Russia Zapad 21 exercise 640Zapad 2021 exercise

From 9 to 16 September 2021, the Zapad (west) 2021 exercise is Russia’s Strategic Command’s-Staff Exercise and focuses on Russia’s Western Military District and Belarus and includes areas under the Northern Fleet’s Joint Strategic Command.

Since 2009, strategic exercises of this type rotate every year between zapad (west), vostok (east), tsentr (center) and Kavkaz (Caucasus). Each exercise focuses on one of these strategic directions and is led by that military district’s Joint Strategic Command.

The training areas were divided between Russia and Belarus. The training centres of Belarus are located in Brestsky, Baranavichy, Damanovsky, Obuz-Lesnovsky and Ruzhanski. The training centres that were used in Russia, nine in total, are located at the Mulino training centre of the Russian Ground Forces in the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast.

Russia Zapad 21 exercise 3 480The exercise had two important phases; a three-day defensive phase in which Russian forces simulated a NATO intervention into Belarus from multiple strategic directions, followed by a four-day counter attack to regain lost territory by combined-arms where Russian forces stabilized the situation in response to a crisis.

A statement from Belarus official sources characterized the exercises as follows: "As the military and political situation in Europe deteriorates, Western states turn their attention to Belarus and having failed to destabilize Belarus via non-military means, this Western coalition decides to use force to achieve its political aims. The Russian-Belarusian Northern coalition must compel this Western group to terminate hostilities on acceptable terms."

Russia Zapad exercise 480The Western coalition comprises countries that were named Nyaris, Pomoria, and the Polar Republic along with so-called terrorist organisations. While Nyaris appears to represent Lithuania and Pomoria is probably Poland, the Polar Republic is most probably intended to represent Norway or another Scandinavian country.

The Russian forces and the Republic of Belarus Air Force participated with 80 helicopters and aircraft. Around 200.000 troops were involved.

Naturally the exercise drew the attention of reconnaissance systems used by NATO and neighbouring countries, especially the early warning, signal and intelligence reconnaissance (EW and ISR) aircraft monitoring this exercise. Aircraft seen in the region were US Air Force E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) operating from Ramstein (Germany), US Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint operating from RAF Mildenhall (UK), Flygvapnet (Sedish Air Force) S100D Argus and S102B Korpen and Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace (AAE, French Air and Space Force) C-160G Gabriel.

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