Egypt hosted the “Defenders of Friendship 2018” joint drills of Egyptian and Russian paratroopers from October 13 to 26, 2018.
The joint drills included more than 400 paratroopers and 15 helicopters and other aircraft from Russia and Egypt, along with Russian BMD-2 and BTR-D armored vehicles.
Representatives of the defense ministries from the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the State of Kuwait, Bahrein, Oman, Sudan, Jordan, Greece, Cyprus, Serbia, the Republic of Belarus, Armenia and Kazakhstan have been invited to observe the drills.
The Russian forces in “Defenders of Friendship 2018”
Novorossiysk airborne troops participated in the exercises in Egypt for the first time. The Russian Airborne Troops were represented by a unit of the Guards Cossack Air Assault Regiment. Maj. Gen. Alexey Naumts, the Deputy Chief of Airborne Staff, commanded the Russian troops during the joint counter-terrorism exercises.
The BTR-D is an airborne, tracked armored personnel carrier which was designed and manufactured in Russia. The BTR-D is a variant of the BMD-1, with a longer chassis and one additional road wheel, the turret removed and with a raised hatch area. The standard armored vehicle personnel carrier used by the Russian airborne troops (VDV), this multipurpose armored carrier can be airdropped.
BMD-2 Airborne Infantry Fighting Vehicle
The BMD-2 armored caterpillar floating landing vehicle is designed to conduct combat operations with armored vehicles and live enemy forces by airborne troops in all terrain and climatic conditions. They are transported by aircraft of military transport aviation (IL-76, AN-22 with landing altitude of 500-1500 m) and landing ships, as well as landing on parachute-reactive system PRSM 925 (916) by landing methods, the method of "tightening" from an extremely low height to the ground or water.
Armament consists of a 30 mm2A42 stabilized cannon, used for ground engagements and in the anti-aircraft/anti-helicopter role, and a 7.62 mm PKT machine gun mounted coaxial to the right. A launcher for an AT-4 Spigot or the longer-range AT-5 Spandrel ATGM mounted on the right side of the turret roof.
The Arbalet-1 and 2 Parachutes
The Arbalet-1 is designed for parachute landing of special-purpose teams and Pararescuemen with sets of necessary equipment and weapons.
The Arbalet-2 parachute system is designed for parachute landing of special-purpose teams and Pararescuemen with sets of necessary equipment and weapons arranged in the UGKPS-50 payload container as well as for training jumps from aircraft and helicopters equipped for parachute descent of the personnel.
The Planning Phase
Representatives of the Russian Air Force command and Egyptian Armed Forces met in Egypt in April 2018. They have agreed on the objectives and the nature of the forthcoming joint tactical military drill called “Defenders of Friendship 2018.”
The First Phase
The troops conducted joint tactical actions and airdrop missions in several ways, carried out more than 200 parachute jumps, and practiced field firing from light weapons and combat vehicles.
Egor Ivanov, the commander of an airborne platoon, said that his unit had gained experience in desert warfare during the drills. Russian paratroopers engaged targets when mopping up area. The unit was divided into groups to fire at various sectors. Live-fire training in extremely high heat was a unique experience for Russian paratroopers.
The Main phase
The main phase of the joint Russian-Egyptian exercises was held on October 24-26, 2018. A joint operation group ran the exercise from a command center at the El-Hammam base. All units involved in the drills used a common system of communication.
The anti-terror drills saw some 300 Russian and Egyptian paratroopers parachuting from Ilyushin Il-76 and C-130 Hercules aircraft and recapturing a village from the so-called “enemy” in a desert.
The personnel parachuted themselves over two sites from altitudes of 600 meters, 1,800 meters, and 2,200 meters. The main airborne group used the D-10 and T-10V parachute systems and also the special-purpose Arbalet-1, Arbalet-2, and MS-5 parachute systems.
The paratroopers, supported by fighter jets and helicopter gunships, attacked positions of the simulated terrorists, who had captured the local settlement.
"Defenders of Friendship 2016"
The joint Russian-Egyptian counter-terrorism exercise “Defenders of Friendship 2016” took place in Egypt in the area between the city of Alexandria and El Alamein, on October 15-26, 2016.
It was the first joint Russia-Egypt anti-terrorism military exercise, based on earlier agreements between Russia and Egypt. In June 2015, Russian and Egyptian naval forces conducted their first-ever joint drills in the Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria.
According to Russia's Defense Ministry, exercise "Defenders of Friendship 2016" involved six airfields and 15 helicopters and planes. During the drills, Russia’s Ilyushin-76MD transport planes dropped five combat vehicles BMD-2 and one armored personnel carrier BTR-D, and about 300 Russian and Egyptian paratroops parachuted themselves. Russian and Egyptian paratroopers practiced localization and elimination of militant groups in desert conditions. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, a new uniform for hot climate had been developed for servicemen who were participating in the military drills with the Egyptian army.
The exercise has been controlled by operation groups of both countries from the joint command center, which had been formed at the El Hammam military base.
"Defenders of Friendship 2017"
Egyptian and Russian paratroopers took part in the "Protectors of Friendship 2" exercise in September 2017. The Egyptian paratroopers arrived at an airfield in the city of Anapa on September 9, 2017. The exercise took place in Krasnodar, 148 kilometers northeast of the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.
During the joint drills, the two countries’ paratroopers trained in landing upon arriving at the drill site, as well as in seizing and holding a mountain pass.
The commander of the Egyptian forces in the drill, Maj. Gen. Mehez Abdel Wahab, delivered a speech at the end of the drill in which he stressed the importance of the exercise in "maximizing mutual experiences in light of the distinguished military relations between the armed forces of both countries."
For his part, the deputy commander of the Russian Air Borne Forces, Gen. Victor Kubcihin commented on the accomplishment of the Egyptian-Russian military exercise, wishing success to all participant elements in carrying out their further assigned tasks.
The Egyptian paratroopers together with the Russian Airborne troops performed all the combat missions including forced march, parachuting, small arms shooting, and hand-to-hand combat.
The Egyptian paratroopers made their first jumps from a Russian Il-76, using Russian D-10 parachutes. Furthermore, the host acquainted the Egyptians with Russian weapons and military equipment. Notably, they were shown the capabilities of the “Ratnik” combat outfit.
The Exercise’s Main Phase: A Russian reinforced airborne battalion and an Egyptian Airborne company took part in the tactical exercise. The main combat tasks within the exercise’s main phase included practical parachuting, maneuvering, seizing and holding a mountain pass in Kuban.
In total, about 600 troops were involved in the exercise, as well as 100 pieces of the Russian Airborne combat and special hardware.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi signed on October 17, 2018, a Comprehensive Partnership and Strategic Cooperation Agreement. The Sochi summit marked their third official bilateral meeting since the Egyptian president assumed office in 2014 and coincided with the 75th anniversary of relations being established between Egypt and the Soviet Union.
The two presidents have also discussed ways to build on the two countries’ growing military cooperation. The Russian president highlighted the significance of the decades-long military cooperation between Egypt and Russia. The joint drills “Defenders of Friendship 3" comes as part of the strategic cooperation between Russian and Egyptian Armed Forces.
The "Defenders of Friendship" military training also come in light of the joint training plan of the Egyptian Armed Forces, which aims to exchange training experiences and establish military cooperation with friendly countries. Egypt's joint military exercises for 2016-2017 included more than 30 training with the US, France, Greece, Russia, and Arab and African countries.