Tag Archives: Combat Readiness

Air Forces Half Out-of-Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the interesting part . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These numbers require pretty fast improvement.

More on the Inspection

Inspection Report Delivered in Central Command Post

Inspection Report Delivered in Central Command Post

More reaction to the results of the inspection . . .

Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye editor Viktor Litovkin expressed surprise at “the military’s absolute openness” in allowing journalists to attend General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov’s report on the results of the exercise.

Litovkin noted the 98th Air-Assault Division’s 227th Parachute-Assault Regiment participated in the exercise.  Su-25 and Su-24 aircraft flew from 4th Air and Air Defense Command bases at Primorsko-Akhtarsk, Morozovsk, and Marinovka.

201st Military Base Commander, Colonel Sergey Ryumshin attributed his problems in communicating to the Russian military in Tajikistan using old local phone lines, which are often out of order.  Gerasimov ordered the chief of the Main (?!) Directorate of Communications to sort out the problems.

Litovkin added that part and system malfunctions kept five Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters from the 2nd Air and Air Defense Command’s 565th Aviation Base from joining the exercise.  Su-25 ground attack aircraft from the 4th Command’s 6972nd Aviation Base returned home without dropping ordnance. 

Two Msta-S artillery systems were out of order in the Central MD’s 28th Motorized Rifle Brigade.  Oleg Sidenko [sic] was there to answer for this.  He said there are defects in 900 Msta-S systems.  Siyenko, you’ll recall, is General Director of Uralvagonzavod, owner of Uraltransmash.  The latter has a contract to maintain the Msta-S, but needs to buy new components from sub-contractors.  Siyenko indicated he wants his enterprise to take over Oboronservis affiliate Spetsremont, currently responsible for Defense Ministry armored vehicles.  He said UVZ can’t constantly make repairs “on the fly.”

Litovkin reported 100 R-168-5un radios in the 58th Army are inoperable.  Specialists call these systems from the Yaroslavl Radio Factory unreliable.

However, an earlier NVO article, by Oleg Vladykin, points to the positive; 20 VTA transports were able to operate successfully. 

Vedomosti’s Aleksey Nikolskiy summed the inspection up this way:

“In Soviet times such evaluations were conducted so often that every officer fell into them at least once every two years, says retired Colonel Viktor Murakhovskiy.  Unsatisfactory results after so many years without normal combat training don’t surprise the expert, in his words, such an inspection is very useful and will give the Genshtab a picture of the true condition of combat readiness.  The reason such a large quantity of equipment is out of order is also fully clear — organizational chaos has ruled in the realm of equipment repair in the troops in recent years, the expert says.  Therefore Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s decision to return repair sub-units which were liquidated in the course of the transition to outsourcing should be implemented as quickly as possible.”

Yes, it’s not surprising, and the honesty is the first step toward improvement.  But we should remember the civilian side of the Serdyukov-led Defense Ministry really didn’t, and wasn’t supposed to, worry too much about what the troops could do in strictly military terms.  That was properly the responsibility of the General Staff.  Shouldn’t it be criticizing itself too?  Shouldn’t it have come forward about problems earlier?

And one has to wonder, in the relatively short period of time since Serdyukov announced the outsourcing of most army maintenance, how much outsourcing was actually done?  Certainly some, but certainly not all of it.  Nevertheless, Serdyukov’s scheme is certainly bearing the brunt of the blame.  A proper question might be how capable were those repair sub-units before Serdyukov supposedly swept them all away?  Probably not very.

Army General Gerasimov promised surprise inspections and exercises will occur regularly now.  It’ll be interesting to see just how routine they become.

Surprise Inspection

Army General Valeriy Gerasimov

Army General Valeriy Gerasimov

Complete coverage of General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov’s remarks on the surprise inspection and readiness exercise can be found on Radio Voice of Russia or Mil.ru.

According to the newly-minted army general (four stars), the General Staff planned the inspection on the Defense Minister’s order.  It evaluated command and control organs, formations, and units of the Central and Southern MDs, VDV, VTA, and the 12th GUMO.  It was the largest of its kind in 20 years. 

The inspection began at 0400 on 18 February when operational and unit duty officers received packets with General Staff orders to go to higher states of combat readiness and carry out combat training missions.  This, Gerasimov said, required moving and transporting forces to exercise areas and “unfamiliar terrain” far from their permanent deployment locations.  The inspection included 7,000 soldiers, several hundred pieces of equipment, and 48 aircraft.

The General Staff Chief emphasized that the inspection was a complete surprise to command and control organs and troops to allow for objectively the combat readiness of formations and uncovering problems.

He praised the readiness and performance of sub-units of the VDV’s 98th Air-Assault Division (Ivanovo) and the 4th Air Forces and Air Defense Command (Southern MD / Rostov).  What was likely a battalion tactical group of the 98th loaded in twenty Il-76 transports and flew to Shagol outside Chelyabinsk, marched 100 km under difficult conditions (-20° C / -4° F, broken terrain, deep snow cover) to Chebarkul, and conducted its combat training.  For its part, the 4th VVS and PVO Command’s aircraft conducted bombing exercises with good or excellent results.

There were, however, “a number of systematic deficiencies in the state of combat readiness and lever of personnel training.” 

In practically all evaluated elements, duty officers showed weak skill in transmitting orders via automated combat command and control systems.  They weren’t certain how to receive the order to go to higher readiness.  In the VDV and the 201st Military Base, it took too long to send signals to subordinate troops.

In the Central MD’s 28th Motorized Rifle Brigade, training center graduates, drivers, and mechanic-drivers showed a low level of training.  Tank and BMP crews usually got only satisfactory in firing exercises.  Young officers just graduated from military schools exhibited poor knowledge of weapons and equipment.

Equipment generally performed reliably, given the weather conditions and its age.  Some of it required repair in the field, and, according to Gerasimov, this demonstrated the expedience of the Defense Minister’s decision to reestablish maintenance units.  But they need more training, spare parts, and improved organization.  Factory repair is more problematic:

“Sufficiently efficient work by repair factories and industrial enterprises is a serious problem for the troops.  Equipment coming from capital or medium repair, even under a service guarantee, often breaks down in the first months of its use in line units.  An analysis of deficiencies discovered is currently being conducted.”

Interesting, where does the fault lie?  The factory or troops and young officers who don’t know how to use or repair it?

Gerasimov admitted and lamented that nearly two-thirds of aircraft (in units being drilled?) is out of repair.  He called effective resolution of this problem the most important joint task of command and control organs and industry.

Gerasimov called the BMD-2 both obsolete and worn-out at 20 to 25 years old, or even more.  At 14.2 metric tons, he said the BMD-4M’s weight is at the limit for air transport, and an Il-76 can only carry three.  The General Staff Chief cited repair problems with Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters, Su-25, self-propelled Msta artillery, and R-168-5un radio.  He indicated the still experimental Volk armored vehicle doesn’t meet 12 of its TTZs and won’t undergo repeat state testing.

Gerasimov said the Defense Minister has decided inspections like this will now take place on a regular basis.

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.

Longer Combat Duty

Yars in the Field

Seems like standard stuff but there might be something here.  It could be the U.S.-Russian deadlock over missile defense.  It might (somewhat ironically) be the increasing age of Russia’s mobile ICBMs.  There are probably additional or alternative explanations.

Krasnaya zvezda and Mil.ru have dedicated print recently to Russian mobile ICBMs spending more time on their combat patrol routes.

On January 18, KZ wrote that Topol, Topol-M, and Yars units from central Russia and Siberia are in the midst of exercises to implement the highest states of combat readiness and to carry out combat duty on combat patrol routes (in field positions).  Troops are conducting a number of training tasks – system calibration, engineering preparation of field positions, CCD (maskirovka), and combat security.  They also have to react to training “injects” from higher commands.

The Defense Ministry’s daily said units would be deployed to field positions for a longer period, from January 16 to February 3.  It indicated all divisions and units will also institute a new type of training this winter — a “complex practical exercise” in implementing combat readiness.

RIA Novosti’s account indicated this annual training is routine, just with more time spent in the field.

In a December 28 review of the year in RVSN, KZ reported turgidly:

“90 percent of field training measures were conducted with missile launcher regiments and battalions departing for combat patrol routes.  In the summer training period, a test of the order of conducting combat duty in the highest combat readiness states with an increased duration of mobile ground missile regiments on combat patrol routes was conducted.  This allowed for ensuring the readiness of missile launcher regiments for maneuvering actions.  All missile regiments were evaluated positively in the results of the tactical exercises.”

In mid-November, Mil.ru summarized RVSN Commander General-Lieutenant Karakayev’s comments:

“Division, unit, and sub-unit combat training was maintained at a level ensuring their capability to conduct military actions under various conditions of the situation.  A test of the order of conducting combat duty in the highest states of combat readiness with an increased duration of mobile missile regiments on combat patrol routes was conducted.”

“The training of multi-axle chassis mechanic-drivers ensured accident-free operation of nuclear weapons.  Despite the fact that currently more than 70% of missile systems are beyond the limit of their warranty periods, the technical condition, the reliability characteristics of the armaments and military equipment guaranteed maintenance of the required level of combat readiness of missile systems.”

You can find additional relevant info on RVSN combat duty and patrols here.

General Resignation

Tomorrow’s Nezavisimaya gazeta reports Defense Ministry sources claim several young, promising generals have tendered their resignations because of problems with General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov.  NG says they include Deputy General Staff Chief and Main Operations Directorate Chief, General-Lieutenant Andrey Tretyak, First Deputy Ground Troops CINC and Main Staff Chief, General-Lieutenant Sergey Skokov, and Genshtab Electronic Warfare Directorate Chief, General-Major Oleg Ivanov, and others.

The paper describes these guys as the Russian Army’s future leaders.  So why do they want to quit?  The reasons, unfortunately, haven’t been advertised (yet).

NG points out that, if Tretyak leaves, the GOU (the cerebral cortex of the “brain of the army”) will have its third chief in four years.  Skokov has been a key man working on automated C2 (YeSU TZ or ЕСУ ТЗ).  A “highly-placed” anonymous officer says it’s because of their disagreement with army reform steps taken by Makarov.  And explicitly not because of any problem with Defense Minister Serdyukov, whom they regard as an effective manager. 

They feel the Armed Forces, during Makarov’s tenure, have been in a provisional, experimental state, living on projects and according to unconfirmed directives (basic instructions and combat regs).  And after three years of “development,” the Genshtab Chief still can’t determine their final shape.  There are no confirmed decisions on service or branch TO&E structures, or their basing areas.  NG’s anonymous contact says the condition of the troops, and their “fantastic” combat training about which Makarov likes to talk, is “a fiction, which could be the topic of a separate conversation.”

The source implies time, money, and other resources have been wasted trying to develop automated C2 for old-fashioned, World War II-type operations.  And this is why Skokov requested his discharge.

NG’s sources believe this “scandal” will have political consequences.  The paper wonders whether President Medvedev will choose to get involved.  A source claims Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov is supposed to meet with the generals who want to quit, and discuss their problems with Makarov “from the point of view of the state’s interests.”

More on Armaments from Burenok

Interfaks reported more on Burenok’s presentation at the ‘Army and Society’ exhibition.

Burenok said he expects arms and equipment now in service to be decommissioned en masse in 2013-2015.

“Now, the percentage of equipment which requires repairs, because it was used incorrectly or has parts missing, is considerable, and is a significant factor affecting the combat readiness status of the arms and equipment inventory.”

Burenok believes the current condition of armaments can support armed forces’ missions at no more than the minimum necessary level.

“This primarily has to do with the fact that equipment manufactured back in the Soviet period is becoming increasingly worn-out and obsolete, as well as the fact that there is not enough money and resources to restore the armaments and equipment inventory to a good state of repair, while the existing resources are not being used very effectively.”

Collapsing Contract Service, the Draft, and Professional NCOs

General Staff Chief Makarov’s recent death pronouncement for contract service means, as he said, more conscripts in the near future (or an attempt to conscript more soldiers).

In the longer run, however, the collapse of contract service means the Russian Army faces several manpower policy choices, each unpalatable for its own reasons.  The army will likely be less combat ready, and less combat capable, than desired.

Think back about where the army’s been, and how it reached the current predicament.

The armed forces were reportedly 1.13 million men, but probably more, in recent years.  At any moment, they had four distinct draft contingents of about 130,000 conscripts, totaling 520,000 draftees.  Next, they had a layer of perhaps 300,000 contractees and warrant officers.  The contractees included probably 90,000 long-term enlisted, NCOs, and females as well as no more than 80,000 contract soldiers from 2002 and later.  There were probably about 130,000 warrants.

So, let’s count 520,000 conscripts and the middle layer of 300,000, for a total of 820,000.  Lastly, on top, let’s add nearly 400,000 officers. 

What did this manpower structure mean for the Russian Army’s force structure?

With practically the same number of conscripts and officers, the force structure was hollow–few units or formations were fully manned and many low-strength (cadre) units had officers and equipment, but only small numbers of soldiers–conscript or contract–and they existed only to be fleshed out with mobilized reservists in the unlikely event of a big war.

This structure didn’t work well in little wars like Chechnya or more recently Georgia in which the army had to piece together regiments by finding combat ready battalions and capable commanders wherever they could be found.

In 2006, Putin said of the military dilemma at the outset of the second Chechen war:

“. . . we needed to gather a force of at least 65,000 men.  And yet the in all of the Ground Troops there were only 55,000 in combat ready units, and even they were scattered all around the country.  The army was 1.4 million strong, but there was no one to do the fighting.  And so unseasoned lads were sent to face the bullets.”

And in late 2008, Medvedev emphasized the need for 100 percent combat ready units as the number one lesson of the August conflict over South Ossetia:

“Overall, these changes aim to make the Armed Forces more combat ready.  We talked about the war in the Caucasus, where our armed forces demonstrated their best qualities, but this does not mean that there were not also problems that became apparent.  We need to continue improving our Armed Forces. What steps does this require?  First, we need to move over to a system of service only in permanent combat ready units.”

So, after the August war with Georgia, Serdyukov moved to eliminate the huge, big-war mobilization base, hollow units, and unneeded officers, and to use the savings to man and outfit 85 Ground Troops brigades in a permanently combat ready condition.

Given a nominal strength of 3,000 men in them, the army needs roughly 260,000 troops to man these new combat brigades.  And this doesn’t count conscripts needed elsewhere in the Ground Troops, Rear Services, VVS, VMF, RVSN, VDV, or KV.

With the commencement of the one-year draft in 2008, Moscow doubled its induction of conscripts from 130,000 to 270,000 every six months.  And the Ground Troops need fully half the 540,000 conscripts present in the armed forces at any given moment.

Like any country, Russia has a real and an ideal army, the army it has and the army it wants (a la Rumsfeld).  Moscow’s ideal army by 2012 has one million men, including 150,000 officers, a layer of 64,000 professional NCOs, and conscripts as the balance, perhaps 800,000.

But the Arbat military district hasn’t articulated it this clearly for several reasons.  First, shedding officers and (warrants) year after year isn’t an easy task.  Second, the number of professional NCOs desired or available in the future is in doubt given General Staff Chief Makarov’s and Defense Minister Serdyukov’s statements on the failure of contract service and the apparent withdrawal of funding for the current contract sergeants program.  And third, it’s unclear if Moscow can draft 400,000 young men semiannually to put 800,000 soldiers in the ranks.

The army Russia has is messier than the vision stated above.  Serdyukov says they are at 1 million already.  There were a reported 355,000 officers at the outset of the current reform in late 2008.  About 40,000 officer billets were vacant and 65,000 officers were released in 2009, putting them at 250,000 officers today.  Serdyukov has set about the elimination of almost all warrant officers, but he hasn’t said what they’ve done in this regard yet. Let’s guess 30,000 have been dismissed, leaving 100,000 warrants.  Let’s also make reasonable guesses that 60,000 recent contractees and 70,000 longer term ones remain in the troops.

So what is there?  Armed forces with 540,000 conscript soldiers and about 480,000 officers, warrants, and contract enlisted.  Moscow will have to revitalize its military education system to get the smaller number of quality officers needed in the future.  Getting the requisite numbers of conscripts will be a challenge given the country’s well-known demographic problems which are biting hard right now.  But obtaining the noncommissioned officer layer of military unit leadership is also proving difficult.  The layer is presently a jumble of perhaps 230,000 warrant officers, contract sergeants, and even officers and warrants who’ve accepted downgraded positions rather than dismissal.  It is not the army’s ideal, but this middle layer fulfills some functions.

With all this said, what are the Russian Army’s manpower options for the future?

If Moscow actually reduces the officer corps to 150,000 by 2012 and the contract sergeant program is not put on track, the balance of its 1 million man army could be 800,000 or 850,000 conscripts (including conscript-sergeants trained for only 3 or 6 months).  Drafting 400,000-425,000 men every six months would be practically impossible.  Of the current cohort of maybe 900,000 18-year-olds, maybe 300,000 can be inducted, leaving the army to find 500,000-550,000 conscripts among men who are 19-27 and have not already served, but can be difficult to induct for various reasons.

Even if manned fully, a 12-month force has to make Moscow wonder whether this mass of conscripts with this amount of training really meets its definition of a modern, combat-ready, and combat-capable army.

Reducing the manpower requirement by cutting the army’s overall size would reduce the draft burden, but it would contravene the decreed million-man army policy.  There would be howls of protest that the army is too small to cover Russia’s borders (as if one million is even enough to do it).

Extending conscription back even to 18 months would ease this task considerably.  Moscow could take just slightly more than the 270,000 it is conscripting now for 12 months, and by keeping them an extra six months, it could work its way up to a conscripted force of nearly 850,000 in the space of a year and a half.  An increased draft term would be unpopular but Russians would swallow it.  It’s not like it would lead to a Medvedev (or Putin) defeat at the polls in 2012.  The real problem might be the draft’s similarity to taxes–the longer (or higher) they get, the more incentive for people to avoid them.

So that brings us back to the central point.

The way to reduce the number of conscripts needed for a million-man army, keep the draft term at 12 months, and have a reasonably well-trained and capable force is the one path that has been abandoned–developing a large and professional NCO corps that has the right material incentives to serve for a career.

The slow-to-start, small-scale, and apparently recently eviscerated Federal Goal Program to train only 64,000 professional sergeants is not enough.  The current ranks 230,000 of former officers turned sergeants, warrant officers, warrants turned sergeants, contract sergeants, and enlisted contractees is a stew that could theoretically be converted to a professional NCO corps, but it would be far from easy.  In terms of size, however, it’s more like what’s required to do the job, lighten the conscription load a little, and impart some professionalism to a mass, short-term draftee army, if these NCOs become professionals themselves.

What professional NCOs demand in return is pretty basic (higher than median income wages, family housing, and guaranteed off-duty time outside the garrison), but they haven’t gotten it since the most recent contract experiments began in the early 2000s.  In many cases, even officers haven’t got these things.  But the pay promised in the contract sergeant program (up to 35,000 rubles per month after graduation) is more like what’s needed to attract men.

The sergeant program seems to be the army they want, but the Defense Ministry appears to have pulled the financial plug on it.  The flotsam and jetsam is the army they have and might be turned into something, but there’s no move in this direction as yet.  Meanwhile, recall that Serdyukov’s plan for mass officer reductions was partly justified by the thinking that many officer tasks would go into the hands of capable NCOs.  And as recently as the 5 March Defense Ministry collegium, Medvedev said:

“Particular attention also should go to sergeant personnel. Sergeants need to be capable, if the situation demands it, of replacing their tactical level officers.”

Evaluating Combat Capability

Part 2 of the Voyennaya mysl article focuses specifically on methods of evaluating and calculating indicators of combat capability for tactical units.

Every unit possessing personnel, arms and equipment, and necessary material supplies has combat capability.  The level of combat capability multiplies the following factors:

  • The quantitative level of personnel, arms and equipment, and supplies.
  • The suitability of arms and equipment.
  • The quality of supplies.
  • The condition of personnel (morale-psychological and physical, discipline, professional training, and combat integration).
  • The condition of the command and control system.

Determining the Combat Capability Level of a Sub-Unit

Decrements in each of the factors take the theoretical armaments potential of 1 down to a combat capability level of .43 in the author’s example.

He goes on to show how each of the factors themselves are individually broken down and evaluated.  What could be called sub-factors in them are each evaluated by a familiar excellent (1), good (.95), or satisfactory (.9) standard.  He describes how of positive, good, and excellent training evaluations are converted into the professional training sub-factor.  He has an interesting chart showing things like less than 70 percent positive evaluations is an unsatisfactory, not less than 70 percent positive evaluations is a satisfactory, etc.

The author summarizes by saying his approach allows for identifying problem areas in combat capability with an eye to improving combat potential.  The results of inspections can be used to evaluate soldiers and then the entire sub-unit.  So 60 percent of soldiers at excellent (.8), 20 percent at good (.7), 15 percent at satisfactory (.6), and 5 percent at unsatisfactory (.4) gives the sub-unit an overall evaluation of .73.  This has to be multiplied against the quantitative first bullet above, if it’s .8, then .73 x .8 yields a combat capability level of .584.

The point is, at this working military academic level, the Russians have what might be a fairly rigorous methodology for evaluating their own combat capability.  Who knows if the high command thinks this way when it talks publicly, but combat capability clearly isn’t the same thing as combat readiness.  And the concept of battle readiness needs a closer look.

Shurygin Critique of Military Reform (Part 1)

Vladislav Shurygin

In part one of Big Reform or Big Lie, military commentator and critic Shurygin complains that opposing views on Serdyukov’s military reforms have not been heard.    

Instead of his idealized view of the former Soviet Army fairly harmoniously serving the state’s interests, he sees today’s Russian military as an army of the underprivileged, who can’t escape service, protecting the interests of particular individuals, or political and economic groups.  He likens it to an old Soviet labor camp, with officers in the roles of overseers and guards, and conscripts as inmates, divided into various upper and lower castes.   

Shurygin provides unsourced polling data that “would shock any sociologist.”  More than 80 percent of conscripts don’t trust the government.  Sixty percent are dissatisfied with the country today, and 90 percent are disenchanted with Russia’s social and economic inequality and don’t want to risk their lives for it.  

He says mass drunkenness, self-interest, protectionism, and corruption is flourishing in the officer corps.  Officers live a pitiful half-beggarly life and are demoralized.  They serve to obtain apartments and a pension, or the possibility of arranging a good existence in the civilian world.  Eighty-eight percent of officers retire within six months of receiving an apartment or a pension.  And the High Command has lost its will, backbone, and ability to talk to the authorities as equals as result of purges.  

So what has two years of reforms brought?  The fully combat-ready brigade as the universal unit from Kamchatka to Pskov, according to Shurygin.  But the lovely paper plans of the staff are far from real implementation.  Many brigades are light, having only 2,200 men instead of 3-5,000.  There are several different forms of brigades and it’s impossible to find even two identical ones.  

Shurygin concludes the brigade is an especially bad fit for Russia’s Far East.  They are spread thin.  Despite this, General Staff Chief Makarov tells the media that they can hold off an enemy for 45 days while mobilization and reinforcement takes place.  Shurygin compares Makarov’s optimistic words to those of Stalin’s generals who promised to defeat the USSR’s enemies on their own territory.  

By contrast, officers in the Far East joke that after the Serdyukov-Makarov “optimization,” the Chinese Army won’t find it hard to defeat Russians.  The problem will be to find them. 

Shurygin believes ‘optimized’ brigades are not equal to the regiments they replaced in combat capabilities.  It is difficult to move brigades as a single combat units.  It’s a chaotic, extended process in which command and control is lost.  He attributes much of this to not having enough officers. 

Regiments of 2,000 had 400 officers and warrants, whereas new brigades of 4,000 have 327 officers.  Weakness in command and control is felt especially in the brigade staff, where officers with combat experience and long years of service are missing because of dismissals.  The old regiment staff had 48 officers and warrants, the new brigade staff only 33 officers. 

Shurygin thinks the new brigades are especially lacking in reconnaissance.  They have a reconnaissance chief, but no department or section to analyze and integrate information for the commander. 

In battle against a technologically advanced enemy, the enemy’s reconnaissance, target designation, and weapons delivery capabilities would exceed those of the ‘new profile’ brigades several times over.

Some things needed for real combat capability have been forgotten.  In copying Western-style brigades, the Defense Ministry forgot to copy their strong logistic support which is still provided by divisions.  Shurygin cites General-Major Vladimirov in calling the new brigades “abnormally inflated regiments,” which Shurygin says have fully lost the mobility and unity of regiments.

Shurygin turns next to the vaunted 1-hour readiness assertion first publicized by Makarov.  He wants to ask Makarov whom he intends for motorized rifle brigades in Tver, Naro-Fominsk, or Samara to fight on one hour’s warning.  By contrast, according to him, the U.S. concept of readiness comes into play once forces are deployed to their theater of action.  Shurygin goes on to explain that VOSO, the Russian staff’s military transportation service responsible for strategic mobility, has been slashed from 2,500 to 400 personnel.  As an example of the current lacked of needed mobility, he says it took 5 days for a partial tank brigade to move 500 kilometers in Russian-Belorussian exercises this summer.  So it’s understandable that Makarov would rather focus on 1-hour readiness than on mobility.

Shurygin ends by citing Khramchikhin on what kind of forces Russia is getting via military reform.  For Georgia or terrorism, Russia has the RVSN and nuclear submarines it can’t use.  For advanced opponents like the U.S. and NATO, Russia is clearly weak and can’t effectively oppose them.  For an equal like China, there simply aren’t enough Russian forces.