Exercise Zapad-21: The Russian Army tests its new weapons

Of all the major four-year exercises of the Russian army, Zapad exercise, which means West, is by far the one that carries the greatest symbolic value, as well as the one that focuses the most media attention, in Europe as in Russia. This year, most of it takes place in Belarus, while Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko have just signed a historic rapprochement agreement between the two countries, allowing the first to increase its hold on this Slavic state, and the second to protect his position at the head of it . But beyond its political and geostrategic aspects, part of the Russian forces being intended to remain in Belarus once the exercise is over, and Minsk having announced a major arms acquisition contract from Moscow for $ 1 billion, i.e. t is also an opportunity for the Russian armies to highlight their new equipment and their new doctrines, this year being no exception to the rule.

Indeed, the Russian media, whether general or specialized, have increased the number of videos and reports to show the new equipment in service within the armed forces, whether they are land or air, robotic or piloted means. Thus, lhe new B-19 infantry fighting vehicle was shown acting alongside the Uran-9 ground combat robot in a defensive stance simulation, revealing new features for both pieces of equipment. The B-19 is a BMP armored vehicle chassis, of which the Russian army has stocks estimated at more than 8.500 units in reserve, fitted with the new EPOCH turret which is to be fitted in the near future.the new Kurganet-25 and Boomerang which will gradually replace the tracked BMPs and the 8 × 8 BTRs respectively. In the meantime, transforming a BMP into a B-19 by adding this turret may make sense as an interim and economical solution, in particular for testing this new equipment.

BM-19 (background) and Uran-9 acting together in a simulated defensive position during exercise Zapad-2021

The EPOCH turret is indeed a concentrate of firepower and optronic capabilities, 57mm LSHO-57 gun army surpassing anything the west has or will have in the years to come. The turret is also equipped with two dual launchers for 9K135 Kornet-EM anti-tank missiles with a range of 8000 at tandem charge for heavily armored targets, and 8 Bulat light missiles, whose performance is still confidential, but which would be intended eliminate weakly armored targets that do not require a heavy missile like the Kornet. Smoke pot launchers also surround the turret, and one might think that it incorporates some soft-kill devices, although there is no indication that the Hard-Kill Arena-M system was natively integrated into it. A 7,62mm coaxial machine gun completes the arsenal of this turret. However, very little information has filtered out concerning the electro-optical and fire control systems that equip the Epoch turret.

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