Category Archives: Force Modernization

But We Make Rockets

Yes, Russia is making rockets now.

Vladimir Putin came to power on the eve of the 21st century promising (among other things) to remake Russian military power.  But progress was slow.  The economy struggled to emerge from the default and devaluation of 1998.  A poor, unready army found itself mired for several years in the Second Chechen War.

Not until after an uneven military performance in the August 2008 five-day war with Georgia — and not until after the 2009 economic crisis, perhaps in 2012 or 2013 — did the funding necessary for significant improvements in combat readiness and larger procurement of weapons and equipment reach the Russian Armed Forces.

Then came war in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and Syria.  Blowback from Syria could make Central Asia or the North Caucasus Russia’s next front. But questions about recent Kremlin bellicosity already bear close to home — on Russia’s domestic political and economic circumstances.

Consider a editorial from October 26.

“But we make rockets”

“Can the army and navy replace everything else for citizens”

RS-24 Yars ICBMs on Parade (photo: AP / Ivan Sekretarev)

RS-24 Yars ICBMs on Parade (photo: AP / Ivan Sekretarev)

“Often it’s easier for people to accept growing financial hopelessness to the sound of bold military marches.  Not for the first time in Russian history the army is beginning to replace the nation’s economy, life, general human values, and becoming the new old national idea and practically the only effective state institution.”

“Not everywhere in Russian industry are orders shrinking and demand falling.  There is production that is very much in demand.  In the ‘Tactical Missile Weapons’ corporation, for example, they’ve gone to three shifts of missile production for the Syrian front, a source in the defense-industrial complex has told the publication ‘Kommersant-Vlast.’  Against this backdrop, an article appeared in The Independent newspaper about how in Russia, after the events in Crimea and Syria, the army is again becoming the ‘departure point of Russian ideology’ — that very national idea for which they searched so long and unsuccessfully in post-Perestroika Russia and here now, finally, have found.”

“‘Russia has only two reliable allies — the army and navy.’  These famous words of Emperor Aleksandr III (who, incidentally, went down in history we would say now under the nickname Peacemaker) have once again in our history acquired a literal meaning. Other reliable allies of whom Russia was evidently sure over the last year-and-a-half or two years clearly no longer remain with us.”

“In a time of economic crisis, the temptation among Russian authorities to make the army one of the leading state institutions grows even greater.  The remaining institutions are emasculated or work as badly as ever.  In the end, to do this is sometimes simply useless:  the impoverished voter will say — why are your institutions here, is my life improving?  The expenditures are great, but the effect will be, probably, negative.”

“How much better the army is:  there is discipline, and pay, and achievements, and a plan of development.  The share of military expenditures in the budget is growing, but a cut in its absolute size has affected it to a lesser degree than civilian sectors like education and health care.”

“All hope is now on defense — as in ‘peace time’ we placed hope on oil and gas.”

“The army again is a lovely testing ground for demonstrating one more innovation — import substitution.  Not all Russians can understand why it’s necessary to burn up high quality foreign goods. But hardly anyone would object that Russia didn’t buy any aircraft, tanks or missiles abroad.  The president at a session of the Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation Issues announced that thanks to import substitution the country’s defense industrial enterprises are ‘becoming more independent of foreign component supplies.’”

“In general, we found by experience that we didn’t quite succeed in finding any other nation-binding idea over 25 years of not very consistent attempts to draw close to the Western world.  The simple national idea ‘state for the sake of man’ didn’t take root, including, alas, because man somehow didn’t value it very much; attempts to raise free citizens and form a civic nation, bound by common human values, failed.  There were neither citizens, nor values…”

“Being that there wasn’t demand for a free citizen not only above, but even below.  It is precisely therefore that we don’t have normal trade unions, strong nongovernmental organizations, and independent civil initiatives.  It’s not just the state that doesn’t need ‘all this.’  It’s society too.”

“Therefore one year before State Duma elections there isn’t even opposition in political parties to the openly military-oriented budget.”

“Distinct from this is that America which we love to accuse of aggressiveness, but in which military expenditures and their share in the budget are steadily falling in recent years.  In fact, legislative control over the military budget is one of the main forms of civilian society’s control over the army in the USA.  Though in America there were times when the military tried to decide both for society and for politicians.  Considerable force and time was required to put the military under control, but the States succeeded in this.”

“In Russia the easiest and quickest means of unifying the nation turned out to be the bloodless victory in Crimea and the somewhat bloody events in the Donbass.  The idea of abstract imperial power, and the image of ‘the country rising from its knees’ were substantiated, as the man in the street perceived it, and they were near and comprehensible to him.  Like, we lead a miserable life ourselves (when was it otherwise?), but we are a ‘great power’ again.”

“Polite green people, capable quickly without noise and dust of ‘deciding questions,’ create in the multimillion-person army in front of the television an illusion of their own significance.”

“It’s not only the missile corporation that’s working ‘in three shifts’ now, but also the factory of national pride, based exclusively on military victories.”

“Firstly, we are proud of past victories, in which, besides the live heroes of that war, there is no one alive today who isn’t, in essence, a participant:  St. George’s banners and inscriptions on foreign-made cars ‘To Berlin!,’ ‘Thanks granddad for Victory,’ ‘Descendant of a Victor’ flash at every step.  Secondly, they actively urge us to pride in new military victories.”

“Meanwhile the war in distant Syria works for such military-patriotic PR even better than the war in Ukraine.  And further from the borders, pictures of Russian aircraft bombing terrorists a world away inspire the people more than the sullen ‘militiamen’ of which the masses have had enough already.”

“What’s fashionable in war and militancy also enters official political discourse.  Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has firmly become the second most popular politician and most successful top-manager in the country.  And the president not without some internal pride calls himself the ‘dove with iron wings,’ telling foreign guests directly at a Valday Club session that he was still in the Leningrad courtyard when he learned to ‘strike first’ if a fight is inevitable.”

“And it’s still necessary to remember:  even a war far from the borders, if it’s protracted, requires not  only military, but also great financial resources.”

“So if the economic collapse in Russia continues, pride in the army still cannot fully make up for people the absence of conditions for a normal life.  But for now — in a situation where the authorities live by tactics and not by strategy, — the army and military mobilization of the nation really look like a national idea, and a panacea for the crisis, and a means of supporting a high rating.”

“Polite green people are already capable of becoming not simply a symbol of the Crimean operation, but a symbol of an entire epoch. But they usually don’t solve all the accumulated social, economic, and human problems of a large country.”

How Good Is Russian Electronic Warfare? (Part I)

There’s been a slow accumulation of hysteria about this in the West since Russia’s invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.  Naturally, the Russians didn’t sit on their hands while the U.S. focused exclusively on fighting insurgents and IEDs for more than a decade.

But how much of the Russian EW threat is real and how much imagined?

Let’s turn to Aleksey Ramm who grappled with the question in a two-part article for VPK.  Photos were added along with the translation.

“Electronic Warfare — Myths and Facts — Part I”

“How unique are Russian Army EW systems?”

“Recently Russian electronic warfare systems have acquired the aura of some kind of super weapon, capable, according to average opinion, of causing panic in the probable enemy with the flip of just one switch.”

“It all began with the flight of an Su-24 frontal bomber over the American destroyer ‘Donald Cook’ described in practically all Russian media, during which the Russian aircraft supposedly employed its newest ‘Khibiny’ system.  Its effect on the ship’s electronic equipment almost caused panic leading to the mass resignation of sailors and officers from the ‘Cook.’  Later a photograph appeared on the Internet allegedly of a memorial coin (according to other data — a medal), noting this historic overflight, and on its back side was inscribed ‘Lesson of Peace.’”

“Why did ‘Khibiny’ eat up ‘Cook’?”

“The story of the ‘Donald Cook’ hadn’t quieted down when on 4 August of this year the blog published an article Electronic Warfare: What US Army Can Learn From Ukraine (‘Radioelectronic Warfare:  What Lessons the US Army Can Take From the Ukrainian Conflict’) by author Joe Gould (Dzho Guld), where it’s asserted that the Russian Armed Forces have made a significant jump in the realm not only of developing electronic warfare systems, but in their use, that demonstrates, in the author’s opinion, that a lag has started to take shape for the American military on this issue.”

“We can’t forget that one of the leading developers and producers of Russian electronic warfare systems — Kontsern Radioelectronic Technologies (KRET) is currently conducting an aggressive PR campaign supporting its products.  It’s sufficient to recall that in the media more and more often we hear headlines:  ‘KRET has presented a unique jammer for long-range radar surveillance aircraft,’ ‘Jamming system reliably defends troops from enemy artillery fire’ and the like.”

“Thanks to such popularity of EW it’s not only specialized publications, but even the general media announcing that EW equipment ‘Krasukha-2,’ ‘Krasukha-4,’ ‘Rychag,’ ‘Infauna’ is entering the Russian Army inventory…  And to be honest, it’s fairly difficult even for a specialist to sort things out in this flow of names.”

Krasukha-2 (photo:

Krasukha-2 (photo:

“But how effective are the Russian electronic warfare systems being presented and how well is EW organized?  We’ll try to answer these questions.”

“Priority on EW”

“The following fact attests that Russia’s military-political leadership is paying close attention to the development of electronic warfare systems:  the 15th Independent Electronic Warfare Brigade (Supreme Main Command) appeared back in April 2009.  It’s notable that according to some data — besides the 15th obr REB there are only two brigades carrying the title Supreme Main Command in the RF Armed Forces (one engineering and one RKhBZ), but according to other data — it is still the only such brigade of the VGK¹ in the Russian Army.”

“Currently the 15th Brigade, which was earlier based in the Tula oblast town of Novomoskovsk and received its combat banner in accordance with an April 2009 presidential decree, has transferred to [the city of] Tula.  We should note that this formation has been outfitted with the most modern electronic warfare systems, including the still secret [sic] communications suppression system ‘Murmansk-BN’ and ‘Leyer-3’ aerial jamming system.”

Murmansk-BN (photo:

Murmansk-BN (photo:

“Besides the brigade of the Supreme Main Command, since 2009 independent electronic warfare centers have been formed in every military district.  True, the majority of them are currently being reformed into independent electronic warfare brigades.  The exception consists only of the recently formed EW center in the Crimea, subordinate to the Black Sea Fleet command.”

Leyer-3 Mounted on Orlan-10 UAV (photo:

Leyer-3 Mounted on Orlan-10 UAV (photo:

“Besides brigades, in every district there are also independent battalions, for example, the independent EW battalion subordinate to the Central Military District command and based in the city of Engels in Saratov oblast.  We should note that, it’s most probable that the mission of such battalions is covering particularly important civilian and military facilities.”

“Strategic battalions equipped with the above mentioned ‘Murmansk,’ and also tactical ones — with ‘Infauna’ systems on a BTR base, R-330Zh ‘Zhitel’ and R-934 jamming stations go into EW brigades and centers.  Besides two battalions in brigades and centers there are also independent companies — one equipped with so-called [anti-]aircraft systems, that is ‘Krasukha-2’ and ‘Krasukha-4’ systems, and a company with aforementioned ‘Leyer-3s.’”

“The recently established Aerospace Forces are also receiving modern electronic warfare systems, we are talking in particular about such equipment as ‘Khibiny’ systems which have recently become almost legendary and are on Su-34 frontal bombers, but also  about Mi-8 helicopters equipped with ‘Rychag’  stations.  Also recently the Russian Air Forces’ aircraft inventory has gotten some jamming source based on the Il-18 — Il-22 ‘Porubshchik.’”

Mi-8MTPR-1 with Rychag EW System (photo:

Mi-8MTPR-1 with Rychag EW System (photo:

“‘Krasukha,’ ‘Murmansk’ and strong secrets”

“The most secret system in the entire Russian EW arsenal until recently was the ‘Krasukha-2’ jammer, though, currently first place in this nomination has gone to communications suppression station ‘Murmansk-BN,’ supposedly capable of jamming more than 20 frequencies at a range up to 5,000 kilometers.  However, there is no reliable confirmation that the newest system has such characteristics.”

“Judging by existing photographs of ‘Murmansk’ in open sources (several 4-axle increased mobility trucks with tall masts), where beside the main antennas characteristic low-frequency whip antennas are visible, it’s possible to suppose that this system is capable of jamming signals in wavelengths from 200 to 500 MHz.”

“The main problem of such a system, most likely, is that, to achieve the announced range, the signal must reflect off the ionosphere and therefore it is influenced heavily by atmospheric disturbances, which, undoubtedly, affect the operation of ‘Murmansk.’”

“At the Moscow Aerospace Show [MAKS] last year, KRET officially presented the 1L269 ‘Krasukha-2’ system for jamming long-range radar surveillance aircraft (first and foremost American E-3 ‘AWACS’ aircraft) in its static exhibit.  It’s notable that, in the words of the concern’s leadership, this system can jam ‘AWACS’ at ranges of several hundred kilometers.”

“Still, ‘Krasukha’ continues the line of development of the ‘Pelena’ and ‘Pelena-1’ systems worked out back in the 1980s by Rostov NII [scientific-research institute] ‘Gradient.’  A very simple decision put forth by then-director of ‘Gradient,’ but later general designer of the EW department in the USSR Yuriy Perunov underpinned the idea of these items:  the signal of the jamming station must exceed the power of the signal which it is supposed to jam by 30 decibels.”

“Judging by the information we have, it’s very difficult to suppress a target like the E-3 ‘AWACS’ since its radars have more than 30 tunable frequencies which are constantly changing during operations. Therefore, Yuriy Perunov in his day proposed that the most optimal decision would be suppression of entire bands with powerful, focused noise jamming.”

“However, such a decision has serious shortcomings — ‘Pelena’ / ‘Krasukha’ jamming covers only one direction, but the aircraft flies a route, and the effect of the equipment on ‘AWACS’ will be quite limited in duration.  And if there are already two DRLO [long-range radar surveillance] aircraft operating in the area, then even accounting for jamming during the overlap of the particular aircraft E-3 operators will still be able to receive the necessary information.”

“Powerful noise jamming will not only be detected by the radar reconnaissance means of the probable enemy, but will also be a good target for anti-radiation missiles.”

“All these problems were well-known to the developers of ‘Pelena’ from the very beginning, therefore the more modern ‘Krasukha’ became highly mobile to allow it to get away quickly from a strike, but also at the same time to get into a better position to deliver electromagnetic suppression.  It’s possible that not one, but several stations constantly changing position will be used against DRLO aircraft.”

“But ‘Krasukha-2’ is not altogether such universal equipment capable of jamming numerous radars as it is fashionable to believe.  It cannot simultaneously jam both E-8 ‘AWACS’ and E-2 ‘Hawkeye,’ since a jamming station suppressing only the required band of very distinct frequencies for DRLO aircraft radars will be needed for each type of DRLO aircraft.”

“It’s notable that work on ‘Krasukha-2’ began back in 1996 and was completed only in 2011.”

“The ‘+30 dB’ idea is used in yet one more of the newest developments of VNII ‘Gradient’ — 1RL257 ‘Krasukha-4,’ which is at present being actively placed in EW brigades and independent battalions and is designated for suppression of air-based radars, including not only those on fighters and fighter-bombers, but also on E-8 and U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.  True, there are doubts about the effectiveness of ‘Krasukha’ against the ASARS-2 radar at a U-2 altitude, since, judging by the available data, its signal is not only sufficiently complex, but still also noise-like.”

“In the opinion of developers and the military, under certain conditions, the 1RL257 can even jam warhead seekers of AIM-120 AMRAAM ‘air-to-air’ missiles, and also the command and control radars of the ‘Patriot’ surface-to-air missile system.”

“As in the case of ‘Krasukha-2,’ ‘Krasukha-4’ is not a completely original item, but the continuation of a line of jamming equipment in the SPN-30 family, on which work began at the end of the 1960s.  The new station uses not only the concept of the old ‘30s,’ but also, undoubtedly, some of the technical decisions applied in it.  Work on the 1RL257 began in 1994 and was completed in 2011.”

“The ‘Avtobaza’ system also thanks firstly to the Russian media has become together with ‘Khibiny’ some kind of super weapon to the casual observer, knocking down any drone with jamming.  In particular, victory over the American UAV RQ-170 is being ascribed to this system.  At the same time, ‘Avtobaza’ itself, and also the recently accepted into the Defense Ministry inventory ‘Moskva’ system resolve completely different missions — they conduct electronic reconnaissance, they provide target designation for an electronic warfare system and are the command post of an EW battalion (company).  It is understood that ‘Avtobaza’ had a sufficiently tangential relationship to the landing of the American UAV in Iran.”

“‘Moskva’ which is currently entering the force is the continuation of a line of systems of command, control, and reconnaissance of which ‘Mauzer-1,’ adopted into the inventory in the 1970s, is considered the beginning.  In the composition of the new system, there are two vehicles — a reconnaissance station, which detects and classifies types of radiation, their direction, signal power, and also a command post from which data is automatically transmitted to subordinate EW stations.”

“According to the thinking of the Russian military and EW developers, ‘Moskva’ allows for covertly determining the situation and delivering surprise electronic suppression on the enemy’s forces and equipment.  If the system conducts electronic reconnaissance in passive mode, then it forwards commands on radio channels and the enemy can intercept them in certain conditions.  In such a situation, it isn’t even necessary to decode the signals, it’s sufficient to detect the radio traffic and this reveals the presence of each EW battalion (company).”

“Muting satellites”

“Besides battle with the enemy’s aviation means, Russian EW developers devote great attention to suppressing the enemy’s radio traffic, and also muting GPS signals.”

“Developed and produced by Kontsern ‘Sozvezdiye,’ the most well-known silencer of satellite navigation is the R-330Zh ‘Zhitel’ system.  NTTs REB, whose item R-340RP is already being supplied to Russia’s Defense Ministry sub-units, also proposed a sufficiently original solution.  Small diameter jamming transmitters, whose signal is amplified by the antenna array, are placed on civilian cell phone towers.”

“Not just the media, but also some specialists assert that it is practically impossible to mute the GPS signal.  But in Russia technical solutions for ‘turning off’ satellite navigation appeared at the beginning of the 2000s.”

“In the GPS system there is the ‘bearing frequency’ concept.  At the basis of the system lies the transmission of the elementary signal from the satellite to the transmitter, therefore the smallest turning off from the assigned frequency even by milliseconds will lead to a loss of accuracy.  The transmission of the signal goes in a sufficiently narrow band, according to open data — 1575.42 MHz and 1227.60 MHz, and this is the bearing frequency. Therefore modern jammers are focused directly at blocking it which, taking into account the narrowness of the bearing frequency and possession of a sufficiently powerful noise jammer, to silence it does not constitute a special effort.”



“The ‘Leyer-3’ system with an electronic reconnaissance vehicle on a ‘Tigr’ base, but also several ‘Orlan-10’ pilotless aircraft equipped with dispensable jamming transmitters capable of suppressing not only radio but also cell phones, is a particularly interesting solution in the area of suppressing the probable enemy’s radio traffic.   The ‘Infauna’ RB-531B system produced by Kontsern ‘Sozvezdiye’ fulfills similar missions but without the use of drones.”


¹The practice of holding some forces as reserves of the Supreme CINC dates to the Great Patriotic War (WWII) if not earlier.  The VDV and LRA are both still specified as belonging to the VGK.

More S-400s

On 2 September, TASS reported Almaz-Antey delivered its ninth “regimental set” of S-400 / Triumf SAMs “ahead of schedule.”  The agency cited General Director Jan Novikov who claimed his company will send two more “sets” to the military before next year.  They will be numbers ten and eleven.

But those late year deliveries have a way of sliding to the right.

S-400s on Display (photo: ITAR-TASS / Sergey Bobylev)

S-400s on Display (photo: ITAR-TASS / Sergey Bobylev)

Novikov said the most recent “set” wasn’t due until November under the delivery plan.  He indicated the S-400s and associated equipment were sent to the “test range” — Kapustin Yar — where all “delivery-handover tests” were conducted successfully.

Writing for RG, Yuriy Gavrilov reports that, to meet the demand for the S-400 and S-500, Almaz-Antey has a robotic microelectronics production line for SAMs in Omsk.  This week the firm is also supposed to open a robotic lathe and milling line at the same facility.  Novikov reportedly said it will increase productivity in priority areas by a factor of 12.

Gavrilov writes that the new “set” is bound for Moscow.  It will make a fifth red pin in a blob of four currently around the capital.  Twelve “sets” are supposed to defend the skies of the “central administrative and industrial region” by 2020.

Russia's S-400 Deployments

Russia’s S-400 Deployments

That count of nine S-400 “regimental sets” is intriguing.  

By last year’s information, this should be ten, with the delivery to Kamchatka being the ninth.  But apparently not.  So which of the nine red pins is wrong (if any)?  It might be Novocherkassk, but some recent sources place this “regimental set” at Novorossiysk. Which begs its own question:  will the Defense Ministry shift them to Sevastopol eventually?

Also, there’s no indication yet of where “sets” ten and eleven (or eleven and twelve?) could go.

How do the overall numbers look?  If the fifth “set” for Moscow is actually the ninth overall, we’d expect a total of 19 regimental sets (based on General-Major Demin’s September 2014 statement that 12 more would be deployed).  If it’s actually the tenth, then a total of 20.

Both possibilities get close to the 56 S-400 battalions projected under the GPV. If all “sets” after Kamchatka have three battalions, they might get between 50 and 52 battalions.

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,, and 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. 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.

Better Talk About Your Problems

Army-2015 (photo:

Army-2015 (photo:

Last week the Russian MOD put on an extravaganza.  Army-2015 was a huge public exhibition of the latest and greatest Russian military technology and equipment.  It was a major patriotic event designed to boost the average Russian’s pride in his or her armed forces.

Army-2015 was not intended as a forum for discussing the Russian military’s deficiencies and difficulties.  However, the venerable BBC Russian Service interviewed four well-known commentators attending the show about this very issue. It’s a topic no longer easy to find in the Russian media.

The BBC turned first to State Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Tetekhin from the KPRF who pointed to the Pentagon and its penchant for airing the U.S. military’s problems to identify and resolve them.  Tetekhin said Russia very much lacks similar discussions in its legislature and military ranks.

Army-2015 (photo:

Army-2015 (photo:

The British broadcaster asked these observers to name weak points in Russia’s military which — in their opinion — need to be fixed immediately.  The experts listed five:

  • The development and production of modern armaments suffers from a lack of personnel and the “incompleteness of the material base.”
  • The size of the armed forces is insufficient, and manning is difficult because of a lack of men.
  • A lack of follow-through in reforms, arbitrariness in decisionmaking.
  • Insufficient modern weapons, including UAVs, and the slow pace of reequipping the army.
  • The need for large expenditures to continue reform — to stop it is impossible, but great resources are needed to complete it.

That “incompleteness of the material base” sounds like defense industry is missing skilled workers, part and component suppliers, and sub-contractors who traditionally supported big arms makers. Moscow was compensating for this with foreign purchases, but it is now preoccupied with arranging for domestic import substitution.

Tetekhin expressed his concern about who will design Russia’s future weapons systems.  The skill of those working in R&D today is “an order lower” than the previous generation, he says.

For Konstantin Sivkov, the main problem is that the armed forces aren’t large enough.  He says they need to be 50 percent bigger to defend the country. More modern weapons answering modern requirements are also needed.

Igor Korotchenko sees the lack of drones — tactical to strategic and strike variants — as Russia’s most important military shortcoming.  He also complained of changing priorities and arbitrary decisions made by new defense ministers, especially regarding arms purchases.  As a remedy, he calls for permanent deputy defense ministers and service CINCs.

They tried virtual life tenure for deputy defense ministers and CINCs in Soviet times.  Didn’t work out too well.  It was a true recipe for arbitrariness and stagnation.

Lastly, the BBC quotes Konstantin Bogdanov, who gives us the most thorough summation of where the RF Armed Forces are today.  It’s worth quoting verbatim:

“The first and main problem is the unfinished state of the military reform, launched at the end of the 2000s, and repeatedly changed in its particulars. Both under Serdyukov and under Shoygu.”

“The second problem is connected to the still not overcome so-called ‘procurement holiday of the 1990s.’  The fact is a significant part of equipment, which should have been withdrawn from the inventory at the start of the 2000s and replaced with new models, is being replaced only now.  Fifteen years at a minimum have been lost.”

“This led, in particular, to an entire range of industrial enterprises, to use a sports analogy, ‘getting out of shape.’  Over the course of a long time, they couldn’t support the delivery of necessary equipment and armaments with the required characteristics and production costs.”

“This situation is being corrected somewhat, but at the end of the 2000s it was completely outrageous.”

“The manning problem is connected with the demographic hole.  They have to drag people into the army, I wouldn’t say with a lasso, but with a very sweet cake — pay.”

“There is yet another problem — the need for large infrastructure outlays.”

“Abandoned military garrisons in the Arctic, the construction of new bases there.  But this is not just a problem in the Arctic, attention is just riveted on it.  […] Airfields are being reestablished, military bases reestablished, which were abandoned at the end of the 1990s.”

“This is enormous money, and how all this will look under difficult financial conditions is hard to say.  The army is eating lots of resources, but it has gone halfway and stopping here wouldn’t be right.”

Impatient Putin

Once flagship of a robust Russian military press, NVO isn’t what it was.  What is after 15 years of Putin?  But NVO still has moments.  Its 22 May editorial is one.

Putin at 15 May Meeting

Putin at 15 May Meeting

NVO writes that recent Roskosmos failures overshadowed President Vladimir Putin’s mid-May meetings with Defense Ministry and defense industry leaders on the GOZ and GPV.  Still the 9 May Victory Day parade on Red Square showed much has been done to rearm Russia.  But much doesn’t mean every problem has been solved.  Rather, NVO contends, problems in the realization of GPV 2011-2020 and GPV 2016-2025 are “snowballing.”

The paper offers cases in point:

  • The fifth generation T-50 (PAK FA) fighter didn’t fly over Red Square even though it’s supposed to be in serial production already. The impatient Putin gave Russian designers just five years to field the T-50 while the Americans took 14 years from first flight to first delivery with the F-22 and 12 with the F-35.
  • Only a short time — two years — has been allowed for serial production of the new Armata tank.  The Soviet T-64 took 10-15 years from the start of testing until all development work was finished.  The call for Armata tanks and other armored vehicles on the same base in 2015 is just a “wish.”  Serial production won’t begin earlier than 2018.
  • There are delays in other key military programs — S-350 Vityaz, S-500 Triumfator-M, and missile defense systems (no specifics provided).

Then NVO reels off a list of weapons the Russian military needs that, the editorial asserts, aren’t exactly rolling off assembly lines:

  • Transport aircraft;
  • UAVs;
  • Air-launched missiles;
  • Air ordnance;
  • Artillery and fire control systems;
  • Space systems.

Regarding the final bullet, the paper notes that “even a huge investment of budget resources still won’t save Roskosmos from its systemic crisis.”

NVO concludes:

“On the whole, fulfillment of GPV-2020 and GPV-2025 has been summoned to restore Russia to military parity with NATO, if only the Russian economy can withstand the strain.  If not, the history of the USSR may be repeated.”

Some will quibble about particular systems NVO claims Moscow will have trouble fielding, but the general point remains:  far from everything needed by a military neglected for 20 years is being successfully procured.  There are more than a few independent Russian economists who say Moscow’s current high level of defense spending is damaging an economy already challenged by lower oil prices and Western sanctions.

The Army Marches on its Trucks



A military establishment marches on its stomach, but the food that fills the stomach (and ammunition that fills the guns) marches on its trucks.

It seems each year there’s less quality Russian military journalism.  But exceptions arise.  Aleksey Ramm for one.  His work is interesting, fairly insightful, and apparently unbiased.

Ramm’s story not too long back on the pedestrian topic of Russian military trucks for VPK is provided for your edification in its entirety without interruption. Photos that didn’t appear in his article have been added.

“The Process is Stuck”

“The military and industrialists are not succeeding in unifying truck transport”

“Recently the appearance of the Kurganets BMP, Armata tank and heavy infantry fighting vehicle on its base has been actively discussed even on social networks.  And real problems with cargo vehicles, which no defense minister has been able to solve, are well-known to only a narrow circle of specialists.”

“‘Without automotive equipment not a single missile will fly, no airplane will take off, no tank will go, and the soldier will be left without ammunition and food. Trucks have to deliver fuel, lubricants, spare parts, etc.  They are making our tanks, buying airplanes, but problems with vehicles still aren’t being resolved,’ says an officer responsible for organizing logistics in the Southern Military District.”

“A Hereditary Disease”

“Until the transition to the so-called new profile begun by former defense minister Anatoliy Serdyukov in 2008, the vehicle park of the RF Armed Forces looked at first glance like a hodgepodge inheritance from the Soviet Army.  Not only models from manufacturers KamAZ and Ural, but also ZIL-131, GAZ-66, KrAZ and MAZ were in its equipment list.”



“Truck transport, which supports delivery of material resources, supplies of lubricants (POL), ammunition, etc., comes in companies for regiments and in material-technical support battalions for brigades and divisions (RMO and BMO).  Each company (or platoon) answers for conveyance of a concrete item. For example, the first company of a BMO (or platoon of an RMO) transports ammunition, and the fifth, equipped with tankers, transports fuel.”

“Armies and military districts have material-technical support brigades (BRMO) to organize material-technical support and transportation of material resources.”

“More than 70 percent of the vehicle transportation is constantly in depots, loaded with ammunition, POL and other cargo.”

“‘Of five companies in a BMO, 10-12 vehicles in all are used to support daily needs.  The rest stand in depots, fully loaded, fueled, but with batteries removed. During an alert, drivers come to depots, and drive already loaded vehicles to designated areas,’ the commander of one of the BMOs told VPK’s observer.”

“It’s true that the majority of vehicles standing in depots are in a pitiful state.  ‘When I served as commander of an ammunition transport company, I didn’t have a single fully serviceable vehicle.  Of course, all could go, complete a march, deliver the ammo.  But in many, the engine, the brakes had gone haywire, there were electrical problems.  We didn’t even have complete tents for the whole company.  All my KamAZes had already served 15 or even 20 years and only part of them had gone through a capital repair,’ recalls a vehicle service officer of one combined arms army.”

“Besides the RMO, BMO and BRMO, every battalion had material support platoons, into which go vehicle sections, and sometimes, if the battalion is an independent military unit, even entire platoons.  The mission of these sub-units is transporting material resources from battalion (company) material support depots directly to the front.”

“The transport system which has developed has divided the vehicle inventory.  The GAZ-66, ZIL-131 and Ural, used mainly by material support platoons and distinguished by their high mobility, are designated for supplying cargo, POL, and ammunition to the front.  Regimental RMOs, brigade BMOs, and also army and district BRMOs are practically fully equipped with KamAZes.”

“‘Vehicles of material support brigades and battalions have to complete long marches with big loads over distances of not less than 500-600 km, using regular roads.  Mobility isn’t as important to them as it is to those carrying cargo to the front.  So in this segment, KamAZ didn’t and doesn’t have competitors,’ says a Ministry of Defense Main Automotive and Armor Directorate (GABTU) officer.”

The entire country KamAZized

“‘In the mid-1990s, it already was clear that the Soviet system of four basic vehicle families was an unacceptable luxury for the Russian Army.  Each really has its own parts and components which are not interchangeable.  The ZIL-131 has a gas engine, but the Urals (with the exception of the 375D) are diesel.  So the decision to move to one universal type was made,’ explains the Main Automotive and Armor Directorate officer.”

“In 1998, the Ural Automotive Factory presented the Motovoz truck family for trial by the military, but because of drawn-out fine-tuning and financing problems the new Urals only began to enter troop use in 2006-2008.  As the producer announced, Motovoz was three practically 95 percent common vehicles — Ural-43206 (4×4), Ural-4320-31 (6×6) and Ural-5323 (8×8).”



“‘Only the two-axle Ural-43206 came to our division in 2008.  So we didn’t see the three- or four-axle Urals.  Even though according to initial plans, the Ural-43206 replaced the old Urals, ZIL-131 and GAZ-66 in the material support platoons of battalions, and the -4320 the transport KamAZes in divisional BMOs. We traveled in Motovozes less than six months, after which the order came to give them to depots and we received new KamAZes,’ recalls the automotive service officer.”

“With Anatoliy Serdyukov’s arrival, the Motovoz family fell into disfavor, and Kama Automotive Factory [KamAZ] Mustangs came to replace them.”

KamAZ-4350 Mustang

KamAZ-4350 Mustang

“‘It’s acceptable to abuse Serdyukov now.  Many say the transition to Mustang was connected with lobbying by KamAZ, which belongs to Rostekh, and possibly even with corrupt schemes.  But we have to recognize that only one model — Ural-43206 — was received from the Ural factory into the Motovoz family.  In my view, the ideal vehicle for transport to the front area.  Mobile, reliable, easily repaired.  But the three-axle Ural-4320-31 loses to KamAZ on the road by every indicator.  In essence, a suped up Ural-4320.  I don’t even want to talk about the four-axle.  A very capricious and unreliable vehicle,’ the vehicle service officer from the Southern Military District relates.”

“Three vehicles are in the Mustang family:  KamAZ-4350 (4×4), KamAZ-5350 (6×6) and KamAZ-6350 (8×8).  Supplies began at the end of 2008.”

“‘Currently there are practically neither old Ural-4320, nor ZIL-131, nor even GAZ-66.  A small number of Ural-43206, -4320-31 and -5323 received in 2008 remain.  The Motovozes were sufficiently fresh vehicles but were still written off early,’ the GABTU representative comments.”

“By several evaluations, currently approximately 80-90 percent of the Russian MOD truck inventory is Mustang, 10-15 percent Motovoz, and the rest is remaining and still not written off ZIL-131, GAZ-66, etc.  The MOD’s transition to a single vehicle took a little less than seven years.  In the opinion of almost all representatives of the vehicle service with whom this publication managed to talk, it was able to do this only thanks to the great production capacity of the Kama Automotive Factory and its developed service centers.”

“Mustang ridden too hard”

“‘If you compare the old brigade with different types of trucks, thanks to the Mustangs the tonnage of transported cargo has increased recently.  Because of the commonality of vehicles, going up to 90-95 percent, they succeeded in significantly cutting supplies of parts and components essential for repair, and also in standardizing the list of POL,’ says the GABTU representative.  ‘I can’t name the real figures but believe me:  the capabilities for ‘lifting’ material resources have grown a lot at the present time.'”

“But among the troops they don’t hurry to draw the same optimistic conclusions.  ‘The KamAZ-4350 came to replace Urals in the material-technical support platoons of battalions.  In exercises where they still have factory service centers, all look very good. Everything is much more complicated in real life,’ the Western Military District vehicle officer is sure.”

“In the opinion of all troop officers Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer surveyed, the KamAZ-4350 has not become an adequate replacement for the old Ural family.  ‘In mobility it lags behind the old Ural-4320, meanwhile it does not carry as much of a load.  Simultaneously these vehicles got stuck during off-road exercises in places where the Ural would have gotten through without any problems.  KamAZ has outstanding trucks, but for normal roads,’ the commander of a material-technical support battalion is sure.”

“The spring and summer of last year became especially tense when Russian Armed Forces units and sub-units moved out from permanent basing points to the Ukrainian border, operating completely without the support of repair centers.  All this publication’s interlocutors noted one more problem which appeared during the spring-summer of standing at the border, the -4350 breaks down often.”

“‘This vehicle must operate practically at the front line.  But it is packed electronics that constantly break down.  Even a platoon driver’s capabilities were enough to subdue the Ural.  Here they have to call in specialists.  Once such a vehicle was stuck in the middle of the training ground, and we dragged it from here only after a week.  Yet another problem is the turbine diesel in this KamAZ.  The turbine constantly goes out of order, breaks down.  We just manage to send it off for repair,’ complains a vehicle service officer.”

“In service centers, they do not share the military’s claims against the KamAZ-4350, arguing that the majority of damages happen through the fault of servicemen using the equipment.”

“‘Automotive equipment is developing, new technologies are appearing.  But the military wants everything to be as ‘in grandma’s time.’  The problem with the turbine is not the factory’s fault.  In the instructions it says before turning off the engine, the driver should give it some time to idle.  The military will kill the engine right away, and the turbine suddenly locks up.  But the factory’s to blame,’ complains an associate of one of the service enterprises answering for the repair of KamAZ vehicles.”

“At present, a paradoxical situation is forming where brigade BMOs, army and district BRMOs have increased by many times their capabilities to ‘lift’ and transport supplies, but providing cargo directly to sub-units at the front line is not always successful.”

“A view from the other side”

“In the Ministry of Internal Affairs they tried to find an exit from the vehicle deadend by combining the capabilities of the Motovoz and Mustang families.”

“‘We mainly use six-axle [sic, wheel?] Ural-4320-31, and sometimes Ural-43206s for units and sub-units fulfilling combat service missions in the transport of material resources directly to the area where they are employed in the North Caucasus.  Police detachments working in the region also use these vehicles,’ said an Internal Troops representative.  To transport cargo at great distances, according to our interlocutor, six-axle [sic, wheel?] KamAZ-5350s are already in active service.”

“‘We have the KamAZ-4350s, but the Ural-4320-31s are better suited to conditions in the Caucasus.  They are much more mobile and powerful in conditions of difficult mountain and considerably rugged terrain.  And, for supplying sub-units stationed a great distance away, and fulfilling missions in securing important state facilities, we also use Urals,’ the MVD VV representative answers.”

“From one side, the decision to unite two families in a single vehicle inventory is clear and logical.  Motovoz and Mustang duplicate one another to a sufficiently limited degree.  From the other, several families of trucks again appear in the force requiring separate supplies of parts and components.  VPK’s sources in the MVD acknowledge the problem.  ‘Only Mustangs and Motovozes would be good, but we still have a pretty large number of different armored vehicles and other special equipment,’ the Internal Troops representative laments.”

“‘The problem will be resolved with the acceptance of the future Tayfun and Platform vehicle families into the inventory, work on which is currently ongoing,’ the GABTU representative explained.”



“‘There were many conversations about Platform.  They talked like it was even shown to the defense minister on the test range at Bronnitsy.  But there still aren’t even photos of a prototype.  They say everything is secret.  But what’s the sense of keeping a truck secret?  It’s bull.  There still isn’t a series Tayfun [sic, Platform?].  But there are experimental prototypes of it.  We went through all this already. For several years in a row they assured us that they were fixing equipment for us and factory workers towed it off.  As a result, when the normal work began and the equipment began to break down, everyone looked at it like little kids,’ says the vehicle officer.”

“So for more than seven years the problem of the disparity of the Russian Armed Forces’ truck equipment inventory still has not been conclusively resolved.  The situation is like running in circles.  One can still hope that with the acceptance of future families of vehicles into the inventory the problem will finally be resolved.”

Just a little post-script.  The Tayfun is in serial production.  It’s in the inventory of the RVSN and Spetsnaz units in the Southern MD.  Series-produced Mustangs have been in the inventory since 2003.  The Western MD reports that 30 percent of its vehicle inventory is now less than three years old with the addition of 6,000 Motovoz and KamAZ trucks since 2012.  It also claimed it was slated to have 50 Tayfuns before the end of 2014.  Tayfuns were prominent in today’s Victory Parade as were Mustangs.