Health of the Force

The confluence of recent news stories makes an update on the health of Russian military forces opportune.  As elsewhere in the armed forces, the military’s medical situation seems generally better compared with two or three years ago.

According to Izvestiya, the chief of the Main Military-Medical Directorate (GVMU), General-Major Aleksandr Fisun told the Defense Ministry’s Public Council that illnesses in the army declined 13 percent in 2013.  The illness rate in 2012 had been 40 percent higher than 2011.

The MOD attributes the improvement to better living conditions for soldiers. These include heated barracks, washing machines, shower facilities allowing troops to clean up more than once a week, and socks replacing foot wrappings.

Fisun said, among conscripts, 60 percent of illnesses were respiratory in nature, while about 14 percent involved skin conditions.

Better training for commanders was another factor in cutting the number of sick soldiers.  An MOD spokesman told the paper:

“Work in early identification of illnesses was reinforced — commanders were strictly ordered to send subordinates for initial observation on just the suspicion of an illness.  The condition of everyone hospitalized was reported to [military] district commands.”

Valentina Melnikova of the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers (KSM) told Izvestiya commanders have been the problem.  However, she said Defense Minister Shoygu has said any soldier not allowed to see a doctor can now turn to military prosecutors for help.

Bmpd.livejournal.com published Fisun’s pie charts from his presentation to the MOD’s Public Council.

Disease Incidence Among Servicemen

Disease Incidence Among Servicemen

There are separate pies for conscripts and contractees.  Respiratory diseases, however, were the largest problem for both groups, accounting for half or more of illnesses.

Fisun also presented data on fitness for service among this spring’s conscripts.

Health of Conscripts in the Spring 2014 Draft

Health of Conscripts in the Spring 2014 Draft

The tabular data shows an increasing number of young men are fit, or fit with insignificant limitations, to serve in the armed forces (73.4%).  Most of that improvement apparently comes directly from decreasing the number of potential soldiers considered to have limited fitness for service (21.6%).

Reasons for “liberating” citizens from serving were pretty evenly distributed among, in order, muscular-skeletal and connective tissue diseases, psychiatric disorders (drug addiction, alcoholism), digestive system diseases, circulatory diseases, nervous system diseases, and other.

KSM’s Melnikova told Interfaks-AVN that illness was still the major issue for young men facing the spring draft.  She indicated 80 percent of complaints coming into KSM concern unfit men who were drafted.

In Moscow, some conscripts with documented health conditions  were deferred until fall under additional medical observation, but others were told they have to serve now, and had to turn to the courts for relief.

Meanwhile, the GVMU is reportedly amending physical standards for Russian Spetsnaz and VDV soldiers.  It’s lowering the height requirement by 5 cm (2 inches), and increasing the weight limit by 10 kg (22 pounds), according to Izvestiya.

Spetsnaz and VDV may soon be as short as 165 cm (5’4″) and weigh 100 kg (220 pounds).  The new standards will apply for conscripts, contractees, and military academy cadets.

Physical Standards for Airborne Troops Will Be Relaxed Somewhat (photo: Izvestiya / Kirill Zykov)

Physical Standards for Airborne Troops to be Relaxed Somewhat (photo: Izvestiya / Kirill Zykov)

Izvestiya was told a Defense Ministry order officially putting these standards into effect is expected in 2-3 months.  Its VDV source said the increased weight limit is related to use of the newer D-10 parachute which can bear up to 120 kg, so it can support a heavier jumper along with 20 kg of gear.

Perhaps the last, best word comes from Ruslan Pukhov, independent expert and Public Council member.  According to Izvestiya, he recommends increased spending on rear support and logistics, even if it means less expenditure on armaments:

“It’s worth sacrificing a couple nuclear submarines or refraining from construction of corvettes , but don’t economize on people — on their food, medical care and pay.  Iron doesn’t fight, people fight.”

More on the 55 OMSBr (G)

Krasnaya zvezda wrote last week about Tuva and its connections to Russia’s military.

The paper indicated that the “organizational nucleus” of a new Tuva-based motorized rifle brigade (mountain) under Colonel Andrey Shelukhin is now working in the republic which borders Mongolia.  Shelukhin and his staff came from the 201st Military Base in Tajikistan.

It notes that the brigade’s infrastructure is under construction, and recruiting has begun.

A year ago, Shelukhin was a lieutenant colonel, and chief of staff of the 201st, according to KZ.

LTC Shelukhin (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

LTC Shelukhin (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

Before that, he was a battalion commander in the former Siberian MD.

Manning the Northern Fleet

Parade in Murmansk (photo: Mil.ru)

Parade in Murmansk (photo: Mil.ru)

Krasnaya zvezda recently reprinted a column from the Northern Fleet newspaper about manning and contract service.

It’s an interview with the chief of the sailor and NCO manning section in the fleet’s Organization-Mobilization Directorate (OMU), a Lieutenant Colonel Verbov.  It’s funny (perhaps suspicious) because his name is the root of the word verbovat (вербовать) – to hire, enlist, or recruit.

In any event, this LTC Verbov says his priority is manning the fleet’s submarines, and several years ago, submarines were manned at 98 percent — or “practically fully” with contractees.  Since then, conscripts sent to the submarine force have served only ashore.

The manning of billets which should be occupied by contractees is about 90 percent for the fleet as a whole.  He adds, however, that officers lacking officer billets hold some of these contract enlisted positions.  But the situation varies.  In the Kola Mixed Forces Flotilla, third-rank ships are “practically fully” manned with contract sailors and NCOs, but first- and second-rank ships only 50-65 percent.

Contractees are needed for those ships, and for Coastal Troops, Naval Infantry, and Naval Aviation units.  Some 200-250 recruits are accepted on contract service every month.  But this isn’t enough to solve his TO&E manning problems.

So, the interviewer asks, what’s the problem?  Verbov answers:

“. . . many wish to serve, but there are a number of factors, let’s say, negatively impacting organization of the selection of citizens for military service on contract.  Here’s an example, a young man comes into the military commissariat [voyenkomat] and says:  ‘I want to serve on contract in the Northern Fleet.  How much do they pay here?’  They tell him:  ‘Initially 27 thousand rubles [per month].’  ‘That’s not much,’ — says the potential recruit and he leaves.”

“But 27 thousand is really just the starting pay.  Then polar supplements, time served, sea duty begin to ‘grow’ — the salary will begin to grow by leaps and bounds.  But they didn’t explain this to someone, someone who didn’t want to wait, as a result they are left without a contractee.”

“A second factor is poor living conditions.  Unfortunately, they can’t give service housing in all garrisons to every citizen who concludes a contract with the Ministry of Defense.  Initially, a recruit has to live in the unit [usually a barracks], on a ship.  Such a situation doesn’t suit very many, and they break the contract.”

“Non-compliance with the regulation on working time on some ships and in some units forces some contract servicemen to leave military service.  One has to confess, occasions arise when the ‘needs of the service’ deprive people of normal rest.  Not everyone can withstand a regimen of two days off per month.”

Nevertheless, our Verbov says the Northern Fleet filled its quota of contractees at 96 percent in the last year.

So ends a micro-level look at Russia’s military professionalization problem.  Let’s see what the MOD is saying about the issue at the macro-level.

The basic idea was to add 50,000 contractees per year, reaching a total of 425,000 in the armed forces before 2018.

By the end of 2013, the MOD overfulfilled its plan by 27 percent, accepted more than 81,000 new recruits, and had more than 225,000 men serving on contracts, according to the annual report on Action Plan 2020.  The goal for 2013 had been 240,000.

According to Deputy Defense Minister Pankov, the MOD had 186,000 contractees at the beginning of 2013.  If it added 81,000, it would have reached 267,000.  So it must have failed to retain 42,000 contractees during the year, if it ended with 225,000.

For completeness, we should note Defense Minister Shoygu said that the armed forces had more than 205,000 in November 2013.  In December, President Putin said 205,100 (just to be precise).

By early May 2014, the MOD said it had 237,000 contractees.  That’s a good start for about four months.  It wants to reach 280,000 by year’s end.

For argument’s sake, assume it had 205,000, adds another 80,000, but also loses another 40,000.  That leaves the MOD at 245,000 at the end of 2014 (i.e. the same number as the endyear goal for 2013).

Again, ultimately, what matters for the success or failure of contract service is how many guys stay or leave the service.

Shuffling Generals

The deck of generals has been shuffled somewhat.  But fairly little notice was given to the mid-June reassignments of General-Colonel Vladimir Zarudnitskiy, General-Colonel Nikolay Bogdanovskiy, and General-Lieutenant Andrey Kartapolov.

General-Colonel Zarudnitskiy departs the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate (GOU) to take over the Central MD, replacing General-Colonel Bogdanovskiy.

Zarudnitskiy (left) Receives Central MD Standard from Deputy Defense Minister Pankov (photo: Mil.ru)

Zarudnitskiy (left) Receives Central MD Standard from Deputy Defense Minister Pankov (photo: Mil.ru)

Zarudnitskiy’s background is pretty well summarized here.  He is 56.

Bogdanovskiy leaves the Central MD to become First Deputy Chief of the General Staff — a post recreated after former Defense Minister Serdyukov cut it.

General-Colonel Nikolay Bogdanovskiy (Wearing Two Stars)

General-Colonel Nikolay Bogdanovskiy (Wearing Two Stars)

Bogdanovskiy’s had an interesting career path.  He commanded an army in the Far East before becoming a deputy commander of the old Far East MD.  He served as First Deputy CINC, Chief of the Main Staff of Ground Troops.  He commanded the old Leningrad MD.  He was again a deputy CINC of Ground Troops and Chief of the Main Combat Training Directorate from early 2011 until his late 2012 assignment to the Central MD.  Bogdanovskiy was early rumored to be a candidate to replace General-Colonel Chirkin as Ground Troops CINC.  He is 57.

Find coverage on Zarudnitskiy and Bogdanovskiy at Mil.ru.

General-Lieutenant Andrey Kartapolov is a fresher face.  He’s 50.

General-Lieutenant Andrey Kartapolov (photo: B-port.com)

General-Lieutenant Andrey Kartapolov (photo: B-port.com)

The most cursory review of Kartapolov’s career shows he was an O-6 commanding a machine gun-artillery division in the Far East in the early 2000s.  In 2007, he served as a deputy commander of the Novosibirsk-based 41st CAA.  He then became First Deputy Commander, Chief of Staff for the 22nd CAA in Nizhegorod.  In 2010, he commanded the 58th CAA, and in early 2013 became a deputy commander of the Southern MD.  After a very brief stint as First Deputy Commander, Chief of Staff of the Western MD, he will head the GOU.

Kartapolov’s wiki bio says he served as chief of an unidentified GOU directorate in 2009-2010.

But GOU chiefs of late still seem more “from the troops” than “born and bred” General Staff officers.

More OOB Notes

Found new data points based on reports about the Central MD’s 2nd CAA during the recent readiness inspection.  Here’s the link.

Visit to the 26th Missile Brigade

Mil.ru provided quite a few good pictures of the new base of the Russian Army’s 26th Missile Brigade at Luga in the Western MD.  They were taken during Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s recent inspection trip.

Shoygu with Western MD Commander General-Colonel Anatoliy Sidorov (photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu with Western MD Commander General-Colonel Anatoliy Sidorov (photo: Mil.ru)

Yes, what follows is ripped-off photo journalism, but the pictures are too good to pass up.

Iskander-K Cruise Missile Canister Being Transloaded (photo: Mil.ru)

Iskander-K Cruise Missile Canister Being Transloaded (photo: Mil.ru)

Iskander-M Ballistic Missile Being Transloaded (photo: Mil.ru)

Iskander-M Ballistic Missile Being Transloaded (photo: Mil.ru)

The Brigade's "Tent-Mobile Shelters" (photo: Mil.ru)

The Brigade’s “Tent-Mobile Shelters” (photo: Mil.ru)

The army erected what are termed “tent-mobile shelters” at the missile brigade’s obviously new base.

"Tent-Mobile Shelters"(photo: Mil.ru)

“Tent-Mobile Shelters”(photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu Points Something Out, Colonel on Right Likely the Brigade's Commander (photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu Points Something Out, Colonel on Right Likely the Brigade’s Commander (photo: Mil.ru)

Fuel Hoses Hang Inside the "Tent-Mobile Shelter" (photo: Mil.ru)

Fuel Hoses Hang Inside the “Tent-Mobile Shelter” (photo: Mil.ru)

A Last Chat Inside the "Tent-Mobile Shelter"(photo: Mil.ru)

A Last Chat Inside the “Tent-Mobile Shelter”(photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu wanted to see that his orders to build essential basing facilities for new arms and equipment are being followed.  The 26th brigade not too long ago received its Iskanders.  Mil.ru noted that the brigade’s vehicle storage area has space for 200 pieces of equipment including the Iskanders.

The defense minister noted that “tent-mobile shelters” also need to be heated, so the missile launchers are always ready.  One wonders, of course, how they’ll hold up against heavy snow, ice, etc.

Shoygu repeated familiar words about synchronizing the arrival of new systems like Iskander with the selection of contractees to operate them.

He checked on the construction of concrete weapons bunkers, but nothing of this is shown or shared.

Promotion List

President Vladimir Putin signed out the latest list of MOD promotees on 11 June, the eve of the Russia Day holiday.

The list also appeared in Krasnaya zvezda.

The 16 new general-majors and two rear-admirals this time round include:

  • A deputy commander of the Central MD;
  • Commanders of air and air defense forces in the Western and Southern MDs;
  • A handful of army, division, and brigade commanders;
  • Senior communicators and logisticians.

Nothing surprising.  Just tracking the data.  Find the newest running promotion list here.