Interfaks-AVN

Interfaks-AVN

Interfaks-AVN

Recently Interfaks-AVN, Interfaks’ Military News Agency, changed its publicly accessible front page with headlines like these to a new one where you can actually sample AVN’s fine reporting for free.

Marking the occasion by adding it to the blogroll.

Look for lots of tweets pointing to AVN stories.

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

What’s Been Bought

It’s usually challenging to discover what the Russian military bought in any given year.  But it’s somewhat easier now that procurement is increasing.

Shoygu in the Videoconference (photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu in the Videoconference (photo: Mil.ru)

On January 14, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu reviewed 2013 procurement in a year-opening videoconference.

He indicated that GOZ-2013 was fulfilled at 96 percent for RDT&E, 93 percent for armament and military equipment purchases, and 91 percent for repairs and servicing.  Purchases increased by 70 percent over 2012.

Beyond that no details.

If Shoygu’s scant and statistical, Topwar.ru’s Kirill Ryabov rescues us.

Ryabov says GOZ-2013 amounted to 1.45 trillion rubles, two-thirds more than 2012.  Roughly the same accounting as Shoygu’s 70 percent.  But Ryabov’s also tracked what was bought.  He doesn’t give full citations for his data.  But it’s a working list.

He starts with air defense:

  • 6 S-400 SAM battalions.
  • 6 Pantsir-S1 missile-gun systems (ZRPKs).
  • 24 Tor-M1-2U SAMs (SA-15 upgrade).
  • 12 Tunguska ZRPKs.

More than 300 combat and support vehicles for the Ground Troops, including:

  • 2 Iskander-M SSM brigades (107th in the Eastern and 1st in the Southern MD).
  • 54 BTR-82A APCs.
  • 12 BMO-T flamethrowers.
  • 90 Tornado and Grad MLRS.
  • 20 Khosta SP guns.
  • 40 Msta-S SP howitzers.
  • 16 Zoopark counterbattery radars.
  • 16 Leyer-2 EW systems.
  • 10 Redut-2US communications systems.

And reportedly more than 5,200 other vehicles and automobiles.

It gets murkier from here on . . . .

For the Air Forces, Ryabov indicates OAK, in 2013, got orders for 60 military aircraft for 62 billion rubles.  Only 35 were reportedly ordered in 2012.

  • 2008 contract for 36 [sic?] Su-34 fighter-bombers was completed in 2013, and Sukhoy started filling the 2012 contract for 92 more.
  • 12 Su-35S were delivered ahead of schedule.
  • 8 Su-30SM, 12 Yak-130 trainers, and an An-140-100 transport were delivered or will be soon (?).

For helicopters:

  • 19 Ka-52 / Alligator.
  • 8 Mi-28N / Night Hunter.
  • 3 Mi-35M.
  • 3 Mi-26.
  • 5 Mi-8AMTSh.
  • 7 Mi-8 (jamming variants).

For the Navy, 12 large and 43 small ships were reportedly launched.  Thirty-five ships and craft of various types were commissioned into the fleet.

Anything more specific requires additional investigation. 

Two Borey-class SSBNs (which can’t perform their primary mission) were accepted for service.  Steregushchiy-class (proyekt 20380) FFL Boykiy joined the Baltic Fleet.

Steregushchiy-class FFL Boykiy (photo: Topwar.ru)

Steregushchiy-class FFL Boykiy (photo: Topwar.ru)

As if on cue, Deputy Defense Minister (armaments chief) Yuriy Borisov held a press-conference on January 16 to discuss last year’s GOZ.

According to him, the Su-35S has not been accepted, but it’s about to be.  Initial deliveries aren’t far behind.  More than 2,200 armored vehicles and other transport means were purchased, and 1,700 modernized.  He said the share of modern armor has reached 24 percent.

The year just past definitely continued the trend of more military procurement from 2012.  But is it enough to get the volume of weapons systems Russia’s military and political leadership wants before 2020?

Remember what procurement lists floated in 2010 looked like:

  • 56 S-400 “units.”
  • 10 S-500 systems.
  • 600 aircraft.
  • 1,000 helicopters.
  • Bulava SLBMs.
  • 20 submarines.
  • 15 frigates.
  • 35 corvettes like Boykiy.
  • Mistral-class amphibious ships.
  • Several new ICBMs.

Even relatively healthy acquisition like GOZ-2013 won’t get to these numbers.

Second Tier Pacific Power?

Chinese Carrier Liaoning, or ex-Soviet Kuznetsov-class Varyag (photo: Reuters)

Chinese Carrier Liaoning, or ex-Soviet Kuznetsov-class Varyag (photo: Reuters)

Militaryparitet.com wrote recently about Jane’s Defence Weekly’s report on the possible start of construction of an indigenous Chinese aircraft carrier on Changxing, near Shanghai.  A new one, not an old one bought abroad and refurbished.

It may, or may not, be a carrier in the end.

Nevertheless, Militaryparitet quoted a 23 [sic] December Russia Today story about the Chinese carrier program:

“China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier will be a larger version of Liaoning.  The design is reportedly based on drafts of a Soviet-era, nuclear-powered, 80,000 ton vessel capable of carrying 60 aircraft.”

In other words, a later-day Ulyanovsk.

Militaryparitet also cites Voice of Russia.  It quoted Pavel Kamennov of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of the Far East, who claimed China will build two conventionally-powered carriers by 2015 [sic?] before constructing a nuclear one by 2020.

The government broadcaster tends to see a threat from China.  Its report came against the backdrop of Liaoning’s first deployment.

Then VoR turned to nationalist military commentator, retired naval officer Konstantin Sivkov to describe how the “geopolitical situation” will change when Chinese carrier groups take to sea in the future:

“. . . somewhere across 10 years China could put naval power comparable to the Americans on the Pacific Ocean.  This will signify that Russia has moved to the second tier on the Pacific Ocean, and the main players will be the USA and China.”

Now it seems likely China will soon surpass Russia as a carrier power.  Though one notes Moscow, even with a less than robust program, still has years of experience operating Kuznetsov that constitute a final remaining advantage over Beijing.

China catching the U.S. Navy is altogether different.

To its credit, Militaryparitet wrote that acquiring carriers is complex and expensive.  They take years to build, and many more to master their tactical and strategic operation.  There’s no substitute for experience in controlling carriers and battle groups under real-world conditions.  And the U.S. Navy has launched aircraft into combat from flattops for decades.

Those aren’t the only hurdles.

As the Russians learned, and the Chinese are learning, perhaps the most difficult step is fielding a high performance, carrier-capable fighter that can deliver a large combat load.  As RIA Novosti’s military commentator wrote in 2008:

“. . . to turn an ordinary fighter into a deck-based one through a small modernization is not possible.  The aircraft has to be designed from scratch, because the airframe of a deck-based aircraft experiences stress 2-3 times greater on landing than its ‘land-based brethren.’”

Not to mention the stress when the cat hurls it skyward.

So where does this leave us?

It’s no surprise Russian military observers and nationalist-minded elements lament the rise of China’s naval power and its fast-developing and emblematic carrier program.

But were it not for politeness, they could be reminded that China quite some time ago supplanted Russia as a “first tier” power in the Pacific in many ways.  Demographically, economically, diplomatically, and perhaps even militarily.

Other China-watchers (including many Russian ones) have a more benign, less zero-sum view.  They see Beijing as simply preparing to represent and defend its interests, which may or may not conflict with Moscow’s (or Washington’s for that matter).

Meanwhile, Western Russia-watchers tend a little cottage industry of trying to divine how Moscow really feels about China.  And the wisest ones probably say there’s more than one correct answer to this question.

Promotion List

It appears the best way to get the latest promotion list out is now Google Docs.  This conclusion follows a number of frustrating gyrations.

These promotions came in President Putin’s decree signed out 12 December 2013 and published in Krasnaya zvezda.

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.