Russian Western Military District units began a joint exercise with the Armed Forces of Belarus. The operation is referred to as “Union Shield 2015”. The exercise is reported to involve 8 thousand soldiers, 400 vehicles of a variety of types, including 100 tanks, along with 80 examples of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. Belarus is going to be represented by more than 1000 soldiers who were already transferred to the Russian training grounds, along with the relevant equipment.
The “Union Shield – 2015” exercise is going to take place within the period between 10th and 16th September 2015, under the command of the Belorussian Chief Of General Staff and the Commander of the Russian Western Military District. The operational activity began within the Kirylkovskiy and Strugy Krasniye training grounds in Leningrad and Pskov Oblasts. The initial phase of the exercise covers the regrouping procedure of the units after long marches, and coordination of the joint operations of the Russian and Belarusian units. The operations are to be focused on increased interoperability, the aim of which is to “defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus” - as the official release, issued by the Russian Ministry of Defence, reads.
The enemy of the Union State of Russia and Belarus is defined as “illegal armed groups infiltrating the territory”. The Russians and the Belarusians consider these groups to be seriously armed, since the exercise involves, among other units, T-72-B3 tanks, BMP-2 IFV’s, 2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled artillery, along with fighter and bomber aircraft, attack helicopters and rocket artillery. The above-described forces are going to train the defensive operations pertaining the key infrastructure, also within the scope of the air defence. Secondly, the exercise aim is to detect, isolate and destroy the enemy forces.
Choice of location is equally important, since the event takes place in the Leningrad and Pskov Oblasts, directly next to the Baltic Republics. The scale of the exercise has been significantly increased, since, initially, only 500 Russian troops from a battalion operational group were to be involved in the planned operations.