Don’t Publish This Story

It seems TASS, RIA Novosti, and Interfaks got orders not to report on Pavel Bakhtin’s rampage. It’s entirely possible under Russia’s increasingly controlled media regime.

Recent military-related news focused on Arctic exercises, MAKS-2015, and Tsentr-2015 preparations, but nothing about Bakhtin from the major Russian wire services.

Smaller outlets published stories about Bakhtin, and a few larger ones (lacking the reach of big news agencies) printed bare-bones reports.

Nothing here is meant to suggest senseless and tragic incidents don’t occur everywhere men and women are under arms for the state. They do.  The U.S. has more than its sad share.  What’s different is that everywhere (except Russia) it’s the lead story on TV news, it’s front page in the largest national papers, etc.

Here’s the basic story . . .

On 26 August, Corporal Pavel Bakhtin took his automatic weapon and killed his sleeping company commander and two other soldiers.  He wounded three more (one of whom later died) before turning the gun on himself.  Some sources claim that a fifth victim died.

Pavel Bakhtin

Pavel Bakhtin

That day, 18-year-old Bakhtin — just about three months shy of demob — was a sentry for the 331st Parachute Regiment (of the Ivanovo-based 98th Airborne Division) at a field camp near Pesochnoye on the border between Yaroslavl and Kostroma Oblasts.  After duty, Bakhtin went back to the guard house without returning his weapon, and unleashed it on his comrades.

With the apparent perpetrator dead and his victims dead or seriously injured, it’ll be hard to get what happened and why.  Nevertheless, a criminal case is open.  The investigation focuses on Bakhtin’s “personal motives” for killing his fellow servicemen.

Lifenews.ru reports maybe Bakhtin flipped out because Senior Lieutenant Andrey Voronchikhin punched him in the chest half a dozen times for removing a plate from his bullet-proof vest.

Sobesednik.ru cites human rights advocate Ella Polyakova who says men like Bakhtin are usually driven to a point where they commit such a crime.  She reports that the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers has received complaints of abuse from the Kostroma-based regiment.

Komsomolskaya pravda writes that soldiers in Bakhtin’s training company in Omsk say they knew he “wasn’t right.”  He couldn’t carry a weapon there.  They imply he had some kind of “psych file” at Omsk that got lost and didn’t follow him to his permanent unit in Kostroma.

But there are contradictory accounts saying Bakhtin’s friends claim he was a good guy who had no problems in the army.

Gazeta.ru reports that the VDV is apparently testing (or re-testing) the mental fitness of soldiers in the Kostroma regiment.  The web site also suggests the regimental command may have leaned hard on conscripts to sign up for voluntary contract service to make its quota.  Some troops and family members assert that officers forced conscripts to sign up, and even kept them standing at attention on the parade ground for hours until 30 men joined up.

The possibly belated psych testing seems akin to checking to see if newly renovated and re-occupied airborne barracks are safe to inhabit.  Conscripts and contractees are supposed to be assessed prior to induction.

The VDV is an elite branch of service.  It gets the pick of the best available conscripts in Russia’s twice-a-year draft.  Not to mention top choice of candidates for contract service.  This kind of crime is supposed to happen in other services, not in the airborne.

The Bakhtin case may illustrate what NG suggested in 2014: Russia’s military is pressing too hard and too fast.  Pressing to fly lots of aircraft and losing some, pressing to stretch its budget and not paying its electric bills, pressing to build military housing and facilities that are sub-standard, pressing to reach 425,000 contractees by 2017 and putting the wrong people in the ranks.

20th CAA on Ukraine’s Border

Russia’s 20th Combined Arms Army (CAA) is redeploying from Nizhegorod to Voronezh on Ukraine’s border, according to a TASS news agency source in the General Staff.

Reports of the army’s transfer from Nizhegorod Oblast, east of Moscow, first appeared in March.  Some Russian media say its 9th Motorized Rifle Brigade has already relocated to Boguchar, southeast of Voronezh on the Ukrainian border.  On 13 August, TASS reported that the army’s units will occupy existing garrisons in Orel, Kursk, Tambov, and Lipetsk Oblasts.

Moscow withdrew the 20th CAA from Germany by 1994, and it spent 16 years in Voronezh before relocating to Mulino, Nizhegorod in 2010.

Voronezh and Boguchar (Red Marker)

Voronezh and Boguchar (Red Marker)

The news agency’s source said the General Staff and Western Military District are determining the future composition of the 20th CAA, particularly new units to be formed or transferred from other military districts.  Its major maneuver forces will likely include another motorized rifle brigade and a tank brigade.  The process is in the initial phase, but should be complete by 1 December, the start of the army’s training year.

The 20th Army will need reinforcement because its most capable formations — the 2nd Taman Motorized Rifle Division, 4th Kantemir Tank Division, and 6th Tank Brigade — reportedly will become part of Russia’s reconstituted 1st Tank Army near Moscow this fall.

TASS reported that General-Major Sergey Kuzovlev will command the army. The Ukrainian Security Service alleges he commands Russian forces and local militia in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic.  Officially, he is chief of staff of the Southern MD’s 58th Army, and previously commanded the 18th Motorized Rifle Brigade in Chechnya.

Moving the 20th CAA is a reaction to a year and a half of fighting in eastern Ukraine, and an effort to enhance Kremlin options for border contingencies.  Nevertheless, it’s likely to be some time before most elements of the 20th CAA are settled, manned, trained, and combat ready.

Shaltay Boltay, Missile and Boomer Bases

Shaltay Boltay

Shaltay Boltay

Computer security, whistleblowers, hacks, compromises, and leaks have arrived on these pages.  Not through technical interest, but because of information that’s become available.  But more preface is required.

Russia watchers aren’t sure who’s behind Anonymous International.

Are they computer genius anti-Putin “hacktivists” stealing Kremlin emails and documents, auctioning off some and publicizing others?  Or are they a small, relatively liberal Kremlin faction (or just a few people) leaking information to benefit themselves politically?  Take your choice of analyses (here, here, and here).

They take their noms de plume from Alice in Wonderland.   Shaltay Boltay — Шалтай Болтай (Humpty Dumpty) — is the group’s voice.

The group is famous for hacking and spoofing Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev’s Twitter account, and for revealing the Kremlin’s hired trolls at work on Western web sites.  But the group’s latest information is of interest here.

Anonymous International addresses the Chief of the FSB’s Military Counterintelligence Department, General Colonel Aleksandr Bezverkhniy in mock indignation over Defense Ministry emails it obtained.  They reportedly came from the secretary of the former MOD Construction Department Director, Roman Filamonov.

Anonymous International calls the MOD’s information security organs “criminally negligent.”  It claims it used Yandex.ru, Mail.ru, and Gmail.com to obtain “service” (FOUO) documents sometimes containing secret data on Russia’s defense capabilities.  Reports on meetings with the Defense Minister and his deputies were allegedly transmitted via easily accessible open email.  The group says Filamonov’s secretary put her username and password for the MOD’s official email server in her electronic files.

Anonymous International asks Bezverkhniy to address the cavalier attitude toward information security among former and current MOD officials.  But everything mentioned is just an excerpt.  The group says it will sell a copy of its complete four-year collection of files from Filamonov’s secretary to the FSB for half price.

B0ltai.org appended a July 2014 report detailing Spetsstroy work on seven bases for Iskander-M SRBMs, supposed to be done that month.  The 7-billion-ruble contract to prepare these installations for the Iskander-M centered primarily on erecting 56 “tent-mobile shelters.”

But only 21 were completed on schedule — in Luga (26 рбр, 6А, ЗВО), Molkino (1 рбр, 49А, ЮВО), and Birobidzhan (107 рбр, 35А, ВВО).  Others — in Mozdok (probably a battalion’s worth), Znamensk, and Totskoye-2 — were experiencing significant delays in design or construction.  One in Shuya was not due for completion until February of this year.  It’s likely four more bases will be outfitted under some future contract.

This information from Filamonov’s secretary’s email is not particularly revelatory.  The missile brigades are well-known.  But it’s embarrassing that only one-third of this work was finished on time, despite the priority given Iskander-M.  Recall this program is supposed to be 100 percent  procured by 2017.  Additional money will probably be needed to bring the effort back on schedule.

Anonymous International also posted a slightly redacted report on construction, or reconstruction, of 12 Pacific Fleet submarine facilities near Vilyuchinsk to support the basing and operations of proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBNs.  It vaguely outlines a three-phase plan to complete this work in 2014, 2015, and 2017.

Vilyuchinsk and Rybachiy

Vilyuchinsk and Rybachiy

The report refers without specifics to work on mooring areas, shore power, dredging, and 12th GU MO nuclear warhead storage buildings.  In the second phase, it mentions completing a 100-ton crane, missile and weapons handling areas, storage buildings, roads, service housing, and “social infrastructure.” Finally, the report describes “full completion of the Pacific Fleet submarine base” including pier, administrative, vehicle, missile, and weapons storage areas, and roads as well as the “full development” of the energy and water supply for nearby residential areas.

The report is a year old, but depicts a base not quite ready for new fourth generation SSBNs.  Apparently, Aleksandr Nevskiy (K-550) is coming anyway.  Three more Boreys will follow while work at Vilyuchinsk and Rybachiy continues.  As noted previously, the issue of maintaining Russia’s naval strategic nuclear force in the Pacific has been long and painful for the MOD and for the Glavk personally.

Inter-Fleet

Vladimir Monomakh and Yuriy Dolgorukiy in Gadzhiyevo

Vladimir Monomakh and Yuriy Dolgorukiy in Gadzhiyevo

Interfaks-AVN reports Borey-class SSBN Aleksandr Nevskiy (K-550) will soon embark on an inter-fleet transfer from the Northern Fleet submarine base at Gadzhiyevo to Vilyuchinsk in the Pacific Fleet.

Nevskiy may not spend another winter in Gadzhiyevo like Monomakh and Dolgorukiy above.  Not too many months ago, it was thought Monomakh would also reach the Pacific Fleet this year.  That boat apparently needs a second successful Bulava SLBM firing before it can depart the northern waters where it was built.

The Russian Navy conducted a major training assembly on under-ice operations for nuclear submarine crews last February.

An article in Krasnaya zvezda reported that this training was aimed squarely at SSBN and Borey crews particularly.  Retired Vice-Admiral Anatoliy Shevchenko, Russia’s most accomplished under-ice submariner, was the featured speaker.

Nevskiy’s inter-fleet along Russia’s Northern Sea Route (Северный морской путь) could begin this month or next.

Soviet submarines built in Severodvinsk used to inter-fleet to bolster the Pacific order-of-battle.  The first were November-class SSN K-115 and Hotel II-class SSBN K-178 in September 1963.

But inter-fleet transfers beсame rare in the Russian era.  Four Oscar II-class SSGNs traversed the Sevmorput in the 1990s.  The last inter-fleet was Delta III-class SSBN Ryazan, which came in 2008 to keep the Pacific Fleet from losing its strategic nuclear strike capability.

According to a Navy Main Staff source, Nevskiy will conduct its third Bulava launch after its arrival in the Pacific Fleet.  The second hull of the Borey-class, Nevskiy was officially commissioned in December 2013.

Nevskiy is part of the 25th Submarine Division (25-я Дивизия подводных лодок or 25-я ДиПЛ).  Nevskiy (and Monomakh) were long ago inscribed on its roll.  But only three aged Delta III-class SSBNs (including Ryazan) are physically present in the Pacific.

We should recall (yet again) that, although President Vladimir Putin intervened personally to save the Pacific Fleet’s SSBN force in 2002, his men still can’t quite finish new basing facilities required for Borey-class boats.  Watch for more details on this, possibly tomorrow.

For Nakhimov’s Price

Admiral Nakhimov? (photo: Topwar.ru)

Admiral Nakhimov? (photo: Topwar.ru)

The photo above appears to be Kirov-class CGN Admiral Nakhimov (ex-Kalinin) having its superstructure dismantled at Sevmash.  Topwar.ru didn’t indicate how it came by the picture.

Blogger Aleksandr Shishkin recently offered his rationale (and that of other navy advocates) for repairing and modernizing Admiral Nakhimov.

As a shipbuilder, Shishkin says the “enemies of these monster-ships” think that the extraordinary expenditures required to renovate Nakhimov could be redirected to better use for the Russian military.  But he contends that Russia’s nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers have a disproportionate military-political effect when compared to other ways of spending this part of the MOD budget.

First, he makes a military firepower argument.

He argues that Nakhimov provides more “bang for the ruble” measured against new surface combatant construction.  He offers as an example the proyekt 20380 Steregushchiy-class corvettes of which five, with a total of 100 missiles, can be bought for Nakhimov’s price.  Two and one-half proyekt 22350 Gorshkov-class frigates can be bought for Nakhimov’s price.  Three Gorshkovs have 144 missiles. Or, for the cost of Nakhimov, one future proyekt 23560 (Lider) destroyer with approximately 136 launchers could be bought.

Shishkin projects 304 missiles on the renovated  Nakhimov — 224 SAMs and 80 cruise missiles.

That is, according to him, “twice-three times the quantity of similar and more powerful weaponry for the same money plus the possibility of using [the ship] anywhere in the world.”

Second, Shishkin argues for Nakhimov’s political effect.  Its return will keep Russia in a “firm second place” in the world navy “table of ranks” which carries a psychological impact “no one should underrate.”  Showing the flag promotes Russia as an alternative to the U.S. as the world’s lone superpower, according to him.

Nakhimov or no Nakhimov, many would argue China is the world’s second-ranked navy.

Third, the blogger maintains that reconstructing Nakhimov raises Russia’s “sense of self-worth” by showing that it can build [or rebuild] really large ships, not just patrol boats.

Fourth, he asserts that Nakhimov will be ready (2018-2019) earlier than new corvettes, frigates, and destroyers that won’t be delivered until the early 2020s.

Fifth, Shishkin says Sevmash’s work on a “first-rank” nuclear-powered ship like Nakhimov will prepare it to build aircraft carriers or to compete with Northern Wharf for destroyer contracts.

Shishkin notes that the renovation of Nakhimov costs 50 billion rubles ($1 billion), or 30 billion ($600 million) for the ship and 20 billion ($400 million) for new armaments and systems.  If this is the case, that makes Steregushchiys about $200 million, Gorshkovs about $400 million, and Liders about $1 billion per unit.

So none of this comes cheaply.

It’d be interesting to read an argument for Admiral Nakhimov addressing how the ship will figure in future Russian fleet operations and larger military strategy. How will it operate in defense of Moscow’s naval strategic nuclear forces, or in more likely contingencies short of this?

Admiral Lazarev (photo: Topwar.ru)

Admiral Lazarev (photo: Topwar.ru)

Admiral Ushakov and Admiral Lazarev remain in reserve in different states of decay and are very unlikely candidates for modernization.  Petr Velikiy will, at some future point, probably undergo the work currently being done to Nakhimov.

Fifth Generation Reconnaissance Man

Last week KZ ran a piece titled “Fifth Generation Reconnaissance Man.”  Easy to overlook, it turned out to be about the Black Sea Fleet’s new 127th Independent Reconnaissance Brigade based in Sevastopol, Crimea.

The article informs us that the brigade was formed after last year’s invasion.  It has the latest and greatest in weapons and equipment, including mobile EW and ELINT systems and Orlan and Leyer UAVs.  But its men, the article says, are the main thing.

The new brigade is 100 percent contract-manned, according to the article, but it is less than clear on the point.  Is it fully manned and all personnel are contractees or is it less than 100 percent manned but men on-hand are all contractees?  The article offers no other information on the brigade’s TO&E.

KZ notes that the commander and sub-unit commanders have combat experience and medals.  Colonel Aleksandr Beglyakov commands the 127th.  But there’s precious little about him.  What looks like a fragment of an Odnoklassniki profile appears below.

Beglyakov's Odnoklassniki Profile?

Beglyakov’s Odnoklassniki Profile?

If it’s him, he’s young at 37, but not exceptionally so for a Russian O-6.  He attended the Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School — cradle of Russian Army reconnaissance men.  He’s completed his mid-career school — VUNTs SV “Combined Arms Academy of the Russian Federation Armed Forces.”

The brigade’s recon men appear to be organized into groups like GRU Spetsnaz. At least one sergeant came from an independent Spetsnaz regiment in Stavropol. He says we are the “most polite” of all “polite people.” We come quietly, fulfill our mission, and leave quietly, according to him.

The KZ author describes another soldier as a “fifth generation reconnaissance man” — physically strong, equally skilled with weapons and modern digital systems.

This article brings us to the independent reconnaissance brigade, the ORBr — what it is, its origin, and what its future will be.

The first modern Russian Army ORBr, the 100th Independent Reconnaissance Brigade, is based in Mozdok.  It was formed in 2009 under former defense minister Serdyukov and was branded “experimental.”  There have been reports it would disband, but it apparently hasn’t.

One apparently knowledgeable observer shared this description:

“The 100th Experimental Independent Reconnaissance Brigade (Mozdok, North Ossetia) was formed in the summer of 2009 on the basis of the 85th Independent Spetsnaz Detachment [ooSpN] of the 10th Independent Spetsnaz Brigade:”

“command, air-assault battalion, reconnaissance battalion (two reconnaissance companies + a tank company), SP howitzer battalion, SpN detachment, UAV detachment, anti-aircraft missile-artillery battalion, EW company (expanding into an independent ELINT battalion), engineer company, maintenance company, material-technical support company, medical company, in the future its own helicopter regiment.”

“A mixed squadron transferred into the brigade from Budennovsk.  The helicopter sub-unit carries out missions for the ground formation and is operationally subordinate to it.  The squadron provides cover for the brigade’s armored columns, transports supplies, and conducts all types of reconnaissance.”

“The brigade’s command was formed on 1 December 2009.”

It’s a very interesting and unique brigade by Russian Army standards.  It has surprisingly robust combined arms firepower to go along with its reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities.

ORBr roots extend to Soviet times.  But it was different then.  The 25th ORBr in Mongolia had three reconnaissance battalions, a “deep reconnaissance” (SpN??) battalion, and fewer technical intelligence systems.  Its helo squadron had 20 Mi-8s and an Mi-2 for the brigade commander.  Soviet forces in Mongolia also included the 20th ORBr.  Most Russians who served in or comment on these formations are pretty adamant that they reported to the GRU.

Ten “New” Chemical Defense Regiments

Russian Soldier in Chemical Defense Gear (photo: Mil.ru)

Russian Soldier in Chemical Defense Gear (photo: Mil.ru)

In late June, Mil.ru provided comments by the Deputy Chief of Radiological, Chemical, and Biological Defense (RKhBZ) Troops, General-Major Igor Klimov. He said:

“Development of the troops of RKhB defense is currently directed at supporting conditions for an adequate response to all possible threats — radiological, chemical, and biological.”

The RKhBZ Troops are capable of completing missions for the Armed Forces and the state as a whole, according to him.

General-Major Igor Klimov

General-Major Igor Klimov

But Klimov added:

“One should note that just in 2014 alone ten regiments of RKhBZ were formed in the composition of combined arms armies.”

At the same time, the TO&E structure of the four independent RKhBZ brigades of the military districts was “optimized.”  That means, of course, reduced, cut, slashed, etc.

Klimov added:

“In 2016-2020, the composition and TO&E of formations, military units and organizations of the RKhBZ Troops will improve with the goal of guaranteeing fulfillment of RKhBZ missions for Armed Forces groupings in armed conflicts and local wars, eliminating the effects of emergency situations, and conducting research in the applied sciences (chemistry, biology, biochemistry, genetics, biotechnology).”

Mil.ru also noted that RKhBZ formations, units, and organizations will undergo a transition to new org-shtat structures as they receive new types of weapons and equipment.

The ten “new” regiments look like this:

The shift from brigades is creating regiments that aren’t really “new.”  It’s a reshuffling of existing RKhBZ units to integrate them into Russia’s combined arms armies.  They will be army- rather than MD-level assets.  

The “new regiments” are rather sparse.  Most press indicates they will have about 300-600 personnel and 100-200 pieces of equipment each.  In Soviet times, a combined arms army had several RKhBZ battalions including recon, protection, decon, flamethrower, and smoke.

TOS-1A

TOS-1A

Perhaps RKhBZ is returning to army-level control because of the growing role of thermobaric rocket launchers like the TOS-1A in Russia’s fire support plans.