Tag Archives: VVS

Su-34 Growing Pains

Su-34 (photo: Izvestiya / Dinar Shakirov)

Su-34 (photo: Izvestiya / Dinar Shakirov)

Early this month, Izvestiya’s Aleksey Mikhaylov and Dmitriy Balburov published on “growing pains” in Russia’s procurement of the Su-34 strike fighter.  The aircraft is “not combat capable” according to them.

A few English-language sites mentioned their story, but didn’t render it completely or accurately.

According Izvestiya, the Defense Minister may soon sign out a report on  defects in the Su-34 that interfere with its “full combat employment.”  Each of the 16 Su-34s received over six years reportedly has its own “individual problems.”

The authors say the Defense Ministry already won an 80-million-ruble suit against the Novosibirsk Aviation Plant named for Chkalov over undelivered aircraft.  They insinuate this Defense Ministry report could be the basis for more litigation against the airplane’s manufacturer.

A Su-34 pilot told Izvestiya radar and targeting-navigation system problems interfere with flight training in the aircraft.  Malfunctions, he says, are the result of both programming problems and technical flaws.  A maintenance officer said each aircraft has “its own characteristics,” for example, an auxiliary motor located in different places on different borts.

Two Su-34s delivered to Lipetsk in 2006 are allegedly non-operational, and sit at the airfield for show.  However, the best airframes are the last three borts sent to Baltimor / Voronezh last summer, a VVS Glavkomat officer told the authors.

OPK representatives expressed surprise at the military’s complaints, noting that the early production run of any aircraft entails problems.  Some blamed a low level of training among VVS pilots and technicians for difficulties with the Su-34.

The Izvestiya report seems at odds with the recent announcement that delivery of a second Su-34 squadron is beginning.  In fact, the media reports five more aircraft arrived at Voronezh from Novosibirsk just days ago.  Practically the same day, Defense Minister Shoygu visited the city, airfield, and other VVS institutions.  It may be that his predecessor Serdyukov was inclined to criticize the OPK and the Su-34′s quality.  So maybe Shoygu won’t approve the Su-34 report.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t real problems with the aircraft.

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 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.

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.

Some Cracks in Air Forces’ Stonewall (Part II)

Returning to the latest on Igor Sulim . . . in a late July Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye article, Oleg Vladykin summarized the GVP’s various recent press releases about rising crime in the Armed Forces.  He provided insight into how senior officers view Sulim and premium pay extortion at Lipetsk.

A colonel, a deputy formation commander speaking anonymously told Vladykin:

“Almost the entire service of many senior officers came to twenty years in which they constantly humiliated, deprived the army whenever possible, and generally kept it in a miserable state.  But at the same time they used it regularly.  Senior officers carried all this gloom on their shoulders.  And here now, as if in gratitude, they promise to raise their pay three times!  Colonels will receive the same as junior managers in some public company, whose peaceful labor the army successfully defended in spite of everything.  Many have only a year or two left to serve, then dismissal in connection with reaching the age limit.  And what then?  And then also an increased, but still laughable pension.  It will be two times less than a lieutenant’s pay.  Therefore, senior comrades confidently tell younger officers:  ‘Boys, you still have everything ahead of you.  Somehow, you’ll manage to make a more or less decent living.  We here won’t…’  You know the majority understand this.  And those like Senior Lieutenant Sulim from the Lipetsk Center are the exceptions.  I’m not judging them, no, but I’m sure that after 1 January the prosecutors won’t easily locate those who’ll agree to talk about their contributions to their senior colleagues.”

Vladykin says he can’t agree with this argument, but it’s impossible not to note some logic in it.  He concludes:

“The psychology of men in shoulderboards has changed very powerfully in the course of recent Armed Forces transformations.”

In his Moskovskiy komsomolets blog Friday, Sulim highlighted an article posted on Lipetsk’s Gorod48.ru.  The article reviewed the shady, semi-criminal past of Hero of the Russian Federation, General-Major Aleksandr Kharchevskiy.

Then Sulim asks (rhetorically) how Kharchevskiy can be silent, and how could he not know about the criminal activities of his deputy, of his cousin, or of his subordinates who extorted money from their subordinates.  He sums it up:

“It’s shameful and disgusting that in the space of twenty years they’ve turned an elite flying unit into an elite business for stuffing pockets, hiding all this under a mask of love for the Motherland and swearing on officer’s honor.”

Perhaps there’s some kind of behind-the-scenes three-way struggle between the Defense Ministry, Air Forces, and military prosecutors over premium pay extortion.  Or maybe it’s a negotiation to agree on how, and how far, to pursue the Lipetsk case and ones like it.

But the Defense Ministry seems paralyzed.  The unit checks ordered by Serdyukov rather improbably failed to turn up similar crimes in services or branches besides the Air Forces.  As the colonel quoted above says, the Defense Ministry may believe the scandal will die down after the new, higher military pay system goes into effect.

The cracks in the Air Forces’ stonewall on the Sulim case are only tiny fissures.  Those immediately involved in extorting money and pressuring officers at Lipetsk are finally in trouble with the law, but no one above that immediate level.  As an institution, the VVS appears unworried for now.

The prosecutors apparently can’t even name the officers they “hold accountable” in the VVS Glavkomat.  This isn’t to belittle Sergey Fridinskiy, his organization, and their efforts.  He and his prosecutors sometimes seem to be the only people looking honestly at the state of the Russian military.  There are clearly only so many battles they can fight. 

And preoccupied as they are with their own positions, skirmishes, and the fast-approaching election season, Russia’s political and government leaders aren’t likely to devote more time or attention to untangling what’s happened at Lipetsk.

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.

Latest on VVS Procurement

Su-35

Russian Air Forces (VVS) spokesman Colonel Vladimir Drik picked the day after New Year’s to make some specific announcements on his service’s plans for procuring airplanes and helicopters out to 2015.  Not sure what inspired or spurred the sound bites, but one’s glad for every morsel.

He said the VVS will acquire up to 100 Sukhoy aircraft by 2015.  Sukhoy has three state contracts to provide, as Drik put it:

“. . . nearly 50 multifunctional highly-maneuverable Su-35 fighters (they should be delivered by 2015), more than ten modernized Su-27SM and nearly five two-seat multipurpose Su-30M2 fighters (they will be delivered before the end of 2011).”

It doesn’t read as awkwardly in RIA Novosti’s original:

“. . . около 50 многофункциональных сверхманевренных истребителей Су-35 (их должны поставить до 2015 года), более десяти модернизированных Су-27СМ и около пяти двухместных  многоцелевых истребителей Су-30М2 (их поставят до конца 2011 года).”

It’s not clear whether “before the end of 2011” applies to just the Su-30M2, or Su-27SM deliveries as well.

What Drik describes is basically Sukhoy’s VVS contracts signed at MAKS-2009 (48 Su-35, 12 Su-27SM, and 4 Su-30M2).  In all, 64 aircraft for about 80 billion rubles.

Drik also said 25 Su-34 fighter-bombers will be procured.  The Su-34 purchase has always been reported as 32. 

It’s easy to lose track – were there 2, then the 4 at the end of 2010, plus 25 for a 31?  Or was it really 3, then 4, plus 25 for a total of 32?

He concludes that, in all, there are long-term contracts for “nearly 130 combat aircraft.”

Recall that Deputy Air Forces CINC Sadofyev said the VVS order for 2011 includes the Su-27SM, Su-30M2, Su-34, Su-35, Yak-130, and helicopters, but he gave no numbers.

Now this observer counts 90 Sukhoy airframes in Drik’s comments, so that’s pretty much “up to 100.”  Less clear is where the balance of 30-40 combat aircraft will come from by 2015.  Will they be new Yak-130 combat trainers, helicopters?

Drik did enlighten us a little on VVS plans for helicopters.  He said three (not four as reported elsewhere) Ka-52 / Alligator arrived at Torzhok at the end of last month, and he noted that serial deliveries of this helicopter will begin this year.

Ka-52 (photo: RIA Novosti / Anton Denisov)

He emphasized that the Mi-28N / Night Hunter, accepted into the inventory in 2009, is no less important to the VVS.  He said Army Aviation will need it for a long time.  For trainers, series deliveries of the Ansat-U began in 2009, and preliminary testing of the Ka-60U continues, but Drik didn’t say anything about numbers the VVS expects to receive.

If this is the complete plan until 2015, it’s fairly modest.  Modest can be good.  Modest is achievable.  It may or may not be the whole picture.  We have to continue parsing the statements, and triangulating the words, to try and see where the VVS will be in the next few years.

If this is the plan, it doesn’t sound like what’s been touted as 500 new airplanes and 1,000 new helicopters by 2020. 

Yes, this is a skeptic’s viewpoint.  Maybe VVS procurement is backloaded after 2015. 

But a few other thoughts linger . . .

  • The Su-35 still faces state testing.  It was supposed to start this past fall. 
  • Seems like a lot of aircraft are gap-fillers for PAK FA.  It’ll be interesting if it’s not an obvious success well before 2015.
  • One supposes MiG aircraft are completely out of the picture.
  • Nothing was said about transport aircraft.  They’ve been emphasized a little lately, and sooner or later someone’s got to talk exact numbers.
  • Interesting that there’s so little specific said on helicopters.

The Air Forces and the GPV

General-Lieutenant Sadofyev

Last week, General-Lieutenant Igor Sadofyev – Chief of Aviation, Deputy CINC of the Air Forces (VVS) for Aviation – spoke to the press about his service’s ambitious plans for procurement under State Armaments Program (GPV), 2011-2020.

General-Lieutenant Sadofyev told RIA Novosti the VVS will receive 1,500 new, and 400 modernized aircraft by 2020.  The Chief of Aviation said the State Defense Order (GOZ or ГОЗ) for 2011 includes acquisition of Su-27SM, Su-30M2, Su-34, Su-35S, and Yak-130 aircraft for the VVS, as well as Ka-52, Mi-28N, Mi-8AMTSh (MTV-5-1), Ka-226, Ansat-U helicopters for Army Aviation.  But he provided no specific procurement numbers for next year.

Su-34 (photo: RIA Novosti / Igor Rumyantsev)

For Long-Range Aviation (LRA or ДА), he said the VVS will modernize existing Tu-160, Tu-95MS, Tu-22M3, and Il-78M aircraft.  The goal is to update 80 percent of this inventory in what he calls the medium-term future – defined by him as 2020.  What he has in mind here is service life extension and the replacement of some electronics and other systems.

For Military-Transport Aviation (VTA or ВТА), Sadofyev says the VVS will modernize its existing aircraft, and purchase more than 50 percent new ones.  He doesn’t break it down by particular types of transports.

For Frontal Aviation, some existing aircraft will be modernized, and over that medium-term future (2020) more than half the order-of-battle will be replaced with new aircraft, and 14 percent of the inventory will be ‘perspektivnyy’ (перспективный) aircraft.  One supposes that means PAK FA.  If that 14 percent is 70 PAK FAs, that would put Frontal Aviation at about 500 aircraft total.

Army Aviation, according to Sadofyev, will get 70 percent new aircraft by 2020, and 100 percent sometime afterward.  He said the VVS will begin getting the Ка-52 / Alligator next year.  And he made a point of noting that Army Aviation will remain within the VVS, despite rumors it might return to the Ground Troops.

He said serial deliveries of the Yak-130 trainer will begin next year to replace 1970s-vintage L-39 jets.  Flight instructors and technical personnel will learn the Yak-130 at Lipetsk before using it to train young pilots at Krasnodar.

Sadofyev also told RIA Novosti the number of VVS day-night, all-weather aircraft will increase 4.5 times, and this will lower aircraft losses by a factor of 10-12.  According to him, the share of precision weapons in the VVS will increase 18 times, taking it to 70 percent of the inventory by 2020.  So less than 4 percent of current air-delivered munitions qualify as precision weapons.  UAVs will be increased 6 times, taking them to 30 percent of the aircraft inventory.  So they are about 5 percent at present.  Sadofyev adds that money will go to providing a common reconnaissance-information environment for the VVS.

Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Vladimir Drik also talked about VVS procurement last week.  He said the VVS got new and modernized aircraft this year, including Su-27SM and Su-25SM, and Mi-24PM and Ansat-U helicopters.  But he had to admit only the Ansat-U is new, and he didn’t provide numbers.

There was a major garble over the Su-27SM.  RIA Novosti quoted Drik as saying the VVS “received four squadrons of modernized Su-27SM” this year.  In fact, the transfer of the final 4 of 48 Su-27SM happened in late November 2009.

Drik said Russia’s air defenses will be 100 percent new by 2020, with the VVS operating the S-400, S-500, and Pantsir-S.  Once again, no one seems to want to talk about what’s going on with SAM production.

Igor Korotchenko’s take on VVS procurement from October looks pretty on-target in light of this latest press.  He said the priorities were precision weapons, automated C2, aircraft, and air defense systems.  And, at that time, he put the acquisition numbers at 500 new aircraft, 1,000 helicopters, and 200 air defense systems.

All in all, an extremely ambitious plan.  Fulfilling it will demand complete and timely funding, and even then it will be a challenge for Russia’s aviation industry.  Also, Sergey Ivanov says the GPV has gone to the government today, so maybe we’ll learn how VVS requirements fare.  VVS will be a priority, but we’ll have to see how high.

A Thoroughly Modern CINC

You have to like Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin. 

He’s open and candid about what Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s ‘new profile’ reforms mean for him and his service.  He’s talked earlier, more often, and longer about it than his Ground Troops or Navy counterparts.  He’s matter of fact and accepting of the entire process. 

Serdyukov’s changes turned General-Colonel into a trainer and force provider, and he nonchalantly admits as much. 

At 57, Zelin understands he can be replaced at any time, or allowed to serve three more years or even longer. 

If he were a tad younger, he would have been the right kind of general to command one of the new military districts / unified strategic commands (OSK / ОСК), say the Western or Central.  An air or air defense officer would have been just the right choice for a potential future war on those axes.  Instead, the Kremlin has three Ground Troops generals and one admiral (a step in the right direction).  It’s hard to argue against Ground Troops leadership in Russia’s restive south.  But Air Forces (VVS or ВВС) would have been a really good choice in the Western or Central Military Districts . . . a missed opportunity for now.

But back to Zelin.  On Tuesday, he addressed a foreign military attaché audience (and the Russian media) about the future of the VVS.

According to Gzt.ru, Zelin said the VVS will be reduced by a third and spread among the four new  OSKs.  And its Main Command (Glavkomat) will be responsible only for combat training.  The OSKs are in charge of employing the VVS in their theaters.

The VVS now consist of the Glavkomat, 7 operational commands, 7 first-rank air bases, 8 second-rank air bases, and 13 aerospace defense (VKO) brigades.  Before the ‘new profile,’ the Air Forces consisted of 72 regiments, 14 air bases, and 12 independent squadrons and detachments, with a third more aircraft than the VVS now have.

Four of today’s 7 operational commands are subordinate to the new OSKs.  Army Aviation also falls under them.

According to Zelin, in the future, the VVS Main Command (Glavkomat or Главкомат) could become a “branch department” of the General Staff responsible for the combat training of the Air Forces and Air Defense, while the OSKs employ the trained forces.

Zelin says VVS personnel will number 170,000 with 40,000 officers, nearly 30,000 sergeants, and the balance conscripts or civilian specialists.  He says today’s personnel training system doesn’t satisfy him, and so he’ll probably change the system of flight schools.  Only four remain today.  Voronezh will be the main training center.  Flight training will also be conducted in Krasnodar and Lipetsk.  Yaroslavl will remain home to air defense officer training.

According to the CINC, the VVS airfield network won’t change.  Base airfields will be first priority for reconstruction and modernization.  Zelin says civilian airfields could be used for operational purposes in the future.

He noted the VVS plans to go to a fully automated command and control system in the future, and, of course, develop its VKO forces.

Lenta.ua quoted Zelin’s remarks to Interfaks.  Zelin said the VVS will renew 30 percent of its inventory by 2015, and 100 percent new in some areas and 80 percent new overall by 2020.  He doesn’t say where the VVS are today in this regard, but recall Defense Minister Serdyukov has said only 10 percent of equipment in the Armed Forces is modern.

Zelin said the VVS will get new aircraft, air defense, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare systems, but modernization of some existing systems is still part of the plan.  Although the State Armaments Program 2011-2020 and its 19 or 20 trillion rubles have to be finalized, Zelin repeated that 10 T-50 (PAK FA) will be acquired in 2013-2015, and 60 more from 2016.  He mentioned Military-Transport Aviation (VTA or ВТА) is a priority – including the An-124 Ruslan, Il-112, Il-476, Il-76M, and An-70 – but he doesn’t venture any numbers or dates for new production.  Zelin does give a target of 400 new and modernized helicopters in the inventory by 2015.

Who knows what was or wasn’t covered in these media contacts, but it seems odd there’s still no mention of more S-400 deliveries.  Zelin was still talking about getting 5-6 more battalions in 2010 earlier this year.  But no sign of them.  It’ll be a big deal when or if they appear.  Also, no mention of S-500 development.

General Staff Chief Makarov’s Press Conference

Sound bites from General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov’s press conference today dribbled out one at a time, as usual.

Makarov told reporters President Medvedev signed a decree establishing four operational-strategic commands (OSK) to replace the existing military districts on 6 July, but the text hasn’t been published.  Makarov also said arrangements putting the OSKs in place would be complete on 1 December.

Makarov talked more about the new “unified system of material-technical support (MTO)” also apparently covered in Medvedev’s decree.

Rear Services Chief, Deputy Defense Minister, General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov, as expected, will head the unified MTO system, and new First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin will supervise the new state armaments program, 2011-2020, as well as coordination with military industries. 

Makarov stressed uniting transportation and supply functions under Bulgakov:

“We had a disconnect when all transport for supplies of material means to the troops was at the disposal of the Deputy Defense Minister for Rear Services, but he didn’t have anything he needed to move with this transport.  The other Deputy Defense Minister, on the other hand, had armaments, but no means for transporting them to the troops.”

“This is very important because now the management of transportation and armaments is concentrated in the hands of one man.  The correctness of the decision was confirmed by the recently completed ‘Vostok-2010’ operational-strategic exercise in the Far East.”

 “Now one official serving as a Deputy Defense Minister heads a unified system of material-technical support which has united rear services and armaments.  He alone personally answer for both the transport of supplies of material-technical means, and for these means themselves.  Now one man answers for the state of affairs with armaments and for their supply to the troops, who will also now be responsible for that.”

The way Makarov puts it, Popovkin be on the hook for product quality:

“He will work with defense-industrial complex enterprises to control their production of armaments and military equipment for the Armed Forces.”

Popovkin’s old job of Chief of Armaments, Deputy Defense Minister will disappear most likely.

Makarov told reporters Russia plans to move to netcentric command and control by 2015, once it equips its troops with new C3 systems united in one information space.  Such systems are now scarce, but he says, they are working hard so to install digital equipment everywhere.  Makarov calls this the main renovation that he’s giving all structures and troops starting in the fall of this year.  He says Russia’s new command posts unite reconnaissance, target designation, and troops and weapons to execute combat missions in real time.

It’s interesting that RIA Novosti took time to explain that the netcentric concept is an American creation more than 10 years old, and one not loved by those used to strictly centralized command and control.

Makarov told the press the army will begin forming light brigades, which it currently doesn’t have, this year.  They’ll have light combat vehicles of some type.  While not providing details, Makarov emphasized that light brigades will be built around a standard vehicle, so that, as in Vostok-2010, a brigade can fly in and its personnel can marry up with their normal vehicles in their place of deployment. 

Answering a question, Makarov said Russia will buy more Il-78 tankers in GPV 2011-2020, but he didn’t specify a number.

Makarov announced an intention to equip all Russian combat aircraft with new targeting-navigation systems over the next three years.  He said the new equipment will increase the accuracy of air strikes and allow the Air Forces to “abandon the previous practice of area bombing.”  He said the new system was tried on a Su-24M2 during Vostok-2010.  Installation of the targeting equipment on the Su-24M2 began in 2007.  Makarov said the VVS has nearly 300 Su-24 of all variants, and naval aviation about 60.

Stoletiye.ru had an interesting observation on Makarov and efforts to streamline command and control in the Russian Army.  It said the move to 4 OSKs and other steps are intended to reduce duplication of officer responsibilities and make 2-3 officers responsible for the fulfillment of combat missions.  It quoted Makarov, “We’ve eliminated the system of spreading responsibility throughout the Defense Ministry.”