JO Shortage

Russia’s Eastern Military District (MD) is apparently experiencing a junior officer shortage.

The district headquarters in Khabarovsk announced this week that 227 of its contractees are set to receive lieutenant’s shoulderboards in the near future.

Eastern MD Contractees in Basic Training

Eastern MD Contractees in Basic Training

The Russian MOD site indicated that these contractees already have a higher education, and 39 have a military specialization.  Apparently, they will start serving immediately as junior officers.  The other 188 have been enrolled in military training establishments (VUZy) for an unspecified period.

Another 85 will soon be sent off for similar training.  The MD is already selecting well-prepared contract servicemen who have a higher education.

The district also intends to send representatives from its personnel directorate and military commissariats to western and central Russia to recruit individuals to serve as officers in the Eastern MD.

The MOD site reminded readers that, in May, MD commander General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin said the district needed to find officers “who were forced to resign during the optimization of the structure and size of the Russian Army” as well as contract servicemen with higher education who want to be officers.

The “optimization” of course was that of former defense minister Anatoliy Serdyukov.  His effort to cut bloat in the officer ranks began in earnest in 2009. While focused mainly on senior officers, Serdyukov’s knife also slashed lieutenants and captains at the base of the TO&E pyramid.  At the time, commentators reported complaints from units saying they had trouble keeping order and fulfilling routine requirements due to a lack of platoon and company commanders.

In some sense, the news about a JO shortage is surprising given that each spring the MOD gushes about young lieutenants graduating from VUZy and taking up their responsibilities in the nation’s far-flung armed forces.  It also brags about stiff competition to enter those VUZy every year. 

In another, it isn’t surprising.  Serving in the military in Russia’s harsh and underpopulated Far East is no more popular than living there for other reasons.  It’s a hardship post with little attraction for 22-year-old.

Lastly, each contractee taken to become an officer means another enlisted soldier has to be signed up for the Eastern MD.  And that’s a more difficult sell.  One is left wondering if the recruitment of contract servicemen for the Far East isn’t going so well either.

Sufficient numbers of young Russian men are just getting harder to find.  It’s hard to get them to go where the military thinks they’re needed.  Meanwhile, Moscow is trying to expand its force structure. And the very bottom of Russia’s demographic hole won’t be reached until 2018. 

Tough Times at UVZ

Maybe Russia’s economy is muddling through its downturn.  But for some major enterprises, the situation seems somewhat worse.  Tank and railcar maker Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) is a case in point.

Uralvagonzavod

Uralvagonzavod

In early August, RBK reported that Gazprombank is prepared to refinance UVZ’s 200-billion-ruble ($3 billion) debt.  The Russian government may kick in nearly 15 billion rubles ($230 million) of loan guarantees.

The 100-percent state-owned UVZ would use state guarantees to refinance part (most, all?) of 21 billion rubles ($325 million) in bank credits due this year.  Alfa-Bank, Sberbank, Gazprombank, and Svyaz-Bank are its primary creditors.

In June, Alfa-Bank went to court to have the tank producer declared bankrupt over 9 billion ($140 million) of a 16-billion-ruble debt.  The case was to be heard on 8 August, but UVZ needed to stop the bankruptcy case – by reaching agreement with Alfa-Bank – to receive the state loan guarantees.  With the guarantees, Gazprombank decided to refinance UVZ’s debts on 9 June.

Now Alfa-Bank denies it ever filed a bankruptcy suit against UVZ.  But a Minpromtorg official told RBK that the bank and tank maker reached “certain agreements,” and the former will soon lift its case against the latter.

According to RBK, UVZ reported record losses in 2015, mainly due to reduced sales of railcars and higher interest rates.  The corporation indicated that 58 percent of earnings came from military sales and 15 percent from civilian sales, with the balance from freight handling operations.

UVZ Deputy General Director Aleksey Zharich said the state cut the advance payment for its GOZ deliveries, forcing the company to turn to the banks.  It also needed to import equipment which doubled in price thanks to the weak ruble.

Overall, the Minpromtorg official said, “Indicators like these [for UVZ] haven’t been seen since the 1990s, the economic crisis has brought a fall in the volume of rail transport.”  But UVZ is hopeful for improved results in 2016.

The New York Times covered UVZ’s situation in February when it reported that the plant’s railcar workers had their wages cut by one-third while its military side was still “humming” on full pay.  One employee said then that workers on the civilian side had been showing up, getting paid, but actually doing little work for a year.  In June, RBK reported that UVZ furloughed 3,000 workers from railcar production.

What does UVZ’s situation mean for Russian defense?

In the short run, it means the T-14 Armata tank is likely to come out of UVZ slowly.  UVZ sent 20 tanks to the army for “troop testing” in the spring.  General Director Oleg Siyenko said in June that UVZ will deliver 100 tanks to the MOD in 2017 and 2018.  That’s a far cry from the 2,300 Armata tanks expected under GPV 2011-2020.

T-14 Armata

T-14 Armata

Meanwhile, Siyenko has been asking the Russian government for much larger loan guarantees – 60 billion rubles ($940 million) – to repay bank credits coming due in 2017 and 2018, according to RBK.  Some portion of this may be needed to retool the lines for serial Armata production.

It’s entirely possible UVZ might require a full-scale Kremlin-ordered bailout to be in position to produce Armata tanks by the hundreds.

Serviceability

On August 1, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu conducted a teleconference during which he addressed the serviceability (исправность) of Russia’s weapons and military equipment.

Defense Minister Shoygu

Defense Minister Shoygu

Serviceability is pretty synonymous with “in service,” “good condition,” “operability,” or “equipment operational readiness.”

Shoygu reported that the Russian military has achieved the following serviceability rates:

  • 63 percent for Aerospace Forces (VKS) aircraft;
  • 96 percent for air and missile defense systems;
  • 98 percent for space systems;
  • 76 percent for the Navy;
  • 94 percent for armored units;
  • 93 percent for artillery units.

Shoygu claimed that the military has devoted attention to obtaining higher quality weapons systems and to supporting their serviceability in the future.  He attributed high equipment availability to the shift to “full life cycle” maintenance contracts.  He said the MOD has worked with producers and developers to find problems that occur during use and work out measures to prevent them in the future.

In 2014, Shoygu reported that the overall serviceability of Russian arms and equipment improved from 80 to 85 percent.

In late 2013, Kommersant reported that the serviceability rate of aircraft in the air forces (VVS) was below 50 percent.  “Permanent readiness” requires 80 percent operational availability.

The MOD Action Plan (2013) specifies that equipment in-service rates for the ground troops and navy should be 85 percent and 80 percent for aircraft by 2020.

The U.S. military goal is 90 percent for all equipment except aircraft, which is 75 percent. But actual serviceability varies widely depending on a unit’s training and operational tempo.  Recovery time might actually be more critical.

The Canadian Army recently assessed its major vehicle and equipment fleet serviceability at 60 percent, which apparently didn’t make it too happy.

What do we make of Shoygu’s claims about the Russian military’s serviceability rates?

The Russians have put more effort against equipment modernization, overhauls, and repairs since Shoygu came to the MOD.  Therefore, increasing rates of serviceability aren’t surprising.

At the same time, the serviceability rate can be manipulated easily.

In most militaries, serviceability is determined and reported up the chain by military units themselves.  In the U.S., equipment readiness/serviceability is an element of the Unit Status Report (USR). It’s possible for commanders to fudge it.  The question is are they inclined to do this?

In Russia — where fulfilling the plan and meeting norms is highly valued, it seems likely.  Add to this the recent command housecleaning in the Baltic Fleet.  The MOD did a clean sweep on its headquarters for, among other things, padding numbers on training, readiness, etc.  So perhaps Shoygu double-checks his subordinates’ claims.

This is the country that created the Potemkin village.  For centuries, Russian provincials have been trying to fool any inspector-general (or party bureaucrat) sent from St. Petersburg (or Moscow).

At the same time, fudging can also be initiated at the top.  Mentioned on these pages more than once is the old trick of slashing the denominator to raise your percentage.  If 7,000 of 10,000 tanks are running, write 2,000 off and suddenly 88 percent of the army’s assets are serviceable, right?

In the end, we may have suspicions about Shoygu’s serviceability claims, but we don’t have any independent insight.  It’s true, though, that any military establishment that fools itself (at whatever level) about its “equipment operational readiness” runs an awful risk the next time bullets are fired in anger.

Russia Day Promotion List

President Vladimir Putin signed out the latest MOD promotion list on June 11, 2016 — the eve of Russia Day.  Find the original on Krasnaya zvezda.  Or check out the running list in English here.

This list had six two-star and 29 one-star promotees.

Promotions came to commanders of three army-level formations, five divisions, and three brigades.

Specifically:

  • 29th Combined Arms Army;
  • 68th Army Corps;
  • 39th Missile Division (RVSN);
  • 35th Motorized Rifle Brigade;
  • 106th Air-Assault Division (VDV);
  • 7th Tank Brigade;
  • 2nd Air Defense Division;
  • 11th Air-Assault Brigade (VDV);
  • 1st Air Defense Division;
  • 102nd Military Base (Armenia);
  • 2nd Combined Arms Army;
  • 51st Air Defense Division.

It looks like, just possibly, a nephew of General Staff Chief, Army General Valeriy Vasilyevich Gerasimov — one Vitaliy Petrovich Gerasimov — made general-major in command of the Aleysk-based 35th MRB in the Central MD.

But it might be a coincidence of surname.  It’s common.

The younger Gerasimov was born on July 9, 1977 — making him a general officer at the tender age of 38 years and 11 months.  He’s a native of Kazan and graduated from the higher tank command school in that fascinating ancient city on the Volga.

Vitaliy Gerasimov

Vitaliy Gerasimov as a colonel

Valeriy Gerasimov

Army General Valeriy Gerasimov

It’s possible to see (perhaps imagine) a family resemblance.

The elder Gerasimov was also born in Kazan, in 1955, and also commissioned out of the tank command school, in 1977.  The question is does Valeriy have a brother named Petr Vasilyevich Gerasimov?

Look for the next promotions in December.

Million-Man Army

President Putin (photo RIA Novosti Sergey Guneyev)

President Putin (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Guneyev)

For some time, observers have talked about the Russian military as a force of roughly 1,000,000 soldiers.  But its legal ceiling was above one million, while its true personnel number was below that level. Now Moscow has, for the first time, a statutory limit of 1,000,000 uniformed personnel.

This week President Vladimir Putin decreed a manpower limit of 1,885,371 for Russia’s Ministry of Defense.  One million will be uniformed service personnel and the balance civilian employees.

RIA Novosti reported on the decree.  It replaces one from January 2008 specifying 2,019,269 with 1,134,800 in uniform.

In a largely overlooked December 2008 act, former president Dmitriy Medvedev decreed that the limit would be 1,884,829, including one million serving in uniform, from the beginning of 2016.

So Putin has authorized an additional 542 civilian workers for the Defense Ministry.

To round out this picture, Putin decreed a limit of 2,020,500 with 1,134,800 servicemen in 2005.

Putin’s latest decree is the new benchmark.  But who is that million?

There are about 300,000 draftees in the armed forces at present.  In late 2015, the military reported having 352,000 contractees.  It announced it would take only 31,000 volunteer soldiers in 2016, and claimed its formations and units were manned at 92 percent of authorized manpower.

If you take 300,000 + 352,000 and add in 220,000 officers and 50,000 warrants, it looks like armed forces of 922,000 or 92.2 percent of the current one million authorized.  Another 31,000 contractees this year would be 95 percent.

In late 2014, the Defense Ministry said 220,000 officers, 50,000 warrants, 425,000 contractees, and 300,000 conscripts was its goal by the end of 2017. That’s 99.5 percent of one million.  Some 42,000 contractees will have to be signed up in 2017.

Perhaps, just maybe, the days of undermanning at 766,055 servicemen on January 1, 2013 are behind the MOD.  However, there are problems with believing it.  Number one is the fact that no one talks about the rate of contractees leaving the armed services.  Retention may be as good, but it’s not 100 percent.  The addition of new volunteers isn’t a straight line up to 425,000.

Beyond whether contractees stay are more important (and more difficult to evaluate) issues of the quality of recruits, what they learn in training, and what they add to Russia’s combat capability.

P.S.  Also notable this week was Putin’s signing of a decree on MVD manning which increases its personnel by 64,000 to 1,067,876 (872,970 police officers).  This, and the MOD decree, are part of an apparent rewickering of the “power” ministries that began with the establishment of Putin’s National Guard.

S-500 in 2016?

Predictions of the imminent appearance of the new anti-air, anti-missile S-500 system come with regularity.  Last week’s press reports aren’t novel in this respect.

Deputy Aerospace Forces (VKS) CINC and Chief of Air and Missile Defense General-Lieutenant Viktor Gumennyy [Goo-MYO-knee] says Almaz-Antey is completing development work on the S-500, and the VKS will receive it “soon.” Hard to argue. We know it’s in development, and he doesn’t say what “soon” means.

TASS and RIA Novosti covered Gumennyy’s comments on Rossiya 24 television.

The prevailing forecast is that the S-500 will complete development, and appear with operational units on an “experimental” basis in 2017.

As recently as early 2015, Deputy Defense Minister and procurement chief Yuriy Borisov predicted the S-500 wouldn’t complete development until 2017.

However, TASS reminds that VKS CINC General-Colonel Viktor Bondarev has said deliveries will start in 2016.  He’s an inveterate optimist; in 2012, he said 2013.

In any event, it’s a chance to review what’s claimed to date about the S-500.

The typical advertisement for the S-500 calls it a new generation, long-range surface-to-air missile with increased capability for high altitude (200 km) intercepts against ballistic missiles and RVs.  It can reportedly engage ten ballistic missiles simultaneously at a range of 600 km.  The S-500 is supposed to be superior to both the S-400 Triumf and U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3).

The system is supposed have 40N6M (possibly a longer-range mod of the S-400’s 400-km missile?) missiles as well as hypersonic 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 missile interceptors.  TASS reported that these anti-missile missiles were successfully tested in mid-2014.

According to Interfaks, GPV 2011-2020 calls for procurement of ten battalions (or five “regimental sets”) of the S-500.  Almaz-Antey’s original contract called for initial deliveries in 2015.

Noted by the regime or not, this is “GOZ breaking.” Some producers get in trouble for it; important ones sometimes don’t.

General-Lieutenant Gumennyy also reported that testing of the S-350 Vityaz SAM continues, and initial launches confirmed the system’s performance.  The S-350 will replace older Russian S-300PS SAMs.

Gumennyy said the share of “modern” SAMs and radars in Russia’s inventory is 45 percent.  Last December, the MOD indicated that 52 percent of all VKS weapons and equipment was “modern.”

P.S. President Vladimir Putin’s assistant for military-technical cooperation confirmed for Izvestiya today that Russia is negotiating sales of the S-400 system to China and India.

Thinking Twice

Is the Russian MOD having second thoughts about modernizing Kirov-class CGN Petr Velikiy?  Or its sole aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov?  What about Kirov-class CGN Admiral Nakhimov already in the modernization process at Sevmash?

Kirov-class CGN Petr Velikiy

Kirov-class CGN Petr Velikiy

OSK President Aleksey Rakhmanov himself raised the issue in a recent interview, according to a recap by Militaryparitet.com.

Militaryparitet cites Vpk-news.ru (currently launching a Trojan called Web Attack: Venom Activity 3 blocked by Norton thankfully).

Vpk-news referred to TASS, which itself indicated Rakhmanov’s statements came on Ekho Moskvy.  In any event, the original transcript of his remarks has eluded your author.

OSK President Aleksey Rakhmanov

OSK President Aleksey Rakhmanov

As Militaryparitet puts it, the efficacy of repairing old, large surface ships like Petr Velikiy and Kuznetsov isn’t obvious.

The web resource quotes Rakhmanov:

“For us the existing approach toward the repair of large-tonnage ships — Admiral Kuznetsov, Petr Velikiy — isn’t quite straightforward and optimal for one simple reason — the scale of expenditures for the repair of ships which are already 30-35 years old approaches the cost of building a new ship, and their service lives are much shorter than that of a newly constructed ship.”

And, according to Rakhmanov, this is “being openly discussed with the MOD.”

He continues:

“And is it necessary to do this, and if it is, then under what conditions?  It’s a question of the general life cycle concept — if a ship’s service life is 30 years, then is it necessary to extend its life?  For us the question of repairing particularly large, technically complex ships isn’t obvious.  Therefore, before talking about where to do this, we need to ask why we are doing it.”

“There are exceptions, but even one-of-a-kind ships, for example, Kuznetsov, have limits to their lives.  There is metal and equipment fatigue.”

According to Vpk-news.ru, Rakhmanov feels contemporary approaches toward shipbuilding should take into account “economically justifiable” repairs and use of each ship and vessel.

Of course, OSK and its enterprises make money off repairs, modernization, and construction, but the conglomerate makes more off — and is therefore more interested in — building new ships.  For its part, MOD wonders if it can fund expensive construction projects, and whether OSK and Russia’s shipbuilding industry can actually deliver the new ships.

It’s interesting that there isn’t the same level of angst when it comes to modernizing older nuclear-powered submarines and not as much — although clearly a certain amount — in the case of building new ones. The real worry sets in when major surface forces are considered.

But it all comes down to this:  building and maintaining a navy is an expensive proposition.