September 25, 2016

Features of the “Caucasus-2016” SCPE
or Rehearsal of Russia's War against the USA, NATO and Ukraine

Yuriy Radkovets

The Russian Federation's main military-political event of 2016 was the “Caucasus-2016” strategic command-post exercise (SCPE) of the RF Armed Forces conducted by Moscow from September 5 to September 10 in order to demonstrate Russia's military power to the United States, NATO and Ukraine. This exercise was the final stage of the complex of activities of operational and combat trainings of the Russian Armed Forces, which had been taking place since the beginning of 2016 and ended in the so-called unannounced inspection of the RF Armed Forces in August 28-31 this year. Directly on the stage of preparations for the “Caucasus-2016” SCPE, in August this year, were conducted 12 special exercises by kinds of comprehensive support, including for the first time — by types of supporting Russia's Navy.

The active phase of the complex large-scale military actions grouped under the “Caucasus-2016” SCPE, which was conducted in the Southern Military District (MD) of the Russian Federation's Armed Forces, with the participation of units and formations of the Western and Central MDs, as well as of the Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN), Airborne Troops (VDV), Air-Space Forces (VKS) and the forces of the Black Sea, Northern and Baltic Fleets, were completed 10th September, 2016.

The political background for the “Caucasus-2016” SCPE was the actual resumption of the “Cold War” between Russia and the West after Russia's (V. Putin's regime's) armed aggression against Ukraine in February-April 2014. Recently, the most resonant manifestations of this war was the decision of the summits of the European Union and NATO in late June — early July 2016 on the extension of the political and economic sanctions imposed on Russia after its aggression against Ukraine, as well as building up the Alliance's military presence in Central and Eastern Europe.


Analysis of military and special events within the framework of the “Caucasus-2016” SCPE allows to draw a conclusion about Russia's mastering a scenario of a full-scale war against the USA/NATO and Ukraine on the Southwestern strategic direction of the Russian Federation, including with the use of nuclear weapons.

Within the framework of this scenario, we considered two possible reasons for the sides' possible turning from the “cold” to the “hot” (armed) confrontation, i.e., the beginning of a war, namely:

The first reason — creation of a land corridor to the Crimea and Trans-Dniester, and under favorable conditions — capturing the entire South-Eastern Ukraine (which, consequently, would cause the USA and NATO's interference with the situation on Ukraine's side) through Russia's large-scale operation on the Azov–Black Sea operational direction.

The second reason — Russia's response to “...actions of Ukraine, supported by the USA and NATO for the use of force to regain control over the Crimea and in response to Ukraine's subversive-terrorist activities in the Crimea.”


The exercise involved several stages, within the framework of which consecutively were mastered all the activities of Russia's war against the United States, NATO and Ukraine, — from mobilization to nuclear-missile strikes on enemy territory. So, the main stages of Russia's war against the United States, NATO and Ukraine included as follows:


First — checking the readiness of federal executive bodies and enterprises of the military-industrial complex to act in wartime; conducting mobilization and deployment of troops of territorial defense (TD). All in all, 4,000 reservists from different regions of Russia were called from the reserve. It was on their basis that territorial defense units were created. Separately were tested mobilization plans and resource stocks at Russian industrial enterprises.

In the unannounced inspection there participated structural units of the Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Rosrezerv (Russian Reserve) and the Central Bank of Russia. These structures coordinated, monitored and supported the actions of the executive power bodies for the transition to working in wartime and carrying out mobilization deployment and the territorial defense activities.

Under the RF President's Decree of July 17, 2015 № 370 “On Creation of Mobilization Manpower Reserve of the Russian Armed Forces” was held mobilization of citizens being in the reserve and having concluded appropriate contracts with military units. All in all more than 4000 people were mobilized in different regions of Russia. These people were engaged in special military trainings in specific disciplines.

After that, on the basis of military units of the Southern and Central MD and the Northern Fleet, with the participation of reservists (about 700 people called up from the reserve), territorial defense units were formed: one battalion, two companies and one reconnaissance platoon.

The experience is supposed to be used in implementing a new system of training and accumulation of mobilization human resources in Russia. The above-mentioned aims to provide guaranteed opportunities for resupplying troops in time with trained personnel both, during a mobilization, and to address crises.

Besides, separately were tested mobilization plans and reserves at Russian industrial enterprises, as well as their readiness for carrying out mobilization tasks (supply and repair of weapons, military and special equipment in the interests of the group of forces which is being created).

Such a close inspection was conducted at “Votkinsk Plant” JSC in Udmurtia. Today a number of companies on the basis of “Votkinsk plant” produce “Topol-M”, “Bulava” and “Iskander” intercontinental strategic ballistic missiles, which are the backbone of Russia's nuclear shield, and a number of other products for military use. Among the civilian production of the JSC — equipment for the oil and gas industry and machines. At this, were discovered cases of the plant's violation of the plans of the State Defense Order, which was the subject to investigation by law enforcement bodies of Russia;


Second — creation of the RF Armed Forces grouping near the borders of Ukraine and in the North Caucasus of Russia. It consists of formations and units of the 49th and 58th Combined Arms Armies of the Southern MD, as well as of the 1st Tank and 20th Combined Arms Army of the Western MD, 2nd Combined Arms Army of the Central MD, formations and units of the Airborne and Special Task Forces, as well as of the front and army aviation, which were redeployed to the South of the Russian Federation. In addition, they deployed and prepared for combat use the Strike and Amphibious Forces of the Black Sea Fleet, reinforced by the ships from the Northern and Baltic Fleets of the RF Armed Forces, and the ships' striking groups of the Caspian Flotilla of the RF Armed Forces.

All in all, these groups, according to different sources, included up to 120 thousand people, among them — up to 100 thousand people were immediately deployed: in the occupied Ukrainian territory — about 58 thousand people /including in the Crimea — up to 23 thousand; in the occupied territory of the Donbas — about 35 thousand/, on the border with Ukraine — more than 42 thousand people.

At the same stage, measures were taken to cover up the rapid deployment of its troops (forces), and disruption of the deployment of enemy forces by applying air strikes by the long-range (strategic) bomber, strike front and army aviation of the VKS of the RF Armed Forces on the territories of Ukraine and its allies, as well as to block the Black Sea and the Baltic straits.

The first echelon of the reinforcement forces included units of the 2nd (Pskov) and 16th (Tambov) Separate Special Task Brigades of GRU of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces of the Western Military District and of the 3rd (Samara) Separate Special Task Brigade of the Central MD of the RF Armed Forces. Their relocation was carried out at a distance of up to 1.5 thousand kilometers by Il-76MD from the 12th Military Transport Aviation Division (Tver, Migalovo) of the Command of the RF Armed Forces Military Transport Aviation (in particular, of the 334th Military Transport Aviation Regiment /Pskov/ and 117th Military Transport Aviation Regiment /Orenburg/). Upon arrival at the area of actions of the Special Task units, they began to fulfill reconnaissance, search and anti-subversive tasks.

The second echelon of the reinforcement forces for the grouping in the Southern MD included units and subunits of motorized infantry, tank, artillery and missile forces, as well as of the front and army aviation, which had been relocated to the region from the depth of the territory of Russia in a combined way — both on their own (flights for aviation), and by railway and by air. As part of this phase were carried out some tactical exercises of the 37th Separate Railway Brigade of the Southern MD (military unit 51473, Volgograd), the 38th Separate Railway Brigade of the Western MD (military unit 83497, Ryazan), and the 39th Separate Railway Battalion of the Southern MD in the occupied Crimea (military unit 98546, Kerch, was formed in May 2014 after Russia's occupation of the Crimea).

The most ambitious was the relocation of formations and units of the 1st Guards Tank Army of the Western MD, which have committed a 1.7 thousand kilometers-long combined march to unfamiliar training fields in the South of Russia. During the march, the 1st Motorized Rifle Regiment (military unit 31135) of the 2nd Guards Taman Motorized Rifle Division (military unit 23626) on the run crossed the Don River and captured a bridgehead on the right (western) bank.

At the same time, on forward airfields on the Southwestern strategic direction of the Russian Federation were relocated additional number of aircrafts (Su-24, Su-25 and Su-34) of the Frontline Bombardment Aviation from the 4th (Southern MD), 6th (Western MD) and 14th (Central MD) Armies of the Air Force and Air Defense of the Air-Space Forces of the RF Armed Forces. The main strike groups were located on airfields of the 1st Guards Combined Air Division (HQ in Krymsk; airfields of the 960th Attack Aviation Regiment /Primorsk-Akhtarsk/ of the 559th Bombardment Aviation Regiment /Morozovsk/ and of the 368th Attack Aviation Regiment /Budennovsk; in 2008 it was used during Russia's armed aggression against Georgia/; of the 461st Attack Aviation Regiment /Krasnodar-Central/), and of the 27th Combined Air Division (HQ in Sevastopol; airfield Gvardeyskoye).

Besides, to ensure the reception of the additional number of aircraft in the frontal zone near the border of Ukraine, engineering troops of the RF Armed Forces had built a few airfields with the length of the runway of 1.6 km.

As at the beginning of Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine, were deployed wartime control systems of the Southern and Western MDs, including Army Mobile Field Command posts and their subordinate units and formations. At this, the Unified tactical command and control system was used, which is already used by the Russian occupying troops in the East of Ukraine. These tasks were fulfilled by the 175th Control Brigade of the Southern MD Command (military unit 01967, Aksai, Rostov region) and the 1st Control Brigade of the Western MD Command (military unit 55338, Selyatino, Moscow region). In addition, a separate communications company was formed of reservists.

During the exercises with the use of means of automated command and control system (ASU) and of the 6th generation communication (including satellite and tropospheric radio stations, R-419MP digital radio stations based on “Andromeda-D”, as well as R-166-05 unified radio stations based on the BTR-82) was mastered coordination of actions of the Southern and Western MDs at the level of the Russian Federation's Defense Ministry, as well as command and control tasks from forces to formations, companies and subdivisions, including battalion tactical groups.

Along with the deployment of ground forces groups were formed and deployed also groups and forces of warships of the Black Sea, the Baltic and Northern Fleets. Thus, the Black Sea Fleet formed a surface striking force including the new frigate “Admiral Grigorovich”, missile ships “Samum” and “Mirage”; a landing group composed of large landing ships (BDK), “Nikolai Filchenkov”, “Azov”, “Yamal”, “Tsezar Kunnikov” and “Saratov”, as well as the group of ships for close protection of the sea area including small anti-submarine ships “Aleksandrovets” and “Kasimov”, and ships of the mine-sweeping forces. There was also deployed a naval strike group of the Caspian Flotilla of the Russian Federation Armed Forces.

These actions of Russia's were accompanied by measures to cover up the deployment of its Armed Forces, as well as to disrupt the deployment of enemy forces, including through air strikes on its territory and blocking the Black Sea and the Baltic Straits.

For example, with the start of the exercise, the advanced alert status was generated for the forces and means of air defense of the Southern MD, and their combat capabilities were strengthened due to the arrival at advanced airfields of Su-27 and MiG-29/MiG-29UB fighter aircraft. The planes were stationed at airfields of the Air Defense Aviation of the 4th Army of the Southern MD, including the 3rd Fighter Aviation Regiment (FAR) (Krymsk, Krasnodar Territory), 19th FAR (Millerovo, Rostov region) and 31st FAR (Zelenograd, Rostov region). Besides to operational areas were redeployed units of Air Defense and Radio-Technical troops.

At the training fields in Rostov and Astrakhan regions of Russia, as well as in the airspace above them were mastered the protection of the Russian Federation's airspace, including interception of air targets by fighter aircraft, as well as carrying out practical firing by C-300 “Favorite”, S-400 “Triumph” anti-aircraft missile complexes and “Pantsyr-S1” air defense missile and gun complexes.

As part of counteracting the enemy's measures to disrupt the deployment of Russian troops were fulfilled the tasks of attacking: subversive-reconnaissance groups groups on routes of movement of the RF Armed Forces' columns — by helicopters of the Army Aviation; command centers, artillery and rocket positions of the enemy in the tactical area, as well as its operational and tactical reserves — by the Front-Line Aviation; other important enemy's targets in the operational and operational-strategic areas — by Long-Range (Strategic) Bombardment Aviation. In particular, two Tu-95MS from the 22nd Guards Heavy Bombardment Aviation Division (184th Heavy Bombardment Aviation Regiment, military unit 24755, Engels) flew over the eastern and central parts of the Black Sea, as well as over the occupied Crimea mastering launching of cruise missiles (conditionally).

To control the actions of the aviation and for the reconnaissance, were used the planes of A-50M and A-50U the Airborne Warning and Control System (DRLO) from the 144th DRLO Aviation Regiment (Ivanovo-Severnyi);


Third — conducting offensive/defensive operations: in the first case — as part of an offensive against Ukraine, in the second — in the course of “protection of the Crimea”. Besides, in the second case, the key point of the “Caucasus-2016” SCPE was holding the bilateral tactical exercises at brigade level on the “Prudboy” training fields in Volgograd region and on Cape Opuk in the Crimea (with the direct presence of the RF Defense Minister S. Shoigu) with mastering landing and fighting back the sea and air-born landing forces with subsequent active offensive/counteroffensive actions of the Russian troops and their development in the direction of Trans-Dniester.

Thus, according to the legend of the exercises in the Crimea, the enemy's amphibious assault with strong air support was attempted in the Peninsular. The landing of the main forces of the amphibious assault had been preceded by a number of measures for obstacle clearing of the coastal zone, engineer reconnaissance, detection of the front edge and anti-airborne defense facilities, as well as organizing and carrying out subversive actions.

Air strikes on coastal positions and actions of the subversive-reconnaissance groups groups of frogmen allowed the advancing side to conduct work to ensure anti-mine support of the landing ships and to land first assault groups with high-speed boats and landing boats of the “Raptor” type, and then — amphibious assault units in armored vehicles from five large amphibious ships (BDK).

The Anti-Airborne Defense Forces fired missiles at the enemy group of ships using “Bal” and “Bastion” missile systems. Besides, to defeat landing vehicles, they used shore batteries of the “Bereg”, MLRS “Grad” and “Uragan” self-propelled artillery complexes and howitzer battalions armed with “MSTA-B” and “Gvozdika” systems.

Aircraft of the Front-Line Tactical Aviation applied missile and bomb strikes on the enemy, and a pair of Su-27SM3 performed tasks for the suppression of his control and communications using “Khibiny” electronic warfare systems. Besides, against the enemy's landing forces they used helicopters Ka-52 “Alligator” (to destroy UAV) and Mi-28N “Night Hunter” (against the high-speed sea targets).

In turn, the SAM C-400 performed real launching of combat missiles against conditional air targets, and fulfilled tasks of relocation to new position areas using masking operational measures (including inflatable dummies).

Along with this, according to the legend of the exercises, the attacking side had landed marines, suppressed the Air Defense of the Anti-Airborne Defense Forces and landed amphibious assault groups from Mi-8AMTSh helicopters. At the same time, in the rear of the coastal positions paratroopers were landed from the An-26 military transport aircraft.

All this allowed the enemy's amphibious landing forces to seize the beachhead and to develop the offensive into the depth of the defense, in cooperation with tactical airborne landing. Despite this, the Anti-Airborne Defense Forces managed to seize the initiative and carry out counter-offensives, involving teams of the second echelon, and under dense cover of aviation.

The main participants of the exercises in the Crimea became units and subunits of the 810th Separate Marine Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet (Sevastopol), 7th Guards Air Assault Airborne Division of Russia (Novorossiysk), 126th Separate Coastal Defense Brigade (Perevalnoe, the Crimea), 127th Separate Reconnaissance Brigade (Sevastopol), 15th Separate Coastal Missile Brigade (Sevastopol) and the 1096th Separate Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment (Sevastopol).

Landing and anti-amphibious landing tasks, with creation of the naval groups and deployment of units of coastal defense, were mastered also by the North and Baltic Fleets and the Caspian Flotilla of the RF Armed Forces.


Along with the “Caucasus-2016” SCPE, from September 5 to September 9 there were command-post exercises of the 1st and 2nd AK of the Russian occupation troops in the East of Ukraine.

Recently, this practice has been sustained, as all activities of operational and combat training of these Corps are part of the unified system of the Armed Forces of Russia and under the control of the General Staff and the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation Armed Forces.

At this, exercises of Russian occupation troops in the East of Ukraine are held against the background of an active information campaign on the part of Russia, as well as in the situation of suppression of leading Ukrainian television and radio channels in the occupied regions of Luhansk and Donetsk regions.


Besides, on a single operational background with the “Caucasus-2016” SCPE there were also other separate exercises in several regions of Russia and in the territory of its allies. In particular, in Kursk region was conducted silent practice of firing “Tochka-U” short-range attack missiles (OTR) from the 448th Missile Brigade (military unit 35535, Marshal Zhukov, Kursk region) of the Western MD. At this, the forces of the 27th Separate Brigade of the Radiological, Chemical and Biological Warfare (RCBD) (military unit 11262, Kursk) provided camouflage of missile positions by setting smoke screens. At the same time on the Kapustin Yar training field in Astrakhan region of Russia were carried out real launches of “Iskander-M” OTRs from the 20th Guards Missile Brigade of the Southern MD;


Fourth — the deployment of combat actions of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and its allies in the strategic depth of the enemy territory on the southern flank of NATO — in the Balkans. Mastering of the tasks of this stage is planned in the course of the “Slavonic Brotherhood-2016” joint Russian-Belarusian-Serbian exercises and the “BARS-2016” (“Leopard-2016”) Russian-Serbian exercise in Serbia in September-October this year.

Indeed, in September and October 2016, in “Great” Serbia, they are going to hold joint military exercises of units of Serbian, Russian and Belarusian Armed Forces codenamed “Slavonic Brotherhood-2016” (the exercises will take place on Nikintsi range, which is 30 km from the Serbian-Croatian state border). Apart from the Special Brigade of Serbian Armed Forces, in the exercises will participate Russia's Airborne Forces and Belarus' Special Task Forces.

Another Serbian-Russian military exercise codenamed “BARS-2016” will also be held on the territory and in the airspace of the Republic of Serbia in October 2016 near Niš and at the Batajnica military airfield in Belgrade). The exercise will be carried out by aircraft of the Attack Tactical Aviation and the Air Defense of Serbia. It is planned that the Russian and Serbian pilots will operate in mixed crews. The exercise will include mainly MiG-29 and the new multi-purpose Mi-17 helicopters, which Serbia has recently bought from Russia. To this end, more than 20 Russian pilots will come to Serbia and together with Serbian pilots will practice tasks of control and defence of the airspace and air strikes against ground targets.

Russian media have already presented the exercise as the one taking place “at NATO's walls”. In this context, they use an allegedly Serbian proverb — “There is God in heaven, and there is Russia on the Earth”. In 1914, with this “brotherhood” the First World War began. Exactly 100 years later — in 2014 — Russia invaded Ukraine (including the participation of Serb mercenaries);


Fifth — nuclear missile strikes against targets in the enemy's critical infrastructure — in order to keep the strategic initiative in the war against the USA/NATO and to force the enemy to surrender on terms favorable for Russia.

In particular, of the activities of the preparatory phase of the “Caucasus-2016” SCPE of the RF Armed Forces, which took place on 28 August (within the framework of the unannounced inspection of the Armed Forces), special attention should be paid to the flight over the eastern and central parts of the Black Sea of two Tu-95MS from the 184th Heavy Bombardment Aviation Regiment of the 22nd Guards Heavy Bombardment Aviation Division (Engels, Saratov region) of the Long-Distance /strategic/ Aviation of the VKS of the RF Armed Forces. In the airspace over the southwestern part of the Crimea they were mastering tasks to overcome the enemy's air defense system, followed by the applying air strikes (conditionally) for blocking the Black Sea Straits.

9 September, at the final stage of the active phase of the “Caucasus-2016” SCPE, within the framework of the command and staff training of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN), from the “Plesetsk” cosmodrome they conducted a real successful launch of a “Topol” ICBM in the direction of a polygon in Kamchatka.

September 20, under the leadership of the Commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, Colonel-General S. Karakaev in the north-west of Russia there was held Command-Staff Exercise (CSE) of the 7th Guards Missile Division (Vypolzovo, Tver region) of the 27th Guards Missile Army — on a single operative background with the “Caucasus-2016” SCPE.

The task of the training was to check the alert forces of the RVSN's readiness to fulfill their missions in a large-scale war involving nuclear weapons.

The exercises were conducted in the context of re-arming of the 7th Guards Missile Division with the new “Yars” missile systems instead of the old “Topol” ones. In the course of the exercises the 7th Guards Missile Division was mastering the procedure of putting on higher degrees of combat readiness, maneuvering of mobile missile systems on combat patrol routes, as well as countering sabotage groups and the enemy's strikes from precision weapons. Within the framework of inter-service cooperation, were widely used the front-line and army aviation to cover the Strategic Missile Forces.

September 22, within the framework of a single operational plan for the exercises of the 7th Guards Missile Division, two Tu-160 planes of the Long-Distance /strategic/ Aviation of the RF Armed Forces made a provocative flight along the coast of Norway to the North Sea. They were mastering tasks to overcome the enemy's air defense system, followed by the applying air strikes (conditionally) for blocking the Baltic Straits. To accompany and intercept the Russian bombers, Typhoon fighters of the RAF of the United Kingdom were raised into the air. (The previous flight of a pair of Tu-160s on the route took place February 17, 2016).

September 19 through September 22, under the leadership of the Commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, Colonel-General S. Karakaev, there was held command and staff training of the 33rd Missile Army (Omsk) of the RVSN (Omsk; armed with missile systems R-36M UTTKh/R-36M2 “Voevoda” /SS-18 “Satan” according to the NATO’s classification/ and RT-2PM “Topol”).

According to the plan, the CSE of the 7th Guards Missile Division of the 27th Guards Missile Army and the CSE of the 33rd Missile Army were held jointly with combat duty of other formations and units of the Strategic Missile Forces — from Tver to Irkutsk regions.

For October 4 through October 11 is planned strategic command-staff exercise of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, involving land, air and sea components of the nuclear triad.


Besides, on a single operational background with theCaucasus-2016” SCPE were mastered protection of critical infrastructure in the rear areas of Russia, as well as prevention of destabilization of the situation in its interior regions both as a result of enemy's special (subversive-reconnaissance) actions, and due to the social unrest caused by the worsening of the economic problems in the country.


So, the analysis of the content, nature, scope and specifics of the main military and political event in the Russian Federation in 2016 — theCaucasus-2016” SCPE — suggests that its political background was the actual resumption of the “Cold War” between Russia and the West since the beginning of Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine in February-April 2014.

The expert estimate of the military and special events within the framework of theCaucasus-2016” SCPE allows to draw a conclusion about Russia's practicing a scenario of a full-scale war against the USA/NATO and Ukraine on the Southwestern strategic direction of the Russian Federation, including with use of nuclear weapons. The reason for the sides' turning from the “cold” to “hot” (armed) confrontation can be escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, provoked by the V. Putin's regime.

To organize, prepare and conduct this kind of a military action on the southern flank of NATO (the weakest today by Russian estimates), during the “Caucasus-2016” SCPE the main efforts were focused on the establishment and improvement of an effective level of interaction between land, air and sea components of the RF Armed Forces grouping involving land, air and sea components of the nuclear triad.


The article was published in the supplement to the edition of the Romanian Center “INGEPO Consulting Company”
“Geostrategic Pulse” №223 from October 20, 2016