Russia updating military tactical manuals based on experience in Syria, Donbass – Forward Observer Shop

Russia updating military tactical manuals based on experience in Syria, Donbass

The Russian military is currently in the process of updating its tactical manual for ground forces based on experience gained in Syria and the Donbass region of Ukraine.

Russian media reports that the armed forces are practicing innovative new combat tactics during military exercises. The “new” approach to tactics involving movement utilizing armor, artillery, ground forces and reconnaissance (drone) assets is being characterized as “shock-fire” (udarno-ognevoy), but only limited details thus far have emerged regarding specifics.

News of these new tactics comes on the heels of an announcement by President Vladimir Putin that Russia has developed a nuclear-tipped ICBM capable of evading U.S. and NATO missile defenses during a speech March 1. But the new innovative nuances regarding tactical-level combat exercises appear to be much more credible. [source]

In late 2017 the Russian General Staff chief Gen. Valery Gerasimov noted that new combat training manuals were being updated and issued based on lessons learned in Syria. But the reported tactical changes during military exercises also mimic lessons learned in the Donbas region as well. [source]


On February 26, commanders of battalions and divisions based in the 20th Combined-Arms Army (CAA) in the Western Military District demonstrated shock-fire tactics during exercises at the Pogonovo training ground, near Voronezh. The defense ministry released a video showing the training. Initial reporting suggested that the “shock-fire” was conducted at “great distances,” claiming improvements in the use of artillery in particular.

More than 200 battalion commanders participated in the exercises, involving over 1,000 personnel and 100 pieces of military equipment. According to the deputy commander of the Ground Forces, Major General Timur Trubienko, the targets were struck at ranges of up to 12 kilometers, by no means claiming any advances on traditional artillery capability. However, Trubienko highlighted a “unique method” in fixing and locating the targets. This involves the use of reconnaissance and artillery to exploit the principle of “discover and destroy” (obnaruzhil—unichtozhil), with the targeting occurring in real time based on coordinated use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and reconnaissance radars. [Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor: Vol. 15, Issue 34; Jamestown Foundation].

Analysis: The Jamestown Foundation noted two things in this report: 1) The ‘new’ tactics seem a bit of a stretch; and 2) the fact that the Russian military allowed details about them to be published “marks a level of openness and confidence from defense ministry officials. The defense ministry has effectively declassified this aspect of combat training.” The analysis also noted that the tactics reported are “remarkably similar” to those currently being used in Ukraine (indicating, of course, direct Russian military involvement).

Bottom line: It makes sense for Russia to upgrade its combat tactics using “lessons learned” on the battlefield. All competent, modern militaries do that. But the fact that Russia is upgrading its tactics is based on real-world experience its forces could not get were they not engaged in real-world combat somewhere. Like Ukraine. This is one way of understanding that Putin can’t be believed when he says Moscow has nothing to do with what’s happening in Ukraine.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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