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Fight by new rules: what the president saw at the Caucasus-2020 exercise


On Friday, September 25, the main and final stage of the Kavkaz-2020 strategic exercises took place at the Kapustin Yar training ground in the Astrakhan region. These maneuvers became not just a review of the combat readiness of the armed forces, but also a test of the innovations of recent years. In particular, for the first time in combat work, a new element of troop formation was tested – the so-called mobile echelon, including the recently created airmobile units and subunits. Also during the exercise, the troops worked out new methods of combat and tactics formulated from the experience of combat use in Syria. The actions of the military were watched by President Vladimir Putin.

Smoke polygon

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The president’s helicopter landed near the stands, where the participants of the exercises, foreign military attaches and the press gathered. Together with the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Commander of the Southern Military District Alexander Dvornikov watched the maneuvers.

By September 25, 12,900 personnel, hundreds of units of heavy military equipment, dozens of aircraft and helicopters were concentrated on a small section of the giant Kapustin Yar training ground. To carry out the last and most important stage of the “Caucasus”, the command involved units and formations of the 58th Army of the Southern and 20th Army of the Western Military Districts. Also, contingents from five countries with a total number of about a thousand people took part in repelling the military aggression of the conditional enemy together with them.

At the first stage, Russian troops worked out a maneuverable defense, stopping the advance of the “enemy”. First, tanks and motorized rifles struck at the advancing “enemy”. Then, when the forces of the “aggressor” were weakened, its units and subunits were covered with massive air strikes, artillery and missile forces.

Fight by new rules

Caucasus 2020Photo: Izvestia / Zurab Javakhadze

According to the scenario of the exercises, the “enemy” rushing forward actively used aviation – planes, helicopters and even attack drones. Therefore, the Russian ground group at the front line was covered by the army air defense. In the combat formations of motorized riflemen were all means of air defense: from MANPADS “Verba” and modernized missile and cannon “Tunguska-M1” to long-range tracked S-300V4 and powerful “Buks”.

This year the “enemy” was designated with great care. About 13 thousand realistic targets were placed at the test site. In addition to old equipment and models, high-speed targets were used for the first time, imitating fast-moving combat vehicles and vehicles. They were introduced into the practice of combat training, taking into account the experience of the operation in Syria.

The consumption of large-caliber ammunition at the main stage has many times exceeded the episodes of the Kavkaz-2020 exercise of the previous days. All weapons systems of the Ground Forces were involved – from small arms to Iskander missiles. The polygon disappeared for a long time in clouds of smoke and dust raised by explosions and military equipment.

Fight by new rules

Caucasus 2020Photo: Izvestia / Zurab Javakhadze

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Then, on the right flank, the 58th Army counterblowed the demoralized and suffered losses “enemy” in cooperation with units of the armed forces of Armenia. On the left, the 20th Combined Arms Army went on the offensive, which operated in conjunction with the Chinese and Belarusian allies. Small contingents from Pakistan and Myanmar were also involved in the exercises.

A desperate situation for the “enemy” was made by the landing of airmobile units. In military language, they are called “new type of airborne units.” The reinforced battalion of the 31st Airborne Assault Brigade was airlifted by several dozen Mi-8 and Mi-26 helicopters with the support of attack vehicles. In addition to the paratroopers, army aviation delivered light vehicles, four towed D-30 howitzers, artillery ammunition supplies and mortars to the battlefield.

Simultaneously with the episode at Kapustin Yar, combat training operations were unfolding at other training grounds. Near Makhachkala, the Caspian Flotilla was working out combat missions. Long-range air defense systems operated at the Ashuluk training ground, repelling a massive missile and air strike of a simulated enemy. The polygons separated from each other by thousands of kilometers were united by a single command system and a common plan.

Professionals worked

An assessment of the actions of the troops following the results of the main stage was given by the head of the exercises, Chief of the General Staff, General of the Army Valery Gerasimov. At a briefing with military attachés of foreign states, he said that the Russian servicemen had demonstrated high combat skills and professionalism.

Fight by new rules

Caucasus 2020Photo: Izvestia / Zurab Javakhadze

The Chief of the General Staff said that during the drawing of the main stage of the exercises, a new element of operational formation, the so-called mobile echelon, was demonstrated in practice. Unlike traditional elements (first echelon, second, etc.), for which the front and direction of movement were initially determined, the mobile can operate in a wide radius at the command’s decision. For example, quickly create a defensive line in a dangerous direction or delay a retreating enemy. It is based on helicopter-based airmobile units.

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At the main stage, the work of reconnaissance and fire complexes and four main methods of destroying “jihad-mobiles” were also demonstrated, added Valery Gerasimov.

The Chief of the General Staff stressed that the preparation and conduct of the exercises were based on the principles of maximum permissible openness, and the maneuvers themselves were not directed against other countries and were in accordance with the Russian military doctrine, which is of a defensive nature.

Shortly before the start of the maneuvers, the final, most intense part of them was transferred far from the western borders of the country – to the Kapustin Yar training ground. As explained in the General Staff, this was done to demonstrate that the exercises are not directed against any particular state. Despite this, up to a dozen reconnaissance aircraft and drones of the NATO countries were constantly patrolled along the Black Sea coast of Russia that day. However, they are not able to “look” so far to see the situation in the Astrakhan region.

Fight by new rules

Caucasus 2020Photo: Izvestia / Zurab Javakhadze

In total, 30 training grounds were involved in the final strategic exercises this year, including in Abkhazia, Armenia and South Ossetia. The actions of interspecific military groups were also practiced in the waters of the Black and Caspian Seas. According to the Ministry of Defense, a total of about 80 thousand servicemen, representatives of the Russian Guard and the Ministry of Emergencies, up to 250 tanks, up to 450 infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, up to 200 guns and multiple launch rocket systems took part in them.

In the days preceding the climax, the troops practiced both the landing of amphibious assault forces and the defense of the coast from them. Airborne formations seized bridgeheads and tested new airmobile tactics. Motorized riflemen, in turn, learned to resist airborne raids.


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