In the middle part of General-Colonel Zelin’s incredibly long NVO interview, he reacts to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s high command changes and other structural realignments over the last couple years. He also shares thoughts on the state of VVS training.
Zelin speaks to interviewer Viktor Litovkin like a 58-year-old three-star who’s surprised to have stayed at his post as long as he has. He speaks like he isn’t concerned about being retired.
Asked what he and his Main Staff do now that the VVS operate under the four MD / OSK commanders, Zelin responds that plans to create an automated C2 system (ASU) haven’t quite gotten there. He talks and is online with the district commanders often. But, he says:
“The main thing is combat training remains with the VVS Main Command. Organizational development (stroitelstvo or строительство) of the service and combat training. And without combat training what kind of employment can there be?”
There were, he continues, arguments and unresolved issues:
“But during the decisionmaking I proved my point of view, my vision of present problems, sometimes they had to agree, sometimes they had to listen on several issues, but, since now decisions have been made, we have to fulfill them. To get to work.”
But he grouses a bit more. He sounds like a man with responsibility who lacks authority.
The ASU isn’t working, but service central command posts (TsKP or ЦКП) were eliminated. Regardless, Zelin says he has to organize and control training. Every day 70-80 units have aircraft flying, and they have to be tracked. They can’t just be given a mission and forgotten.
Asked about the newly-established Aerospace Defense (VKO) Troops, Zelin claims interestingly, that only PVO brigades in Russia’s central industrial region — the old Moscow AD District, KSpN, or OSK VKO — went over to them. He says MD / OSK commanders got the rest, and he equips and trains them for regional commands to operate. His view seems to be VKO is limited to strategic and theater MD. You can’t, he opines, have PVO without air defense aviation integrated into it. According to Zelin, a single national system of air defense, including Troop Air Defense, is needed, but a decision’s been made and it’s left but to fulfill it.
Before talking more about training, Zelin reiterates that a single system of net-centric strategic C2 and decisionmaking is the goal, but they aren’t quite there.
He seems envious of the large-scale, largely automated airspace control systems he’s seen in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.
On training and flight hours, Zelin says he’s got no problems with material support (i.e. POL), but problems addressing aircraft service life support [ресурсное обеспечение]. He states frankly he worries about maintenance provided (or not) by civilianized, outsourced Oboronservis affiliate Aviaremont. There is plenty of money for maintenance, but those responsible aren’t getting it done. While the Glavkomat has heartache about aircraft serviceability:
“Our other structures for some reason are responsible only for financial flows.”
Zelin was asked earlier if 130 flight hours was the VVS goal. He says last year pilots got 340,000 hours, or 90 per pilot. That makes roughly 3,800 pilots, if they’re shared evenly (they’re not). Eighty percent of young pilots got not less than 100. In some cases, it was harder and they got a little more than 50. Zelin adds this is still better than the 1990s.