Tag Archives: Aerospace Defense

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.

Thirteen VKO Brigades

Thirteen VKO Brigades

A little additional on that westward-leaning VVKO . . . the 13 VKO brigades are only a part of VVKO, but here’s how they’re laid out. 

They’re numbered 1-12 and 14. Six are in the Western MD. One in the Southern. Three in the Central. And three in the Far East MD.
 
  • 1st Aerospace Defense Brigade, Severomorsk, Western MD.
  • 2nd Aerospace Defense Brigade, Khvoynyy, Western MD.
  • 3rd Aerospace Defense Brigade, Kaliningrad, Western MD.
  • 4th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Dolgoprudnyy, Western MD.
  • 5th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Petrovskoye, Western MD.
  • 6th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Rzhev, Western MD.
  • 7th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Rostov-na-Donu, Southern MD.
  • 8th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Samara, Central MD.
  • 9th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Ob, Central MD.
  • 10th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Chita, Central MD.
  • 11th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Komsomolsk-na-Amure, Far East MD.
  • 12th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Vladivostok, Far East MD.
  • 14th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Yelizovo, Far East MD.

Ashurbeyli Interviewed (Part I)

Igor Ashurbeyli (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatakov)

Former Almaz-Antey General Director Igor Ashurbeyli gave RIA Novosti a long interview published on Monday.  Ashurbeyli was replaced at Almaz-Antey in early 2011, and he’s now a co-chair of the “Extradepartmental Expert Council on Aerospace Defense.”

He’s an accessible figure, having had extended sessions with the media in 2010 and 2009.  And his view of things has been pretty consistent.

This most recent Ashurbeyli interview spawned a number of sound bites saying that the former lead designer (among other things): 

  • called for establishing an overarching VKO industrial concern; 
  • offered the S-500 for European missile defense; and
  • said S-300 production has ended.

He actually had a lot more to say that might be worth a look.

Asked about Moscow’s anti-missile defense, Ashurbeyli replied that the service life of some Russian strategic interceptor missiles expired, while others [53T6 or Gazelle missiles] had their nuclear warheads removed per the decision of former President Yeltsin. 

Then Ashurbeyli gets to his point — the need for a new anti-missile defense (PRO) led to work on the mobile S-500 system.  Under the contract, it’s supposed to be accepted into the arsenal in 2015.  A schematic draft is complete, and technical design is being conducted.

On air defense, he says the S-300 and S-400 cover Moscow, but the service life of S-300PS systems will expire in the next year or two, and the new Vityaz system won’t be ready to take its place in the PVO network.

Ashurbeyli adds that Vityaz is expected in 2014-2015, but delays are possible due to problems with the new missile.

But, insists the former Almaz-Antey chief, there have never been any technical problem with the long-range missile for the S-400.  He says the problems have involved financing, preparing prototypes, and targets.  More targets and an updated target complex were needed.  And he foresees possibly the same problems with Vityaz testing.

Ashurbeyli tells his interviewer Vityaz, unlike the S-400, has just one base missile.  It will cover the same missions as the S-300PS and S-300PM.  The latter were last manufactured in 1994, and several dozen of the “freshest” will still have life for the next 7-10 years.  Most were updated to the Favorit (S-300PMU2) level but they aren’t new.  So, Ashurbeyli concludes, Russia needs to produce enough Vityaz to replace fully its S-300PS and S-300PM inventory.

The interviewer says relatively less has been written about Morfey.  Ashurbeyli obliges.  Morfey, he says, is a super short-range system and part of Russia’s echeloned defense.  While Vityaz is a medium-range system, and Pantsir and Tor are short-range weapons, Morfey is super short-range.  If developed as envisioned, Morfey will be unique.  It will have an omnidirectional cupola-type radar instead of a rotating one.

In sum, Ashurbeyli believes Morfey, Vityaz, S-400, and S-500 will be sufficient for the ground-based component of VKO for 20-25 years.  The tasks for Morfey and Vityaz were set in 2007 when the VPK decided to develop a single fifth generation surface-to-air PVO-PRO system.  The more complex S-500, he notes, will be longer in development.

More later.

Another Bet on Space Troops

The press continues picking up tidbits on the formation of Aerospace Defense (VKO).  In contrast to some recent information, Kommersant said yesterday General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko and his Space Troops (KV) have the upper hand in carrying out President Medvedev’s number one task from last year’s Federal Assembly address.

Meanwhile unofficial Air Forces (VVS) representatives are still confident VKO will be subsumed in the VVS (in Air Defense or PVO specifically). 

But normally well-informed military journalists have consistently maintained KV will get the mission and organization.  And General-Lieutenant Ostapenko has publicly stated he already has it. 

We can’t forget that General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov at one point suggested the Genshtab might take KV and PVO and establish VKO under its own control.

Kommersant’s most recent information says coordination of a candidate for chief of VKO has begun, and KV Commander Ostapenko is the frontrunner.  VKO will be established on the foundation of KV, according to the business daily.

Three VKO command and control posts will be established – in the VVS Glavkomat in Zarya (Balashikha, long PVO’s headquarters), in Krasnoznamensk (space monitoring’s headquarters), and in KV’s Moscow headquarters.

Kommersant’s information suggests VVS Commander, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin’s future hasn’t been decided and he could retire (or be retired).

Krasnaya zvezda reported that, in his recent press-conference, Zelin indicated OSK VKO (the old Moscow Air Defense District) will join a VKO Command including both KV and the VVS’ PVO and PRO Command on December 1.

The path seems pretty clear for KV to take charge of Russia’s VKO, but the bureaucratic struggle for it probably isn’t over.  There’s still time for surprises before the December 1 deadline.

Who Will Own VKO (Part II)

Returning to former General-Major Tazekhulakhov’s article in NVO . . . to make VKO an integral organism under unitary leadership and command and control, with personal responsibility for solving the tasks laid on the system, Tazekhulakhov believes it best, in the current Armed Forces structure, to concentrate troops (forces) and VKO system resources in one service or troop branch.

The ex-Deputy Chief of VPVO then reviews five possibilities:

  1. Give VVS PVO (including air defense aviation) to KV, and turn KV into a new branch called VVKO.
  2. Disband KV, give RKO to the VVS and space launch, monitoring, and other supporting structures to RVSN.
  3. Using KV as the base, create a new branch VVKO by including those VVS forces and resources currently in OSK VKO (the old KSpN, Moscow AVVSPVO, Moscow Air Defense District, etc.).
  4. Without transferring or resubordinating any of VVS or KV, establish a Strategic Command of VKO (SK VKO), and designate a commander to whom every MD / OSK, and every PVO, RKO, and REB resource would be subordinate for VKO missions in peace and wartime.
  5. Divide VKO along the existing MD / OSK lines with each of the four commanders responsible for the mission with common command and control exercised by the RF Armed Forces Central Command Post (ЦКП ВС РФ).

Tazekhulakhov says none of these possibilities is ideal.  Currently, VKO elements belong to different services, troop branches, Armed Forces structures, and even civilian departments.  PVO and RKO forces and resources aren’t evenly distributed throughout the RF.  And some are operationally subordinate to regional MD / OSK commanders and others (RKO and REB) to the center.  Triple subordination — administrative, operational, and support — violates one-man command for the VKO system.

Tazekhulakhov says the first three variants ask service or branches to perform missions outside their traditional competence.  Variant four would require agreement on the authorities of the VVS CINC, MD / OSK commanders, and the SK VKO commander.  Variant five makes it hard to find one commander responsible for VKO.

Of all variants, Tazekhulakhov finds variant two best.  It keeps the current integrity of VVS, and cuts one branch and reduces command and control organs.

But he’s found another problem not yet addressed — how to treat operational-tactical PVO and PRO of the MDs and fleets.  For it to operate on the same territory and with the same missions as strategic VKO, reconnaissance and warning information exchange and command and control and REB coordination has to be worked out.  And MD / OSK commanders won’t want to subordinate their forces, plans, and responsibilities to a VKO commander.

Lastly, Tazekhulakhov steps back to look at a bigger picture.  Why develop VKO?  With whom and how is Russia preparing to fight?  He concludes, from all appearances, U.S. missile defense won’t seriously impede Russian strategic nuclear forces, and, to some extent, Moscow has wasted time worrying about it:

“Russians need to stop getting harnessed, it’s time to get moving, and not simply waddle, but race full speed.  The result of our procrastination is obvious:  Russia is still trying through negotiations to find a compromise between its and NATO’s positions on missile defense, under cover of the protracted negotiating process, the American missile defense system in Europe is already approaching very close to Russia’s borders.  Evidently, it doesn’t do to waste time, hope and focus on NATO.  It’s essential to take serious military-political decisions and do what’s needed and useful for Russia, without looking at others.  No one, first and foremost the U.S., will give us anything, especially in the armaments area.  We have to rely only on ourselves.  Russia, undoubtedly, has no other way.”

Who Will Own VKO (Part I)

Retired General-Major Aleksandr Tazekhulakhov — Deputy Chief of Troop Air Defense in 2005-2009 — has written on military reform (and on VKO) before, but his piece in Friday’s Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye caught one’s attention.

Let’s get to the main points of his very long, but interesting, article.

Essentially, Tazekhulakhov asks whether trying to decide which service or branch will own VKO isn’t the most expensive and useless project.

The former air defender suggests that, if the character of future wars, dangers, and threats are considered:

“. . . it is essential to give priority to the development and improvement not of separate services and troop branches of the Armed Forces, but of strategic and operational-strategic reconnaissance-combat (offensive and defensive) systems, which are being established on the basis of troop (force) groupings on strategic axes with concrete combat missions.”

Tazekhulakhov says President Medvedev is looking for a unified VKO system, while Defense Minister Serdyukov is planning to deliver VKO Troops [войска ВКО].  The former one-star says:

“Considering that the creation of a system of aerospace defense (VKO), or of VKO Troops could turn out to be the most visible, expensive and at the same time most senseless and useless project, it’s essential to review once more the existential problems and variants for solving this complex mission.”

He stresses that the national missions of VKO can only be resolved according to a common concept and plan, under united command and control.  And he argues against near- or medium-term thoughts of providing equal defense for all Russian territory and borders.  He cautions against thinking the combat potential of VKO systems might someday compare with that of strategic nuclear forces:

“No country in the world today has or can foresee in the medium-term future a missile defense [ПРО] system which would be capable of repulsing a mass (counterforce) missile-nuclear strike, or even a strike consisting of several ICBMs.  Therefore it’s expedient to limit the scale of employing VKO systems to the following framework:  repulsing strikes employing single or small groups (3-5) of ICBMs, IRBMs, operational-tactical missiles, tactical missiles, single, group, or mass strikes by other means of air attack, destruction (suppression) of satellites and other space objects.  Limiting the scale of VKO system employment will allow for reducing expenditures on its maintenance, for making combat missions specific, and for concentrating efforts on developing the most important system components.”

Establishing the VKO system, according to Tazekhulakhov, is a two-fold task. 

Firstly, PVO, PRO, PRN, and KKP [air defense, missile defense, missile attack early warning, and space monitoring] systems have to come under unitary command and control.  This, he says, is an administrative and organizational task that can and should be done in the timeframe indicated by Medvedev.

Secondly, and more troublesome, is the process of uniting the various supporting elements of VKO — what Tazekhulakhov calls the “hidden part of the iceberg” or the “horizontal system components.”  They include reconnaissance and warning, fire and functional defeat (suppression), command and control, and material support.

He claims, however, that, for 30 years, state leaders, military leaders, military scientists, and industry representatives have tried without success to resolve this problem.  It has administrative, functional, technical, algorithmic, and programming aspects requiring resolution on a state level rather than a departmental [Defense Ministry] one.

Thus, Tazekhulakhov limits his discussion to the possibilities for solving the first (“tip of iceberg” or “vertical system components”) problem.

To be continued.

Second S-400 Regiment Delayed

The second S-400 regiment, or “regimental set,” hasn’t commenced combat duty at Dmitrov after all. 

This was supposed to happen on May 15, but didn’t.  According to RIA Novosti, a VVS spokesman said the official commencement of combat duty was postponed [again] from July 17 until the last ten days of this month.

The news agency says the ceremony will take place on Peremilovskaya Height, outside Dmitrov.  

Newly-minted VVS Main Staff Chief and First Deputy CINC, General-Major Viktor Bondarev said in June that a third S-400 regiment will become operational this fall.