Internationally overshadowed by the Russian military actions on the Crimean peninsula (Krim), the Russian Western and Central Districts ran very large scale readiness exercises from 26 February till 3 March 2014. We at AIRheads↑Fly gathered some of the highlights of the air ops.
According to official statements 90 aircraft, over 120 helicopters, 880 tanks, 1,200 armoured and soft vehicles plus artillery, up to 80 ships and 150,000 troops were involved.
Western District Helicopters
The readiness exercises pre-started on 23 or 24 February in sunny conditions, with 10 to 20 Mil Mi-24 Hinds and Mi-8 Hips of the Western Military District started working on group attack strategies in mountainous areas. Furthermore the Hips flew transport and recon missions in pairs during day and night, flying from unprepared landing zones.
Central District Helicopters
Meanwhile 10 to 20 Central Military District Mi-8s also started in their operational area on 23, 24 or 25 February by fortifying a 5,000 square metres (15,000 square feet) zone with 200 anti-tank mines. According to a Russian Defence Ministry news release that took no more than 10 minuts with the choppers flying at 45 to 60 feet above the ground at a speed of 11 knots (20 kmh). Similar mining tactics were earlier used by Soviet forces in Afghanistan during the war/occupation that lasted from December 1979 to February 1989.
Baltic Fleet Helicopters
At least a dozen Baltic Fleet Mi-24 and armed Mil Mi-8 helicopter from the 125th Independent Helicopter Squadron at Chkalovsk supported ground troops during the readiness exercise in the Kalingrad enclave at the Baltic sea.
Ground crews started the fueling of fighter jets – including Sukhoi Su-27 Flankers – and IL-78 tanker aircraft on 26 February. An unknown number of combat aircraft were dispersed to many airfields in the Western Military District. Some pilots flew into Arctic airfields on flights of over 1,500 km (930 miles). During those missions, lasting up to 2.5 hours, they flew in so-called combat formations executing radar evasion and simulated electronic enemy air defence suppression.
Lipetsk Air Base
These fighter packs included Sukhoi Su-27s from the 91st Training and Research Regiment (91 IIAP) flying from Lipetsk Air Base, which is sort of the Nellis AFB for the Russian Air Force. The unit is said to have 15 Flankers, plus more than twenty MiG-29s.
Combat aircraft Western District
A total of 30 to 60 bombers and fighters of the Western Military District are reported to have been participating in the Readiness Exercise 2014. Taken from north to south the combat aircraft came from bases in regions that included Murmansk Oblast (bordered to Norway and Finland), Karelia (bordered to Finland), Tver (far east from the Baltic republics and Belarus), Kursk (east of Ukraine) and Voronezh (bordered to Ukraine).
The Western Military District pilots flew a total of 700 hours during the span of the Readiness Exercise 2014. MiG-31s and MiG-31BMs supported the bombers. Sukhoi Su-27P and MiG-29SMT flew interception and close air combat missions.
Sukhoi Su-34s (Fullback) and Su-24Ms (Fencer-D) were tasked with operational relocation to other airports and the bombing of ground targets alone, in pairs or connected via a datalink connection. Sukhoi Su-24MRs (Fencer-E) provided tactical reconnaissance and bombing assessment overflights.
At least one four-engined turboprop Antonov AN-12 (NATO-reporting name Cub) with registration RA-11344 was tasked with transport duties. The Tupolev Tu-134 of the air commander of the Western Military District was used on 28 February for a simulated intercept and forced landing by Sukhoi Su-27s on route from Moscow to Besovets in Karelia region.
Tankers and interceptors
Five IL-78 (NATO-reporting name Midas) air tankers took of from Olenegorks Airbase in the Murmansk region on 28 February, to designated predestined zones over the Barents Sea to refuel six Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-31s in mid-air at 4,000 metres (12,000 feet). The Foxhounds – as their NATO-reporting name goes – took off earlier from Monchegorsk Airbase. The MiG-31s trained on intercepting naval aircraft from the Northern Fleet base of Severomorsk.
© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger, with source information from the Russian Ministry of Defence