Category Archives: Air Forces

Air Forces Half Out-of-Order

"OAK-Service" Initial Corporate Structure (photo: Kommersant)

“OAK-Servis” Initial Corporate Structure (photo: Kommersant)

Kommersant’s Ivan Safronov and Yelena Kiseleva wrote Monday (28 October) on the status of devolving Oboronservis’ Aviaremont into a subsidiary of the United Aircraft Corporation (OAK).  In the process, they indicated less than half of Russia’s combat airplanes are serviceable.

Aviaremont enterprises will become OAK-Servis subholdings.  The factories will repair aircraft for the Defense Ministry, and for other power ministries and agencies.  OAK and the MOD already have an 84-billion-ruble contract for repairs in place.  Meanwhile, Aviaremont owes the MOD 115 billion, which OAK has promised to make good.

OAK-Servis is supposed to provide life-cycle support for MOD (mainly VVS) airplanes.  And it will “correct an unfavorable situation in the condition of the current inventory of the Air Forces, which still aren’t guaranteeing the necessary level of technical combat readiness,” Kommersant writes.

OAK-Servis will establish service centers and 24-7 mobile repair teams, then, in 2015-2018, modernize capital equipment in its repair plants.  It will also grapple with a problem it can’t solve in the short-term, “the cessation of industrial output of components and systems used in the repair of old aircraft models and the rising price of spares and parts.”

But OAK believes it can ensure a profit for plants that once belonged to Aviaremont.  Ruslan Pukhov tells Kommersant less money in the next GPV means less procurement and more repairs and modernization after 2020.

Now for the interesting part . . .

In a sidebar, the authors describe the parlous state of technical readiness in the Air Forces.

All VVS units are supposed to be in “permanent readiness,” with not less than 80 percent of the airplanes in their established composition in a serviceable state.

But Safronov and Kiseleva report only 42 percent of VVS airplanes overall, and 49 percent of its combat airplanes, are serviceable.

The most serious situation with fitness for flying is found in Tu-160 and Tu-22 [Tu-22M3] bombers, the MiG-29 and MiG-25, An-22 transports, L-39 trainers, and others for which serviceability hovers around 20-25 percent.

In 2013, the VVS had 696 airplanes in need of repair, but as (or if) new ones reach the inventory toward 2020, the number in need of repair will reportedly decline to just 49.

The sidebar says, along with repairing MVD, FSB, and MChS platforms, OAK repair plants will also have to maintain and overhaul exported airplanes.

Recall for a moment the MOD’s Action Plan to 2020 . . . the section on equipping the armed forces indicated year-end VVS aircraft serviceability rates will be 55 percent in 2013, 75 percent in 2014, and 80 percent in 2015.

These numbers require pretty fast improvement.

Lobby for PVO Strany

Military reorganizations never stop, they just continue at a barely perceptible pace.

Organizational changes start with a campaign for a realignment.  The campaign to form Aerospace Defense Troops (VVKO) started five or six years before they officially stood up on 1 December 2011.

A new campaign is beginning.  Some are arguing VVKO didn’t get everything they need.

Four KPRF Duma deputies who are members of the legislature’s Defense Committee propose upgrading the VVKO from a branch (род) to a service (вид).  That’s symbolic, but not most significant.

More importantly, they say VVKO should control all ground-based air defense assets currently operated by the Air Forces and commanders of Russia’s four military districts (MDs).

Izvestiya reported the story.

Changes the KPRF deputies envisage would almost turn today’s VVKO into a new Soviet PVO Strany – National Air Defense (sans interceptor aircraft) as it existed between 1954 and the 1980s.  Troop PVO (Ground Troops) and Navy PVO would remain separate.

The KPRF deputies argue the vast majority of PVO assets need to be under a unified command to provide effective air defense for Russia.

Vyacheslav Tetekin, former conscript SA-5 operator and Africa expert, said:

“In military affairs the most dangerous thing is when there is no responsibility:  there is no one to make decisions, and no one to bear responsibility.  Until the time when all PVO and VKO resources are transferred into an independent command, we can’t be sure our country is defended against strikes from space and from the air.”

His colleague Aleksandr Tarnayev, former communications officer and KGB military counterintelligence operative, suggested, rather absurdly, that none of this means big changes, just resubordinating units, and replacing emblems on gates.  Units don’t even have to move, unless they need to redeploy to main strike threat axes.

But it is certainly a big change for air defense units that have reported to MDs for the last couple years, or to the Air Forces for an even longer time.

Taking strategic- and operational-level air defense from MD commanders would reduce their capabilities as unified, combined arms warfighters in regional and local conflicts.

Military expert Viktor Murakhovskiy told Izvestiya the idea of VVKO as a service has been discussed before, and the change would cost trillions of rubles:

“This is the idea of creating a unified air defense system for the country like in Soviet times.  For this we would need to combine all VKO brigades and SAM brigades under a single command.  But we would need to understand that to create a seamless defensive field over the country’s entire territory requires a huge amount of money, and the question arises, are these outlays so necessary or is it better to direct them in a different course.”

Murakhovskiy begs a couple good questions.  Is there an existential national air defense threat that justifies taking funds from other pressing military needs?  Is a U.S. (and NATO?) strategic air operation against Russia possible or probable?

VPK editor-in-chief Mikhail Khodarenok told the paper he believes VVKO needs interceptors and there’s not enough money now to create such a full-fledged service:

“In the Soviet system of PVO, for interceptors alone there were 70 regiments — almost 3 thousand aircraft.  But if we divide current aircraft between the Air Forces and PVO, we get two absurd services.  In the future such a division is justified because the Air Forces’ mission is supporting troops, and PVO’s mission is protecting the country’s important administrative and industrial centers from air strikes.  But this is the future in 20-30 years.”

A Duma hearing on VVKO scheduled for 6 November won’t have much affect on the military’s structure.  But this is how major reorganizations have started in the past.  Just don’t look for results soon.

Su-34 Growing Pains

Su-34 (photo: Izvestiya / Dinar Shakirov)

Su-34 (photo: Izvestiya / Dinar Shakirov)

Early this month, Izvestiya’s Aleksey Mikhaylov and Dmitriy Balburov published on “growing pains” in Russia’s procurement of the Su-34 strike fighter.  The aircraft is “not combat capable” according to them.

A few English-language sites mentioned their story, but didn’t render it completely or accurately.

According Izvestiya, the Defense Minister may soon sign out a report on  defects in the Su-34 that interfere with its “full combat employment.”  Each of the 16 Su-34s received over six years reportedly has its own “individual problems.”

The authors say the Defense Ministry already won an 80-million-ruble suit against the Novosibirsk Aviation Plant named for Chkalov over undelivered aircraft.  They insinuate this Defense Ministry report could be the basis for more litigation against the airplane’s manufacturer.

A Su-34 pilot told Izvestiya radar and targeting-navigation system problems interfere with flight training in the aircraft.  Malfunctions, he says, are the result of both programming problems and technical flaws.  A maintenance officer said each aircraft has “its own characteristics,” for example, an auxiliary motor located in different places on different borts.

Two Su-34s delivered to Lipetsk in 2006 are allegedly non-operational, and sit at the airfield for show.  However, the best airframes are the last three borts sent to Baltimor / Voronezh last summer, a VVS Glavkomat officer told the authors.

OPK representatives expressed surprise at the military’s complaints, noting that the early production run of any aircraft entails problems.  Some blamed a low level of training among VVS pilots and technicians for difficulties with the Su-34.

The Izvestiya report seems at odds with the recent announcement that delivery of a second Su-34 squadron is beginning.  In fact, the media reports five more aircraft arrived at Voronezh from Novosibirsk just days ago.  Practically the same day, Defense Minister Shoygu visited the city, airfield, and other VVS institutions.  It may be that his predecessor Serdyukov was inclined to criticize the OPK and the Su-34′s quality.  So maybe Shoygu won’t approve the Su-34 report.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t real problems with the aircraft.

Combat Readiness Percentages

Conscript on His Mobilnik (photo: Reuters

Conscript on His Mobilnik (photo: Reuters)

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s editorial has the title above.  It’s sub-titled “An Unprejudiced Look at Military Reform.”

Here’s what it says.

“One of the most serious accusations against the former defense minister and former chief of the General Staff is the low combat readiness of armed forces units and sub-units caused by the military reform they conducted.  And the basic argument is the fact that only 15 of 35 combined arms brigades of permanent combat readiness are manned at 100%, the rest have personnel deficits from 20 to 30%.”

“There’s some truth in this.  If you figure the number of servicemen in the force structure — 220 thousand officers, 186 thousand contractees, 320 thousand conscripts and 50-60 thousand VUZ cadets – then the million required by the president’s decree has in no way been gathered.  But the main cause of this is by no means military reform, but the demographic situation in the country for which neither Serdyukov nor Makarov can answer.  And increasing conscript service, as proposed by some [Duma] deputies, can’t patch this hole.  And only those who contrary to Suvorovist science trained to fight the old way with numbers, and not skill, can talk about combat readiness relying just on arithmetical calculations.”

“Many concepts are part of combat readiness.  And not just manning.  Among its components, in particular, are the presence of modern combat equipment and combat support systems in the force, high operational-tactical qualifications of officers, their combat experience, skill and training of personnel…  The military reform of Serdyukov and Makarov, it seems, managed to deal with the last indicator.  We’ll cite just one fact — the average flying time of Russian Air Forces pilots reached 125 hours per pilot in 2012.  And squadron commanders flew 175 hours, and at Vyazma air base — more than 215 hours.  If you remember just several years ago our pilots had an average flying time of 30-40 hours, some of them generally 5-7 hours a year, and they got lost in the sky over the Baltic, then who would dare say that our military aviation is suffering from a lack of combat readiness.”

“The picture is approximately the same in the Ground Troops where soldiers and officers literally don’t leave the training grounds, conducting integrated tactical and operational-tactical exercises jointly with the Air Forces and Air Defense, with the Naval Infantry — if they’re on maritime axes.  They can’t complain about low combat readiness even in the Navy, whose ships, earlier tied to the piers, today ply the waters of the world’s oceans year-round, joining in the struggle against pirates in the Gulf of Aden.  They don’t complain of boredom in the VDV where over the past year more than 65 exercises of varying scale and intensity have been conducted, together with 1,150 combat training events, including more than 800 section- and 270 platoon-level combat firings, 73 company and 14 battalion tactical exercises.  Including with USA spetsnaz on American territory.  Additionally, the blue berets completed several tens of thousands of parachute jumps…  If these are not indicators of combat readiness, then what kind of percentages can you talk about?!”

“One more indicator of combat readiness is the evaluation of strategic nuclear deterrence forces which President Vladimir Putin recently carried out.  Launches of ground, naval and air-launched missiles were conducted then with high accuracy.  And the Supremo directed them from the Unified Central Command Post created in the framework of the reform this very year.”

“Yes, the reform according to the prescriptions of the ex-minister and the ex-NGSh has many deficiencies and mistakes.  ‘NG’ and ‘NVO’ wrote about them not once or twice.  We hope the new Defense Ministry leadership will rectify and correct them.  But not one more or less serious army dared test the combat readiness of our country’s armed forces after August 2008.  And no percentages can refute this fact.”

Yes, Serdyukov and Makarov are to blame for the mistakes of army reform.  Primarily for moving too fast across too broad a front without without adequately understanding the situation and consequences of their actions.  In some sense, this was their task — to break the logjam on military reform.  And that some people in Serdyukov’s team were venal didn’t help matters.

But NG’s right to argue they aren’t to blame for undermanning that leaves only 15 maneuver brigades at full personnel strength.  That’s a number not different from Putin’s first and second terms, the 1990s, or the late Soviet period.

NG’s also right to point to higher levels of training activity as an unalloyed good thing from Moscow’s perspective.  It’s a start.  It’s a function of having money and fuel, and a political leadership willing to allocate them.  But it’s only a necessary condition for building a modern army.  Sizeable Russian forces are probably ready to leave garrison when ordered.

The sufficient condition goes deeper.  Are those formations and units armed, equipped, supported, as well as trained to execute the missions their leadership envisions (and ones it doesn’t)?  It’s simply much harder to tell if they are ready for battle, if they will be capable in combat.  Much depends on the situation and scenario into which they’re thrown.  If, as NG alludes, Georgia should test the Russian Army’s readiness, it would perform better than in 2008.  It would probably do better in a new North Caucasus counterinsurgency.  But these cases are on the low intensity side of the warfare spectrum.  But perhaps they’re the most likely places where the Armed Forces would be employed.

But let there be no mistake, training activity doesn’t equal combat readiness, and combat readiness doesn’t equal combat capability.  It is significant and necessary, yes, but not sufficient.  One has to know a lot more about the condition of the forces and what goes on in those exercises.

Those Air Defense Missile Factories

S-300 Launch Canister? (photo: Izvestiya)

S-300 Launch Canister? (photo: Izvestiya)

OK, a lot gets under the radar . . . hadn’t noticed interesting reports since August by Izvestiya’s Aleksey Mikhaylov.

Sue me.

The latest is Mikhaylov’s informative update on two Almaz-Antey factories planned to crank out missiles for the S-400 Triumf and S-500 Prometey.

His OPK source says:

  • By 2014, large factories in Kirov and Nizhniy Novgorod are supposed to manufacture hypersonic 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 missiles for the S-400 and S-500.
  • The missiles will have inert, kinetic kill warheads, and supposedly be capable of intercepting ballistic targets at 7 km/s.
  • The Kirov factory will cost 41.6 billion rubles, the one in Nizhniy 39.5 (81.1  together).  Almaz will get a credit of 25 billion from VEB; the Defense Ministry will invest 35 billion.  One wonders where the balance comes from, and what the terms of this three-way partnership are.

Almaz greatly needs a new production base to field missiles for its SAM launchers.  It was planned in 2008, but the financial crisis prevented it.  The military doesn’t want to repeat the S-400 experience.  It remains armed with older, shorter-range 48N6 and 9M96 missiles.  Since 2007 only seven battalions (3 and 1/2 “regimental sets”) of the S-400 (out of 56 planned) have been fielded.

New missile production should coincide with serial production of the S-500 system (not later than 2014).  It remains under development.  However, Mikhaylov reports rumored sightings of  Prometey prototypes at this or that test range.

Over time, various officers and officials have claimed new, long-range missiles for the S-400 would be fielded in 2013, 2014, or 2015.

By way of conclusion, Mikhaylov turns to independent defense analyst Aleksandr Konovalov to comment:

“The country’s leadership looks at the defense sector like a Coke machine.  Put money in and get a bottle.  Nothing is that simple with the domestic OPK, and investing a lot of money doesn’t guarantee getting production precisely on time.  And discussion about the S-500 is questionable, it’s possible it doesn’t even exist in drawings.”

Defense Ministry Collegium

Wednesday Defense Minister Serdyukov presided over a collegium dedicated primarily to military bases, housing issues, and flight security, according to available accounts.

Mil.ru reported Serdyukov and his subordinates discussed the deployment of troops in military towns, the outfitting of garrisons, and preparations for the coming heating season.

Rossiyskaya gazeta was more forthcoming stating that the Defense Ministry owes fuel suppliers the not-small amount of 4.5 billion rubles for earlier deliveries.

According to the paper, the Defense Minister repeated past declarations that the military plans to consolidate its current inventory of 7,500 facilities into 300 by concentrating personnel and units in larger bases and garrisons.

Serdyukov, in Kursk, said five units numbering 5,000 men will move to a military town near that city.  But he also indicated new infrastructure (barracks, housing, medical, recreation, and parking facilities) has to be built to accommodate them.

So it’s not just as easy as ordering them to go there.

Mil.ru wrote that the Defense Minister called provision of permanent housing to former servicemen in accordance with the president’s and prime minister’s instructions a “priority mission.”  He provided more details:

“Since the beginning of the year, 34 thousand servicemen have received apartments.  The number of territorial housing support organs has increased, the normative-legal base is being completed, and the simultaneous transmission of essential information to all levels of housing presentation has also been organized in the interest of fundamentally improving resolution of housing issues.”

Serdyukov also demanded that military leaders eliminate “violations of time periods for making decisions on the receipt of distributed housing by servicemen.”

Serdyukov met with President Putin a week ago to discuss military apartments.

According to Kremlin.ru, Serdyukov told the Supreme Glavk some 54,000 servicemen were owed apartments at the start of this year, and 33,000 have gotten them.  He said the handover of 1,500 to 1,650 apartments is completed every week, and, at that rate, he believes the housing line will disappear by early next year, at the latest.

Then Putin asked his Defense Minister if he dealt with excess bureaucracy in the process of giving out apartments.  Serdyukov replied that 37 additional offices are open for this purpose, and paperwork requirements have been cut.

Putin and Serdyukov seem focused only on procedure and process problems in handing over housing.  But military men have refused large numbers of  proffered apartments because they aren’t ready to inhabit, lack essential infrastructure, or are simply in places they have no desire to live.  It is more likely than not housing will still be an issue well into 2013 and beyond.  For background on substantially larger amounts of money required and 167,000 men awaiting housing, see Kommersant.ru here and here.

But back to the collegium . . .

RG noted the talk about flight safety came against a backdrop of more new airplanes and helicopters arriving — reportedly 150 in 2010 and 2011, 190 thus far in 2012, and perhaps 1,200 over the next seven years.  RIA Novosti hinted the fatal crash of a new Mi-35 helo, blamed on weather and human error, might have prompted discussion of aircraft accidents.

Defense News

Some Russian defense news from August 6, 7, and 8, 2012 . . .

Sukhorukov’s Press Conference (photo: Mil.ru)

Mil.ru provided a wrap on the First Deputy Defense Minister’s press-conference on GPV-2020.

Sukhorukov “particularly turned attention” to media reports that the program’s funding will be cut.  He told journalists such a step isn’t foreseen, and the government is talking only about “optimizing” the budget load between years by using good old state-guaranteed credits for the OPK.

Sukhorukov claims 95 percent of GOZ-2012 has been contracted, and 82 percent of funds disbursed.

Arms-expo.ru also covered this story.  It emphasized Sukhorukov’s statement that the rate of defective arms delivered by producers isn’t declining.

According to RIAN, Sukhorukov said Russia won’t buy more Israeli UAVs beyond its current contract.  He reiterated the Defense Ministry believes the BMD-4M doesn’t meet its requirements, and won’t buy it.

Sukhoy reports it’s now testing the new Tikhomirov phased array radar on PAK FA, T-50-3 to be exact.  See RIAN’s story.

Sukhoy also announced that its Su-35S is in “combat employment” testing within the process of state acceptance testing at GLITs.  The company says it meets all established requirements, and has flown more than 650 times.

New Navy CINC, Vice-Admiral Chirkov made an interesting visit to the State Missile Center named for Academic V. P. Makeyev on Monday.  The Makeyev design bureau is home, of course, to liquid-fueled SLBM development.  Could not find the last time this happened.  Might be prior to 2007.

Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy told the GenProk collegium yesterday that abuse or dedovshchina in the ranks is down a third this year.  But, according to ITAR-TASS, Fridinskiy noted that general crimes exceed purely military offenses by a factor of two.  Specifically, he said murders are up by half, bribery has almost doubled, and drug offenses have increased 27 percent.

Fridinskiy also said nearly 3,000 GOZ corruption cases and losses worth 400 million rubles were investigated in the first half of this year.  He said, for example, Dagdizel received 3 billion rubles in defense orders, but hasn’t sent a single product to the military, and bought farm equipment and building materials with the money.  He cited losses in purchasing apartments for military men at inflated prices as well as the problem of unfinished housing projects.

Izvestiya claims a large number of young pilots are leaving the Air Forces because the lion’s share of increased flight hours and promised higher pay are going to their commanders and older officers.  Could this be a continuation of Igor Sulim’s travails at Lipetsk?  The paper also reports a number of cleaning companies say the Defense Ministry owes them 5 billion rubles for housekeeping work outsourced over the last year.

Realities of Rearmament

Pantsir-S (photo: Topwar.ru)

RIA Novosti yesterday quoted a VVKO spokesman who indicated a second battery of Pantsir-S anti-aircraft gun-missile systems will go into service this fall around Moscow.  For the record, he stated:

“At present, alongside an A-150 missile defense [PRO] division, two    S-400 anti-aircraft missile regiments in two-battalion configurations, deployed in Elektrostal and Dmitrov, provide Moscow with anti-air and anti-missile defense.  One of them already has a ‘Pantsir-S’ battery in its composition, in September-October, the second regiment will also receive the same battery complement.”

The spokesman added that, in August, the new Pantsir-S battery, along with its  S-400 regiment at Dmitrov, will be in Ashuluk to perform ‘test’ live firings against low-altitude targets.

Novosti has some video of the Pantsir as does a background piece by Arms-Expo.ru.

Let’s add things up as best we can.

First Deputy Defense Minister Sukhorukov has said the army will get 28 Pantsir-S systems in 2012.  The VVS CINC said there would be two more S-400 regiments (for a total of four) before the end of 2011.  But, there are, as the VVKO spokesman says, still only two.  The CINC also said the next six Pantsir-S systems would be for the Moscow area.  The first four went to Novorossiysk.

Recall there was some question whether ten delivered in 2010 were for Russian forces or some foreign customer.  Have we somehow lost track of six of those ten?

Now all these numbers are pretty low when there’s talk that 200, 600, or possibly (incredibly?!) as many as 1,000 Pantsir-S might really be required.

The case of the Pantsir-S is a good example of how, for all the worry about a massive Russian rearmament program, this rearming has been pretty slow thus far.

Putin, Aircraft, and the OPK

President Vladimir Putin met Thursday with Defense Ministry and aviation industry leaders to discuss military aircraft production.   Kremlin.ru covered his introductory remarks to the assembled group at the 393rd Air Base in Krasnodar Kray.

Putin Addresses the Meeting

Putin touched on PAK DA, UAVs, and damping down industry expectations of funding above and beyond GPV-2020.  To the OPK reps present, the president again stressed timely deliveries of high-quality equipment at reasonable prices.  He took a pretty hard line with the industry, saying it agreed with the GPV last year and there won’t be more than the 19 trillion rubles promised to buy arms and equipment for the Armed Forces.  It seemed odd he didn’t dwell at all on PAK FA development, or Su-34 or transport aircraft procurement.

Putin began by noting that most in attendance were at last year’s meeting on the OPK’s readiness to fulfill the Gosoboronzakaz.  He mentioned aviation’s “decisive role” in modern operations, and once again said that the military (in this case, the Air Forces) have to be prepared to complete missions beyond Russian Federation borders to fulfill Moscow’s alliance obligations.

Putin said the VVS will receive 4 trillion rubles, almost a quarter of the GPV money, for their rearmament by 2020.

He acknowledged that developing PAK DA would not be easy, but:

“If we don’t start promptly, I have the time frames for completing separate elements of this program in mind, we could miss the chance, because it’s impossible to extend the service life periods of existing equipment forever.”

He noted that essential modernization of Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic bombers has taken place, and a new ALCM is entering the inventory.

Putin next discussed UAVs and their growing role in combat operations.  He said Russia must develop them, and he plans to spend 400 billion rubles on pilotless aircraft by 2020.

On that pesky issue of buying drone technology abroad, Putin said pretty definitively:

“I turn your attention to the fact that it’s necessary and possible to use the groundwork of our foreign partners, but having this in mind, you well know:  no one will give us the most advanced things, the cutting edge.  We have to do it by ourselves, we need to use what we have at our disposal, and it’s necessary to use what was developed abroad, but we also have to make new advances ourselves.”

The president claimed 30 squadrons have already received new aircraft, and he repeated the familiar goal of providing the VVS 70 percent new equipment by 2020, including 600 new airplanes and 1,000 helicopters.

He mentioned work on Russia’s military airfield network.  During the last four years, four new airfields were built and 28 were reportedly modernized.  Work to the tune of 40 billion rubles is planned for nine more over the coming four years.

Putin took pains to emphasize that “everything” was agreed with the OPK last year.  The government will “support” enterprises and design bureaus as they modernize factories and facilities.  But, he again said, the demands will be severe.  Defense orders must be fulfilled fully, on time, with high quality, and at economically justified prices.  As earlier agreed with the Defense Ministry, profitability will be 15, 18, or even 20 percent.  And the military is supposedly paying Gosoboronzakaz contracts 100 percent in advance, he added.

Putin was particularly emphatic on his next point:

“There won’t be other money, greater than the amount allocated to 2020.  I’ve already talked about this 100 times.  At one recent conference, proposals were again heard to increase it.  We would be happy to increase it, perhaps, but there’s no money!”

He reminded participants most of them were present when Air Forces procurement plans were set, and most VVS contracts are long-term ones running out to 2015-2018.

Putin mentioned that long-term VVS procurement contracts are relying on government-guaranteed credits (i.e. not necessarily money out of this year’s budget).  Aircraft contracts for GOZ-2012 already amount to 2.5 billion rubles.

But isn’t that a very small amount?  The VVS will need to spend upwards of 450 billion a year for nine years to spend their 4 trillion, won’t they?  And 45 billion rubles for UAVs alone.  Ten billion will be spent on airfields annually through 2016. 

Zelin’s Update (Part III)

In the middle part of General-Colonel Zelin’s incredibly long NVO interview, he reacts to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s high command changes and other structural realignments over the last couple years.  He also shares thoughts on the state of VVS training.

Zelin speaks to interviewer Viktor Litovkin like a 58-year-old three-star who’s surprised to have stayed at his post as long as he has.  He speaks like he isn’t concerned about being retired.

Asked what he and his Main Staff do now that the VVS operate under the four MD / OSK commanders, Zelin responds that plans to create an automated C2 system (ASU) haven’t quite gotten there.  He talks and is online with the district commanders often.  But, he says:

“The main thing is combat training remains with the VVS Main Command. Organizational development (stroitelstvo or строительство) of the service and combat training.  And without combat training what kind of employment can there be?”

There were, he continues, arguments and unresolved issues:

“But during the decisionmaking I proved my point of view, my vision of present problems, sometimes they had to agree, sometimes they had to listen on several issues, but, since now decisions have been made, we have to fulfill them.  To get to work.”

But he grouses a bit more.  He sounds like a man with responsibility who lacks authority.

The ASU isn’t working, but service central command posts (TsKP or ЦКП) were eliminated.  Regardless, Zelin says he has to organize and control training.  Every day 70-80 units have aircraft flying, and they have to be tracked.  They can’t just be given a mission and forgotten.

Asked about the newly-established Aerospace Defense (VKO) Troops, Zelin claims interestingly, that only PVO brigades in Russia’s central industrial region — the old Moscow AD District, KSpN, or OSK VKO — went over to them.  He says MD / OSK commanders got the rest, and he equips and trains them for regional commands to operate.  His view seems to be VKO is limited to strategic and theater MD.  You can’t, he opines, have PVO without air defense aviation integrated into it.  According to Zelin, a single national system of air defense, including Troop Air Defense, is needed, but a decision’s been made and it’s left but to fulfill it.

Before talking more about training, Zelin reiterates that a single system of net-centric strategic C2 and decisionmaking is the goal, but they aren’t quite there.

He seems envious of the large-scale, largely automated airspace control systems he’s seen in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.

On training and flight hours, Zelin says he’s got no problems with material support (i.e. POL), but problems addressing aircraft service life support [ресурсное обеспечение].  He states frankly he worries about maintenance provided (or not) by civilianized, outsourced Oboronservis affiliate Aviaremont.  There is plenty of money for maintenance, but those responsible aren’t getting it done.  While the Glavkomat has heartache about aircraft serviceability:

“Our other structures for some reason are responsible only for financial flows.”

Zelin was asked earlier if 130 flight hours was the VVS goal.  He says last year pilots got 340,000 hours, or 90 per pilot.  That makes roughly 3,800 pilots, if they’re shared evenly (they’re not).  Eighty percent of young pilots got not less than 100. In some cases, it was harder and they got a little more than 50.  Zelin adds this is still better than the 1990s.