Tag Archives: BSF

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.

Looking Landward

The newest deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet is former deputy chief of the MOD’s Main Combat Training Directorate (GUBP), General-Lieutenant Yuriy Petrovich Petrov.

The media quoted Petrov several times in that post, addressing either last year’s tank biathlon or Rheinmetall’s pullout from the Mulino training center contract.

Moscow apparently isn’t neglecting the landward defense of Crimea. Petrov’s arrival might presage a beefing up of ground units on Russia’s most recently acquired territory.  

General-Lieutenant Yuriy Petrov (photo: Mil.ru)

General-Lieutenant Yuriy Petrov (photo: Mil.ru)

According to Mil.ru and KZ, the 50-year-old Petrov was born in the Dnepropetrovsk oblast (former Ukrainian SSR), and graduated from the Kiev Higher Combined Arms Command School in 1985.

He got a platoon in the old Turkestan MD and, rather immediately, another graduation present — two years in Afghanistan (1986-1988).

On his return from that tour, he commanded a reconnaissance company and served as chief of reconnaissance for a regiment in the Far East MD.

He completed the mid-career Frunze Military Academy in 1994, commanded a battalion, and then served as chief of staff for a division in the Moscow MD.

In 2005, Petrov finished the General Staff Academy and took command of one of the Far East MD’s machine gun-artillery divisions.

Petrov proceeded to head the Siberian MD’s combat training directorate. He was acting chief of the combat training directorate of the Ground Troops, then deputy chief of GUBP.

He wears several combat decorations.

Petrov likely will serve as Chief of Coastal Troops, Deputy Commander of the Black Sea Fleet for Coastal Troops.  If this is the case, he’ll replace General-Major Aleksandr Ostrikov.  Russia’s other fleets have Ground Troops generals in similar positions.

BSF Gets an Unsat

A BSF Be-12

Kommersant reported Saturday that Defense Minister Serdyukov presided over an unscheduled collegium at which the Black Sea Fleet (BSF) commander received a month and a half to rectify problems identified during an inspection this fall.

The inspection — conducted by Chief Military Inspector, General-Lieutenant Gennadiy Borisov — focused on the state of operational and combat training, the weapons and equipment inventory, logistical and medical support, and fire safety.  Kommersant’s source said the results were unfavorable, and there were deficiencies in many areas.  Serdyukov received the inspection report, and wanted to hear the BSF commander speak about it at the collegium.

A Main Navy Staff source told the paper two of three formations inspected at Novorossiysk Naval Base got unsatisfactories in artillery, missile, and torpedo firing, and mine warfare.  The 11th Independent Coastal Missile-Artillery Brigade and 184th Ship Brigade received comments, and General-Lieutenant Borisov also noted problems in the Naval Infantry battalions at Temryuk.

But no one got fired.  Serdyukov gave BSF Commander, Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Fedotenko, and Navy CINC, Admiral Vysotskiy, until February to remedy all defects before a repeat inspection.

On a related note, Monday the Defense Ministry announced BSF Naval Aviation bases at Gvardeyskoye and Kacha will consolidate into the 7057th Aviation Base.  The unified base will have ground attack, ASW, and transport airplanes and helicopters.  Press reports weren’t explict, but Kacha is the 7057th.  So Gvardeyskoye — the 7058th — will apparently close.

Keep Close to Shore

“In essence, after many years of interruption, we are beginning a large shipbuilding program:  by 2020, 4.7 trillion rubles will be directed at reequipping Russia’s Navy.  The aim is clear — it is creating a modern fleet, capable of carrying out all missions — from nuclear deterrence to presence on the world’s oceans, to the security of our economic interests and Russia’s bioresources.”

That’s how Prime Minister Putin put it at Monday’s party conference in Cherepovets.  But Nezavisimaya gazeta and Vedomosti had sharp and pithy criticism for him and for the naval construction program.

NG concluded military voters might be cheered up, but the paper wants to know what the naval construction program is exactly.  Is it the one that’s buying Mistrals that may not be needed from France?  With what and how will the Navy be equipped?

Apparently not aircraft carriers.  And not other large warships either.  They’re built in Russia, but for sale to India and China.  NG continues:

“Our own fleet is being populated piecemeal.  And, as a rule, we’re talking about a mosquito fleet.  Which, of course, is not capable of completing missions ‘from nuclear deterrence to presence on the world’s oceans.'”

The editorial cites former Black Sea Fleet Commander Vladimir Komoyedov who complains about the retirement of the Kara-class CG Ochakov, and claims nothing new is being developed.  It quotes Aleksandr Pokrovskiy who says the Baltic Fleet’s new Steregushchiy and Soobrazitelnyy corvettes are not participating in exercises because they’re only 50 percent combat ready.

So, asks NG, what kind of modern fleet are we talking about?  About past shipbuilding programs, it says:

“They were concrete and understandable — how many and what types of ships must be built.  Today politicians prefer to talk not about this, but about large-scale financial investment in the future fleet.  And in the very distant future at that.  From the point of view of the 2011 and 2012 election campaigns, it could be, that this is correct.  But from the point of view of the country’s security — hardly.”

Vedomosti takes its turn:

“. . . the idea of turning Russia into a great naval power has agitated the minds of the leaders of the Russian state for more than 300 years already.  The question is how acute this mission is in the 21st century and how Putin’s new slogans correspond to programs already adopted.”
“But the thing is not just the quality of the state program [of armaments], but also its strategic aims, which the government’s leader lays out.  We’d like the prime minister to formulate precisely what level of Navy presence in the world’s oceans and what he has in mind for its participation in the defense of bioresources.  Security of mineral and biological resources is an affair for civilian services and maritime border guards . . . .”
The business daily goes on to say corvettes, frigates, and landing ships are capable of completing “understandable and necessary missions.”  Still, it
“Many experts consider extravagant the purchase of the Mistrals (four ships cost 2.35 billion euros), intended to support amphibious operations at a great distance from native shores.  Some admirals and VPK directors called for development of aircraft carrier groups.  Similar projects, the cost of which stretches to tens of billions of euros, will cause curtailment of construction of ships needed for the fleet, overloading and technological breakdowns in Russian shipyards.  In any case, Russia’s main problems have to be resolved on land.”
Sound advice given that the procurement problems of the Ground Troops and Air Forces, not to mention the RVSN, are just as serious and urgent as the Navy’s (if not more so).

VDV on Amphibs

By way of follow-up . . . late last May, VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov told the press his forces have embarked in Black Sea Fleet ships for joint training since the Georgian conflict.  Yesterday RIA Novosti reported on such a joint exercise.

More than 1,500 airborne troops and nearly 100 pieces of equipment are participating in tactical exercises with BSF ships near Novorossiysk.  The VDV are from the 108th Guards Airborne-Assault Regiment, 7th Airborne-Assault Division.

Specifically, the VDV spokesman said:

“On Wednesday nearly 30 airborne combat vehicles and other combat equipment loaded onto large landing ships of the Black Sea Fleet and debarked in a designated coastal area at the Rayevskiy range near Novorossiysk.”

Exercises will continue until tomorrow.  Reconnaissance company personnel will airdrop near Rayevskiy today.  The drop was delayed by bad weather, according to the VDV spokesman.  Two battalions conducted mountain combat training yesterday, and will conduct night firings today.

RIA Novosti didn’t indicate which BSF ships are carrying the VDV.  But Ropucha II-class LST Azov and Alligator-class LST Nikolay Filchenkov were active in the first days of this month during an inspection by Navy CINC, Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy.  The ships worked with the BSF’s Naval Infantry Brigade at the Opuk training range.

Russia Not Likely to Buy Ukraina

Slava-class CG Ukraina

Will Russia buy the aging, semi-finished Slava-class CG Ukraina?  Probably not, unless the price is really right, i.e. basically zero.  It’s unlikely Russia will pay Ukraine to complete the cruiser because Russian shipyards have suggested towing it to Russia, refurbishing, and updating there. 

The questions are compelling only because of a recent video, varying reports about the ship and a possible deal, and what this all says about Moscow’s military procurement.

Military parity highlighted Podrobnosti.ua’s video.  Like the photo above, the video shows a major combatant in declining condition.

Nevertheless, according to recent ITAR-TASS, Ukraine’s Defense Minister is optimistic Kyiv and Moscow will finish Ukraina together.  And he claims the ship is 95 percent complete.

By way of review, Ukraina is a 1970s- or 1980s-vintage design being constructed as Fleet Admiral Lobov at Nikolayev’s [Mykolayiv’s] 61 Communards Shipbuilding Plant when the USSR collapsed.  Kyiv failed to find a foreign buyer for the ship, and reportedly spends $1 million every year maintaining it.  So that doesn’t mean a plethora of options or a very strong negotiating position for the Ukrainian side.

Talk of Russia buying Ukraina peaked last year in the wake of the base agreement extension between Moscow and Kyiv.  News outlets noted that the acting chief of the Russian Navy’s Technical Directorate inspected the cruiser and declared it 50 percent ready.  He said Ukraina would need 15 billion rubles for repairs and 35 billion for modernization — $1.7 billion in all.  The Navy’s 50 percent sounds a lot more like the 70 or 75 percent we’ve been hearing for many years than the Ukrainian Defense Minister’s 95 percent.

Reported pricetags for Ukraina, in its current shape, start at $70 or $80 million and run to ridiculous numbers.  In January, Argumenti.ru reported the Russian Defense Ministry would not pay scrap metal prices for Ukraina, but commented that Moscow would accept the ship as a gift.

Then there’s also the issue of whether the Russian Navy really needs it.  It’s an issue often forgotten in procurement debates.  Granted Ukraina is a something of a special case.  But it should also be a pretty easy decision.

Novyy region quoted a couple opinions last May.  Former Black Sea Fleet Commander Vladimir Komoyedov said:

“The ship hasn’t aged 15-20 years yet according to its capabilities.  However, it needs, of course, to be deployed in the ocean, in open theaters, and not in the Black Sea, not in the Baltic — there just isn’t sufficient space for it there.  The ships [Slava-class] are very good, not at all badly designed.  It can’t be said this cruiser belongs just to Ukraine alone.  Ukraine’s share of it, as far as I remember, is 17, a maximum of 20 percent.  Therefore the question’s about the purchase not of a full ship, but of a share — all the rest belongs to Russia.  The purchase issue has stood for a long time, and it needs to be resolved once and for all.  If such a decision is made, it’ll be the right one.  It’s better than the tin can Mistral by a factor of two.”

Defense analyst Aleksandr Khramchikhin, on the other hand, said:

“It’s very hard to understand who needs this ship now.  Undoubtedly, for our fleet which is shrinking into nothing, now such a cruiser has already become pointless.  We have to begin, so to speak, from below, and not from above, not with cruisers, but with frigates at least.  Moreover, these cruisers have a very narrow anti-aircraft carrier mission.  They were built exclusively for war with American carrier battle groups.  It doesn’t seem to me that this mission is all that acute for us now.  Therefore, it’s hard for me to comprehend why we need this ship, and where to put it if it is finished.”

All that said, the Russians might buy Ukraina anyway.  If they do, it’ll indicate a new State Program of Armaments gone awry in its first year.

Southern MD and Black Sea Fleet

BSF Commander Vladimir Korolev told IA Rosbalt today he thinks resubordinating the BSF to the Southern MD will allow for resolving a large number of missions:

“The South-Western Axis which existed in Soviet times allowed us to coordinate the efforts of various services and troop branches.  This experience is extremely opportune today.”

Korolev acknowledged that military reform may progress painfully:

“Fundamental changes in any structure aren’t coped with easily, naturally, they can’t proceed painlessly in an organism as complex as the fleet.  The strategic command isn’t swallowing the fleet, the BSF will become an integral part of it with its specific sphere of missions.  Adjusting the synchronization of the work of structures, processes, mutual adaptation, delineation of authorities — all this is not simple at all, but it’s very important because such large-scale changes are happening for the first time in the history of our Armed Forces.  But we have to go for this in order for the fleet to develop, to get stronger in accordance with modern requirements.”

He called ‘synergistic cooperation’ the main benefit of establishing the common command uniting the fleet and army:

“The fleet, aviation, and ground units won’t compete among themselves, but organically supplement and support each other.  The events of August 2008 showed how important it is to have a powerful grouping of varied forces which have to act according to a single plan, dispose of an entire arsenal of forces and means, including modern communications systems, on the Southern, as well as on any other axis.”

Rosbalt said the BSF and Caspian Flotilla will transform into the Operational Command of Naval Forces (OKMS or ОКМС) within the Southern MD.

Now it seems Korolev’s putting a happy face on this; it won’t be easy.  Establishing real unified commands is just as hard as it is necessary.  Like it or not, the BSF is getting swallowed and subordinated.  It will operate according to plans made largely by green uniforms in Rostov-na-Donu.

If true, what Rosbalt says about the naval ‘Operational Command’ is very significant.  Remember the much-ballyhooed shift to a three-tier command structure?  The tiers are military district, operational command, and brigade.  The name sounds like the fleet’s being reduced from equal of the MD to equivalent of an army, another operational-level command.  Quite a come down.