Russian military stages biggest war games since Soviet times
The maneuvers are the latest in series of surprise military checks which performed by Russia, in an effort to reveal and oust flaws in the country’s defense program.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu received an order to test the battle readiness of the Eastern command, which unites military forces in the Far East and Trans-Baikal. The request was received from President Vladimir Putin at 01:00 local time (21:00 GMT) on Saturday, July 13.
Following the order, 160,000 servicemen were put on high alert and began advancing toward the training sites.
According to the Defense Ministry, around 1,000 tanks and armored vehicles, 130 planes and helicopters, and 70 ships are taking part in the war games.
Military commanders in the Far East and Trans-Baikal learned of the drill’s details only after it had begun, receiving a secret parcel from Defense Minister Shoygu.
“The main purpose of the activities is to check the readiness of the military units to perform assigned tasks and evaluate of the level of personnel’s training and technical preparation as well as the level of equipment of units with arms and military equipment,” the defense ministry said in statement.
The statement noted that the drill would require some units to travel more than 3,000 kilometers from their usual deployment sites. Seven hundred flat wagons and 50 railway cars were assigned to perform the transfer.
The ground forces have been given two days to reach their destination. They have been tasked with pitching field camps, masking their positions, and organizing defense strategies upon arrival.
The transfer is being secured by military air power. Sukhoi Su-27 fighters took off from their bases in Ussuriysk and Komsomolsk-on-Amur in order to protect ferry crossings to Sakhalin Island and escort Pacific Fleet ships. The pilots are also practicing search and destroy methods of water-based targets.
The Russian Navy, along with its fleet, is participating in drills in the Sea of Okhotsk. The Navy owns the guided-missile cruiser ‘Varyag,’ large anti-submarine ships ‘Marshal Shaposhnikov’ and ‘Admiral Vinogradov,’ assault ships ‘Oslyabya’ and "Nikolay Vilkov,’ and fleet destroyer ‘Bystry,’ and a number of other vessels – all of which are taking part in the war games.
The fleet, accompanied by Tupolev Tu-124 and Ilyushin Il-38 anti-boat planes, has already successfully executed the task of search and detection of simulated enemies’ submarines.
President Putin also asked the defense minister to train “rescue at sea and rescue of vehicles, including submarines" during the maneuvers.
Surprise checks within the Russian military began after Shoygu took up the position of defense minister in November 2012.
Similar unannounced drills have already been performed in the southern, west and central military districts, with President Putin calling them “extremely useful and effective in terms of identifying problems and their subsequent removal.”