In compliance with the army training plan, the Russian Defense Ministry conducted a strategic nuclear forces exercise named Thunder-2019. The war games involved 12 thousand soldiers, 213 strategic missile forces launching gear, over 100 aircraft and helicopters, including 5 strategic missile carriers, up to 15 naval surface ships, 5 submarines and more than 300 units of special-purpose machinery.
The drills took place in the territories of all the four military districts, as well as in the waters of the Barents, Baltic, Black, Okhotsk and Caspian seas. The purpose was training the troops to act when implementing containment measures against a potential enemy. During the exercise, the following issues were work out to the last detail: formation of military authorities' task elements, deployment of groups of strategic forces and their getting prepared to use high-precision long-range weapons in the period of threat. The war games embraced the launch of 16 cruise and ballistic missiles, including the RS-24 Yars and R-29RMU Sineva. The exercise provided for testing all the nuclear triad elements and demonstrated a high level of combat readiness of the SNF. At the close, the drills were attained by Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian armed forces Vladimir Putin.
Before the event, the Russian Defense Ministry held a voluntary briefing for foreign military attaches, during which Major General Ilyin said SNF drills were entirely defensive, with its simulated practice scenario not providing for any action against a particular state or group of countries. "The maneuvers' scenario envisages an escalation of the situation in conditions of a remaining potential for conflict alongside Russia's borders that poses a threat to sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state", urging retaliation measures from Russia. Given the president's repeated statements that the Russian Federation will never use nuclear weapons against countries that do not have them, it is not hard to assume what "particular state or group of countries" could be implied.
The war games took place in new geopolitical surroundings following America's withdrawal from the INF treaty and the newfound threat of medium-range and shorter-range missiles deployment in Europe and Asia next to the Russian borders. Such deployment consistently fits into the military doctrine of the United States, which provides for a preventive nuclear strike as allowing to significantly reduce the carrier's target approach time. In compliance with the Pentagon's concept, the success of a pre-emptive strike is possible in case of lightning-fast damage to the enemy's decision-making and control centers, the destruction of a considerable potential of its nuclear force at permanent garrisons and the creation of an effective missile defense system able to deal with a retaliatory strike by the nuclear triad's surviving components.
President Putin has repeatedly, including at the latest Valdai discussion club meeting, said about Russia's tit-for-tat, instantaneous and efficient response to a possible deployment of medium-and shorter-range missiles in Europe or Asia. The concept includes a number of measures aimed at leveling the potential enemy's possible advantages. Some of these measures are made no secret of and have been publicly announced by Russia's military and political leadership.
First, the President instructed to develop medium-and shorter-range land-based missiles and put them into service. The creation of these missiles will be most likely based on the well-proven Kalibr LACM without consuming much time and money.
Secondly, under the 2018-2027state rearmament program, the armed forces will keep being saturated with new generation weapons. These are primarily hypersonic weapons (the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, the Avangard HGV, the 3M22 Zircon), the RS-28 Sarmat ICBMs, Borei-class submarines, the Poseidon unmanned underwater vehicle, the upgraded Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic bombers, and the ultra-long-range X-101/102 cruise missiles. At the same time, according to Defense Minister Shoigu, the share of modern weapons in the SNF has reached 81 per cent.
Thirdly, there will be a qualitative augmentation of the missile defense system. In 2020, the troops will get the off-the-scale S-500 Prometey ADMS ready for mass production.
Fourthly, the work suspended in late 2017 will likely resume on the Barguzin rail-mobile missile complex.
Finally, the new armed forces structure will bring cross-branch troop coordination, agility and resources management quality, as well as unit readiness to a new level. All of this was polished during the Thunder-2019 drills.
Thus, the Russian nuclear force is able to safely deliver a retaliatory nuclear strike on the aggressor's territory, which will entail its annihilation. Russia is the undisputed leader in hypersonic weapons and the possessor of a number of unparalleled weapons. Our potential opponents will naturally work on overcoming this underperformance, but Russia won't be twiddling its thumbs either. President Putin says Russia does already have weapons that it is too early to talk about.
Political leaders in Europe and Asia should realize that America's deployment of missiles in their territory will not add to their security, but rather increase unintended conflict risks, not to mention that the countries hosting the US short- and intermediate- range missiles automatically become retaliatory strike targets. If they fail to understand this, a different opinion may be taken by their voters who won't undoubtedly enjoy the "Thunder" aftermath over the skies of Europe.