Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has claimed that British armed forces used Russian-made tanks and Russian army uniforms to replicate enemy forces during military exercises in southern England.
“The armed forces of Great Britain have begun using Russian-made tanks and military uniforms of the Russian army to represent the enemy at the Salisbury Plain training range. Such training methods were last used by fascist Germany during the years of the Great Patriotic War,” Shoigu told a meeting of senior Russian defense officials on December 22.
Earlier that month The Daily Mail, a British tabloid newspaper, had published a story on a training exercise on Salisbury Plain in which Polish-made T-72 “and three other Soviet-design tanks” were used to represent the opposition force, engaged by British tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, helicopters and bombers.
Gurkha soldiers and civilian contractors reportedly played the role of the enemy troops, wearing blue and green uniforms, which The Daily Mail said resembled those worn by OMON troops of Russia’s Interior Ministry and Spetsnaz special forces.
Photos of the exercise, published in the report, do show personnel wearing outfits bearing a passing resemblence to such Russian uniforms.
The newspaper claimed that British Army sources had told reporters that the exercise was intended to simulate a Russian invasion of Estonia.
However on the day Shoigu made his comments, the British Ministry of Defense (MOD) told the BBC Russian Service that the simulated opposition forces (OpFor)in the exercise were representing an “unspecified, imaginary enemy,” and that the uniforms and insignia were “unrelated to real states or armies.”
According to the MOD, the OpFor uniforms were not Russian, but blue and grey variants of current British DPM (Disruptive Pattern Material) camouflage outfits and replicas of World-War-2-era American battle dress.
Comparison of the photos from Salisbury Plain with real OMON uniforms does indeed indicate that the outfits used in December’s exercise were derived from DPM rather than the patterns used by Russian units.
As regards armored vehicles used, the MOD said that they were Polish-made T-72 tanks and Czech-made BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles and T-54 tanks.
Such hardware was designed in the Soviet Union but is widely used around the world, equipping the armed forces of almost any conceivable military opponent the British armed forces may face.
So Shoigu was incorrect in describing the hardware used as “Russian-made” and in claiming that the uniforms were Russian.
As regards the other part of his statement, that such training methods have not been used by anyone since the Nazis in World War II, this is also incorrect.
The United States has long used either real Soviet or (former) Warsaw Pact-made hardware, or has customized US-made hardware to better resemble such. Aircraft in the US Navy, Marines and Air Force “aggressor squadrons” used for OppFor training are regularly painted in camouflage patterns, complete with red star insignia, resembling those of the Russian Air Force or other plausible adversaries.
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“The armed forces of Great Britain have begun using Russian-made tanks and military uniforms of the Russian army to represent the enemy at the Salisbury Plain training range. Such training methods were last used by fascist Germany during the years of the Great Patriotic War.”