A series of so-called snap drills by Russia’s Northern Fleet and its Western Military District will include deployments of high-end ballistic Iskander mobile ballistic missile systems (NATO Reporting name: SS-26 Stone) to Russia’s exclave in Kaliningrad and Tupolev Tu-M22 Backfire bombers to the exclave and Crimea, according to Tuesday Russian state media reports.
Citing an unmanned military source, the English-language Sputnik international quoted an unnamed source saying the assets would be deployed by assets from the Baltic Fleet.
“Fighter and bomber aviation is to be redeployed to the Kaliningrad Region, and ground troops on the Baltic will be reinforced with Iskander missile complexes in the Western Military District that will be delivered on large landing ships from the Baltic Fleet,” the source said.
Additionally, a separate report said Backfires would also be deployed to the Crimean peninsula, seized in March 2014 by Russia from Ukraine.
“During the snap combat readiness drills by the Armed Forces, strategic Tu-22M3s will be deployed to Crimea,” an unnamed source said.
The Backfires in Crimea will join Iskanders already believed to be in the region.
Announced on Monday by Russian Minsiter of Defense Sergei Shoigu, the military wide snap drills put the Northern Fleet and parts of the Western Military District on full alert
“New threats and challenges to military security require further enhancements to combat capabilities, focused particularly our newly formed northern strategic Defence grouping [the Arctic Group of Forces],” Shoigu stated at the National Defence Control Centre in Moscow, according to a Monday report in Jane’s Defence Weekly.
The announcement follows months of no-warning inspections of unit throughout the Russian military enterprise.
“Although probably long-planned, sudden mobilization exercises without notification to neighbors, despite international protests, have become the norm,” according to a Jane’s analysis.
The news of the drill follows statements last month by U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and NATO commander Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove that Russia has transformed Crimea into a power projection platform into the Black Sea.
“What we have seen is that Crimea has been transformed in some fairly significant ways as far as weapon systems in the Crimea,” he said in late February.
“These weapon systems — from air defense systems that reach nearly half of the Black Sea to surface attack systems that reach almost all of the Black Sea area — have made the platform of Crimea a great platform for power projection into this area.”