Category Archives: Ground Troops

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.

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,, 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.

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:

Russian Soldier in Chemical Defense Gear (photo:

In late June, 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).” 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.



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.

Who’s Fighting in the Donbass?

Various media sources late this week reported that Kyiv’s SBU sent the United States a 30-page report detailing Russia’s role in fighting in the Donbass.

The report indicates that militia fighters in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic are led by Russian Army general-majors Oleg Tsekov, Sergey Kuzovlev, and Roman Shadrin.  In the Donetsk People’s Republic, general-majors Valeriy Solodchuk and Aleksey Zavizon reportedly lead the ethnic Russian militiamen. Russian Colonel Anatoliy Barankevich is in charge of combat training.

Sergey Kuzovlev

Sergey Kuzovlev

Roman Shadrin

Roman Shadrin

The Ukrainian report claims 15 Russian battalion tactical groups — about 9,000 men — are fighting in eastern Ukraine.  Unnamed Washington sources say this confirms what U.S. intelligence agencies believed.  But, as recently as his 26 June conversation with President Obama, President Putin insisted there are no Russian troops in Luhansk or Donetsk.

Who are the Russian officers identified by name?

  • Oleg Tsekov commands the Northern Fleet’s 200th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade — it’s a long way from eastern Ukraine, but his troops wouldn’t be easily missed like forces in the Southern MD. He once served under Southern MD Commander, General-Colonel Aleksandr Galkin.
  • Sergey Kuzovlev was, at last report, chief of staff of the Southern MD’s 58th CAA. He’s known by the call sign Tambov. He fought in both Chechen campaigns, and he commanded the 18th IMRB in Khankala before his current staff assignment.
  • Roman Shadrin is another Chechen vet, Hero of Russia, and Ural Cossack activist turned United Russia politician.  He did time with the MVD VV and served with Russian “peacekeeping” forces in South Ossetia.
  • Valeriy Solodchuk commands the VDV’s 7th Air-Assault Division in Novorossiysk.  He was previously chief of staff for the 98th Airborne Division and commanded its 217th Parachute Regiment.
  • Aleksey Zavizon is deputy commander of the 41st CAA in the Central MD.  Prior to that, he commanded the 136th IMRB in Dagestan and the 201st MB in Tajikistan.  He was also chief of staff, deputy commander for the 4th (Kantemir) Tank Division.
  • Anatoliy Barankevich served widely in the Soviet Army and fought in both Chechen wars before retiring in 2004.  He went to South Ossetia, became its defense minister, and directed the defense of Tskhinvali during the August 2008 five-day war with Georgia.  He fell out with South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity and presumably resumed his free-agent status.
Valeriy Solodchuk

Valeriy Solodchuk

Aleksey Zavizon

Aleksey Zavizon

Anatoliy Barankevich

Anatoliy Barankevich

It would be an understatement to say these six Russian military men have a good deal of experience — command experience, combat experience, Caucasus experience.  They represent a particular subset of Russian commanders who’ve long served on the country’s borders and in its hinterlands.  They seem like men with little compunction when it comes to pushing Russia’s sway outward over non-Russians.

Not Enough Men or Transports

Il-76 Transport Landing (photo: Kommersant / Anatoliy Zhdanov)

Il-76 Transport Landing (photo: Kommersant / Anatoliy Zhdanov)

Another large-scale Russian military “surprise inspection” has concluded, and military commentator Ilya Kramnik has placed it, and other exercises, into perspective for

Interpreted as a prologue to war in Europe by some, the Kremlin-directed “surprise inspections” are the logical continuation of a process in recent years.  It is the process of developing strategic mobility through deployment exercises, according to Kramnik.

The latest six-day “surprise inspection” focused on deploying and redeploying forces in Russia’s Arctic regions, but President Vladimir Putin expanded it into a nation-wide exercise.

Kramnik focuses his analysis first on the Kaliningrad exclave.  Russia has practiced its defense of this region since the mid-2000s on an expanding scale. But the first large-scale drill in Kaliningrad, Kramnik says, was Zapad-2009.

Kaliningrad is where the pattern of special attention to troop mobility developed. In “surprise inspections,” military units from almost every armed service and branch were delivered by ground, rail, sea, or air transport to unfamiliar ranges in that region to conduct training missions.

The pattern has repeated in each of Russia’s “strategic directions.” Although Kramnik doesn’t describe it as such, it is, in effect, the establishment of expeditionary forces within the Russian military intended for internal transfer and use on any of Russia’s borders (or beyond them).  

If mobility questions play a key role in Kaliningrad, Kramnik continues, they are dominant when it comes to the Arctic.  All Arctic deployments depend on Navy and Air Forces transport capabilities.  Then he writes:

“It relies first and foremost on reestablishment of infrastructure which supports, if necessary, the redeployment [переброска] of troops by sea and by air and not requiring large numbers of personnel for daily service and security.  13 airfields, radar stations, repaired ports and other facilities allow forces to return quickly ‘in a threatening period.’  And to control the surrounding sea and air space a rather sufficiently compact grouping based here on a permanent basis.”

Kramnik concludes that Russia is confronting its weakness — armed forces not large enough to garrison its immense territory.  This increased attention to strategic maneuver is a means to compensate for an insufficient number of troops.  He takes a comment from Viktor Murakhovskiy:

“Today we don’t have a single self-sufficient grouping on any of our [strategic] directions.  This is the main reason for the great attention the Armed Forces leadership allocates to the potential for redeploying forces.”

Mobility, guaranteed by a developed railroad network, and in distant and isolated TVDs by the world’s second largest inventory of military-transport aviation, should support the potential for Russia, if necessary, to “swing the pendulum” — effectively maneuvering forces between different TVDs, Kramnik writes.  The capacity provided by the civilian airlines and fleet can also add to this.

But besides men, Russia also lacks enough transport aircraft.  

Kramnik writes that while attention has gone to constructing and reconstructing airfields and finding personnel to service them, the VTA’s order-of-battle is in critical condition, especially in terms of light and medium transports.  The average age of the An-26 inventory is nearly 35 years; the An-12 more than 45 years.

Events of the last year in Ukraine ended what were already difficult talks with Kyiv about building the An-70 and restarting production of the An-124.  Meanwhile, much of the Antonov Design Bureau’s competence has degraded, according to CAST Deputy Director Konstantin Makiyenko.

So today, Kramnik says, Russia has at its disposal only one serial VTA aircraft — the modernized Il-76, developed 40 years ago with serious limits on the weight and dimensions of military equipment it can deliver.  It will be supplemented by the Il-112 (light) and Il-214 (medium) transports, and by a “future aviation system transport aviation” or PAK TA.

The very same reported PAK TA that generated hysterical press here, then here, and here by promising to land an entire armored division of new Russian T-14 / Armata tanks overnight, anywhere in the world.  From an aircraft industry at pains to duplicate large but old designs like Antonov’s?  Obviously, a sudden outbreak of irrational Soviet-style giantism.

In the end, Kramnik concludes that VTA needs a high priority or Russia will have trouble moving combat capable groupings to the Arctic and Far East.  New aerial tankers are needed as well.