Military reorganizations never stop, they just continue at a barely perceptible pace.
Organizational changes start with a campaign for a realignment. The campaign to form Aerospace Defense Troops (VVKO) started five or six years before they officially stood up on 1 December 2011.
A new campaign is beginning. Some are arguing VVKO didn’t get everything they need.
Four KPRF Duma deputies who are members of the legislature’s Defense Committee propose upgrading the VVKO from a branch (род) to a service (вид). That’s symbolic, but not most significant.
More importantly, they say VVKO should control all ground-based air defense assets currently operated by the Air Forces and commanders of Russia’s four military districts (MDs).
Izvestiya reported the story.
Changes the KPRF deputies envisage would almost turn today’s VVKO into a new Soviet PVO Strany – National Air Defense (sans interceptor aircraft) as it existed between 1954 and the 1980s. Troop PVO (Ground Troops) and Navy PVO would remain separate.
The KPRF deputies argue the vast majority of PVO assets need to be under a unified command to provide effective air defense for Russia.
Vyacheslav Tetekin, former conscript SA-5 operator and Africa expert, said:
“In military affairs the most dangerous thing is when there is no responsibility: there is no one to make decisions, and no one to bear responsibility. Until the time when all PVO and VKO resources are transferred into an independent command, we can’t be sure our country is defended against strikes from space and from the air.”
His colleague Aleksandr Tarnayev, former communications officer and KGB military counterintelligence operative, suggested, rather absurdly, that none of this means big changes, just resubordinating units, and replacing emblems on gates. Units don’t even have to move, unless they need to redeploy to main strike threat axes.
But it is certainly a big change for air defense units that have reported to MDs for the last couple years, or to the Air Forces for an even longer time.
Taking strategic- and operational-level air defense from MD commanders would reduce their capabilities as unified, combined arms warfighters in regional and local conflicts.
Military expert Viktor Murakhovskiy told Izvestiya the idea of VVKO as a service has been discussed before, and the change would cost trillions of rubles:
“This is the idea of creating a unified air defense system for the country like in Soviet times. For this we would need to combine all VKO brigades and SAM brigades under a single command. But we would need to understand that to create a seamless defensive field over the country’s entire territory requires a huge amount of money, and the question arises, are these outlays so necessary or is it better to direct them in a different course.”
Murakhovskiy begs a couple good questions. Is there an existential national air defense threat that justifies taking funds from other pressing military needs? Is a U.S. (and NATO?) strategic air operation against Russia possible or probable?
VPK editor-in-chief Mikhail Khodarenok told the paper he believes VVKO needs interceptors and there’s not enough money now to create such a full-fledged service:
“In the Soviet system of PVO, for interceptors alone there were 70 regiments — almost 3 thousand aircraft. But if we divide current aircraft between the Air Forces and PVO, we get two absurd services. In the future such a division is justified because the Air Forces’ mission is supporting troops, and PVO’s mission is protecting the country’s important administrative and industrial centers from air strikes. But this is the future in 20-30 years.”
A Duma hearing on VVKO scheduled for 6 November won’t have much affect on the military’s structure. But this is how major reorganizations have started in the past. Just don’t look for results soon.