#PutinAtWar: The Biggest Indo-Russian Exercise — Indra 2017

Analysis of Russia and India’s recent joint military exercise in Primorsky Krai, Russia

Left: (Source: VK); Center: (Source: SputnikNews); Right: (Source: Twitter).

Indra 2017, the first ever Indo-Russian tri-service military drill involving personnel from all three service branches ended on October 29th. Indra is an annual Indo-Russian exercise, occurring every year since it began in 2003, but this year the scope drastically increased.

Last week @DFRLab analyzed the grandiose opening ceremony; this week we took a deeper look into the growing military cooperation between Indians and Russians.

The Trilateral Approach

Not only was Indra 2017 the biggest Indo-Russian exercise to date, but it was also the first tri-service exercise between the two nations. Before this year the Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force have only held separate bi-service exercises with their Russian counterparts. Indra 2017 included around 450 Indian troops and 1,000 Russian troops. The exercises took place in the far east near Vladivostok, in Primorsky Krai, Russia.

Navy

According to the officials plans for Indra 2017, Russian and Indian warships launched the exercise’s maritime phase at the training grounds of the Russian Pacific Fleet on October 25th. Indian Frigate INS Satpura (F48) and corvette INS Kadmatt (P29) were joined by the large Russian landing ship Admiral Nevelskoy and small-sized ASW vessel Ust-Ilimsk, comprising a combined group of Russian and Indian warships. These warships practiced joint maneuvering and communication organization. Kicking off at Peter the Great Gulf in Vladivostok, the ships completed drills aimed at controlling maritime shipping activity, such as inspecting a suspect vessel along international guidelines.

INS Satpura F48 sailing under the Russky Bridge. Right: (Source: GoogleMaps); Center: (Source: VK); Right: (Source: VK).
INS Satpura F48 in action during the exercise. Top Left: (Source: ShipSpotting); Bottom Left: (Source: YouTube); Top Right: (Source: VK); Bottom Right: (Source: Twitter).

Infantry

One of the first infantry drills during Indra-2017 was an obstacle course. On October 23, marines of the Russian Pacific Fleet and the Indian Navy competed in groups to practice counterterrorism tactics at the Gornostay (Горностай) training ground. According to the Russian MoD, the counterterrorism units competed at the obstacle course containing: a two-meter fence, a brick wall, wire barriers, a railway section, a tunnel, a system of underground infrastructure, and a moat filled with water. The complete route with 19 obstacles was 1.2 km long.

Afterwards, marines from both countries conducted a live-fire exercise with small arms and grenade launchers at different ranges. After counting the scores, the Pacific Fleet Marines were victorious. Using the Russian MoD exercise video, we managed to confirm the exact location.

Shooting range exercises in Gornostay (Горностай) range. Top Left: (Source: Yandex); Bottom Left: (Source: YouTube); Top Right: (Source: VK); Bottom Right: (Source: VK).
Obstacle course in Gornostay (Горностай) range. Top Left: (Source: VK); Bottom Left: (Source: Yandex); Top Right: (Source: VK); Bottom Right: (Source: VK).

Air Force

On October 26th, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced combined crews from the Russian Aerospace Forces and Indian Air Force conducted flight missions for the first time. Combined flight crews were operating Su-30M2, An-26, and Mi-8AMTSh helicopters. According to the Russian MoD post, about 10 combined crews took part in reconnaissance flights. They also participated in tactical airborne operations at the Sergeyevsky (Сергеевский) range. 
 
A video of the Su-30M2 exercise was published on the same day on YouTube. Using the video footage we managed to geolocate the exact location of this exercise.

In the video, a few Indian pilots boarded a Su-30M2 fighter jet together with Russian pilots. Using cabin snapshots from the video of the fighter jets taking off, @DFRLab geolocated the location — Uglovoe (Угловая) Air Base.

The view from Su-30M2 cabin correlates with satellite imagery of Uglovoe (Угловая) Air Base. Left, Center: (Source: GoogleMaps); Right: (Source: VK).
Uglovoe (Угловая) Air Base with a close-up of Su-30M2 jets. (Source: GoogleMaps)
Indian and Russian pilots exercising in Su-30M2 jets in Uglovoe (Угловая) Air Base. Left, Right: (Source: VK); Center: (Source: GoogleMaps).

Cavalry

On October 24th, the Russian MoD announced that the Combined Arms Army (Eastern MD) and Indian Armed Forces Army Corps units held joint training in repelling a mock terrorist group at Sergeevsky training ground. According to the exercise scenario, control post guards had to retreat to established positions and call for reinforcements after a simulated terrorist attack. The motorized rifle units reinforced by T-72B3 tanks isolated and eliminated assigned targets. According to the Russian MoD, this exercise involved more than 200 troops from both countries and about 20 armored vehicles. 
 
Using a video report posted by Russian Media outlet Telemiks, @DFRLab confirmed the locations of this exercise.

Armored vechicles in action at Sergeyevsky (Сергеевский) range during the exercise. Top Left: (Source: YouTube); Bottom Left: (Source: Yandex); Center: (Source: Yandex); Top Right: (Source: YouTube); Center Right: (Source: YouTube); Bottom Right: (Source: YouTube).
Barracks and HQ during the exercise at the Sergeyevsky (Сергеевский) range. Top Left: (Source: VK); Bottom Left: (Source: VK); Top Right: (Source: Yandex); Bottom Right: (Source: Yandex).

Conclusion

During the exercise’s closing ceremony on October 29th, the Ambassador of the Republic of India to the Russian Federation Pankaj Saran stressed, “the exercise concept, counterterrorism, was topical and such exercises put a shield in the way of terrorists.” The official statements from both Russia and India signal this year may be a turning point for Indo-Russian military cooperation.
 
The latest developments remain significant given that India is also keen on maintaining military cooperation with other countries, some of which view Russia’s overall actions as aggressive or not aligned with their own policies, including France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

@DFRLab @DFRLab will continue to monitor developments and further Russian military exercises.


Lukas Andriukaitis is a Digital Forensic Research Associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (@DFRLab).

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