Category Archives: Command and Control

Aerospace Forces

At some point, probably next summer, the Air Forces (VVS) will cease being one of Russia’s three armed services.  The Aerospace Forces (VKS or ВКС) will take their place.  The Aerospace Defense Troops (VVKO) will likewise disappear as a branch and get rolled into the new VKS.  Russia will be left with three services and two branches (not three of each).

RF and Air Forces Flags (photo: Mil.ru)

RF and Air Forces Flags (photo: Mil.ru)

The Aerospace Forces will be responsible for all Russian air forces and air defense (and more).

This news comes on the heels of six months of studious MOD denials that such a move was even contemplated.

It began quietly on 1 December  with Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s remarks to a regular military leadership videoconference.

According to Krasnaya zvezda, Shoygu discussed changing the organizational structure of the Air Forces in connection with turning VVKO aerospace defense brigades back into air defense (PVO) divisions.  He said the decision was made in mid-2013 after an analysis of mission fulfillment by the Air Forces.  He explained that:

“The goal of the changes being made is to increase the effectiveness of VVS [Air Forces] command and control, to improve the quality of the organization of everyday activity and planning for the combat employment of the troops.”

It echoed an earlier decision to reverse course on Anatoliy Serdyukov’s large composite air bases and groups and put aircraft back into more dispersed divisions and regiments.

By 10 December, Interfaks-AVN reported that the decision to replace the VVS with the VKS awaited only an official announcement.  

The news agency’s MOD source said:

“Formation of the new service [VKS] will proceed gradually, and, as expected, take several years.  In the course of this period, the forces and means entering the VKS must develop in the direction of unification and standardization of command and control, information and strike systems.”

The source also claimed the first CINC of the new service would be a general officer with experience commanding large inter-service [unified or joint] troop groupings, including aviation and PVO.  The most likely candidate — according to the source — Central MD Commander General-Colonel Vladimir Zarudnitskiy.

Then Defense Minister Shoygu made it official on 18 December when he said creating Aerospace Forces would be a priority task for 2015.

TASS reported the VKS CINC will have deputies for aviation, air defense, missile defense (PRO), and space.  It also indicated that VKS will control all current VVS aviation, including frontal and army aviation.  But its sway over the latter two — with the exception of fighter aircraft — will be “purely nominal,” and they will be employed in “coordination” with MD commanders.  Troop PVO will apparently continue to protect army formations.

Military commentator Igor Korotchenko captured the essence of VKS as a reaction to the possibility of a devastating U.S. aerospace attack on Russia:

“The main function [of VKS] is to guarantee realization of the Russian Federation’s concept of aerospace defense, proceeding from the need to counter existing plans, particularly of the United States of America, to implement the prompt global strike concept.  The Americans are planning in the conceivable future to use precision weapons, including hypersonic ones, to destroy [launch] positions and silos of intercontinental ballistic missiles, command centers, communications centers.  The fact here is that this concept will potentially be a great threat for Russia.  These new structures, the new service of the Russian armed forces will be occupied with its deterrence and neutralization.”

Such a potentially disarming threat might mobilize the military and public against America, but Korotchenko and the VKS will have to wait a very long time for it to materialize.  And if it doesn’t appear, then the deterrent worked, right?  A no-lose proposition from Moscow’s perspective.

VKS will be something of an effort to resurrect or reconstruct Soviet PVO Strany — national air defense — that was dismantled beginning in the late 1970s. Serdyukov’s reorganization of the VVS and creation of VVKO are criticized now as focused solely on saving money.  The current thinking is that all aerospace defense systems should be concentrated in a single service and single CINC with authority and responsibility for protecting the country’s aerospace borders.

The new VKS will be anything but compact, as President Putin often calls on the army to be.  They will be a sprawling enterprise that may be challenging to link and inter-connect for operations as a unified command.  If Serdyukov’s changes were too economy-minded, this one errs on the side of Soviet-style giantism. And now isn’t an auspicious time for expensive undertakings.

There are practical issues too.  How will the VKS CINC manage competing requirements for modern fighter aircraft from frontal aviation and air defense?Their number is limited and insufficient for both needs.  So creation of VKS won’t change the fact that they will be spread thinly over a gigantic landmass.

Moral of the story:  Reform, reorganization, and reshuffling never really end no matter the boss — Serdyukov, Shoygu, etc.  VKS may be the answer for a time, but they’re very unlikely to be the last word. 

P.S.  Various reports on VKS provided some indication of deployments in 2015. What is currently the VKO brigade (or will become a PVO division) in Novosibirsk may receive the S-400 this summer.  Shoygu said the MOD will put an air and air defense army (AVVSiPVO or АВВСиПВО) in the Arctic.  More recently, TASS reported an S-400 regiment will be deployed on Novaya Zemlya.

Year of Accomplishments

Krasnaya zvezda called this story “Year of Accomplishments,” but might have called it Day of Military Acceptance . . . .

President and Supreme CINC Vladimir Putin visited the NTsUO for the first time on 18 December.  He familiarized himself with the new national command center and its capabilities for accommodating and coordinating the work of the military and other high-level government organs.

Putin Touring the NTsUO (photo: Mil.ru)

Putin Touring the NTsUO (photo: Mil.ru)

Putin’s seat is in the upper balcony opposite the big screens.

Another View of the NTsUO (photo: Mil.ru)

Another View of the NTsUO (photo: Mil.ru)

The first real order of business, however, was reviewing fulfillment of the State Defense Order in 2014.

Recall this year the political leadership and Defense Ministry launched a quarterly exercise of enumerating what was procured the previous three months on what they call the Day of Military Acceptance (День военной приёмки).

It’s almost as though the Kremlin is irritated someone has audaciously suggested that Russian output of new armaments and other military equipment hasn’t been especially impressive in years past.  

The Supreme CINC said:

“At recent meetings in Sochi we already noted that practically all Gosoboronzakaz tasks for this year have been fulfilled, and its general volume increased by almost half in comparison with 2013.”

Putin went on to say that 4,500 weapons, military, and special equipment were acquired in 2014, including:

  • 142 aircraft;
  • 135 helicopters;
  • 4 submarines;
  • 15 surface ships and boats / craft;
  • 19 SAM systems;
  • 590 tanks and BMPs;
  • 3 Yars ICBM regiments;
  • 7 modernized Tu-160 and Tu-95MS bombers.

It isn’t clear which four submarines the Russian president means.  Probably the third Borey-class (proyekt 955A) SSBN Vladimir Monomakh and Improved Kilo-class (proyekt 636.3) diesel-electric Novorossiysk.  But Borey unit 2 Aleksandr Nevskiy was accepted late last year.  And it would be a stretch to accept the next two Improved Kilos before January.

KZ then turns to Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and his words before an expanded MOD collegium in the NTsUO.

He said Russian strategic forces received 38 intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2014 — 16 ICBMs and 22 SLBMs — most of the latter placed on Borey unit 1 Yuriy Dolgorukiy.  He claimed that 56 percent of Russia’s strategic weapons are now “modern.”

Shoygu said Russia’s 14 UAV sub-units (companies or platoons) received 179 UAVs.

He expounded a bit on the Supreme CINC:

“The Ground Troops were supplied with two brigade sets of operational-tactical missile systems ‘Iskander-M,’ 294 modernized tanks, 296 other armored combat vehicles, two ‘S-300V4′ Ground Troops air defense systems, almost 5 thousand vehicles.”

“The Air Forces received 142 aircraft, of which 53 are multipurpose Su-30 and Su-35S aircraft systems, 16 Su-34, 28 transport and training aircraft of various types, 18 modernized fighter-interceptors MiG-31BM, 135 helicopters, including 46 combat and 72 transports.”

Mil.ru posted the videos and texts presented to Putin and the collegium.  They address all of the priority tasks of the military this year.  One, of course, is “Equipping with Modern Armaments and Military Equipment.”  It provides the following data (different from Putin and Shoygu):

  • 294 modernized T-72B3;
  • 7 S-400 SAM systems;
  • Yasen-class SSN Severodvinsk (accepted in 2013?!@#) ;
  • Novorossiysk;
  • 5 surface ships and 10 boats / craft of various classes.

This account mentions that the serviceability of weapons and equipment rose from 80 to 85 percent.

Accepting submarines at year’s end seems to enable Moscow to claim that they were accepted, or to count them as “produced,” in two years rather than just one.

All in all, more weapons and equipment were acquired in 2014 and 2013 than in 2012, 2011, etc.  But it’s a little like comparing something and nothing. Serious procurement on a fairly wide front didn’t begin until after 2012.

The NTsUO Chief

The Defense Ministry announced in late October that Russia’s new National Defense Command and Control Center (NTsUO or НЦУО) in the old ground troops command building on Frunzenskaya embankment will be fully operational by December 1.  It has operated on an “experimental combat duty” basis since April.

You can read about the NTsUO here and here.  Or you can look at General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov’s description of what it will do.  It’s an incredibly expansive list of oversight, monitoring, and decision-support functions for state defense in accord with the Defense Plan.  As Gerasimov indicates, the NTsUO will inform Russia’s leadership about what’s happening in the world, the country, and the Armed Forces, and propose alternative courses of action in response to changing situations.

The NTsUO will be the apex of the military command and control system. Military includes not just Defense Ministry forces, but also Russia’s numerous militarized ministries and agencies — FSB, FSO, SVR, MVD, MChS, etc.  And more besides.  But it’s not clear to what extent heavyweights like the FSB and MVD have invested themselves in the NTsUO thus far.

Overlooked in the NTsUO is an intent to give supreme commander-in-chief Vladimir Putin better control over his various siloviki in the event of a genuine internal threat to his rule, i.e. coup, “colored revolution,” Bolotnaya march, Maidan, etc.  The NTsUO appears to be something Gorbachev, Yeltsin, or even Yanukovych would have envied during their political crises.

The NTsUO and its chief may have usurped the role of spokesman for the MOD (which retains its official press-service).

Alongside Defense Minister Shoygu, newly-minted NTsUO chief, General-Lieutenant Mikhail Mizintsev took the lead in briefing the MOD’s Public Council on October 28.  His published report was widely replayed by Russian news agencies.

General-Lieutenant Mikhail Mizintsev (photo:  Mil.ru)

General-Lieutenant Mikhail Mizintsev (photo: Mil.ru)

So what about the NTsUO chief?

Mizintsev is a career staff officer with considerable time spent in tactical reconnaissance.  He was born in rural Vologda oblast on September 10, 1962.  He graduated from the Suvorov premilitary school in Tver in 1980, and the Kiev combined arms command school in 1984.

He commanded reconnaissance or motorized rifle troops up to battalion-level in the GSFG / WGF and Group of Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus.

He finished the mid-career Frunze Military Academy in 1996, and served as a “senior officer-operator” [watch officer] in the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate (GOU) until 2001.  He returned to the schoolhouse and graduated from the senior-level General Staff Academy in 2003.

Mizintsev served as the chief of an unidentified GOU group through 2007. He then became chief of the operations directorate and deputy chief of staff for the Moscow Military District.  He likely came to the attention of Valeriy Gerasimov at this point.  Gerasimov commanded the district starting in 2009.

From 2010 to 2012, Mizintsev occupied the same post in the North Caucasus / Southern MD.

In August 2012, he became chief of the General Staff’s Central Command Post (TsKP or ЦКП) until it disbanded and he took over the NTsUO.

Mizintsev’s rise from O-6 was quick; he became a one-star in December 2011, then put on two-star general-lieutenant rank barely two years later.

Simmering War

Not Crimea, the North Caucasus (photo: RIA Novosti)

Not Crimea, the North Caucasus (photo: RIA Novosti)

Russian news agencies marked the 15th anniversary of the Unified Group of Troops (Forces) — OGV(s) or ОГВ(с) — in the North Caucasus on September 23.

The OGV(s) was, and is, the inter-service headquarters established at Khankala, Chechnya to command all Russian “power” ministry (MOD, MVD, FSB) operations at the start of what became the second Chechen war in 1999.

The war that would bring Vladimir Putin to prominence and the presidency, and preoccupy him during his first years in power.

The ITAR-TASS headline proclaimed:  “The OGV in the Caucasus has killed more than 10,000 fighters over 15 years.”

Fighters means insurgents or terrorists from Moscow’s perspective.

That’s a lot.  On average, even through today, over 600 per year, or at least a couple every day.  Earlier this year, a news headline read “Russian MVD has killed more than 350 fighters in 4 months.”

Six Killed in Makhachkala (photo: ITAR-TASS)

The body count isn’t the only metric.

The MVD noted that OGV(s) units have conducted more than 40,000 “special measures,” destroyed 5,000 bases and caches, confiscated 30,000 weapons, and disarmed 80,000 explosive devices.

The Hero of the Russian Federation has been awarded to 93 MVD servicemen in the OGV(s) (including 66 posthumously).  More than 23,000 MVD troops have received orders and medals.

And the disparate North Caucasus insurgency still simmers.

Putin’s Arctic Chimera

Pronouncements on plans for stronger Russian military forces in the Arctic have been studiously ignored on these pages.

For two reasons . . . first, one can’t write about everything, and second (because of the first), one has to focus on a few significant topics.

The Russian military in the Arctic hasn’t been one of them.

Putin on Franz Josef Land in 2010 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Putin on Franz Josef Land in 2010 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

President Vladimir Putin’s interest in the Arctic made news in 2007 when a mini-submarine planted a Russian flag on ocean floor under the North Pole.  The Kremlin wanted to stake a symbolic claim to the lion’s share of the Arctic’s potential underwater wealth.

The vast, frozen region may indeed have large percentages of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and oil deposits.

More than a few observers see Putin’s concern with the Arctic as an effort to extend Russia’s hydrocarbon export-based model of economic growth.

The friend-of-Putin state oligarchs running Gazprom and Rosneft would certainly like the Russian treasury (and military) to underwrite their efforts to get at Arctic resources and line their pockets with more cash.

But the capital investment and technology required would be staggering. Canadian expert Michael Byers has been widely quoted:

“We’re talking about the center of a large, inhospitable ocean that is in total darkness for three months each year, thousands of miles from any port.”

“The water in the North Pole is 12,000 feet deep and will always be covered by sea ice in the winter.  It’s not a place where anyone is going to be drilling for oil and gas.  So it’s not about economic stakes, it’s about domestic politics.”

It’s an easy place to show Russia’s leader defending national sovereignty and interests.  The news stories and press releases track with an established Kremlin narrative about hostile Western powers trying to grab Russia’s natural bounty.

All of which brings us back round to the military in the Arctic.

During  Serdyukov’s tenure, the Ministry of Defense first raised the prospect of basing two army brigades there.  In September, Kirov-class CGN Petr Velikiy and other ships sailed the Northern Sea Route into the eastern Arctic.  And late in the year, Putin himself was prominent in giving the order to build, or re-build, various Russian military bases in the Arctic.

But things have a way of taking ridiculous turns.

On 17 February, an unidentified source told ITAR-TASS that the MOD and Genshtab have proposed forming a new Arctic unified strategic command with the Northern Fleet as its basis.  The source claimed this Northern Fleet-Unified Strategic Command (SF-OSK or СФ-ОСК) would be a new de facto MD, even if it isn’t called one.

The Northern Fleet and major units and formations based in the north would be taken from the Western MD, and put into new groupings deployed in the Arctic, including on Novaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands, and Franz Josef Land.  Ouch.

SK-OSK is supposed to be inter-departmental too, with FSB Border Guards added.  The whole thing would report to the MOD, Genshtab, and, at some point, the NTsUOG.

The proposal is reportedly with Putin now, and a decision is expected in the coming months.

To make matters more interesting, Western MD Commander, General-Colonel Anatoliy Sidorov was cool, perhaps even balky, when confronted by the possibility of an “Arctic OSK.”

He told media representatives last Friday that his troops need no additional knowledge, and his equipment no additional preparation, for service in Arctic conditions.  He would not comment on possibly losing a large part of his current command.  According to RIA Novosti, he said only, “When there are directives, we will fulfill them.”

ITAR-TASS last week also reported on a company-sized anti-terrorist exercise in the Northern Fleet.

Northern Fleet Anti-Terrorist Training (photo: Mil.ru)

Northern Fleet Anti-Terrorist Training (photo: Mil.ru)

But there’s no “Al Qaida in the Arctic” yet.  Only Greenpeace.

Russia’s Arctic is enormous, and it is likely to be increasingly important, but not necessarily as the next big theater of war.  Naturally, Moscow wants to prepare for contingencies, but it’s already prepared and positioned as well as the few other regional players.  The money, time, and attention might be better spent on more palpable threats.  But, as Byers pointed out, the Arctic seems to be good politics.

Promotion List

It appears the best way to get the latest promotion list out is now Google Docs.  This conclusion follows a number of frustrating gyrations.

These promotions came in President Putin’s decree signed out 12 December 2013 and published in Krasnaya zvezda.

New Deputy Defense Minister

General-Colonel Pavel Popov

General-Colonel Pavel Popov

On 7 November, President Vladimir Putin appointed General-Colonel Pavel Anatolyevich Popov to be a Deputy Minister of Defense.  Popov had been an assistant to Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu.

Popov’s the latest in a series of Ministry of Emergency Situations (MChS) generals to come to the Defense Ministry.  They all served alongside Shoygu for many years.

Popov’s page is up on Mil.ru.  But his bio is better on the MChS site.  The 56-year-old Popov was commissioned an army lieutenant in 1978.  He served in the GSFG and the Far East MD before switching to Civil Defense in 1990.  He headed a couple MChS regional centers as well as the Civil Defense Academy before becoming a deputy to Shoygu at MChS in 2008.

Popov specialized in C2 and developed the crisis command and control center at MChS, according to Izvestiya.  He’ll replace departed Dmitriy Chushkin, who had responsibility for C2 issues.

As Shoygu’s assistant, Popov was already responsible for standing up the new National Command and Control Center for State Defense (NTsUOG).

Overall, Shoygu now has two first deputies and eight deputies.