Day of Russia Promotion List

On the eve of the Russia Day holiday, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree promoting 29 senior MOD officers:  2 to three-star general-colonel, 5 to two-star general-lieutenant and vice-admiral, and the balance to one-star general-major.

The three-star promotions included Andrey Kartapolov, Chief of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate and Andrey Serdyukov, Deputy Commander, Southern MD.  Both were quick promotes with only three and two years respectively at their former rank.

The two-star promotions included GOMU First Deputy Chief Yevgeniy Burdinskiy, Deputy Commander of the Eastern MD for Material-Technical Support Anatoliy Lbov, Deputy CINC of the Navy for Armaments Viktor Bursuk, Northern Fleet Commander of Submarine Forces Aleksandr Moiseyev, and Baltic Fleet Chief of Staff Sergey Popov.

Other promotees included:

  • two RVSN missile division commanders (both have the RS-24 / Yars ICBM in their formations);
  • a new commander of Troops and Forces in the North-East;
  • one motorized rifle brigade commander;
  • deputy commanders for material-technical support in several services and branches;
  • chiefs, deputy chiefs, or department heads for several military-educational institutions;
  • the strategic nuclear forces directorate chief in the NTsUO.

You’ll find the updated promotion list here.

Better Talk About Your Problems

Army-2015 (photo: Mil.ru)

Army-2015 (photo: Mil.ru)

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: Mil.ru)

Army-2015 (photo: Mil.ru)

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

ZIL-131

ZIL-131

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.”

GAZ-66

GAZ-66

“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).”

Ural-4320-31

Ural-4320-31

“‘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.”

Tayfun

Tayfun

“‘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.

Victory Parade 2015

Russia Today’s video of this morning’s parade . . . .

Adding (and Subtracting) Contracts

General-Colonel Viktor Goremykin

General-Colonel Viktor Goremykin

Chief of the Main Directorate of Cadres (GUK) — head of personnel for the MOD, General-Colonel Viktor Goremykin was on-stage Friday, 3 April as the latest spokesman for contract service, i.e. the military’s professional enlisted recruitment program.

This is an interesting, if subtle, shift.  More often in the past, the General Staff’s Main Organization-Mobilization Directorate (GOMU) spoke to contract manning issues.  GUK has typically dealt more with officer promotions and assignments.

The GUK’s Goremykin was commissioned into the army, but his mid-career training came in counterintelligence at the FSK Academy (soon renamed the FSB Academy).  So perhaps he was a KGB “special section” guy or osobist from his earliest days as an officer.  His path is reminiscent of his immediate boss, Nikolay Pankov.

According to TASS, Goremykin told the assembled media that the MOD will very soon have 300,000 contractees, because it now has exactly 299,508.  He added that the military gained 80,000-90,000 men on contract service in 2013 and 2014, and has added 19,000 in 2015 thus far.

We can peel back the contract service onion as a result:

  • If, from this 299,508, we subtract 90,000 + 90,000 + 19,000, the Russian MOD had only 100,508 contractees as recently as 31 December 2012. Pankov claimed 186,000 contractees at the start of 2013.  The 85,492-man discrepancy represents contract attrition over the last 27 months, or an average loss of 3,166 contractees — an entire brigade of recruits — every 30 days.
  • As Mokrushin notes, General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov said there were only 295,000 contractees in late December.  If 19,000 were added in 2015 but the total is only 299,508, then a net of only 4,508 was added due to the loss of 14,492 contractees during those months.  Call that five percent attrition, but annualized it’s 20 percent.
  • We were told in early November 2014 that the Russian military, for the first time, had more contractees than conscripts.  Since there were 305,000 conscripts at the time, ipso facto, contractees must have numbered at least 305,001.  You can add the November-December losses — 10,001 — to 14,492 and you get 24,493 lost in five months.  That’s 4,899 per month on average — call that two brigades of recruits lost — every 30 days.

Russian recruiting centers have to keep a torrid pace just to stay even with these losses.

But back to Goremykin.  He said the MOD’s goal for 2015 is to reach 352,000 contractees, and plans for the outyears haven’t changed — 425,000 by 2017, and 499,000 by 2020.

With possible attrition of 27,000 over the next nine months, the MOD will have to recruit 79,000 contractees to be at 352,000 by the end of 2015.

Goremykin indicated the MOD will continue allowing conscripts with higher education to serve two years as contractees instead of one as draftees.  The percentage choosing this option isn’t large, but it’s growing, according to him. The six-year service requirement to qualify for a military-backed mortgage may be dropped to five years just to encourage this category of contractees to re-up.

The GUK chief said there are plans to make the Russian Navy almost 100 percent contractee, starting with its submarine forces first, then most of its surface forces.

According to RIA Novosti, General-Colonel Goremykin also announced this year the MOD will make its entire contingent of “junior commanders” (NCOs) contractees.  It intends to do away with the longstanding practice of selecting and making some draftees into sergeants.  Goremykin added, “This is a task for this year.”

Two take aways:

  • As always, it’s difficult to trust the MOD’s numbers; they tell us about additions, but not subtractions.
  • As shorthand, we tend to call newly recruited and enlisted Russian contractees professionals when, in fact, they have just signed up to become professional.  Whether they do is a function of whether they stay, get trained, and become experienced.  One senior Russian commander has said he considers soldiers professionals when they’ve served two or more contracts (6+ years).

Tighter in the Hall

Sevmash (photo: www.sevmash.ru)

Sevmash (photo: http://www.sevmash.ru)

It’s tighter in Sevmash’s construction hall, but there’s still plenty of space.

Russian submarine producer Sevmash released the following noteworthy statement on 28 March:

Uniting forces for nuclear-powered submarine construction

For the realization of the state arms program and effective construction of modern nuclear submarines, buildingway-delivery production is being organized at Sevmash.

The Testing and Order Delivery Directorate (UISZ) is joining Sevmash’s two largest buildingway departments — 50 and 55.  The new structure is needed to increase the tempo of modern nuclear submarines construction (recently a significant number of submarines was laid down), guarantee evenness in labor force distribution, and promote the transfer of production experience.  Recall that the buildingway of department 50 was occupied with civilian production in the 1990s:  specifically, it built the unique ice-resistant maritime platform ‘Prirazlomaya.’  Last year the department came back to its core business:  modern nuclear-powered submarines were laid down here.  As the chief of buildingway-delivery production Sergey Novoselov announced, a management system for the new large-scale sub-unit is currently being formed in accordance with the general director’s order.

Press-service OAO “PO ‘Sevmash.'”

For curiosity’s sake, here’s Bellona.org’s take on the ‘Prirazlomaya’ drilling platform.  Not flattering.

What is this buildingway-delivery production?  It sounds like Sevmash knows once it launches some submarines now under construction, it’ll face a fitting-out bottleneck . . . perhaps some pre-delivery work will now occur on the ways prior to launch.

Various media outlets recently noted Russia’s increased submarine production and declared that it is building four nuclear-powered boats (two SSBNs and two SSNs) for the first time in post-Soviet history.  Examples can be found here and here.

But a bit of research, e.g. here, here, here, and here, would have shown that three SSBNs and four SSNs — seven unfinished boats — are now in the hall at Sevmash.  Six laid down since 2012.  They are, of course, proyekt 955A Borey-class SSBNs and proyekt 885M Yasen-class SSNs.

Official reports from Sevmash early last year indicated that the builder plans to lay down two more Boreys and two more Yasens in 2015.  That would make a rather whopping 11 submarines under construction.

The numbers seven and 11 hark back to the halcyon days of Soviet production:  to the 1980s when Sevmash built Typhoon-, Delta IV-, Oscar-, and Akula-class submarines.  Early in that long ago decade, Moscow built four boats at a time, toward mid-decade — six or seven, by the time Gorbachev came to power — eight, before 1990 as many as 10 simultaneously.  Then production dropped to virtually zero in the mid-1990s.

We should remember, however, that Russia’s submarines under construction could turn out to be proverbial “birds in a bush.”  The navy much prefers to have completed boats in hand.

So what stands in the way of completing them?  A number of things potentially. Skilled labor, materials, and component shortages, finding domestic substitutes for sanctioned foreign inputs, and high interest rates and high inflation complicate the already pricey business of building new submarines.