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RDS Special: Formations and Units involved in ‘Zapad-2017’ Russian-Belarussian strategic exercises

Igor Sutyagin
RUSI Defence Systems, 6 October 2017
Russia, Land Operations
Initial analysis suggests that the recent ‘Zapad-2017’ joint strategic exercises of Russia and Belarus (14-20 September) justified the concerns of external observers about the scale and content of the exercises, as well as constituting a possible Russian violation of the Vienna Document provisions of 2011

According to pre-Zapad statements, the drills would involve no more than 12,700 Russian and Belarussian troops altogether, out of which around 2,500 Russian troops would be exercising on Russian soil. The officially announced exercise area encompassed 6 ranges in Belarus, two training ranges in Western Russia (Strugi Krasnye and Luzhskiy), and one range in Kaliningrad Province (Pravdinskiy).

In practice, however, the drills took place all over Russian territory from Kaliningrad to Sakhalin Island and included three out of the five new Russian Divisions established in 2015 and 2016 in the Western, Southern, and Central Military Districts (MDs) – namely the 3rd and 150th Motor-Rifle, and the 90th Tank Divisions.

The following list was compiled from analysis of open source information and official Russian statements and publications. These sources alone provide sufficient evidence to conclude that the overall numbers of troops involved in the exercises reached approximately 48,000 men, of which around 23,000 exercised in the areas officially reserved for the ‘Zapad-2017’ strategic exercises. This tally assumes that the official statements of Belarus military officials regarding numbers of the Russian troops exercising on Belarussian territory - 3,100 men - reflect the actual numbers present there.

Positively identified formations and units of the Russian (RF) and Belarussian (RB) forces involved in the ‘Zapad-2017’ exercises, along with their strength estimates (for units operating on the Russian soil) can be found below. A more detailed and in-depth analysis of the exercises will be published in a forthcoming RUSI briefing paper devoted to this subject.

*Note - Units listed in italics not confirmed but almost certainly present due to interconnected status with confirmed participant units (e.g. C2 units which enable certain HQ formations to function)

I. Units exercising on the territory of Republic of Belarus (RB)

Positively identified units/formations operating at unspecified or unknown locations

465th Missile Brigade (RB)

61st Fighter Air base (RB)

14th Guards Fighter Air Regiment (RF)

231st Artillery brigade (RB)

86th Communications Brigade (RB)

60th Independent Communications Regiment (RB)

108th Independent Materiel-Support Regiment (RB)

70th General Staff’s Mobile Communication Centre (RF)

Territorial defence battalion (RB)

 

227th combined-arms training range “Borisovskiy”

85th Communications Brigade (RB)

263rd Communications Equipment Repair Base (RB)

HQ 1st Guards Tank Army (RF)

60th C2 Brigade (RF)

432nd Military Hospital (RB)

120th Guards Mechanised Brigade (RB) - BTGr of 339th mechanised battalion

6th Tank Brigade (RF) – a brigade tactical group of three tank battalions (without one tank company)

51st Artillery Brigade (RB)

4th Guards Tank Division (RF) – artillery units

 

“Osipovichskiy” training range

120th Guards Mechanised Brigade (RB) – one BTGr, with operational team of the 10th EW Battalion (RB)

11th Mechanised Brigade (RB) - Information operations detachment

423rd Guards Motor-Rifle Regiment 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division (RF) – a battalion tactical group

275th Guards Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division (RF) – two artillery battalions

137th Independent Reconnaissance Battalion 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division (RF)

Military police company 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor-Rifle Division

51st Guards Artillery Brigade (RB) – one self-propelled gun battalion

336th Rocket-Artillery Brigade (RB) – one “Smerch” MLR battalion

 

210th air force training range “Ruzhanskiy”

15th Army Aviation Brigade (RF) – at least 1 (or 2) Mi-35, 4 Mi-28N, and 4 Ka-52

50th Mixed Air Base (RB) – at least 4 Mi-24 and 1 Mi-8MTV-5

116th Guards Attack Air Base (RB) – 4 Su-25

47th Mixed Air Regiment (RF) – 4 Su-34

4th Independent Reconnaissance Air Squadron (RF) – 1 Su-24MR

 

174th air force and air defence training range “Domanovo”

115th Zenith-Rocket Regiment (RB) – one battalion

147th Zenith-Rocket Brigade (RB) – one battery

Ground troops air defence battery (RB)

 

“Losvido” training range

38th Guards Air-Assault Brigade (RB) – one air-assault battalion

 

“Lepelskiy” training range

19th Guards Mechanised Brigade (RB) – a battalion tactical group

 

“Dretun” area

103rd Guards Airborne Brigade (RB) – one airborne battalion

50th mixed Air base (RB) - 2 Mi-8MTV-5

927th UAV Centre (RB)

Border Guards (RB)

Ministry of Interior (RB)

Investigation Committee (RB)

 

“Glubokoe” area

No data published on any activities in this area

 

II. On the territory of the Russian Federation (RF)

(There were no Belarussian units exercising on the Russian territory during the official time-limits of the ‘Zapad-2017’ exercises)

Positively identified units/formations operating at unspecified or unknown locations

HQ 76th Guards Air Assault Division (around 250 men)

HQ 98th Guards Airborne Division (around 250 men)

HQ 106th Guards Airborne Division (around 250 men)

200th Guards Heavy Bomber Air Regiment

52nd Guards Heavy Bomber Air Regiment

203rd Inflight-refuelling Air Regiment

4th Air Combat Training Centre – 4 Su-35S

70th Topogeodic Detachment (250 men)

 

«Luzhskiy» 33rd combined-arms training range

HQ 6th Combined-arms Army (around 350 men)

95th C2 Brigade  (around 150 men)

1st Guards Tank Regiment 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor-Rifle Division – one battalion tactical group (550 men)

1st Guards Motor-Rifle Regiment 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor-Rifle Division – one motor-rifle battalion (530 men)

Artillery Regiment 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor-Rifle Division – one howitzer (2A65 “Msta-B”) artillery battery, one rocket-artillery (“Grad”) battery (150 men)

3rd Motor-Rifle Division – motor-rifle, tank, combat engineer, CBRN, air defence elements

25th Guards Motor-Rifle Brigade – a battalion tactical group (1,000 men)

137th Guards Airborne Regiment 106th Guards Airborne Division – one battalion tactical group (450 men)

26th Missile Brigade – one missile battery (50 men)

448th Missile Brigade (20th Guards Combined-arms Army) – one missile battalion (120 men)

9th Guards Artillery Brigade – one artillery battalion (180 men)

6th CBRN Regiment – one flume company, one heavy flamethrower company (90 men)

1489th Zenith-Rocket (air defence) Regiment 2nd Air Defence Division – one “Pantzir” platoon/battery (30 men)

1st Guards Combat Engineers Brigade – one assault pioneer company (90 men)

51st Materiel Support Brigade (around 750 men)

 

Kingisepp air force training range

47th Mixed Air Regiment (RF) – 8 Su-34

4th Independent Reconnaissance Air Squadron (RF) – 2 Su-24MR

159th Fighter Air Regiment – 4 Su-27

 

«Strugi Krasnye» 714th airborne troops training range

76th Guards Air-Assault Division

98th Guards Airborne Division

106th Guards Airborne Division

- around 1,650 men altogether

 

«Kamenka» training range

138th Guards Motor-Rifle Brigade – one battalion tactical (around 1,500 men)

 

Saint-Petersburg area

1489th Zenith-Rocket (air defence) Regiment 2nd Air Defence Division – one S-400 battalion, one “Pantzir” platoon/battery (around 180 men)

 

Kaliningrad area

25th Independent Coastal-defence Missile regiment – one missile (“Bal”/SSC-6 Sennight) battery (around 50 men)

183rd Guards Zenith-Rocket (air defence) Regiment 44th Air Defence Division – four battalions of S-300PS and S-400 air defence systems (around 720 men)

81st Radio-technical (radars) Regiment

 

«Pavenkovo» (aka «Pravdinskiy») training range, Kaliningrad Province

79th Guards Motor-Rifle Brigade – a battalion tactical group

76th Guards Air-Assault Division – one air-assault company

152nd Guards Missile Brigade – one missile battery

244th Guards Artillery Brigade

336th Guards Marines Brigade – Brigade’s artillery group

- Around 1,000 men altogether

 

The «Khmelevka» training range, Kaliningrad Province

336th Marines Brigade – a battalion tactical group of the 878th Marines assault battalion

79th Guards Motor-Rifle Brigade – one tank company

72nd Mixed Air Base – 6 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft

- Around 600 men altogether

 

Baltiysk and Baltic Sea area

‘Over 20 surface combatants and auxiliary ships’, of which 16 positively identified, belonging to:

128th Surface Combatants Squadron

36th Missile Boats Brigade

64th Sea-area Control Brigade

71st Amphibious Ships Squadron

- With cumulative crew strength (for the identified ships) of around 870 men

313th Anti-Submarine sabotage forces Detachment – around 50 men

 

Central Industrial Region area

202nd Zenith-Rocket (air defence) Brigade (S-300V4)

1117th Zenith-Rocket (air defence) Regiment 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor-Rifle Division

49th Zenith-Rocket (air defence) Brigade

790th Fighter Air Regiment

337th Radio-Technical (radar) Regiment

549th Zenith-Rocket (air defence) Regiment – one S-400 battalion, one “Pantzir” platoon/battery (180 men)

 

«Pumanki» training range (Sredniy peninsula, near Zapolyarniy – Kola peninsula)

61st Marines Brigade – one battalion tactical group (600 men)

 

«Pechenga» training range

200th Motor-Rifle Brigade – a battalion tactical group (1,500 men)

 

Barents Sea/Arctic Ocean area

‘Over 50 combat and auxiliary ships and submarines’, of which 24 positively identified, belonging to:

11th Submarine Squadron

339th Submarines-under-repair Squadron

161st Submarine Brigade

43rd Missile Surface Combatants Squadron

14th ASW Ships Brigade

7th Guards Sea-area Control Brigade

 43rd Sea-area Control Sub-Squadron

121st Amphibious Ships Squadron

86th Salvage Ships Squadron

432nd Auxiliary Ships Squadron

– with cumulative crew strength (for the identified ships) of around 3,600 men

80th Motor-Rifle Brigade (Arctic) – one company, approximately 110 men

99th Tactical Group – 250 men

536th Coastal-defence Missile Brigade – one missile (“Bastion”/SSC-5 Stooge) battery

279th Ship-borne Assault Air Regiment – minimum: 2 Su-33

98th Mixed Air Regiment 45th Air and Air Defence Army - 2 MiG-31BM

 

The Western Military District (MD) (locations unspecified or unknown)

Artillery formations and units in Moscow, Tambov, Nizhniy Novgorod, and Voronezh Provinces (i.e. beyond borders of the formally announced “Zapad-2017” exercises) – up to 10,000 men according to official statements by the Russian Ministry of Defence

 

«Prudboy» training range (Volgograd province)

150th Motor-Rifle Division – two motor-rifle battalion tactical groups

20th Guards Motor-Rifle Brigade – one battalion tactical group

- more than 2,000 men altogether

 

«Kapustin Yar» test range (Astrakhan Province, Russia)

7th Military Base – air defence elements, 300 men

Zenith-rocket (air defence) battalions of the Southern MD’s combined-arms formations

- approximately 1,500 men altogether

Unidentified missile brigade of the Western MD – one missile battery (“Iskander-M”)

 

«Opuk» training range (Crimea, Ukraine)

810th Marines Brigade

8th Artillery Regiment

126th Coastal defence Brigade – one air defence battery

43rd Naval Assault Air Regiment – Su-24M bombers

 

Black Sea area

68th Sea-area Control Brigade – 3 ships

184th Sea-area Control Brigade – 1 ship

- with cumulative crew strength of 320 men

136th Anti-Submarine-sabotage forces Detachment – around 50 men

43rd Naval Assault Air Regiment – Su-30SM fighter-bombers, Su-24M bombers

318th Mixed Air Regiment – one Be-12 ASW aircraft

 

«Nagvalou» and «Tsabal» training ranges (Abkhazia, Georgia)

7th Military Base – artillery units

Abkhazian forces

- Over 500 men altogether

 

«Chebarkulskiy» training range

90th Tank Division – two tank regiments and (at minimum) two artillery battalions (over 3,000 men)

 

The Central Military District (locations unspecified or unknown)

24th Guards (SOF) Brigade (around 500 men)

562nd Army Aviation Air Base – Mi-8AMTSh

2nd Mixed Air Regiment – pair of Su-24M bombers

55th Motor-Rifle (mountain) Brigade

5th Railway Brigade – 121st pontoon-bridge railway battalion, 536th bridge railway battalion, railway-laying battalion, earth-moving battalion

- around 2,000 men for the 55th and 5th Brigades

 

Khabarovsk Krai

22nd Fighter Air Regiment 303rd Mixed Air Division – Su-35S in a land-attack mode, support elements (800 men)

 

«Uspenskiy» training range (Sakhalin Island)

39th Motor-Rifle Brigade 68th Army Corps

- Over 3,000 men altogether

18th Guards Assault Air Regiment – Su-25SM

575th Army Aviation Airbase – Mi-8AMTSh

 

Author

Igor Sutyagin
Senior Research Fellow, Russian Studies

Dr Igor Sutyagin's research is concerned with US-Russian relations, strategic armaments developments and broader nuclear arms control,... read more

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