Russia’s large-scale Vostok (east) 2018 exercise, which ran between September 11-15, was aimed at sending a message, both internationally and domestically, about Russia’s military capabilities. Over 1,000 aircraft reportedly took part.
The Russian press reported that many of the aircrew participating in the exercise had previously lown combat missions in Syria and that the types of aircraft used – manned and unmanned (Eleron-3, Orlan-10 and Granat-4 types were featured in the media) – had seen combat there.
Vostok 2018 included the movement of a Russian air assault brigade to participate in the exercise. This included an airdrop using over 20 Ilyushin Il-76MD Candid transports and an air assault using 45 Mi-8ATSh Hips and two Mil-26 Halo helicopters. Chinese participation of 30 aircraft included nine Harbin Z-19 attack helicopters, nine Harbin Z-9 transport helicopters and six Russian-built Mil Mi-171 transport helicopters.