These images show how Algeria has for the first time conducted military exercises using Russian weaponry to simulate an “assault against an enemy and not a counterattack”.
It comes amid concerns the country could seek to use its armed forces abroad after years of following a policy of non-involvement outside its borders.
The Algerian National Defence Ministry (MDN) released details about the operation in a statement.
It was supported by these images that show the military exercise that took place near the coastal city of Oran, in north-western Algeria, on 18th June and which involved ground and air weaponry of Russian origin being used, some for the first time.
The exercise, called “EDIRAA 2020” was the first time the country used the Russian anti-tank Kornet-EM system which were mounted on its BTR-80 armoured personnel carriers.
The demonstration of military might using Soviet-supplied weaponry comes as the country considers changing the constitution to allow them to carry out operations in foreign countries.
The country’s President, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, insists this would be to allow them to take part in peacekeeping missions, saying “the participation of Algerian army forces in missions outside the country’s border is not aimed at raiding any country but rather to maintain peace.”
However, many are concerned about the apparent awakening of a regional military giant. It also comes as a bloody civil war rages in Libya, with which Algeria shares a nearly 1,000-kilometre (600-mile) border.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies in London says the Algeria National People’s Army (ANP) has over 467,000 men – 130,000 active troops, 187,200 paramilitaries and 150,000 reservists.
The military information site Menadefense says that it is the first time they have simulated an “assault against an enemy and not a counterattack.”
French newspaper Le Point reports that many are worried this could signal a change in the country’s military policy. Local media however reports that any operations carried out outside the country would first and foremost be under the banner of the United Nations, in peacekeeping operations, in, for example, Libya or Mali.
The exercise was overseen by the army’s acting Chief of Staff, General Said Chengriha, 74, and the MDN says that these exercises were carried out “by units […] of the 8th Armoured Division, supported by units belonging to the Army as well as units from the Air Force and Air Defence Forces of the country.”
General Chengriha is quoted in local media as stating that the results were “satisfactory.”
According to Menadefense, the exercise also involved T-90 tanks, Mi-28NE and Mi-171SH helicopters, Su-24 and Su-30 fighter planes, BTR-80 and BMP-1 Berezhok armoured personnel carriers, BM-21 Soviet truck-mounted 122 mm multiple rocket launchers, and the BUK-M2E missile system, all, according to the statement, under one integrated chain of command.
During the first stage of the operation, the assault started with T-90 tanks which were given cover by Mi-28NE and Mi-171SH helicopters, before they were reinforced by a mechanised infantry brigade aboard BMP-1 Berezhok armoured personnel carriers.
In response to a ‘counterattack’ by ‘enemy tanks’, Kornet-EMs were fired. This led to a reconnaissance and attack operation against high-value targets (command post, communication vehicles, etc.) by BTR-80s armed with Kornet-EM and BMP-1 Berezhoks. Finally, a barrier fire was ensured by Su-24s and Su-30s in the air, as well as BM-21s.
The anti-aircraft forces secured the battle area over a radius of more than 40 kilometres (24.8 miles) by engaging BUK-M2E missile systems and Igla and Silkas missiles.
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