Category Archives: Ground Troops

Russia’s Regional Power

On 8 April, the HASC explored Russia’s military development and its strategic implications.  The second of two witnesses was the U.S. Joint Staff J5, Vice Admiral Frank Pandolfe.  Here’s the public opening statement to his testimony [emphasis added].

“Chairman McKeon, Ranking Member Smith, and distinguished Committee Members, good morning.  Thank you for this opportunity to update you on Russian military developments.”

“You just heard [from Mr. Chollet] a review of actions taken by the United States, the NATO Alliance, and the international community in response to Russia’s unlawful military intervention in Ukraine. Russia’s seizure of Crimea is a flagrant violation of international law, and it reintroduces into Europe the threat of external aggression.  By doing so, Russia set back decades of international progress.”

“The United States military and the wider NATO Alliance have supported our response to this unwarranted intervention:”

“- We have given support to Ukraine by way of material assistance, defense consultations, and the offer of enhanced training.”

“- We are reassuring our NATO Allies, with whom we have Article V security guarantees, by sending additional air power to the Baltic States and Poland, increasing our surveillance over Poland and Romania, and sending naval ships into the Black Sea.”

“- And we are helping to impose costs on Russia by halting all bilateral military-to-military interaction.  However, as noted by Mr. Chollet, we are keeping open channels for senior leader communications, to help deescalate the crisis.”

“I would now like to widen the focus of my remarks beyond Ukraine, to discuss the evolution of Russian conventional military power, thereby providing context to today’s events.”

“At the height of its military power, the Soviet Union was truly a global competitor.  With millions of people under arms, vast numbers of tanks and planes, a global navy, and an extensive intelligence gathering infrastructure, the Soviet military machine posed a very real and dangerous threat.”

“Following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, that arsenal fell into disrepair.  Starved of funding and fragmented, Russian military capabilities rapidly decayed throughout the 1990s.  From the start of his term in office in 2000, President Putin has made military modernization a top priority of the Russian government.  When Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, a number of shortcomings were noted in its military performance.  This led the Russian government to further increase investment in its military services.”

“Since 2008, those efforts have had some success. Russian military forces have been streamlined into smaller, more mobile units. Their overall readiness has improved and their most elite units are well trained and equipped.  They now employ a more sophisticated approach to joint warfare.”

“Their military has implemented organizational change, creating regional commands within Russia.  These coordinate and synchronize planning, joint service integration, force movement, intelligence support, and the tactical employment of units.”

“Finally, the Russian military adopted doctrinal change, placing greater emphasis on speed of movement, the use of Special Operations Forces, and information and cyber warfare.  They instituted ‘snap exercises.’  These no-notice drills serve the dual purpose of sharpening military readiness while also inducing strategic uncertainty as to whether they will swiftly transition from training to offensive operations.”

“Today, Russia is a regional power that can project force into nearby states but has very limited global power projection capability.  It has a military of uneven readiness.  While some units are well trained, most are less so. It suffers from corruption and its logistical capabilities are limited.  Aging equipment and infrastructure, fiscal challenges, and demographic and social problems will continue to hamper reform efforts.”

“The United States, in contrast, employs a military of global reach and engagement.  The readiness of our rotationally deployed forces is high and we are working to address readiness shortfalls at home.  And we operate within alliances; the strongest of which is NATO.  Composed of 28 nations, NATO is the most successful military alliance in history.  Should Russia undertake an armed attack against any NATO state, it will find that our commitment to collective defense is immediate and unwavering.”

“Russia’s military objectives are difficult to predict.  But it is clear that Russia is sustaining a significant military force on Ukraine’s eastern border.  This is deeply troubling to all states in the region and beyond, and we are watching Russian military movements very carefully.”

“I spoke with General Breedlove, the Commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, last Friday.  He is formulating recommendations for presentation to the North Atlantic Council on April fifteenth.  These recommendations will be aimed at further reassuring our NATO allies.  As part of this effort, he will consider increasing military exercises, forward deploying additional military equipment and personnel, and increasing our naval, air, and ground presence.  He will update members of Congress on those recommendations at the earliest opportunity.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for this opportunity to address your Committee.  I look forward to your questions.”

According to Defense News, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) asked Vice Admiral Pandolfe about reports from “senior U.S. commanders in Europe” that up to 80,000 Russian troops are massed on the border with Ukraine.  Pandolfe demurred, saying he would answer in closed session.

Other than that, we don’t know much about what was said or asked.

Pandolfe’s opening statement is a pretty accurate, albeit brief, description of what’s happened with Russia’s military, its progress and limitations, in recent years.

But it’s a little off-the-mark.  Regional power, not global reach, is the critical issue today.  Ukraine is a prototypical regional crisis. The kind of regional crisis for which Moscow has tried to prepare its armed forces.

In contrast to what Pandolfe said, Russia’s military objectives are pretty easy to understand.  

The ultimate Heartland of geopolitics, Russia sees itself hard-pressed by a Rimland alliance [NATO] expanding deeper into eastern Europe.  Now Moscow feels it’s imperative to push back.  Unfortunately for Ukraine, it is the object of contention.

Russia has marshaled an ominous, overweening force to influence the situation just over the border in Ukraine.  Moscow can let events in Kharkhiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Slovyansk unfold, perhaps with some provocation by intelligence operatives, special forces, and agents of influence.

As Mark Galeotti concludes:  

“The forces massed on the border (ranging from low-end estimates of 40,000 to 80,000 upwards), combined with dire warnings to Kyiv about the risk of ‘civil war’ if it uses force against the paramilitaries represent a formidable political cover, which is deterring the [Ukrainian] government from using the full means at its disposal.  Moscow is a past master of fighting its battles with proxies, agents, allies and dupes.  Whether or not there are many actual Russian soldiers and agents in eastern Ukraine, Moscow’s role is clear and, if anything, increasing.”

So Ukraine is damned if it responds to Russian-orchestrated unrest in the east, and damned if it doesn’t.

And Russia still holds the high card because it can still intervene with more “little green men” — Russian Army forces without insignia.  Or it may just want to keep Ukraine off-balance and unstable.  But events on the ground sometimes create their own dynamic.

Unlike Russia, for America, Ukraine is neither close nor vital.  Washington has already indicated it will not respond with military force, but only with support to its frontline NATO allies, and with MREs, consultations, and training for Kyiv. The Kremlin’s one fear might be that, under certain circumstances, the unpredictable Americans could change their minds about what’s at stake in Ukraine.

Paul Goble captured commentator  Georgiy Mirskiy’s insights last week, noting [emphasis added]:

“Neither [Russian President Vladimir] Putin nor [U.S. President Barack] Obama wants to go into history as the politician who ‘lost’ Ukraine, although [that country] does not belong to either the one or the other.”

“What is going on in Donetsk and Kharkhiv, [Mirskiy] continues, is ‘a Maidan in reverse,’ backed by a powerful neighboring state that is interested in destroying Ukraine.  Local support for these ‘people’s republics’ is not that great, but the Ukrainian authorities are ‘afraid’ to use force lest they ‘provoke the introduction of Russian forces’ as Putin has promised to do.”

“Given this fear, it may also be the case that ‘perhaps in the depth of their souls,’ some in Kyiv may ‘prefer to lose several unstable and hostile eastern oblasts’ in order to ‘keep firm control over a ‘mini-Ukraine,’ including Kyiv, Lviv, and so on.’”

“If that is so, then a repeat of the Crimean scenario is possible, although in any referendum there, support for joining Russia will be 60 percent at most and not 97 percent as it was on the peninsula, [Mirskiy] suggests.  Because Moscow won’t have introduced troops, ‘the West will again swallow everything.’ After all, ‘what is left for it to do?’”

In the strategic and ultimately cynical sense, maybe it wouldn’t be bad to watch while the Russian snake tries to swallow something it probably cannot digest.  This comes from the “worse is better” school of thought.

Trying to absorb Crimea and eastern Ukraine might worsen Russia’s domestic political and economic circumstances.  It will certainly refocus NATO on reinforcing Article V security guarantees (against Russia).  Thus, the Kremlin will have succeeded in creating the threat to which it has constantly pointed.  It will isolate Russia further, and possibly even hasten the end of the Putin era. Some foundering future Russian government may even one day have to relinquish occupied territories to Ukraine as a condition for international acceptance and assistance.

General-Major Sergey Sevryukov

General-Major Sevryukov Accepts His Army's Standard

General-Major Sevryukov Accepts His Army’s Standard

It’s worth looking at one army commander, as an example of who they are and the experience they have.

They’re the men who may lead the Russian Army in the not-so-distant future.  Exactly which ones and in which capacities is, of course, almost anyone’s guess.

Sergey Mikhaylovich Sevryukov officially assumed command of the Stavropol-based 49th Combined Arms Army on 9 January.

He landed on a “hot seat” given recent terrorist attacks in Pyatigorsk and Volgograd and the approach of the Sochi Olympics.  His first public comments were the rather stiff announcement that, at the Defense Minister’s order, his forces had commenced joint patrols with MVD units, along with a reassurance that his army is “in a state of increased combat readiness throughout all of Stavropol [Kray].”

A provincial city and region often touched by the Chechen wars, Stavropol is only about 150 miles by air from Sochi.

The 49th covers the western reaches of Russia’s North Caucasus — Stavropol, Krasnodar, Adygea, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, and Kabardino-Balkaria.

Sevryukov’s 49th includes the 34th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (Mountain), the 33rd Independent Reconnaissance Brigade (Mountain), and the 205th IMRB.  It is also responsible for Russia’s 7th and 4th Military Bases, established after the Russian-Georgian five-day war of August 2008 in Gudauta and Tskhinvali in the disputed breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia respectively.

The previous commander of the 49th noted last year that the army is about 80 percent re-equipped with new wheeled vehicles, the 205th has gotten modernized T-72s, and the missile brigade at Molkino has deployed the Iskander SRBM.

For completeness, let’s note that the 49th Army fought from Moscow to Berlin between 1941 and 1945, was disbanded, reformed in Krasnodar in 1991, reformed as the 67th Army Corps in 2002, and was disbanded again.  The present 49th was resurrected in 2010.

Conservative military commentator Vladislav Shurygin visited Sevryukov in 2008, and provided some insight on him.  Sevryukov, at the time, was chief of the Far East MD’s Khabarovsk-based 392nd District Training Center (OUTs or ОУЦ), tasked with turning some of the district’s conscripts into “junior commanders” [i.e. sergeants] or specialists.

Shurygin’s impression:  a colonel who wasn’t a “staff” type, army to the core.

He was born in Bugulma, a somewhat remote city in southeastern Tatarstan.  But he spent the majority of his teenage years in Kazan’s Suvorov School, finishing in 1982.

He would have been about 17, so we can say General-Major Sevryukov is in his late 40s.

He graduated from the Kazan Higher Tank Command School, probably taking his commission in 1986.

Shurygin says Sevryukov served in East Germany and the Leningrad Military District.

He didn’t mention that Sevryukov served a short tour (April-June 1995) early in the first Chechen war, commanding an independent tank battalion.  According to Krasnaya zvezda, he received the order Courage, one of Russia’s highest, for this.

He attended the mid-career Military Academy of Armored Troops starting in 1995, and was posted to the Far East, probably in 1997 or 1998.

Sevryukov commanded the “fortified region” or UR (УР), consisting of various fixed defenses, mine fields, machine gun-artillery battalions, and tank fire point companies, opposite Chinese forces on Bolshoy Ussuriyskiy and Tarabarov Islands, not far from Khabarovsk.

In fact, he was the UR’s last commander, since Moscow and Beijing settled their dispute over these Amur River islands in 2004.  He told Shurygin he supervised the dismantlement of Russia’s defensive works in the UR.

A brief Krasnaya zvezda mention seems to indicate Sevryukov was at the Military Academy of the General Staff in 2011, embarking on a candidate (PhD) of military science degree.

After this, Sevryukov probably became deputy commander of the 49th Army as a promotable O-6.  He achieved his current one-star rank in June 2013.

That is a part of the story of one army commander, perhaps typical, perhaps not.  Not very obvious in any of it are exactly the kind of officer he is and the important professional connections or patrons he has.

Army Commanders

Russia’s ten combined arms armies have new commanders (with one exception) since they were noted here in 2011.

In the first half of last year, General-Major Gurulev in the Southern MD’s 58th Army was investigated for “abetting” a crime by a former superior, Nikolay Pereslegin.  In 2005, Pereslegin reportedly “exceeded his authority” by using the labor of two soldiers while attending the GSA in Moscow – colloquially known as a “soldier slavery” case in Russian media.  For his part, Gurulev is suspected of covering the soldiers’ absence and Pereslegin’s tracks with paperwork.  Not clear where the case stands, but Gurulev remains in command of the 58th.

Most previous army commanders moved to deputy MD commander slots.

Here’s an updated map of Russia’s armies.

Ten Armies

Army Headquarters MD / OSK Commander
6th CAA Agalatovo Western General-Major Sergey Kuralenko
20th CAA Nizhnyy Novgorod Western General-Major Aleksandr Lapin
49th CAA Stavropol Southern General-Major Sergey Sevryukov
58th CAA Vladikavkaz Southern General-Major Andrey Gurulev
2nd CAA Samara Central General-Major Igor Seritskiy
41st CAA Novosibirsk Central General-Major Khasan Kaloyev
36th CAA Ulan-Ude Eastern General-Major Mikhail Teplinskiy
29th CAA Chita Eastern General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Romanchuk
35th CAA Belogorsk Eastern General-Lieutenant Sergey Solomatin
5th CAA Ussuriysk Eastern General-Major Aleksey Salmin

Shoot Better

Among changes (and changes of emphasis) in his first year, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu stressed something as basic as shooting better.

Putting metal on target more often.  Something that takes time, practice, and money.

Shoygu broached the issue while reviewing last summer’s exercises in the Eastern and Central MDs.

Defense Minister Shoygu Reviewing Exercises (photo: Mil.ru)

Defense Minister Shoygu Reviewing Exercises (photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu told the assembled brass:

“In the first place, it concerns poor results in destroying targets from TO&E weapons.  One of the main causes of this is an insufficient quantity of ammunition allocated for combat training of brigades according to existing norms.  We already talked about this problem.  Therefore today we need to adopt a clear mechanism to resolve it.”

Shoygu spoke publicly about the need to increase ammunition expenditure “by several times” from the current norm of 20 rounds per tank or artillery crew.  And more explicitly:

“Our colleagues in other countries shoot 160 shells a year per crew.  We have to increase our indicator at least five times.  We have every possibility for this.”

He and his subordinates mulled the irony that Russia destroys old munitions while not enough new ones are manufactured.  Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov said more money is going to ammunition production.

However, NVO’s Viktor Litovkin noted a different problem – practice firings too routine for crews to learn anything about shooting in combat:

“The first deficiency on which Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu focused is ‘we still shoot poorly.’  The causes here are several.  One of them is the fact that tankers, as a rule, conduct combat firings from training tanks.  Three-four of them per battalion.  The tank range on the brigade training area has been studied down to the last knoll, so that every sight setting is thoroughly well-known.  And how to fire at what distance.  And all targets are well-known.  Behind the sight of a TO&E tank, on unfamiliar terrain, people are lost.  And unacceptable mistakes ensue.”

So, the military leadership is more occupied with the quantity than the quality of training.

There’s a personnel policy connection here too, curiously  unmentioned by the leadership.

There are legions of former conscripts who rarely, if ever, fired live rounds from weapons locked in storage rooms of the barracks during their year of service.  But the planned expansion of contract service should produce many enlisted who stay long enough not only to learn to shoot better themselves, but to teach other contractees and conscripts.

Then there’s always technology.

Recently, Mil.ru reported that the Central MD’s Samara-based peacekeeping brigade [15th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade] increased the effectiveness of fire training by 20 percent after introducing laser simulators into the process.

This isn’t the first time the army’s used simulators, but it isn’t noted often.

Soldier Outfitted with 9F838 Tselik Laser Fire Simulator (photo: Mil.ru)

Soldier Outfitted with 9F838 Tselik Laser Fire Simulator (photo: Mil.ru)

It shouldn’t be news.  It’s been 34 years since the U.S. Army started using MILES.  What’s surprising is how late this technology is reaching Russian troops.  Mil.ru indicated the 15th IMRB got its simulators through new 2013 procurement.

The system is standard fare.  It looks a tad cumbersome, but it can reportedly be used with any infantry weapon, grenade launcher, or ATGM.

Russia is not so far behind in the technological sense, but more so in simply producing and using laser simulators.

One short dissertation says work on laser simulators began at TsKB Tochpribor in 1986.  Simulators for infantry weapons, BMPs, and tanks were fielded quickly.  The author concludes Soviet ones didn’t lag behind their U.S. or NATO counterparts.

But (he doesn’t note) just around the corner were the USSR’s disintegration and a long hiatus in Russian military procurement.

Still, Tochpribor stayed at the problem, developing new simulators (especially lighter ones) and an automated combined arms training system for up to 900 infantrymen and 180 combat vehicles called Barelef-SV, which passed state testing in 2008.

But domestic development and production like Tochpribor’s cannot fare well against Germany’s Rheinmetall and its €100-million-plus contract to build Moscow a brigade-sized live combat simulation and marksmanship training center slated to open this year in Mulino.

Parts of Russia’s defense industry are getting protection from the possibility of foreign competition (opened up by ex-Defense Minister Serdyukov), but apparently not this part.

Not that Tochpribor and Rheinmetall are in the same league.  The latter’s a world class designer and integrator of military simulators.  A system like that intended for Mulino is network-intensive, and it’s probably beyond Tochpribor’s competence.

Wind Blows Hard Across Iturup

Recently saw a compelling piece in Smartnews.ru.

Had not heard of the site, but its text and photos vividly convey the plight of the inhabitants of Russia’s unneeded military towns.

Military Settlement Gornyy on Iturup (photo: ovsiasha.livejournal.com)

Military Settlement Gornyy on Iturup (photo: ovsiasha.livejournal.com)

Five hundred residents of Gornyy, a military settlement on Iturup in the Kuril chain, have appealed for help to resettle them or fix their broken down homes.  Iturup is the northernmost of the four southern Kuril islands which Japan  claims as its Northern Territories.

Gornyy on Iturup Island

Gornyy on Iturup Island

Smartnews writes that the Ministry of Defense still controls Gornyy, but only in a formal sense.  In reality, it has “thrown away” these former colleagues.

Local authorities want to help, but don’t have a legal right.  They can’t spend money on territory still belonging to the MOD.  They aren’t allowed to replace drafty old windows in buildings under a regional initiative called “Warm Windows.”  The Sakhalin Oblast Duma has appealed to Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu on Gornyy’s behalf.

Forces deployed here, units of the 18th Machine Gun-Artillery Division, were withdrawn from the area, but residents remained with no one to maintain their apartment buildings.

A Building in Gornyy (photo:  ovsiasha.livejournal.com)

A Building in Gornyy (photo: ovsiasha.livejournal.com)

Those who could left.  Those not expecting an apartment elsewhere from the MOD, or with nowhere to go otherwise, mostly military pensioners and their families, stayed behind.  Those with jobs work mainly at nearby Burevestnik airfield, built when the Japanese still controlled Iturup.  They will probably become unemployed when a new airport opens on the Sea of Okhotsk side of the island in the not-too-distant future.

One retiree says the once thriving settlement is now like a cemetery.  Some buildings are completely empty.  Their broken windows look like eyes.  The wind blows through neighboring apartments.  He continues:

“. . . we don’t have street cleaning or trash collection.  But mainly, there’s no future.  It’s hard on the morale, it’s simply dying — the feeling that you served at the very edge of the country, protected it, and now no one needs you.”

Officials don’t even come to Gornyy because you can’t pass through it.  It’s the most remote populated place on Iturup.  It’s 50 km to the rayon center (Kurilsk) and the MOD owns the road and isn’t in a hurry to maintain it.

An oblast Duma deputy says:

“It’s not easy living there for the military, I have complaints from several:  the boys have left, there is no one to register them [as legal residents in internal passports], no one can get medical insurance, or even vote in elections.  So people live, although there is some infrastructure there — a school, kindergarten, stores, but they don’t want to live there.”

Local authorities do what they can, arranging traveling medical care for people in Gornyy.

But ultimately, Smartnews writes, neither Gornyy nor Sakhalin can decide anything, the MOD needs to make a final determination on its property and clarify the fate of those living in the settlement.

Some former military in Gornyy, however, still hope the MOD will deploy an S-400 unit near their settlement and revitalize it.

Gornyy is an extreme case, but still similar to that of thousands of other military towns as well as many neglected and forgotten civilian settlements.

VDV Gets Army’s Air Assault Brigades

Mil.ru reported today on President Putin’s 11 October ukaz transferring administrative and operational control of air assault brigades in Ussuriysk, Ulan-Ude, and Kamyshin from Eastern and Southern MD Commanders to General-Colonel Vladimir Shamanov and the VDV.

The MOD website says the decree is No. 776; it doesn’t appear on Kremlin.ru yet, but may later.

Mil.ru reported VDV commissions are already surveying the condition of weapons, equipment, and facilities in the three brigades, and converting their training program to match that of the VDV.

Shamanov announced that this change, and others, were pending back in early August.

Iskander-M “Brigade Set” Delivery

Some significant news from late June and early July, largely (or entirely) overlooked by Western observers . . .

Designer Kashin Shows Shoygu the Iskander-M (photo: Mil.ru)

Designer Kashin Shows Shoygu the Iskander-M (photo: Mil.ru)

Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu presided over the first delivery of a “brigade set” of Iskander-M (SS-26 / Stone) short-range ballistic missile systems at Kapustin Yar on 28 June.

According to Mil.ru, uniformed and civilian Defense Ministry officials, industry representatives, and journalists were present for the test range ceremony.

The delivery followed the MOD’s announcement last month that Iskander-M system components will no longer be supplied separately to the army, only in “brigade sets.”  The military department also reported a “long-term” contract for deliveries of the missile system until 2017 was concluded with the producer.

A complete “brigade set” includes missiles, launchers, transport-loaders, command-staff, data processing, check-out, and maintenance vehicles, and training systems.

Missile Troops at Attention in Front of Iskander-M Launchers (photo: Mil.ru)

Missile Troops at Attention in Front of Iskander-M Launchers (photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu reiterated that the MOD intends to reequip all ten Ground Forces missile brigades with Iskander-M before the end of 2017.  Ten brigades should deploy at least 120 missiles, not including reloads.  The Iskander-M is the only weapons system to be 100 percent procured before 2020, according to the MOD’s recently publicized Action Plan.

At Kapustin Yar, Iskander-M designer Valeriy Kashin of the Kolomna Machine-Building Design Bureau told reporters the military will receive another “brigade set” before year’s end, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta and Komsomolskaya pravda.

But completing the military’s order in less than five years could prove difficult for Russia’s defense industries.

NG reported Kashin said enterprises working on the Iskander-M have to “intensify” their activities several fold to meet the MOD deadline.  Seventeen specialized manufacturers are scheduled to upgrade and retool under a 40 billion ruble ($1.2 billion) investment effort.

However, actual reconstruction of production lines will not begin until 2014, according to online daily Vzglyad.

Shoygu told those in attendance at Kapustin Yar the most important step now is establishing the “essential infrastructure” for the deployment of new arms and equipment. He reemphasized this in a 1 July MOD videoconference by calling for special attention to synchronizing the delivery of weapons with the construction of bases and other support infrastructure where they will be deployed (and with the training of those who will operate them).

The defense minister stated that the MOD currently awaits completion of military construction projects worth 314 billion rubles ($9.7 billion). He said he wants the backlog eliminated before November.

An NVO correspondent present at Kapustin Yar reports that the just delivered Iskander-M brigade’s new facilities will be complete in September.

The newest Iskander-M brigade is likely intended for the Southern Military District, which presently only has one battalion of the new missiles. 

Shoygu is right to focus on arranging the appropriate infrastructure for Russia’s new armaments because it has traditionally neglected support and lifecycle investments in its military equipment.

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.

Putin on Ground Troops and VDV

Meeting on GPV for Ground Troops and VDV

Kremlin.ru has the transcript of President Putin’s introductory remarks yesterday at a meeting on the land armaments portion of the State Armaments Program, the GPV.  This is his second review of where things stand.  Recall in mid-June he held a session on the Air Forces and the GPV.

Noting that “leading countries” are increasing the potential of their ground forces with new reconnaissance, C2, and “highly accurate” systems, as well as modern armor, Putin continued:

“I remind you in the framework of the state armaments program to 2020 it’s planned to allocate more than 2.6 trillion rubles to outfitting the Ground and Airborne forces.  We have to reequip units and sub-units, to fill the troops with new equipment with these resources.  By 2020 its share must be not less than 70 percent.”

“So 10 ‘Iskander-M’ brigade missile systems, 9 S-300V4 army brigade SAM systems, more than 2,300 tanks, nearly 2,000 self-propelled artillery and gun systems, and also more than 30,000 units of automotive equipment alone must enter the Ground Troops.  Besides this, it’s planned to introduce new communications, C2, advanced reconnaissance systems, individual soldier systems.”

As previously, the president stressed that complete fulfillment on schedule and at agreed prices is “very important.”

Then Putin turned to three problem areas.

First, fielding new weapons systems is complicated by the involvement of many sub-contractors.  A breakdown in one contract can cause an entire effort to fail.  Putin cited the VDV’s new BMD and YeSU TZ as examples:

“[BMDs] still haven’t gone through state testing and, as a result, haven’t been accepted into the inventory.  In turn, this is impeding development of practically all the VDV’s weapons sub-systems.  Today I’d like to hear, respected colleagues, why the task of the state program in the area of armor development and supply to the VDV hasn’t been fulfilled.”

“Creating a unified command and control system for troops and weapons at the tactical level [YeSU TZ] is another example.  The test model still doesn’t fully answer the requirements the Defense Ministry set out.  And I’d like also today to hear how this question is being resolved.”

Refer here and here for recent words on the BMD-4M and YeSU TZ.

Second, the Ground Troops and VDV spend too little on R&D (10 and 5 percent of what they spend on serial purchases and repairs respectively).  And the R&D money is put toward a small number of projects.  The president wants more work on advanced soldier systems, infantry weapons, individual protection, and comms.

Third, and finally, there’s a mess in Russia’s munitions industry.  There’s no long-term plan for ammunition makers, and this presents a problem for new arms systems.  The time has come, Putin said, to determine how the Defense Ministry and enterprises in this sector will interact.

President Putin has really seized on the GPV.  It seems near and dear to him.  Or perhaps it seems more tractable than Russia’s political and economic problems.  More amenable to his directive leadership and manual control.

The cases Putin mentioned are longstanding, well-known “poster children” for the problems of the OPK, i.e. easy and logical targets.  One wonders what more pressing and acute, if less publicly advertised, military-industrial difficulties were discussed.  Putin’s focus on R&D is also a bit odd when you consider it’s been blamed for waste and slashed.

Putin didn’t address strong rumors and denials of slipping the schedule for GPV 2011-2020 to 2016-2023.

Does the GPV Look Like This?

If Putin keeps on the GPV, perhaps we’ll gain a somewhat sharper picture of how it’s shared out.  It’d be interesting to learn where the RVSN and VVKO fit.

Defense News

Some Russian defense news from June 8, 2012 . . .

Kremlin.ru and other sites noted several designers of the prefab or modular Voronezh BMEW radar have received a 2011 State Prize for Science and Technology.  The new system can be deployed 3-4 times faster, costs four times less to operate, and requires six times fewer personnel to service than the previous generation of radars, according to press reports.  TsAMTO carried the story as well as a review of the state of Voronezh deployments.

Izvestiya reported details on a consolidation of Russia’s munitions producers.  It’s been predicted for many months.  The country’s 56 producers will be reorganized into 5 holdings, with Bazalt, Pribor, and Mashinostroitel leading three of them.  A Bazalt rep basically admits the sector’s a mess, and it’ll take several years to organize the industry.

But Bloomberg and other media reported U.S. defense firms are actually looking to Rosoboroneksport for the purchase of munitions from Russian producers.

Topwar.ru carried an Interfaks story saying Delta IV-class SSBN Novomoskovsk is nearing the end of a modernization to extend its service life to 2021.  The sub went to sea for some trials last week.  It is, by the way, the newest of the class.  Zvezdochka is also working on Verkhoturye, and both SSBNs will reportedly return to service by the end of 2012.  See this earlier-posted related item.

RIAN reported an OSK source claims the Navy will buy up to ten support ships per year starting in 2013 to rebuild Russia’s naval auxiliary fleet.

General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov addressed the possibility of Finland joining NATO while in Helsinki.  He said this threatens Russia’s security.  But there were Western news service reports saying he said Finland’s military cooperation with NATO by itself is a threat to Moscow.  Voice of Russia covered the negative reactions of Finnish politicians as well as Russian commentators pointing out that the general’s view on another possible broadening of NATO is understandable.  VPK.name highlighted the story.

NVO interviewed new Ground Troops CINC, General-Colonel Vladimir Chirkin on his plans for army acquisition.  Chirkin said UAVs, reconnaissance systems like Strelets, Rys armored vehicles, S-300V4, Buk-M3, Tor-M2, and Verba SAMs, Iskander-M, Tornado-G (S), Msta-S, and Khrizantema-S missile and artillery systems, comms equipment, T-72B1(2), and BTR-82A will be procured out to 2015.  RIAN carried the abridged version.