Tag Archives: Oleg Ostapenko

Gerasimov New NGSh

Putin with Shoygu and Gerasimov

Today President Putin retired Chief of the General Staff Nikolay Makarov.  An old hand, currently Commander of the Central MD, General-Colonel Valeriy Gerasimov replaces him.  Putin also dropped First Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Sukhorukov (who’d had responsibility for armaments).  Western MD Commander Arkadiy Bakhin replaces Sukhorukov.  Aerospace Defense Troops Commander, General-Colonel Oleg Ostapenko also becomes a deputy defense minister.  Here’s the ukaz on the appointments, and on the dismissals.

Meeting with Gerasimov and Shoygu, Putin told the new NGSh he’s concerned by constantly changing Defense Ministry requirements on industry, and looks to him, and to the new defense minister, to “build a good, stable working partnership with our leading defense industrial enterprises.”

Serdyukov didn’t have one.  Perhaps all is not sweetness and light with the defense order in 2012.

Team VKO Taking Shape

Team VKO is taking shape according to Kommersant.  Last fall, President Medvedev, of course, ordered the establishment of a unified VKO.  Since then, it’s become clear that Space Troops (KV) Commander, General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko would head it.

And KV will be the base for the new service [vid or вид].  According to the Genshtab plan, VKO will unite all PVO and PRO systems.  And it will control the current KV, Moscow-based OSK VKO, and PVO units from the Air Forces.

The paper’s Defense Ministry source says VKO’s top officers have been identified, and paperwork was sent for Medvedev’s signature last month.  So expect a decree soon.

General-Lieutenant Valeriy Ivanov will be in charge of PVO and PRO for VKO.  He’s a 50-year-old career SAM officer, who commanded PVO divisions or corps in the Far East, Volga, and Moscow MDs.  From 2007-10, he commanded the Far East’s 11th AVVSPVO.  He became commander of the OSK VKO about this time last year.

General-Major Oleg Maydanovich is a 47-year-old KV missile engineer who will head VKO’s space monitoring.  He has long service at Plesetsk and Baykonur, and has been chief of both.  He’s now chief of Russia’s space systems testing and control center.

Colonel Andrey Ilin will be chief of the VKO’s command and control post at Krasnoznamensk.  He served many years at the space tracking post in Shchelkovo.  He’s been chief of staff at Plesetsk since last year.

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.

Aerospace Defense Troops

Svpressa.ru’s Sergey Ishchenko published an interesting piece on VKO late last Friday.  He wrote that Space Troops Commander, General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko recently reported to the Federation Council on the creation of VKO, making it clear that Ostapenko’s branch, as reported earlier and elsewhere, will be the basis of Russia’s unified VKO due to stand up by 1 December.

Ishchenko makes these additional points:

  • The long-range missile for the S-400 is still in testing.
  • He doubts the S-500 will be delivered in 2015.
  • His interviewee believes the new Aerospace Defense Troops will get all or some of Russia’s SAM force from the VVS.
  • The interviewee thinks the S-500 is on schedule.

Ishchenko says the debate over the lead for VKO didn’t necessarily center on what’s best to protect Russia’s security, but rather on who would receive new resources and general officer billets.

The Air Forces argued they were best suited to lead it, but the Space Troops apparently argued persuasively that they were better prepared to handle Russia’s future transatmospheric threats.

Now, a quick editorial aside from Ishchenko’s narrative . . . this decision is probably a good thing for the Air Forces, which already have their hands full and don’t need more missions.  They stand to lose only some part of the surface-to-air missile business (which hasn’t always been a core mission for them anyway).  And the VVS will benefit by concentrating on their most important tasks.

But back to Ishchenko . . . he provides a fine review of the USSR’s space weapons and space defense efforts, which, arguably, met or exceeded those of the United States.  He notes President Yeltsin’s 1993 decree on creating VKO, for which no one moved so much as a finger, at least partially because of the country’s economic and budgetary predicament at that time. 

Then Ishchenko gets more interesting.  He details the danger posed to Russia by U.S. “noncontact” wars in Iraq (sic), Yugoslavia, and Libya.  These, however, are really wars of the past rather than the future, he says.  Ishchenko moves on to the threat of Prompt Global Strike.

He talks about a hypersonic bomber cruising at Mach 5-7 speeds and altitudes up to 30,000 meters, beyond the reach of Russia’s current SAMs.  Of course, IOC isn’t before 2025, but Moscow needs to start thinking today about how to counter it.  Meanwhile, the state-of-the-art Russian SAM, the S-400, is barely fielded and its extended range missile is still being tested.  Its successor, the S-500, is supposed to be ready in 2015, but Ishchenko is skeptical.

The end of Ishchenko’s article is a brief interview with the chief editor of the journal Vozdushno-kosmicheskaya oborona, Mikhail Khodarenok.  Khodarenok’s a retired colonel, professional air defender, graduate of the General Staff Academy, and former staffer of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate (GOU).  In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was an outstanding military journalist for Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, but by 2003 or 2004, he left for VKO and Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer, both wholly owned by air defense system designer Almaz-Antey.

Ishchenko asks what Khodarenok knows about the process of creating the Aerospace Defense Troops.  The latter hems about not having access to secret directives and documents before concluding:

“But I can say that much has already been determined.  In particular, it’s decided that Space Troops will be the basis of VKO.  Although there were other proposals.  The Air Forces, in particular, proposed taking their service as the basis.”

Asked about this tug-of-war for VKO within the Defense Ministry, he says:

“And this is a beloved Russian pasttime.  In our Armed Forces, they are constantly getting rid of something or resubordinating.  What happened, for example, with army aviation.  In my memory, five times it was given to the Air Forces, then returned to the Ground Troops.  Usually then five years of complete confusion.  Billions lost.  And it all begins again.”

Asked what will be in VKO:

“The basis is the Space Troops.  Evidently, the surface-to-air missile troops (ZRV) will be transferred to them from the VVS.  Fully or partially.  This isn’t determined yet.”

Finally, asked whether Almaz-Antey General Director Igor Ashurbeyli was replaced because of problems with the S-400′s long-range missile or issues in the S-500′s development, Khodarenok says:

“Ashurbeyli’s resignation was not connected with engineering problems in any way.  Neither with difficulties on the S-500, nor on the S-400.”

“I have my suppositions on this score.  But I don’t want to share them.  I repeat:  the most important thing is that the S-500′s development is on schedule.  And this system really will very much help the country’s aerospace defense.”

VKO Game On

Yes, it’s game on in the fight for control over Russia’s future unified aerospace (air-space) defense or VKO.

General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov’s recent statements sound like he’s hard over on putting VKO under the General Staff’s immediate control.  But the Space Troops (KV) definitely aren’t out of the game, and even the Air Forces (VVS) – running third right now – are still in the competition to own VKO.

Say VKO falls under the General Staff, is it up to the job of running what will amount to a service or major command?  This at a time when it’s been cut back, and refocused on strategic planning?  And, entirely aside from organizing or reorganizing for VKO, there’s an issue how much a unified VKO will actually improve current Russian capabilities.  Acquiring new capabilities is a different problem altogether.

But let’s recall how we reached this point.  In late 2010, President Dmitriy Medvedev set the task of unifying the command and control of VKO under a single strategic command by 1 December 2011.  He cited this as his third major task for the military in his 18 March speech before the expanded Defense Ministry collegium:

“This year a unitary air-space defense system must be established.  It is necessary to unite existing anti-air and anti-missile defense, missile attack warning, and space monitoring systems under common command and control.  Moreover, this needs to be done not in the abstract, on paper or in electronic form, but in the context of the current situation, including the decision of the issue of our participation or nonparticipation in the system of European anti-missile defense which is being established.  It is necessary to form several large air bases, taking into account the deployment of units.  This will increase the mobility of sub-units, and allow for the establishment of military infrastructure echeloned along main strategic axes.”

Medvedev sounds like he’s saying he won’t be fooled by bureaucratic paper lash-ups or procedures.  He wants blood drawn — forces and systems taken from one command and given to the new VKO command, whatever its shape or subordination.  The real sticking point, of course, is anti-air defense assets now under the VVS.

Friday’s Rossiyskaya gazeta reported Army General Makarov and Defense Ministry Serdyukov are currently studying proposals on VKO.  But they’re keeping them within a small circle, and don’t intend to create public debate on the issue.  And the paper thinks the form and control of VKO will be revealed in the next months, if not weeks.

Let’s turn for a moment to what Makarov’s been saying.

Interfaks reported Saturday that the General Staff Chief said flatly:

“Air-space defense will be created in the General Staff, under the General Staff’s leadership, and the General Staff will command and control it.”

Vesti.ru said he dismissed the idea of the KV running VKO:

“The Space Troops are only one element of all the components of this air-space defense.”

Well, you can say that, but they also appear to have three of VKO’s four cited components.

At any rate, Makarov continued, saying VKO:

“. . . has to be multilayered, by altitude and by range, and has to integrate all forces and means that exist, but are very few of now.  We are counting on production taking off, beginning literally next year.”

He also noted:

“No one will take back those means which are now transferring to the districts [MD / OSKs].  This [VKO] will be implemented in Troop PVO.”

The chief of Ground Troops’ Air Defense (ПВО СВ) also said as much in late December.

None of this is very different from what Makarov’s said all along.

Rossiyskaya gazeta summed Makarov up this way on 15 December:

“The thing is various military structures are involved in securing the skies at present.  The Space Troops answer for orbital reconnaissance and the work of missile attack warning stations.  The Air and Air Defense Armies with the aid of radar companies and border posts inform staffs about approaching enemy aircraft.  The Special Designation Command covers the Moscow Air Defense Zone.  Air defense troops and fighter aviation cover other important facilities.”

“The system is built on the service [видовой] principle and is therefore uncoordinated.  We need to make it integrated and place it under the Genshtab’s command.”

Despite Makarov’s strong words, Rossiyskaya gazeta has been told that the leadership is still studying putting VKO under the KV’s control.  Especially since, as noted, it already has 3 of 4 of its components – PRO, SPRN, and KKP.  But, the paper thinks, no one is talking about putting SAMs (ZRK) or Air Defense Aviation (APVO) under the KV.  However, the KV might get independent radar brigades and some SAM units equipped with the S-300, S-400, and the future S-500.

On 24 March, the KV’s spokesman repeated earlier statements from its commander, General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko, saying basic documents setting out the establishment of VKO on the basis of KV have been prepared and presented to the Defense Ministry and General Staff.

On 27 January, Ostapenko told RIA Novosti:

“There’s already a decision that the system of VKO will be built on the base of the Space Troops.”

It might also be worth noting Vedomosti’s Defense Ministry sources were, at least at one point, reporting that KV had the upper hand in the VKO sweepstakes.

Lastly, the VVS remains a possible home for VKO.  The Air Forces might not have much to recommend them over the Genshtab or KV, but they operate the existing VKO prototype in the Moscow region’s Special Designation Command (KSpN).

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.”