"Vostok 2010" showcases Russian military

“Report to divisional anti-aircraft missile commander on readiness to launch missiles at targets!” said Colonel Igor Nikitin, commander of the anti-aircraft missile guards unit. “Report air situation to duty officer! Fire!”

Photos by Nina Doronina

With this command, the forces of the Far East air force and anti-aircraft defense formation repel a fictional attack on Khabarovsk. According to the battle scenario, a squadron of bombers has crossed the border of the region with the intention of dropping bombs on the regional capital. But the radar has become aware of them in good time and in a matter of seconds a report entitled “State security” is on its way from the radio unit to the missile forces’ command post.

The S-300 missile system launchers have completed a notional strike against the target, using a system of simulation devices. The air threat was eliminated on the approaches to Khabarovsk. This attack was part of Vostok 2010, the largest strategic and operational maneuvers held by the Russian armed forces in the Far East since the end of the Soviet Union. The exercises involve units of the Siberian and Far Eastern military districts, the air force and the Pacific Fleet.

“Driving an S-300 launcher requires special training and skills, and before I joined the army I had only driven a Zhiguli car,” said Sergeant Sergei Yerchenko. “I’m pleased that I’ve learned to drive my heavy vehicle, and especially that I’m taking part in an exercise like ‘Vostok 2010.’ It will be something to tell my father when I get back to my home village on leave. I think I made the right choice when I decided to stay on in the army and serve on a contract.”

It is estimated that a total of 20,000 service personnel, 70 planes, 2,500 items of weaponry and combat and special equipment, and 30 ships will take part in the exercises.

These exercises are radically different from previous ones. One notable change is that these drills do not include large-scale assaults. There will not be regiments and divisions going into attack, and armadas of tanks will not be seen. The commanders will selectively identify places to mount local strikes against the fictional enemy. They will also pay attention to the operational redeployment of troops to the place where the main strike is being mounted. The present “theater of military operations” occupies a large area, but the forces will not be concentrated in one place—the exercise scenario envisions combat operations over a wide-ranging area, including at sea.

“We have various types of combat equipment and special equipment operating in 18 locations,” said Colonel Oleg Yushkov, head of the temporary press center for the exercises, explaining the scale of the operations. “These include tanks, armored combat vehicles and artillery, Su-25, Su-24, MiG-31, Il-76, Tu-22M3, Su-34, Su-27 and A-50 planes, Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters, S-300 and Buk-M1 anti-aircraft missile units, and various classes of ship, including the Guards missile cruiser Moskva and the heavy nuclear-powered cruiser Petr Veliky.” Practice launches of missiles from Tochka-U tactical operational missile complexes are also planned to take place during the exercises.

A new field uniform, designed by the National Research Institute for the Clothing Industry and the Valentin Yudashkin fashion house, is also being rolled out during the Vostok 2010 exercises. It is dark green in color, with small spots and made from natural materials. The main difference is a new place for the epaulets, which previously would have been covered by body armor. Now badges of rank will be on the chest and on the left shoulder. The new uniform has flaps for knee protectors and Velcro fasteners instead of buttons. Ninety percent of those taking part in the exercises have been rekitted with the new uniforms, known as “Tsifra,” or Numbers. The previous camouflage design was known as “Flora.”

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