Russian BMD-3 airborne vehicle loaded on Il-76MD on the eve of Vostok 2018 active phase. Russia has the largest paratrooper force in the world. Well-trained and equipped with air-droppable armored vehicles for mobility and firepower on the ground, the Vozdushno-Desantnye Voyska (“airborne forces,” or VDV) are the Kremlin’s expeditionary assault troops, leading the invasions of Afghanistan in 1979 and Crimea in 2014. Vostok 2018 which means East 2018 in English involves a total of 300,000 troops, 36,000 vehicles and 1,000 aircraft and is taking place from September 11 until September 17 in eastern Siberia. Significantly, Russian soldiers are being joined by their counterparts from China and Mongolia for large parts of the exercises.
Russian Air Force currently has about 120 Il-76 transport aircraft, Russia’s equivalent of the U.S. Air Force’s C-17 transport. The entire available fleet of Il-76 military transport aircraft is enough to paradrop two regiments with a standard set of weapons and military equipment using one sortie. The Ilyushin Il-76 (NATO reporting name: Candid) is a multi-purpose four-engine turbofan strategic airlifter designed by the Soviet Union’s Ilyushin design bureau. The Il-76 has seen extensive service as a commercial freighter for ramp-delivered cargo, especially for outsized or heavy items unable to be otherwise carried. Because of its ability to operate from unpaved runways, it has been useful in undeveloped areas.
The Russian Airborne Troops or VDV (Vozdushno-desantnye voyska Rossii) is a military branch of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. First formed before World War II, the force undertook two significant airborne operations and a number of smaller jumps during the war and for many years after 1945 was the largest airborne force in the world. Unlike the rest of the mechanized units, which use variety of APCs and IFVs such as the BMP series, BTR series and MT-LB, the VDV uses exclusively BMD family vehicles. There are over 1,800 armored fighting vehicles, mostly BMD-1 (since 1969) and BMD-2 (since 1985). There were also over 100 BMD-3 (1990) that were partially upgraded to BMD-4 level. The BMD-3 (Boyevaya Mashina Desanta) is an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) originating from the former Soviet Union. This armored fighting vehicle is one of the lightest in its class and is intended to be a fire support platform for use by airborne and air assault units.