Russia Simulates Massive NATO Attack On Its Airbases; Holds Drills To Restore Runways Amid Steadfast Defender

In a move to boost its defense capability against possible attacks from Ukraine and NATO forces, the Russian military has reportedly conducted special training exercises to test if its airfields are battle-ready to deter missile and drone attacks.

The exercises, which took place across multiple regions in the western and southern strategic sectors, focused on various aspects of airfield restoration.

This included practicing sealing craters, restoring runways, and securing caponiers, vital components for the functionality and defense of airfields. Engineering and sapper units from the Russian army’s special forces participated in repairing military airfields following hypothetical large-scale attacks.

The Russian Ministry of Defense, however, has not provided detailed information regarding the specific locations or scale of the drills.

The decision to prioritize airfield restoration training comes in response to ongoing threats, particularly from Ukrainian forces that have been launching frequent drone and missile attacks targeting Russian military installations.

Lipetsk (air base) - Wikipedia
File Image: Lipetsk (air base) – Wikipedia

These attacks have underscored the vulnerability of airfields and the urgent need to enhance their resilience against such threats.

Since the initiation of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, Kyiv has consistently employed drones to target Russian airfields in various regions.

In December 2022, Ukrainian drones launched attacks on the Dyagilevo airfield in the Ryazan region and the Engels airfield in the Saratov region. The Russian Defense Ministry reported three servicemen fatally wounded, with an additional four taken to hospitals. Further, the fall and explosion of downed drones reportedly caused damage to two Tu-95 aircraft.

In May 2023, five Ukrainian drones attacked a military airfield in Bryansk Oblast. Two drones successfully hit their targets on the airfield, while two were destroyed, and one remained unaccounted for. While casualties were reported, one An-124 military transport aircraft sustained damage during the assault.

On August 19, 2023, the Russian Defense Ministry asserted that a warplane was damaged in a drone attack on a military airfield in Soltsy, Novgorod Oblast, marking the first attack of its kind in the area.

Subsequently, on August 29, 2023, a Ukrainian drone assault targeted the airbase in the city of Pskov in north-western Russia, destroying four Il-76 jets.

NATO Presence Near Russian Borders

The latest drills occur amidst heightened geopolitical tensions and military posturing in the region. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine, coupled with NATO’s expanded presence in Eastern Europe, has fueled apprehensions of a potential escalation in hostilities.

One Russian military expert told Izvestia, “NATO’s military activity should also be taken into account. There are clear signs that Russia’s capabilities are being probed: reconnaissance is being conducted, troops are being deployed, Poland is building up its army to 300,000 people.”

The most extensive maneuvers of NATO countries in decades, Steadfast Defender 2024, commenced on January 24. These exercises are being held in the Atlantic and Europe and are scheduled to continue for several months.

Approximately 90,000 troops, along with dozens of ships and aircraft, are actively participating in these maneuvers. The exercises are designed to simulate and address a scenario wherein an adversary, presumably Russia, launches an attack on one of the NATO allies.

When asked about the alliance’s large-scale military drills, the Kremlin stated in January 2024 that Russia views NATO as a “threat” and was taking measures to deal with it.

In recent years, the Russian Ministry of Defense has focused on the development and enhancement of airfields. Notably, it has initiated comprehensive reconstruction efforts for northern airfields both on the mainland and polar islands.

Among the largest projects is the conversion of the Nagurskaya base on Alexandra Land of the Franz Josef Land archipelago into a year-round facility.

Given the extreme climatic conditions, heated hangars are being constructed at this northernmost airfield to facilitate the storage and maintenance of aircraft.

A new town is under construction in the village of Tiksi to accommodate a new air defense division equipped with S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems.

In December 2023, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, announced that a series of initiatives were underway in the Arctic region to revitalize the airfield infrastructure. Efforts are also focused on refurbishing airfields capable of year-round accommodating both military and civilian aviation.