Tag Archives: Pacific Fleet

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 Yandex.ru, Mail.ru, and Gmail.com 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.

B0ltai.org 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.

Pacific Fleet Patrols

Pobedonosets Concludes Patrol (photo: Mil.ru)

Pobedonosets Concludes Patrol (photo: Mil.ru)

On 29 December 2014, Pacific Fleet Delta III-class SSBN Svyatoy Georgiy Pobedonosets returned home from a combat patrol, according to Mil.ru.  

The MOD site reported that the submarine arrived in Vilyuchinsk after completing missions at sea.  The chief of staff of Pacific Fleet submarine forces greeted its commander and crew with a traditional roast pig.  Mil.ru said Pobedonosets will be ready to fulfill new tasks after replenishing its stores.

34-year-old Pobedonosets is one of only three (two operational) SSBNs in the Pacific Fleet order-of-battle.

It conducted an inter-fleet from the Northern to the Pacific Fleet in late 1983. From 1993 to 2003, it was laid up at Zvezda shipyard for extended “medium repair” due no doubt to a lack of funding at the time.

Then-president Dmitriy Medvedev visited Pobedonosets in 2008.

The submarine fired SS-N-18 SLBMs during strategic forces exercises in 2013, 2012, 2010, and 2009.  The 2013 shot occurred while the SSBN was on patrol and came from the Sea of Okhotsk, according to the VladNews agency.

The Russian Navy conducted only five SSBN patrols in 2012, according to a FOIA response obtained from U.S. Naval Intelligence by Federation of American Scientists scholar Hans Kristensen.  He concludes five were not enough for Moscow to resume continuous SSBN patrols as its Navy CINC promised  in mid-2012.  They would be 73-day patrols end-to-end.

It seems likely Pobedonosets spent 40-50 days in the Sea of Okhotsk or not far off Kamchatka in the extreme northeastern Pacific.

Podolsk Returning to Port in 2014 (photo: Eastern MD Press-Service)

Podolsk Returning to Port in 2014 (photo: Eastern MD Press-Service)

35-year-old Delta III-class SSBN Podolsk patrolled in 2011, VladNews reported. PrimaMedia indicates that Podolsk fired an SLBM, conducted other training, and possibly even an abbreviated combat patrol in mid-2014.

Russianforces.org noted it was the first launch from Podolsk in more than a decade; all other recent Pacific Fleet firings came from Pobedonosets.

32-year-old Delta III-class SSBN Ryazan inter-fleeted in 2008, launched an SLBM in 2009, but has been inactive undergoing repair since 2011.

So the fleet’s old two-submarine SSBN force performs the arduous job of maintaining some kind of Russian strategic patrol presence in the Pacific. There’s some evidence for maybe four Pacific Fleet SSBN patrols in the last four years.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Fleet awaits the inter-fleet of Borey-class SSBN hulls two and three, Aleksandr Nevskiy and Vladimir Monomakh, in the fall when, the Navy hopes, their new base facilities will be complete.  They are already officially Pacific Fleet assets but based temporarily  in Gadzhiyevo.

Two additional Boreys (for a total of four) are intended for the Pacific at some point.  But, in the meantime, the aged Pobedonosets and Podolsk will apparently conduct occasional patrols.

Second Tier Pacific Power?

Chinese Carrier Liaoning, or ex-Soviet Kuznetsov-class Varyag (photo: Reuters)

Chinese Carrier Liaoning, or ex-Soviet Kuznetsov-class Varyag (photo: Reuters)

Militaryparitet.com wrote recently about Jane’s Defence Weekly’s report on the possible start of construction of an indigenous Chinese aircraft carrier on Changxing, near Shanghai.  A new one, not an old one bought abroad and refurbished.

It may, or may not, be a carrier in the end.

Nevertheless, Militaryparitet quoted a 23 [sic] December Russia Today story about the Chinese carrier program:

“China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier will be a larger version of Liaoning.  The design is reportedly based on drafts of a Soviet-era, nuclear-powered, 80,000 ton vessel capable of carrying 60 aircraft.”

In other words, a later-day Ulyanovsk.

Militaryparitet also cites Voice of Russia.  It quoted Pavel Kamennov of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of the Far East, who claimed China will build two conventionally-powered carriers by 2015 [sic?] before constructing a nuclear one by 2020.

The government broadcaster tends to see a threat from China.  Its report came against the backdrop of Liaoning’s first deployment.

Then VoR turned to nationalist military commentator, retired naval officer Konstantin Sivkov to describe how the “geopolitical situation” will change when Chinese carrier groups take to sea in the future:

“. . . somewhere across 10 years China could put naval power comparable to the Americans on the Pacific Ocean.  This will signify that Russia has moved to the second tier on the Pacific Ocean, and the main players will be the USA and China.”

Now it seems likely China will soon surpass Russia as a carrier power.  Though one notes Moscow, even with a less than robust program, still has years of experience operating Kuznetsov that constitute a final remaining advantage over Beijing.

China catching the U.S. Navy is altogether different.

To its credit, Militaryparitet wrote that acquiring carriers is complex and expensive.  They take years to build, and many more to master their tactical and strategic operation.  There’s no substitute for experience in controlling carriers and battle groups under real-world conditions.  And the U.S. Navy has launched aircraft into combat from flattops for decades.

Those aren’t the only hurdles.

As the Russians learned, and the Chinese are learning, perhaps the most difficult step is fielding a high performance, carrier-capable fighter that can deliver a large combat load.  As RIA Novosti’s military commentator wrote in 2008:

“. . . to turn an ordinary fighter into a deck-based one through a small modernization is not possible.  The aircraft has to be designed from scratch, because the airframe of a deck-based aircraft experiences stress 2-3 times greater on landing than its ‘land-based brethren.'”

Not to mention the stress when the cat hurls it skyward.

So where does this leave us?

It’s no surprise Russian military observers and nationalist-minded elements lament the rise of China’s naval power and its fast-developing and emblematic carrier program.

But were it not for politeness, they could be reminded that China quite some time ago supplanted Russia as a “first tier” power in the Pacific in many ways.  Demographically, economically, diplomatically, and perhaps even militarily.

Other China-watchers (including many Russian ones) have a more benign, less zero-sum view.  They see Beijing as simply preparing to represent and defend its interests, which may or may not conflict with Moscow’s (or Washington’s for that matter).

Meanwhile, Western Russia-watchers tend a little cottage industry of trying to divine how Moscow really feels about China.  And the wisest ones probably say there’s more than one correct answer to this question.

Another Readiness Ex

Putin and Shoygu (photo: mil.ru)

Putin and Shoygu (photo: mil.ru)

President and Glavk Vladimir Putin ordered Defense Minister Shoygu to conduct another readiness exercise yesterday.  This time in the Eastern MD, to include the Pacific Fleet.

Putin hinted he might show up in the Far East to watch.

The Supreme CINC directed that particular attention should be paid to transferring large masses of troops to assembly points, to transportation support, and to logistical and medical support.

Putin ordered Shoygu to:

“Also conduct all necessary measures relative to rescue at sea and the rescue of transportation means, including the submarine fleet.”

Apparently, the Glavk’s bitter (but important) memory of August 12, 2000 is jogged at this time of year.

He said he regards this year’s readiness checks as highly effective and extremely useful in eliminating problems.

Today Mil.ru indicated the exercise has started, and expanded a bit.  It includes not only the Eastern MD and Pacific Fleet, but the Central MD, LRA, and VTA.

The “formations and units of the Central MD’s Novosibirsk large formation” (i.e. the 41st CAA) will play a notional enemy role.

The ex aims to evaluate sub-units’ readiness to fulfill designated missions, the skill level of personnel, technical readiness, and proper outfitting with weapons and equipment.

As in others, the readiness ex will feature marches (convoys) to unfamiliar ranges far from permanent bases for two-sided tactical play with combat firings.

It will test the operational mobility of a formation (brigade) to a distance of more than 3,000 km.  Troops will move by rail, ship, and VTA.  More than 80,000 personnel, 1,000 tank and armored vehicles, 130 aircraft, and 70 ships will participate.  The drill concludes on 20 July.

Mil.ru also covered a high command videocon devoted to the ex.  Shoygu said up to 160,000 troops might be involved in one way or another.

Done Deal

Mistral Contract Signing

The deal for the first two Mistrals, that is.  With President Medvedev looking on, Rosoboroneksport’s Anatoliy Isaykin and DCNS’ Patrick Bouasie signed the contract at the Petersburg International Economic Forum.  RIA Novosti quoted Isaykin on the €1.2 billion price.  Work can begin after the Russians pay an advance (Versii.com repeated a rumor that the French wanted 80 percent prepayment). 

RIA Novosti also noted Isaykin saying the Russian Mistrals will be identical to French units except they’ll have reinforced hulls and flight decks to handle Russia’s northern waters, and its heavier helicopters.  Isaykin said Russia has an option for two more Mistrals to be built in Russia.  But it’s up to the Defense Ministry to get money for them in the Gosoboronzakaz.

ITAR-TASS made the point that the Senit 9 tactical command and control system, and its documentation, are part of the just-inked deal.  OSK General Director Roman Trotsenko told Rossiya-24, “The French side has gone to an unprecedented level of technology transfer and is transferring technologies, including the programming source codes for battle information-management systems, communications systems.”

Kommersant reported the first Russian unit is expected in 36 months, the second in 48, or 2014 and 2015 respectively.   It cited Trotsenko on Russia contributing up to 40 percent of the work on the two ships to be built at STX in Saint-Nazaire.

While the Mistrals will come with French electronics, the Russians will have the task of outfitting the ships with their own weapons, helicopters, amphibious assault craft, and other systems.

Radio Svoboda asked for some thoughts about the occasion.  NVO’s Viktor Litovkin opined that these expeditionary warfare ships don’t make much sense under Russia’s current military doctrine or in the context of defending the Kurils.  Pavel Felgengauer said the Mistrals may be appropriate for fighting enemies with weak air and naval forces, but Russia’s leadership hasn’t specified who they might be.  Viktor Alksnis complained that they are another stake in the heart of Russia’s dying OPK.  He calls for Russia to modernize its own arms production base instead of buying abroad.  He also fears the French could put an “off switch” in the ships’ C2 systems, effectively turning them into “target barges.”

Aleksandr Golts supports the deal because Russian shipbuilders will participate and get new technologies, but he also because he favors the emphasis on force projection rather than the Navy’s pro-SSBN mission.

Navy CINC, Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy made some appropriately effusive comments about the capabilities and prospects for employing the Mistrals.

Mistral in Piter (photo: Izvestiya)

Defense Minister Serdyukov was less willing to elaborate saying:

“Let’s build them first, and then we’ll think about where to deploy them.  We have plans to employ them, when they’re closer to ready we’ll disclose them.”

In Moskovskiy komsomolets, Olga Bozhyeva writes that the Mistral deal does several things for Moscow.  An arms sale like this implies a level of acceptance by Europe, it divides old and new Europeans, and it serves as a wedge between the U.S. and its European allies.  She notes that Russian military leaders have kept pretty quiet about Mistral.  And Bozhyeva concludes, overall, it’s a bad deal for Russia.  It’s a high price tag for something that’s not a priority for the fleet.  Its missions are not well thought out.  A relatively old system like Senit 9 won’t help Russia catch up very much.  And Russia didn’t seriously consider Dutch, Spanish, or South Korean shipyards to drive the French price down, but:

“. . . we would have to exclude a certain corruption component, which, in the opinion of many experts, is included in the Russo-French contract (but it’s better to leave this subject to the procuracy).”

As is often the case, Nezavisimaya gazeta sums it all up best:

“The Glavkom [CINC] ought to specify the countries on which our Navy intend to ‘project the power’ of the LHD.  Judging by the fact that it’s intended to deploy the first two ships in the Pacific Fleet, for the defense of the Kuril Islands (can it really be that someone intends to attack them?), then Japan—ally of the U.S., China—our strategic partner or North and South Korea could be the object of this projection.  Again with Seoul it’s somehow uncomfortable.  It’s also an ally of Washington.  And don’t mention projecting power on Pyongyang, apparently, even the Americans aren’t risking doing this.”

“And not everything’s clear with our deck-based aviation for ‘Mistral.’  Our attack helicopters, Mi-24, Mi-28N, Ka-52, and naval Ka-27, Ka-28, Ka-31 are bigger (higher) in their dimensions than French ones, so it’s necessary to redesign the LHD’s hangar deck for them.  This means extra expenditures of financial resources, as well as a change of extremely weak armament for this ship.  Including even air defense.  There are also other problems.  Like the construction of a shore base for the deployment of ‘Mistrals’ on the country’s eastern shore, on the Pacific Ocean.  It still isn’t there.  But to keep such a huge hull tied up at anchor in Petr Velikiy Gulf or in other Far Eastern bays, like it was with domestic Proyekt 1123 class helicopter carriers ‘Moskva’ and ‘Leningrad,’ means to expend their service life in vain and kill it without reason.”

“In a word, the French LHDs, which should enter our Navy’s inventory in 2014 and 2015, could be not a reinforcement of our groupings of ships, which, by the way, also still need to be built up, but a headache for Russian admirals.”

Yuriy Dolgorukiy Headed for Pacific Fleet

In Vladivostok yesterday, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov made the surprising announcement that the first Borey-class SSBN, Yuriy Dolgorukiy, will deploy to Russia’s Pacific Fleet, once it becomes operational with its complement of Bulava SLBMs. 

To be precise, Serdyukov said:

“The first Borey will enter the TOF [Pacific Ocean Fleet].  This is how it is in our plans.  . . . new barracks are already built for crews of new submarines.  Since 2007, we’ve been taking down old barracks and building new ones, renovating the social infrastructure 100 percent.”

Serdyukov made the comments while inspecting new construction in Vilyuchinsk for Pacific Fleet contractees.

Basing the first Borey away from where it was built, and away from Russia’s Northern Fleet, is a sharp break from the Soviet / Russian Navy tradition of keeping the first units of new classes — especially SSBNs — close to their point of origin at Sevmash.  A Pacific Fleet deployment could complicate service and support not only for Yuriy Dolgorukiy, but for its new missile system as well, and make this more costly too. 

The Defense Ministry seems to have decided it needs to retain a two-fleet naval strategic nuclear deterrent.  And putting the first Borey there seems essential given that the Pacific Fleet has only a handful of 30-year-old Delta III-class SSBNs at this point.  This decision may also reflect what’s been presented several times as an increased Russian military focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

Suicidal Lieutenants

President Toasts the Kuropatkins (photo: Aleksandr Astafyev)

The Pacific Fleet command and investigators say the shooting of a 22-year-old lieutenant assigned to a 35-year-old LST in Fokino was a suicide attempt, and not the result of ‘nonregulation relations’ or dedovshchina.  The incident occurred 1 December.  Lieutenant Maksim Kuropatkin was found with a gunshot wound to the head, and he remains in a coma.  Investigators say he shot himself with his service sidearm in the presence of two witnesses.  No criminal case has been initiated.  Their preliminary conclusion is that Kuropatkin suffered a nervous breakdown caused by difficulty adapting to life in the service.

Moskovskiy komsomolets point out the Kuropatkin case is a little special because President Dmitriy Medvedev was the surprise guest of honor at the lieutenant’s wedding in early July.  Medvedev was touring the Far East, and arrived at Birobidzhan’s wedding palace in time to witness three marriages including Kuropatkin’s.  Medvedev wished the lieutenant and his bride a “long happy family life.”  He ordered the governor of the Jewish AO to find apartments for all three couples.  About a month ago, the Kuropatkins got their apartment.

Kuropatkin’s family doesn’t believe his shooting was a suicide attempt.  They say he was always goal-oriented, and aimed for a military career from age 14 (presumably he attended a Nakhimov Naval School).  He graduated from the Pacific Naval Institute late this spring, married, and had been in his first assignment only a couple months.

They also say Kuropatkin recently mentioned the name of a senior officer who often picked on him, and was constantly nagging him to draw up some kind of documents, and when Kuropatkin refused, he said, “Well, that’s it, it’s the end for you.” 

A 24-year-old lieutenant named Ivan Yegorov died in what was also called a suicide aboard Slava-class CG Varyag in mid-November.  MK sums up saying:

“According to the opinion of knowledgeable people, dedovshchina in the officer environment ranges up to physical violence and shootings.”

RIA Novosti also reported a Baltic Fleet suicide this week.  A 23-year-old lieutenant from the Pionerskiy garrison reportedly shot himself in the chest with a Makarov pistol.  He apparently left a note.  The chair of the Kaliningrad Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers said she was completely surprised by this incident, adding that there have never been “any signals” of problems from the unit where this lieutenant served.