Tag Archives: Aleksandr Zelin

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.

Zelin’s Update (Part II)

General-Colonel Zelin

In his recent NVO interview, VVS CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin wasn’t as specific about transport aircraft and helicopter acquisition as about fighters.

He mentioned “reestablishing” An-124-100 and An-124-300 production, and said the Il-76MD-90A will fly in July.  The An-70 is moving forward with Ukraine, he says.

The VVS has settled on the An-140-100 as a light transport.  Russia will work jointly with India on a light MTA (multirole transport aircraft?), and Moscow may buy up to 100, according to Zelin.

Zelin concludes VTA must have not less than 300 aircraft.  That might actually be about what it already has.

The CINC says the General Staff wants VTA to be capable of lifting a “light” brigade anywhere in the country or abroad if necessary.

On helicopters, General-Colonel Zelin reemphasized the goal of 1,000 new ones by 2020.

He mentions getting about 100 Mi-26, or Mi-26T, heavy lift helos, as well as the Mi-8AMTSh, Mi-8MTV5, and Mi-38 (another Mi-8 variant). 

Zelin says little about the Mi-28N and Ka-52 except they’re complementary.  He sees no need to choose between them, but the former will be the military’s line combat helicopter.

Zelin’s Update (Part I)

Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin gave NVO editor-in-chief Viktor Litovkin an extremely long interview last Friday.  Zelin expanded on things he’s said in previous press encounters.  Some interesting stuff.

Here’s the first part of a quick synopsis.

Su-34.  Zelin mentions the contract for 92 by 2020, but says the VVS will buy 124 or even 140.  He again talks about making it a strategic platform by adding a long-range cruise missile.

Su-35.  The contract for 48 could become 100.

Su-30SM.  This fighter will be used in the progression of pilot training for Su-35 and PAK FA / T-50.

Yak-130.  Zelin mentions using this trainer as the base to develop a light strike fighter for training Su-34 and Su-35 pilots.

MiG-31.  The Air Forces CINC expounds on this old interceptor and plans for it.  About 100 will be kept, and Zelin talks about using a meter wavelength navigation system on it (and other aircraft) so it can operate from civilian airfields.

Su-24.  Two squadrons of “high series” Su-24 will be kept under Gusar and Metronom R&D efforts.  This is necessary because the VVS can’t go entirely to the Su-34, which, incidentally, will be based at Khurba, Chelyabinsk, Krymsk, Voronezh, and Lipetsk.

PAK FA / T-50.  Still planning on 60.

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.

Zelin’s Press Availability

Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin made a variety of remarks to the media this morning.  It’s not clear where yet, but it might have been a press-conference at ITAR-TASS.  It’s the season for such things with Air Forces Day and MAKS-2011 just ahead.

At any rate, Zelin had a lot of information on the status of different VVS programs and plans:

  • Army aviation will expand by more than 1,000 helicopters by 2020.  The number of army aviation bases will grow from 8 to 14 during that time.  He mentioned reestablishing production of Mi-26 transports in a POL supply variant.  Zelin doesn’t sound like he’s willing to surrender the VVS’ hold on army aviation.
  • Zelin mentioned getting 8 or 6 new Su-34 this year.  ITAR-TASS gave both numbers, but we’ve seen six elsewhere.
  • The VVS CINC criticized work on the Su-35, saying it has a number of problems.  PAK FA / T-50 is going on schedule, but he wouldn’t say when he expects it to enter the inventory.
  • On UAVs, some drones will go to the Ground Troops per a Genshtab decision, but Zelin says operational-tactical unmanned aircraft will stay at air bases under the control of military district commanders.
  • Without mentioning S-500 development, Zelin talked about new Morfey and Vityaz SAMs.  Morfey is a short-range system mentioned before as part of S-500.  Zelin described Vityaz in greater detail, calling it an improvement on the S-300 with greater capabilities and 16 missiles per launcher.  See ITAR-TASS for this.
  • Zelin said there will be four S-400 regiments by the end of 2011.  He said the second one, the 210th Air Defense Regiment, went on combat duty with it last week, so two more are expected.  The CINC said the manufacturer’s had problems with the system’s long-range missile, but there is an understanding on how to resolve them.  The Air Forces, he says, still want Almaz-Antey to build another production plant.  Interfaks posted on this.
  • The next 6 Pantsir-S gun-missile air defense systems will go to the OSK VKO around Moscow.  Zelin said the first 4 went to the 4th Air Forces and Air Defense Command at Novorossiysk.
  • Another flight demonstration group will be formed using Yak-130 trainers.
  • Zelin expects to get a new A-100 AWACS aircraft, based on the Il-476, by 2016.  He says it will have both air and ground surveillance missions.  The plan has Genshtab and financial support, according to Zelin.

General Staff Chief Makarov’s Retirement Rumored

On Thursday, Argumenty nedeli said its source claims Defense Minister Serdyukov will soon send some well-known generals into retirement.  The Defense Ministry press service, of course, denies it.

AN’s source says the departure of these generals isn’t due to conflict between them and Serdyukov, but rather to the latter’s policy of “rejuvenating” Russia’s high command.  Among those who will allegedly be retired:

  • General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov (61).
  • Deputy Defense Minister for Rear Services, General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov (56).
  • Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin (57).
  • Navy CINC, Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy (56).
  • Space Troops Commander, General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko (53).

It’s interesting because none of them is really up against the legal age limit for leaving military service.  And Makarov apparently already has a service term extension from President Medvedev. 

One presumes, according to AN’s information, that the Ground Troops CINC, and RVSN and VDV Commanders are safe for now.

AN also expects some of the newly appointed MD commanders to be dismissed or moved to new posts.

There are other angles to AN’s story besides more rotation in cadres.

First, it repeats earlier press on trouble in finding a replacement for “key military department figure,” former Deputy Defense Minister for Finance-Economic Work Vera Chistova who left her post three months ago. 

An AN source in the Finance-Economic Service claims the lack of a replacement puts in doubt Prime Minister Putin’s promise to deliver a 6.5 percent increase in military pensions on 1 April.  Budget resources weren’t allocated for this.  And there’s still no candidate to replace Chistova.  And without one such issues simply won’t be resolved. 

AN doesn’t mention also that as active duty officer pay is reformed this year, the Defense Ministry will have to figure what to do about retiree pay.  If, as expected, they break the long-standing link between active pay and military pensions, the vets aren’t going to be very happy just before the 2011 and 2012 elections.  Putin just courted representatives of veterans’ organizations about a week ago.

According to AN, the Defense Minister has offered the military finance portfolio to more than one official at different levels in the Finance and Economic Development Ministries, but all of them declined.

The military department’s officers are also talking loudly about the coming appointment of a new Serdyukov deputy who will be called in to “correctly”  track the military’s political preferences ahead of the fast-approaching legislative and presidential elections.  

A high-ranking but unnamed military man tells AN

“He will be an important civilian and definitely a member of ‘United Russia.’  It goes without saying this is connected with the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.  The negative mood of officers is great, it is directed against the minister, his assistants and the party of power which is conducting the reforms without considering the human costs.”

Zelin Out?

An Interfaks source in the Defense Ministry says Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin might be retiring on age grounds.  The rumor goes that Zelin’s Deputy for Aviation, General-Lieutenant Igor Sadofyev will relieve him, while Zelin moves into a defense industry job.  RIA Novosti reports the same story, citing several media outlets.  The Air Forces spokesman, meanwhile, says the VVS cannot comment because it doesn’t have any information to this effect.

RIA Novosti talked to defense commentator Igor Korotchenko, who expressed caution about the Zelin rumor, but said the move to four MDs / OSKs has diminished the service CINC’s influence:

“The role and place of the main commands of the services of the Armed Forces has been reduced accordingly.  Practically all aviation, except strategic, will be subordinate to the OSK commander.”

He says the story of Zelin’s possible departure may have surfaced because of the downgrading of the service CINCs.

It’s interesting that age was cited since Zelin’s only 57, and can serve until age 60 under the law.  He’s headed the VVS since May 2007. 

The three-star general was the subject of dismissal rumors in 2009 when the General Staff Chief and Defense Minister were allegedly unhappy with his insufficient command of air-space (aerospace) defense (VKO) issues.  See Newsru.com and Grani.ru for that story.