Tag Archives: VKO

Passion for the S-300PS

Friday’s Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye editorial assures readers the end of S-300PS production — combined with a lack of contracts for the S-400 — won’t bring the apocalypse or, at least, a threat to Russia’s administrative and industrial heartland.

Like others, NVO is wrestling with the meaning of former Almaz-Antey General Director Igor Ashurbeyli’s most recent words.

Despite the sturm und drang over the S-300’s demise elsewhere in the media, NVO takes the rational tack.  There’s nothing new in Ashurbeyli’s statements.  Everything’s normal, it says.  Almaz-Antey could have upgraded the S-300P Favorit forever, but proposed S-500 development instead.  It’s natural and sensible to draw S-300 production down to a close.

And, after all, the S-400 is entering service, and the Vityaz and S-500 are in development.  The medium-range Vityaz will replace the S-300PS.  Morfey’s in development for short-range protection of the most important targets.  And Ashurbeyli says “it’s proposed” that the S-500 will be complete in 2015.

Here, NVO’s editors shift to a less optimistic, perhaps a more realistic tack:

“It’s true, we all know that in our country it’s always a great distance from plans to their fulfillment.  In that great distance, sometimes not just ruts and potholes arise, but even chasms.  Here not everything with full-blooded use of the S-400 system is clear and obvious.  According to the reports of both Ashurbeyli and the VVS CINC General Zelin, there are big problems with the long-range missile, and also at Moscow factory “Avangard,” where this serial production goes on, according to media accounts, there are no orders for it.  It could be because it’s not in shape.  And the “400,” on which great hopes rest today, as a transitional system from the S-300PS to Vityaz and the S-500, doesn’t justify these expectations?  It isn’t excluded that it’s for exactly this reason that the Defense Ministry no longer wants to order it?  Why spend money and buy something that doesn’t meet the tactical-technical requirements which the customers laid down for the system?  Here the generals wouldn’t lack common sense.”

But, says NVO, they could go forward with the S-400’s short- and medium-range missiles, couldn’t they?  Delays in the S-400 contract threaten to cause failures in establishing the country’s defenses.

With a two-year production cycle, and no contracts in 2011, it’s naive to expect the appearance of new systems in 2013, according to NVO’s editors.  What’s more, there’s no absolute certainty that Vityaz and Morfey will succeed in this time frame, or that some kind of real basis for developing the S-500 will be laid.

NVO concludes:

“And so here passions for the “300” are understandable.  But it’s only desired that they shouldn’t take on an alarmist character.  It isn’t necessary to frighten anyone.”

Ashurbeyli Interviewed (Part II)

The rest of former Almaz-Antey chief Igor Ashurbeyli’s interview with RIA Novosti . . .

Asked about the future of PVO, PRO, and VKO, Ashurbeyli says he sees the role of ground-based systems declining, and future “fire means” — after the S-500 — will be air-based.  Part of them, he claims, are already in RDT&E.

Returning more to the present, the former Almaz-Antey head says the Defense Ministry asks the impossible of weapons developers.  They have to sign contracts they know they can’t complete in the stipulated time frames, otherwise they’d have no work.

Ashurbeyli goes on to explain Almaz-Antey’s current production quandary.  The S-300 has been made only for export over the last 15 years.  One foreign order has just been filled, and only one remains.  So Ashurbeyli sees a gap between S-300 and S-400 production, and he predicts a decline in the factory’s operations in 2013 or even late 2012.

The lead-time for producing S-400 components is 24 months.  So, without budget advances today, there won’t be anything to produce in 2013.  In 2011, Ashurbeyli says, not a single supplementary S-400 production contract has been signed.

Ashurbeyli sounds a lot like former MIT head and solid-fuel ICBM maker Yuriy Solomonov who announced in early July that the 2011 state defense order is already broken.  Is it a coincidence both men were unseated from their general director and chief designer duties?

Ashurbeyli says:

“At the same time, the load on the plant today is far from full and the absence of contracts doesn’t allow for further renewing equipment and technology.  We have to understand that the S-400 is made on the very same equipment as the S-300.”

In response to another question, Ashurbeyli makes his case for consolidating the structure of aerospace defense industries.  He calls for a unified industrial corporation, a Concern VKO, to execute the Defense Ministry’s orders, and it’s needed, he continues, when a unified VKO is established [before 2012].  Organized like OAK or OSK, Concern VKO would bring in VKO-related weapons developers who aren’t part of Concern PVO Almaz-Antey. 

Ashurbeyli says this fall he’ll propose his view on how to integrate these enterprises and how to build the future VKO system to the country’s leadership.

So, where does this leave us?  If Ashurbeyli’s description is realistic, there’s no shortage of Almaz-Antey production capacity and no real need for new plants.  The problem is the lack of orders from the Defense Ministry.  For all the hype about increased defense spending and 20-trillion-ruble GPV 2011-2020, the absence of orders could be due to the military’s lack of cash or its difficulty arranging bank financing.  Or, despite Defense Minister Serdyukov’s talk about streamlining the GOZ, it could be that bureaucratic sclerosis (or corruption) is hindering the issuance of new contracts.

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.

News on New Almaz-Antey Plants

According to TsAMTO, the press-service of OAO Concern PVO ‘Almaz-Antey’ says the firm will sell supplemental stock this month, and some of the extra working capital will be used to finance construction of two new surface-to-air missile assembly plants.  Hat tip to VPK.name for highlighting the story.

Specifically, Almaz-Antey intends to spend more than 3.5 billion rubles to finance the new factories.  Four and a half billion rubles in federal budget money was already allocated to this effort in 2010 in exchange for additional government shares in the company.  And Almaz-Antey is also using government-backed credit in the expansion. 

The assembly facilities will be in Nizhniy Novgorod and Kirov.  They are supposed to be complete in 2015.

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.

Where’s the Logic?

A “highly-placed” Navy source has told RIA Novosti that S-400 / Triumf surface-to-air missile systems are arriving in the Baltic Fleet.  The source claims fleet air defense personnel are going to Ashuluk for training.

The news agency said a “highly-placed Baltic Fleet staff representative” confirmed announcements from several media outlets about the fleet receiving two S-400 battalions before the end of 2011.

Perhaps some healthy skepticism is in order.

The S-400 isn’t exactly bursting out the factory gates.  A second S-400 regiment hasn’t appeared at Dmitrov, and a third has already been promised for Moscow’s outskirts. 

There’s also a little matter of earlier spurious reports about where the S-400 would appear.  Recall General Staff Chief Makarov’s remark that it was deployed in the Far East in 2009.  Since then, there was talk of using it to defend the Kurils or Kamchatka, but Air Forces generals have spoken of the system strictly in terms of protecting Russia’s “central administrative and industrial zones,” i.e. Moscow and adjacent oblasts. 

Maybe it would make some sense to protect the country’s northwestern approaches from ever-dangerous Germans, Swedes, Finns, etc.  But it’s not really logical to do so until Moscow’s air defenses are modernized.

And it’s certainly not logical (from a bureaucratic viewpoint) for the VVS or VKO Troops (VVKO?) to let these precious new systems slip from their hands into the Navy’s control.  A second service operator at this point would complicate training and maintenance.

Maybe it’s another tactic for negotiating with the U.S. over missile defense in Eastern Europe (like deploying Iskander SSMs in Kaliningrad).

For its part, Interfaks (according to TsAMTO) reported the Navy S-400s would be placed in Russia’s Baltic exclave.

At any rate, there would seem to be few persuasive arguments and little sense behind a deployment of the S-400 in the Baltic Fleet any time soon.

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.”