´Friendship-2020´ military exercise

The joint Russian-Pakistani military exercise ´Friendship-2020´ («Дружба-2020»), also known as ´Friendship-V´ («Дружба-V»), was for the fifth time organized in November 2020. More than 150 special forces operators from both countries participated in this training, supported by the armoured vehicles and army aviation helicopters.

This year´s edition of the ´Friendship´ annual binational training was held in Pakistan, within the grounds of the special operations training ground Tarbela (50 km northwest of Islamabad) of the Pakistani Army and the National Counterterrorism Centre in Pabbi.

More than 70 of Russian special operation personnel from the 49th Combined Arms Army (49-я общевойсковая армия) of the Southern Military District, together with the command authorities from the 49th army, arrived Pakistan in early November, on board of Il-76 aircraft. The exercise officially commenced on 8th November, with the ceremony attended by high Pakistani military authorities and representatives of the Russian diplomatic corps in Pakistan.

´Friendship-2020´ military exercise

According to the official statements of both Pakistani and Russian MoD, the goal of the 2020 edition was to exchange experience and practice interoperability during a wide range of missions, inter alia  several counterterrorism actions, search and reconnaissance missions and cooperation with other branches of the armed forces, including aviation.

For the first time, the Russian special forces operators were performing the combat mission using weapons, equipment and communication devices of the Pakistani ground forces. Therefore, a broad-scale presentation of such equipment was included as a part of the ´Friendship-2020´ military exercise. The Russian soldiers could get familiar with SMG and MP5SD submachine guns, M4 assault rifles, Remington 700 sniper rifles, Glock pistols, scuba diving equipment, underwater scooter-towing vehicles and communication equipment.

The Pakistan Army Aviation Corps widely participated in the training, providing its Mi-17 helicopters for transporting troops and Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters for close support duties.

AH-1 Cobra, Pakistan Army Aviation Corps

Pakistani and Russian soldiers were trained in rapid disembarkation from Mi-17 helicopters, hovering at an altitude of approximately 20 metres. This exercise was organized at Tarbela and, apart from disembarkation, included securing of the landing area, fire ambush operations, and elimination of the terrorist units in the specified area, with the support of AH-1 rotorcraft.

The rapid disembarkation exercise was also repeated at the special simulator facility, which included fuselage of UH-1 Huey and Mi-8 helicopters and allowed to perform a simulated egress from the aircraft hovering at 12 metres.

Taking control over the terrorist-occupied facility was a task of another mission supported by the army aviation. Special forces operators were transferred with Mi-17 helicopters to an unfamiliar landing site in the mountainous and woody terrain, marched to the area of operation and then performed an assault on buildings controlled by terrorist forces.

Mi-17, Pakistan Army Aviation Corps

The exercise also included a demonstration of Pakistani armed forces, with paragliding display and parachute jump from helicopters. The paratroopers skydived from 5,000 to 3,500 metres and then released flags of the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, armed forces and special operations forces.

The joint Russian-Pakistani military exercise ´Friendship-2020´ took place between 8th and 21st November 2020, at Tarbela and Pabbi training grounds in Pakistan. This was already the fifth edition of this annual training, held alternately in Russia and Pakistan since 2016. The purpose of the exercise is to strengthen and develop military cooperation between the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Usually, from the Russian side, the soldiers of the mountain motorized rifle brigade and the special forces company from the Southern Military District are participating in the exercise.

Rapid disembarkation trainer with UH-1 helicopter

In 2021, units of the Russian armed forces located in the Southern Military District, are going to participate in several international exercises. Their dates and exact locations are still being negotiated; however it was already disclosed, that the Russian troops will train together with armed forces of Abkhazia, Armenia, Algeria, Egypt, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Turkey and South Ossetia.

The Pakistan Army Aviation Corps was created in 1958, but it origins are dated back to 1942 and the British Army Air Corps. Among the various kinds of aircraft operated by the Pakistani army aviation, there is a significant number of helicopters of the Russian origin: 48 of Mi-17/171 rotorcraft used since 1996 and 4 Mi-24/35 attack aircraft (another 16 in delivery or planned).

Boarding the Pakistani Mi-171 helicopter

Participants of the ´Friendship-2020´ exercise

All photos © Russian MoD (Министерство обороны Российской Федерации), used under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. MoD press information were used.