The Russian Defense Ministry said in a summary of its naval and air exercise off Hawaii that it had practiced “destroying the bogus enemy aircraft carrier attack group” and carried out a simulated cruise missile attack against “critical” military infrastructure.
“In order to bring the situation as close as possible to the real situation, the grouping of the armed forces of the Pacific Fleet was divided into two tactical groups, one of which played the role of a conditional enemy and the main forces of the group of the fleet in the distant sea zone” the Russians said in a press release translated into English on Monday.
Two ship divisions operating some 2,500 miles southeast of the Kuril Islands “were working out the tasks of detecting, repelling and firing missile attacks against an aircraft carrier attack group of a sham enemy,” the ministry said.
The Midway Atoll is approximately 2,100 miles from the Kuril Islands, while Kauai is approximately 5,200 miles away.
Up to 20 surface warships, including a submarine and support ships, participated in the exercise “in the television zone, which is taking place in the central part of the Pacific Ocean for the first time in the recent history of the Pacific Fleet. “Said the Russian Defense Ministry.
“Aviation in the exercise is represented by 20 aircraft, including the Tu-142M3 long-range submarine aircraft, the Il-38 anti-submarine aircraft, the MiG-31BM high-altitude interceptors, the anti-submarine deck and search and rescue helicopter Ka-27. “
Twitter user OSINT-1 (short for Open Source Intelligence) posted a satellite view of the Russian flotilla 35 nautical miles (40 statute miles) south of Honolulu on Saturday, escorted by three US Navy destroyers and a Coast Guard cutter.
“The Russian ships are heading west and have left the Hawaii operational area,” said Navy Captain Mike Kafka, a spokesman for the US Indo-Pacific Command at Camp HM Smith, on Monday. “As part of our normal day-to-day operations, we continue to track all ships in the Indo-Pacific area using sea patrol aircraft, surface vessels and joint capabilities.”
Kafka said the Russian ships operated in international waters throughout the exercise.
“At the next point, some ships were operating about 20 to 30 nautical miles (23 to 34 miles) off the coast of Hawaii,” he said. “We have followed all ships closely.”
The Russian ships were located more than 300 miles west of the main Hawaiian islands for parts of the exercises.
The use of Russian Bear bombers as part of the exercise resulted in two missile-armed Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 fighters attempting to intercept the turboprop aircraft – which were heading for Hawaii but never came close officials said. No interceptions were made.
The missile assault exercises were carried out by the “Pacific Fleet flagship” missile cruiser Varyag, the frigate Marshal Shaposhnikov and several corvettes, the Russians said.
A submarine was involved and the naval assault groups were assisted by two Tu-142Mz long-range anti-submarine aircraft that flew from the Kamchatka Peninsula.
“The planes spent more than 14 hours in the air and covered around 10,000 kilometers in that time. The Tu-142M3 in the near zone was escorted by the MiG-31BM high-altitude interceptors of the Pacific Fleet, ”said the Ministry of Defense.
As part of the exercise, long-haul aircraft refueled an Il-78 refueling aircraft belonging to the Russian aerospace forces.
“During the exercise, the naval aviation of the Pacific Fleet also solved the problems of finding and tracking submarines of the imaginary enemy. To this end, six Il-38 and Il-38N anti-submarine aircraft were involved in pairs over the waters of the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean, the statement said.
How many Russian ships were actually in the vicinity of Hawaii was never known. The satellite images show at least seven ships. Officials stressed that they operate in international waters and that there is no threat to their home country.
Retired Navy Captain Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center and an associate professor at Hawaii Pacific University, said the entire exercise near and far could have included up to 20 warships.
“It depends on how you define ‘involved’,” said Schuster on Friday. “The Russians are basically saying that every ship that comes underway and plays a role in the exercise is also involved.”
The Russian Pacific fleet has a very low priority compared to its western fleets in terms of operating budget, parts and readiness for use, he said.
“Politically, it’s (the exercise) a big deal, but operationally it’s more of a small thing,” said Schuster. “The fact that they can even get 20 of their ships into service is halfway meaningful. That means that they are doing better than they were a decade ago. “