Russia, China plan new joint military exercises

By MARTIN SIEFF, UPI Senior News Analyst  |  March 26, 2009 at 3:14 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 26 (UPI) -- The continuing tensions over Russia's refusal to sell its state-of-the-art land warfare advanced weapons systems to China hasn't interrupted the rhythm of major joint military exercises between the two major land powers on the Eurasian landmass. The latest in the regular, biennial series of exercises between the two nations has been confirmed for this summer.

The next in the now well-established series of exercises called Peace Mission 2009 will be carried out in northeastern China, the Russian Defense Ministry announced March 18, according to a report carried by the RIA Novosti news agency.

The first bilateral Peace Mission maneuvers -- described at the time as counter-terrorism exercises -- were held in Russia and the eastern Chinese province of Shandong in August 2005. As we reported at that time, they were a lot bigger than mere counter-terrorism exercises. Warships, squadrons of combat aircraft and more than 10,000 troops were involved carrying out landings against hypothetically hostile shores. The maneuvers also involved large-scale paratroops drops. The scale and nature of those exercises suggested a trial run for a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan with Russian support.

Although the 2009 exercises have been approved in principle, detailed planning for them only started around March 21, RIA Novosti reported.

"The final decision on the date, venue, name and forces involved will be made at bilateral consultations to be held in the last 10 days of March," the news agency quoted an unnamed Russian defense ministry official as saying.

RIA Novosti also cited the Chinese Defense Ministry as saying March 17 that the new joint exercises had the wider goal of advancing what the news agency described as "a strategic partnership between Russia and China."

The report said the initial decision to hold this year's exercises was made at the 2008 meeting between Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and his Chinese counterpart, Liang Guanglie.

U.S. analysts, Republican and Democratic alike, have repeatedly discounted the series of joint Russian-Chinese maneuvers as being of little consequence, contrasting their occasional nature with the sophisticated, long-established and integrated permanent joint command structure of the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the old Soviet-led Warsaw Pact military alliance.

However, NATO and the Warsaw Pact were both unusual examples in modern history of permanent, integrated alliances of nations. Before World War II and until U.S. entry into the war in December 1941, Britain and the United States held no exercises comparable to the scope and complexity of the 21st century series of Russian-Chinese summer maneuvers.

Russian air force holds arctic exercise

The Russian air force is continuing to energetically expand its military capabilities and power projection over the Arctic Ocean.

On March 19, a Russian air force spokesman announced a new four-day series of maneuvers to be held in the airspace near the city of Vorkuta, north of the Arctic Circle, RIA Novosti reported.

Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik announced that the exercise would involve front-line, nuclear-capable Tupolev Tu-160 "White Swans" -- NATO designation Blackjack -- and far older, slow but long-endurance turboprop-powered Tupolev Tu-95 Bear-H strategic bombers.

The two types of aircraft are the main Russian air force aircraft to carry and fire air-launched cruise missiles.

A supersonic, Mach 2 Tu-160 Blackjack can carry and fire 12 Kh-55 ALCMs -- NATO designation AS-15 Kent -- with a range of 2,000 miles and a maximum speed of 1,900 miles per hour -- Mach 2.8 -- at sea level. A Tu-95 Bear-H can carry and fire six Kh-55s.

In the exercises, both types of aircraft fired cruise missiles and also released precision-guided bombs at the Pemboi test range, RIA Novosti said.

The report also noted that Russia was developing a new, more advanced long-range cruise missile that would soon be deployed for operational service with the nation's air force. The report gave no details of the range of the new ALCM.

The exercise involved six aircraft and was carried out from March 17 through March 20, RIA Novosti said.

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