weapons for Grom UAV

27th Aug: Russian company Kronshtadt has taken the opportunity at the Army 2021 exhibition being held in  Kubinka near Moscow on 22–28 August to showcase a full-scale mock-up of its Grom (Thunder) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with two Kh-58UShKE anti-radiation missiles. Company officials told  Janes that the Grom has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 7,000 kg with a payload capacity of up to 2,000 kg. The air vehicle can operate out to a distance of 800 km when equipped with two Kh-58UShKE missiles, which weigh a total of 1,300 kg. However, maximum range decreases to 700 km  when fully laden. According to company specifications, the Grom has a length of 13.8 m, a wingspan of 10 m, and a height of 3.8 m. It can attain cruising and maximum speeds of up to 800 km/h and 1,000  km/h respectively, and an operating ceiling of 12,000 m (39,370 ft).

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Technology Developments:

KRET unveils Sapfir C-UAV system

10th Aug: Russia's KRET electronic concern, a subsidiary of state-owned corporation Rostec, has developed a  new counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (C-UAV) system called Sapfir (Sapphire), Vladimir Mikheev, adviser to KRET's First Deputy Director, told Janes in late July. According to Mikheev, the Sapfir C-UAV  system can be manufactured in both stationary and mobile configurations. The mobile variant of the C-UAV system comprises up to four detection-and-jamming stations, while the stationary mast-based variant typically integrates between three and four search/direction finding stations and a jamming  module.

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Checkmate looks to fill gap in emerging light fighter market

11th Aug: With arms deals continuing to be a major source of capital for the Russian government, particularly  during times of oil volatility, Sukhoi recently unveiled the Su-75 Checkmate: a lighter single-engine combat aircraft designed to compete in the emerging light fighter market. This marks a distinct pivot in  fighter sales strategy for Sukhoi and its parent company, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). Over the past decade that strategy was built around sales of Sukhoi's flagship fighter, the Su-30 ‘Flanker', and its  forthcoming advanced variant, the Su-35 ‘Flanker-E'. It also focused on sales to countries looking for affordable fighter aircraft solutions, countries with internal hesitation or restrictions on defence  technology transfers with the United States, or countries with longstanding trade relationships dating back to the Soviet era.

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Russia launches first Project 15310 cable laying ship

24th Aug: The first of the Russian Navy's two Project 15310 cable laying vessels, Volga, was launched at Zaliv  Shipyard in Kerch, eastern Crimea, on 18 August, the shipyard has announced. Volga and sister ship Vyatka were laid down at Zelenodolsk Shipyard in January 2015, with construction subsequently shifting  to Zaliv Shipyard. However, while the hulls were completed by early 2017, progress has since been delayed because of equipment availability issues. The ships are built to Ice-class 5 standard, equipped  with dynamic positioning systems, and have a fight deck forward of the bridge. They can carry 5,500 tonnes of cable and have an endurance of 50 days.

Janes Analysis: The Project 15310 ships are  intended for laying, lifting, and repairing fibre-optic cable communication lines, including in conditions in the Far North. However, as cable laying is well outside GUGI's usual remit – as far as it is known – the  full role of these vessels is the subject of considerable speculation.

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KTRV showcases UAV munitions

31st Aug: Russia's Tactical Missiles Corporation (KTRV) showcased two 100 kg-class precision weapons aimed  at unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) applications at the Army 2021 defence exhibition held from 22–28 August in Kubinka, near Moscow. While the company did not reveal accompanying information for the  displays, one of these had earlier been revealed at the previous year's event alongside Kronshtadt Group's Grom strike-capable UAV with its in-development name of ‘Product 85'. According to  specifications released at the time, the Product 85 munition is understood to be an air-to-ground missile armed with a 30 kg armour-piercing, high-explosive fragmentation warhead. The missile is 2,400 mm  long and 200 mm in diameter (with its stabilising fins increasing overall width to 400 mm), and has an all-up weight of 120 kg.

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Domestic Affairs:

Looking ahead to ‘Zapad-2021'

25th Aug: ‘Zapad-2021' (‘West-2021') is set to be larger in scale and ambition than the 2017 iteration of the  exercise and will serve to indicate Russian support for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko while exploring the capabilities of the modernised Russian armed forces. One aspect of the exercise  this year that will certainly be different from 2017 is the level of Belarusian involvement. In 2017 Lukashenko was ostensibly reserved in his public attitude towards a Russian troop presence in Belarus. Indeed, during 2014–20 Belarus sought to balance its relations between the West and Russia, outwardly leaning neither way and currying favour with both when possible.

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Russia practises using civilian docks and vessels in military operations ahead of ‘Zapad 2021'

25th Aug: Russian forces have conducted special logistics exercises in the Leningrad Oblast in the Baltic ports of  Vyborg close to the Finnish border and Ust-Luga near the Estonian border, the Western Military District (WMD) announced on Russia's Ministry of Defence (MoD) website on 23 August. The WMD said the  exercises focused on a military force taking over and defending civilian ports, and commandeering civilian cargo vessels and ferries to transport military equipment and personnel.

Janes Analysis: This  exercise marks a novel capability test for Russia's armed forces. The capability to utilise civilian docks and vessels is almost never demonstrated by Russian forces during exercises. Russian troops typically  rely on the navy's amphibious lift capability to move troops and equipment.

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Silo upgrade work identified at Russian ballistic missile facility

18th Aug: By June 2020, groundworks had started at one of the silo sites and co-located launch control facilities  of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces (Raketnye voyska strategicheskogo naznacheniya: RVSN) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) complex located approximately 20 km southwest of Uzhur in the  Krasnoyarsk Krai Oblast (55.114840, 89.634016). This site belongs to the 62nd Missile Division (MD) of the 33rd Guards Missile Army and is one of six operated by the 302nd Missile Regiment (MR) armed  with RS-20V/R-36M2 (SS-18 ‘Satan') ICBMs. One silo located at this position was designated 12C by the US intelligence community (USIC) as far back as 1966, according to Freedom of Information Act  (FOIA) data available from CIA records. The silos operated by the 302nd MR are within ‘Launch Group C (Uzhur)', according to the documents. 

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Foreign Affairs:

Kazakhstan to receive additional Su-30SM fighters by end of 2022

26th Aug: The Kazakhstan Air Defence Forces (KADF) will receive four Sukhoi Su-30SM ‘Flanker-H' multirole  fighter aircraft from Russia by the end of 2022, the Director of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Dmitry Shugayev, was quoted by Russia's TASS news agency as saying on 25 August. Shugayev noted that 20 Su-30SMs have been delivered to the KADF so far, adding that the  latest batch of aircraft to be delivered next year is part of an ongoing contract. Janes understands that these four aircraft will complete the KADF's second squadron of 12 Su-30SMs. The Kazakh government  first expressed its intention to buy a second squadron of Su-30SMs in August 2017 as part of a framework agreement signed with Russia.

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Large-scale exercise points to growing Sino-Russian military co-operation

11th Aug: In a sign of growing military co-operation between Moscow and Beijing, about 13,000 Russian and  Chinese troops have taken part in the ‘Sibu/Interaction 2021' exercise, marking the first time that such joint strategic military drills are held in China. The five-day-long manoeuvres began on 9 August at the  Qingtongxia combat training base in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in north-central China. Taking part in the large-scale manoeuvres were mainly troops from the PLA's Western Theatre Command and Russia's Eastern Military District, with the Chinese Ministry of National Defense (MND) saying ahead of the drills that they were aimed at “verifying and improving the troops' capabilities of joint reconnaissance,  search and early warning, electronic information attack, and joint strike and elimination”.

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OSINT Force Monitoring

1. Russian forces in the Western Military District continue to deploy to training grounds and conduct exercises in preparation for ZAPAD-2021:

  • The Western Military District announced on 07 August that some 6,000 troops would take part in battalion tactical group exercises across ten regions of north west Russia.
  • The Western Military District announced on 07 August that some 6,000 troops would take part in battalion tactical group exercises across ten regions of north west Russia.
  • The 132nd Mixed Aviation Division began command staff exercises in the Kaliningrad region. o Northern Fleet naval infantry have conducted joint exercises with their Baltic Fleet counter-parts in Kaliningrad.
  • Russian logistics troops began novel exercises at two civilian ports in the Leningrad region, where they practiced the loading of military equipment –including tanks and artillery – onto civilian vessels.
  • Russian railway troops began construction of a third railway-pontoon bridge over the Volga river near Myshkin in the Yaroslavl region, bringing the total number currently deployed in the region to as many as three.

 

2. The Southern Military District began wide-scale battalion tactical group exercises involving between 6,500 and 10,000 troops. The exercises will take place across the Southern Military District and run between 09  August and 15 September.

3. Russian-backed mercenaries began a recruitment campaign aiming to recruit Syrians to operate as guards for oil and mineral plants in the Central African Republic.

4. Reports indicate three fighters (one Russian and two Syrian) working for a Russian-backed private military  company in Libya where killed when their vehicle struck a mine. A further two Russian nationals were allegedly killed during a firefight in the Central African Republic.

5. Russian and Russian-backed forces have deployed into Daraa governate in attempt to restore peace 
following clashes between locals and pro-government forces.

 

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Threat Intelligence

Case studies

August 2021

Region of Focus: Training Exercises

Russian troops training with Chinese equipment ahead of strategic exercise with PLA – 6 Aug

Russian troops set to take part in the 9–13 August ‘Sibu/Interaction 2021' strategic military exercise with China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) have been familiarising themselves with Chinese military equipment in preparation for the joint manoeuvres: an indication of the growing military co-operation between Moscow and Beijing. Video footage released by the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 3 August shows Russian troops – under the guidance of PLA instructors – training on Chinese 8×8 vehicles, including the ZTL-11 fire support vehicle and the ZBL-09 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV). Janes Analysis: The Sino-Russian military-technical co-operation has accelerated in recent years driven by an increasing alignment of interests and security concerns. The main reason behind this is the mutual desire to challenge the dominant position of the United States in the international sphere and to provide a level of insulation from some US foreign policy decisions.

Russian nuclear submarines conduct joint extreme depth exercises – 20 Jul

An unspecified number of Russian Northern Fleet nuclear-powered submarines have completed extreme depth exercises together in the Barents and Norwegian seas, Russia's Federation Council has announced. During the manoeuvres, which took place from 2–16 July, crews worked out tasks and tested weapon systems “at depths of more than 500 m, which is the limit for most modern submarines”, the Federation Council's press service stated on 16 July. The Barents Sea runs only to a depth of 300 m, while the open Norwegian Sea is nearly 4,000 m in depth. Northern Fleet rescue vessels Georgy Titov and Nikolai Chiker stood by while NATO warships and at least 10 NATO maritime patrol aircraft monitored proceedings daily, the Federation Council said. Janes Analysis: Nuclear submarines training alone, collectively, at maximum depth is an unusual occurrence. The objectives of all submarine fleets is to remain stealthy and undetected, if necessary by diving to extreme depth. The prime deployment objective of Russia's strategic deterrent submarines of the Northern Fleet is to get quickly into the deep, open waters of the Atlantic.

Technology Developments

Analysis: Checkmate looks to fill gap in emerging light fighter market – 11 Aug

Sukhoi's Su-75 Checkmate light fighter has projected performance characteristics and a competitive price tag that appear to make it an attractive option. However, this does not mean that the Checkmate is guaranteed success in an increasingly crowded market, writes Hamilton Cook. With arms deals continuing to be a major source of capital for the Russian government, particularly during times of oil volatility, Sukhoi recently unveiled the Su-75 Checkmate: a lighter single-engine combat aircraft designed to compete in the emerging light fighter market. This marks a distinct pivot in fighter sales strategy for Sukhoi and its parent company, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). Over the past decade that strategy was built around sales of Sukhoi's flagship fighter, the Su-30 ‘Flanker', and its forthcoming advanced variant, the Su-35 ‘Flanker-E'. It also focused on sales to countries looking for affordable fighter aircraft solutions, countries with internal hesitation or restrictions on defence technology transfers with the United States, or countries with longstanding trade relationships dating back to the Soviet era.

Technical hurdles remain in DEW counterspace applications – 3 Aug

Russia's apparent test of a co-orbital satellite kill system in July 2020 underlined many countries' interest in improving their counterspace activities. Several countries – including China, India, Russia, and the United States – have demonstrated this capability, ranging from ground-based anti-satellite (ASAT) systems to the deployment and operation of co-orbital systems. The need to defend space-based assets is of high importance given the reliance placed on them for both civilian and military purposes. Janes Analysis: The deployment of a US space-based DEW system would most likely result in both China and Russia developing countermeasures to confuse the DEW's targeting and tracking systems, potentially involving a more careful selection of materials used in satellite and missile construction that would take into account material properties such as reflectivity, absorption, and emissivity.

MAKS 2021: Kalashnikov considers integrating Vikhr-1 missiles onto additional aircraft – 23 Jul

Russia's Kalashnikov Group is studying integration of Vikhr-1 (AT-16 ‘Scallion') anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) onto a range of new platforms, a representative of the company told Janes at the MAKS 2021 air show, held in Zhukovsky near Moscow from 20 to 25 July. “The Kalashnikov Group is considering integration of the Vikhr missile [onto] the Mi-28NE and Mi-35P helicopters and the Orion-E [unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)],” said the Kalashnikov official. He added that the holding continues to modify the Vikhr air-launched ATGM for various aircraft. Janes Analysis: The Vikhr-1, an upgrade of the original Vikhr air-launched ATGM, was unveiled at last year's Army 2020 defence show in Kubinka near Moscow. It has a range of up to 10 km and a velocity of 600 m/s. The containerised missile weighs about 50 kg.

Sprut-SDM1 light tank to complete state trials in early 2022 – 19 Jul

The state trials of Russia's Sprut-SDM1 light amphibious tank will be completed in early 2022, state corporation Rostec reported on 16 July. “Then the tank will be ready for serial production and adoption by the Russian military,” said Rostec's press department in a news release. By mid-July the system had completed the first stage of amphibious trials, including integration with landing ships. The second stage, including firing the tank's 2A75 125 mm smoothbore gun from the water at Sea State 3 (waves up to 1.25 m), is about to start soon. Meanwhile, the running trials of the Sprut-SDM1 are continuing. “The vehicle is set to cover 8,000 km in order to have its subsystems checked,” said Rostec. The light tank will start its climatic trials at low temperatures in the autumn. Janes Analysis: The Sprut-SM1 is being developed for the Russian Airborne Troops (VDV). However, the industrial director of Rostec's armament cluster, Bekhan Ozdoyev, marked the Asian and Middle East markets as potential foreign customers for the light tank, which has been adapted for mountainous and tropical environments.

Domestic Affairs

First footage of Russia's S-500 air defence system released – 21 Jul

The first footage of the Almaz-Antey S-500 Prometey (‘Prometheus') air and missile defence system (GRAU designation 55R6M), shown conducting a test launch, has been released by the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) via a video published on its YouTube channel on 20 July. The missile shown being launched was reported to have successfully intercepted a “high-speed ballistic target” during test firings at the Kapustin Yar range, about 100 km east of Volgograd, according to the video. Once tests are complete, the system is to enter service with air defence formations in the Moscow region, the video added. Janes Analysis: The completion of the S-500 system's development has been expected for a long time, with initial news regarding the project surfacing around 2009. This footage comes after a 28 June announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia's new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile, and the S-500 system were all due to enter service shortly.

Russia moves equipment away from training ground near Ukrainian border – 22 Jul

Video footage and imagery sourced from social media and analysed by Janes between 13 July and 21 July appears to show that Russia has begun to withdraw equipment from a training ground in Voronezh, close to the Ukrainian border. The equipment, which is assessed by Janes to belong to the Central Military District's 41 st Combined Arms Army, was deployed thousands of kilometres from central Russia to Voronezh during a build-up of forces in March and April. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed on 22 April that the 41 st Combined Arms Army's equipment would not return to central Russia until after it took part in ‘Zapad-2021': a large-scale Western Military District exercise scheduled to take place in September. Janes Analysis: It is likely that the withdrawal of equipment began around 13 July and has continued at a steady pace over the subsequent days. At the time of writing, Janes has not been able to definitively ascertain where the trains carrying the equipment from Maslovka are heading. It is possible the vehicles are being deployed to another location in the Western Military District to conduct exercises ahead of ‘Zapad-2021', which the Russian Ministry of Defence claimed they would do.

Foreign Affairs

Russia makes commercial offer to India for MiG-29 procurement – 22 Jul

Russia has made a commercial offer to India for the requested procurement of 21 second-hand Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF). Russia's TASS news agency quoted Valeria Reshetnikova, a spokesperson for Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), as saying on 21 July that the commercial offer was made in response to a tender inquiry sent by IAF staff for the procurement of the fighters in 2021. The statement was made during the MAKS 2021 international aerospace show, held in Zhukovsky near Moscow from 20 to 25 July. It comes after the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) approved in early July 2020 a combined INR181.48 billion (USD2.43 billion) for the procurement of 21 Mikoyan MiG-29 and 12 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft for the IAF amid heightened tensions between India and China over a border dispute along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC) in the Himalayas. Janes Analysis: The additional 21 MiG-29s would supplement the 59 aircraft of the type that were inducted into IAF service from 1986 and are gradually being upgraded to MiG-29UPG standard at the IAF's Base Repair Depot in Nashik, western India, under a INR38.42 billion (USD507 million) programme agreed with Russia in 2008.

Update: Moscow opposes establishment of US military bases in Central Asia – 19 Jul

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has expressed Moscow's opposition to the United States setting up military bases in Central Asia once the withdrawal of US and coalition forces from Afghanistan is completed by the end of August. Washington is looking at additional ‘offshore, over-the-horizon options' to conduct counter-terrorism activities in Afghanistan, if required, and US diplomats have been in contact with several countries in Central Asia to find new places to base US overhead intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets and other capabilities.

Sailing through troubled waters: Implications of UK, Russia standoff in the Black Sea – 9 Jul

On 23 June the UK Royal Navy (RN) Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender took a direct route from Odessa in Ukraine to its next sea area off Georgia, entering Russia's declared territorial waters off the Crimean Peninsula. The United Kingdom does not recognise Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and considered itself to be in Ukrainian territorial waters. What Defender actually did – conduct innocent passage – was well within international maritime law. That was not how Russia saw it, however, and its response, according to its own state reports, was to fire warning shots and conduct preventive bombing

           

OSINT Force Monitoring

  • Russian forces – assessed by Janes to be part of the 41st Combined Arms Army – were identified loading onto trains at Maslovka railway station in southern Voronezh city. Maslovka was one of the primary railway stations used to deploy troops to the Pogonovo training ground during the March-April build-up on the Ukrainian border. Imagery from social media shows the withdrawal of BMP-2, 2S3, BAT-2, MTU-72, TOS-1A, TZM, MT-LB, Tor-M2, and T-72 variant tanksfrom the region. Satellite imagery corroborates this analysis and shows a significant drawdown of forces from vehicle stores at Pogonovo.

     

  • The frigate ADMIRAL GORSHKOV conducted a live fire test launch of a Tsirkon missile in the White Sea.

     

  • Four Northern Fleet submarines – the OREL, KNYAZ VLADIMIR, VEPR, and VLADIKAVKAZ – and three surface combatants – the PYOTR MORGUNOV, VITSE ADMIRAL KULAKOV, and MARSHAL USTINOV – have entered the Baltic Sea bound for Kronstadt where the Russian Ministry of Defence reports they will take part in the main Navy Day parade on 25 July. They have all since departed the Baltic Sea.

     

  • The Russian Ministry of Defence reported that Colonel Ramil Ibatullin, the former commander of the 55th Motorised Brigade (Mountain)13 has been appointed the new commander of the Central Military District’s 90th Tank Division.

     

  • The Russian Ministry of Defence published footage showing an S-500 conducting a live fire test launch of what appears to be a 77N6 missile at the Kapustin-Yar training ground in the Astrakhan region.

     

  • Janes has identified the likely deployment of at least four 1st Guards Tank Army units from the Moscow region to training grounds in western Belarus. These deployments are almost certainly being conducted as part of ZAPAD-2021, which will involve Russian forces operating alongside Belarusian troops in Belarus. The 1st Guards Tank Army appears to have deployed troops to at least two training grounds within 150 km of the Polish border in western Belarus; one south west of the town of Baranovichi and the other south of Brest.

     

  • Russian forces began joint training exercises with Uzbekistan at the Termez training ground in the Surkhandarya Region the exercises will run until 10 August with the active phase finishing on 06 August. The exercises are believed to have involved some 1,500 troops from the Central Military District’s 15th Motorised Brigade (Peacekeeping) and the 3rd Spetsnaz Brigade, supported by four Tu-22M3 which conducted a flight from Russia on 06 July to bomb targets in Uzbekistan.

 

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/

July 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

June 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

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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