|Author: David Batashvili
The structure of the Russian armed forces keeps changing as Moscow strives to increase its military potential. Russian Military Transformation Tracker has been reporting these structural changes in the Russian military since August 2018. You can see all issues of the Tracker at this page. For a comprehensive geographic view of the Russian military structure see our Interactive Map of the Russian Military Forces. You can also follow a wider spectrum of key events concerning the Russian armed forces through weekly issues of Rondeli Russian Military Digest.
Major changes in the Russian military structure during the period between 15 June and 15 December 2021 included the establishment of a new mechanized division in Volgograd Oblast, and the creation of Russian air and air defense bases in Belarus.
During this period it was also revealed that new units had been established in North Caucasus in 2020. These include a mechanized regiment in Ingushetia as well as artillery and missile brigades in Krasnodar Krai.
Russians also apparently sought to increase their mobilization capacity by establishing a new military reserve structure.
In Syria, the Russians began, for the first time, to station their fighter aircraft at the Qamishli Airport in the northeastern part of the country.
The main addition to the Russian navy during the reported period was a new diesel submarine joining the Pacific Fleet.
The Ukrainian Frontier
Following announcement of the plans reported in the Issue 3 of the Tracker, Russian armed forces did transform the 20th Mechanized Brigade (Volgograd) into the the 20th Mechanized Division. The transformation had been conducted by September 2021. The new division belongs to the 8th Army (HQ in Novocherkassk, Rostov Oblast). Russian sources suggested the following possible structure of the new division’s main forces: 242nd Mechanized Regiment (Kamyshin, Volgograd Oblast), 255th Mechanized Regiment (Volgograd), 944th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment, 358th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment, 428th Separate Tank Battalion (near Volgograd), and 487th Separate Anti-Tank Artillery Battalion.
Russian sources reported in August 2021 that the new 47th Missile Brigade and 238th Artillery Brigade had been established in 2020 in Korenovsk, Krasnodar Krai. Both brigades reportedly belong to the 8th Army (HQ in Novocherkassk, Rostov Oblast).
The Baltimor air base in Voronezh was reopened after reconstruction in November 2021. The base is the home of the 47th Bomber Regiment of the 105th Mixed Aviation Division (HQ in Voronezh), the 6th Air and Air Defence Forces Army (HQ in Saint Petersburg).
The Black Sea Fleet’s new Alexandrit / Project 12700 class minesweeper Georgiy Kurbatov joined the Russian navy on 20 August 2021.
In the second half of 2021, the Russian armed forces established a new military reserve structure called the Battle Army Reserve of the Country (BARS). 20,000 reservists were reportedly promptly trained in the Southern Military District. The training process was later launched in the Western Military District as well.
Belarus and the Baltic Region
By early September 2021, Moscow accomplished its long-term goal of establishing an air base in Belarus, doing so under the brand of a “joint military training center”. The base is located in Baranovichi (Brest Oblast) and hosts Russian Su-30SM fighters. The Russians also gained an air defense base in Grodno, armed with S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, reportedly from the 210th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment (Dubrovki, Moscow Oblast) of the 4th Air Defense Division (HQ in Dolgoprudny, Moscow Oblast), the 1st Air Defense and Missile Defense Army (HQ in Balashikha, Moscow Oblast).
In July 2021, Russian Defense Ministry information revealed that a coastal missile unit with Bastion-P and Bal mobile coastal defense missile systems had been established in Kronshtadt, Leningrad Oblast under the Baltic Fleet command.
In the summer of 2021, Russian sources indicated that the 503rd Mechanized Regiment had been established in 2020, in Nesterovskaya, Republic of Ingushetia. The new regiment belongs to the 19th Mechanized Division (HQ in Sputnik, Republic of North Ossetia-Alania).
In August 2021, Russian sources reported that the transfer of the Caspian Flotilla’s naval forces from the Astrakhan naval base to the Kaspiysk naval base had been completed.
Russian sources speculated about possible future establishment of a new naval formation in the Arctic. While the notion that a new Arctic Fleet might be established was rejected by other sources, another possible option mentioned was the establishment of an Arctic Flotilla under the Northern Fleet command. As of December 2021, the speculation remained unofficial, and it was unclear whether the Russian armed forces would follow through with any such plans in the future.
The Far East
A new air defense unit armed with Pantsir-S medium-range air defense systems was established near Khabarovsk in early December 2021.
In early December 2021, Russian sources reported that the Pacific Fleet’s Bastion-P mobile coastal defense missile systems had been stationed on the Matua Island, in the northern part of the Kuril Islands. In fact, Issue 2 of the Tracker reported that Bastion-P systems had been placed on the Matua Island as early as by August 2019.
Improved Kilo / Project 636.3 class diesel submarine Magadan joined the Russian navy and the Pacific Fleet on 12 October 2021.
According to information from September 2021, the Russian command changed the home base of the the Pacific Fleet’s new Gremyashchiy / Project 20385 class corvette Gremyashchiy to the Vladivostok naval base instead of the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky naval base which was so designated originally.
Ural, Siberia and Central Asia
The 388th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment (Achinsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai) of the 41st Air Defense Division (HQ in Novosibirsk), the 14th Air and Air Defense Forces Army (HQ in Yekateringburg) is likely to have received battalion’s batch of S-300PM2 surface-to-air missile systems. Previously the 388th Regiment had been armed only with S-300P systems.
Russian Defense Ministry reported on 1 December 2021 that a new squadron of Il-76MD strategic airlifters had been established within the 117th Military Transport Aviation Regiment (Orenburg-2 air base, Orenburg Oblast) of the 18th Military Transport Aviation Division (HQ in Orenburg), the Military Transport Aviation Command (HQ in Moscow).
In August 2021, a new airfield for transport aircraft was established near the city of Rubtsovsk (Altai Krai).
The Central Russia
According to Russian reports from September 2021, first S-500 surface-to-air missile systems began to be delivered to the air and missile defense forces based in Moscow Oblast. It is possible that the forces in question belong to the 1st Air Defense and Missile Defense Army (HQ in Balashikha, Moscow Oblast).
The 237th Air Assault Regiment (Pskov) of the 76th Air Assault Division (HQ in Pskov) that had been established on 1 December 2018, completed its formation on 1 September 2021.
Su-35S fighters of the Russian air force reportedly began to use the Qamishli Airport in northeastern Syria in October 2021.
*This section does not include Russian deployments conducted by the Wagner Group or similar forces in Libya, Venezuela, the Central African Republic and other countries.