Tag Archives: VVKO

Aerospace Forces

At some point, probably next summer, the Air Forces (VVS) will cease being one of Russia’s three armed services.  The Aerospace Forces (VKS or ВКС) will take their place.  The Aerospace Defense Troops (VVKO) will likewise disappear as a branch and get rolled into the new VKS.  Russia will be left with three services and two branches (not three of each).

RF and Air Forces Flags (photo: Mil.ru)

RF and Air Forces Flags (photo: Mil.ru)

The Aerospace Forces will be responsible for all Russian air forces and air defense (and more).

This news comes on the heels of six months of studious MOD denials that such a move was even contemplated.

It began quietly on 1 December  with Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s remarks to a regular military leadership videoconference.

According to Krasnaya zvezda, Shoygu discussed changing the organizational structure of the Air Forces in connection with turning VVKO aerospace defense brigades back into air defense (PVO) divisions.  He said the decision was made in mid-2013 after an analysis of mission fulfillment by the Air Forces.  He explained that:

“The goal of the changes being made is to increase the effectiveness of VVS [Air Forces] command and control, to improve the quality of the organization of everyday activity and planning for the combat employment of the troops.”

It echoed an earlier decision to reverse course on Anatoliy Serdyukov’s large composite air bases and groups and put aircraft back into more dispersed divisions and regiments.

By 10 December, Interfaks-AVN reported that the decision to replace the VVS with the VKS awaited only an official announcement.  

The news agency’s MOD source said:

“Formation of the new service [VKS] will proceed gradually, and, as expected, take several years.  In the course of this period, the forces and means entering the VKS must develop in the direction of unification and standardization of command and control, information and strike systems.”

The source also claimed the first CINC of the new service would be a general officer with experience commanding large inter-service [unified or joint] troop groupings, including aviation and PVO.  The most likely candidate — according to the source — Central MD Commander General-Colonel Vladimir Zarudnitskiy.

Then Defense Minister Shoygu made it official on 18 December when he said creating Aerospace Forces would be a priority task for 2015.

TASS reported the VKS CINC will have deputies for aviation, air defense, missile defense (PRO), and space.  It also indicated that VKS will control all current VVS aviation, including frontal and army aviation.  But its sway over the latter two — with the exception of fighter aircraft — will be “purely nominal,” and they will be employed in “coordination” with MD commanders.  Troop PVO will apparently continue to protect army formations.

Military commentator Igor Korotchenko captured the essence of VKS as a reaction to the possibility of a devastating U.S. aerospace attack on Russia:

“The main function [of VKS] is to guarantee realization of the Russian Federation’s concept of aerospace defense, proceeding from the need to counter existing plans, particularly of the United States of America, to implement the prompt global strike concept.  The Americans are planning in the conceivable future to use precision weapons, including hypersonic ones, to destroy [launch] positions and silos of intercontinental ballistic missiles, command centers, communications centers.  The fact here is that this concept will potentially be a great threat for Russia.  These new structures, the new service of the Russian armed forces will be occupied with its deterrence and neutralization.”

Such a potentially disarming threat might mobilize the military and public against America, but Korotchenko and the VKS will have to wait a very long time for it to materialize.  And if it doesn’t appear, then the deterrent worked, right?  A no-lose proposition from Moscow’s perspective.

VKS will be something of an effort to resurrect or reconstruct Soviet PVO Strany — national air defense — that was dismantled beginning in the late 1970s. Serdyukov’s reorganization of the VVS and creation of VVKO are criticized now as focused solely on saving money.  The current thinking is that all aerospace defense systems should be concentrated in a single service and single CINC with authority and responsibility for protecting the country’s aerospace borders.

The new VKS will be anything but compact, as President Putin often calls on the army to be.  They will be a sprawling enterprise that may be challenging to link and inter-connect for operations as a unified command.  If Serdyukov’s changes were too economy-minded, this one errs on the side of Soviet-style giantism. And now isn’t an auspicious time for expensive undertakings.

There are practical issues too.  How will the VKS CINC manage competing requirements for modern fighter aircraft from frontal aviation and air defense?Their number is limited and insufficient for both needs.  So creation of VKS won’t change the fact that they will be spread thinly over a gigantic landmass.

Moral of the story:  Reform, reorganization, and reshuffling never really end no matter the boss — Serdyukov, Shoygu, etc.  VKS may be the answer for a time, but they’re very unlikely to be the last word. 

P.S.  Various reports on VKS provided some indication of deployments in 2015. What is currently the VKO brigade (or will become a PVO division) in Novosibirsk may receive the S-400 this summer.  Shoygu said the MOD will put an air and air defense army (AVVSiPVO or АВВСиПВО) in the Arctic.  More recently, TASS reported an S-400 regiment will be deployed on Novaya Zemlya.

The Next S-400 “Regimental Set”

On 14 February, Krasnaya zvezda covered the arrival of a new Pantsir-S battalion in VVKO’s 4th Air Defense Brigade north and west of Moscow.

In a bit of sidebar, the brigade’s commander indicated the next S-400 “regimental set” (sixth overall) will be deployed in his formation. Recall at the end of 2013, Russian media reported two “sets” (six and seven) were delivered to the military.

Pantsir-S (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

Pantsir-S (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

The new two-battery unit of six Pantsir-S vehicles came from Ashuluk, following its first live fire exercises.  Before this, the battalion was in Gatchina, near St. Petersburg, for initial training.

Colonel Valeriy Varentsov (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

Colonel Valeriy Varentsov (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

According to its commander, Colonel Valeriy Varentsov, the 4th Brigade has four SAM regiments deployed in Yaroslavl, Tver, Kaluga, and Moscow regions.  It received its first Pantsir-S battalion a year ago, and it is part of the S-400-equipped SAM regiment at Dmitrov.

Colonel Varentsov notes the Pantsirs remain under factory warranty, so Tula-based developer KBP maintains them.  His troops will take that responsibility at some future time.

Varentsov expects another two-battalion “regimental set” of S-400 SAMs, which just performed live firings at Kapustin Yar, to arrive in his brigade soon.

One might guess the new S-400s will deploy with existing regiments northwest of Moscow near Klin or Solnechnogorsk, or southwest near Naro-Fominsk.

Varentsov said, for the first time, his brigade is getting S-400s on the MZRT-7930 8-wheel chassis from the Minsk Wheeled Tractor Factory, instead of the previous tractor / trailer configuration.  Its prime mover was apparently built by the Bryansk Automobile Factory.

The brigade expects S-500 deliveries in 2015, and a fully new inventory of armaments by 2020.  Varentsov hinted he’d like Baykal-1M command post vehicles.

Lobby for PVO Strany

Military reorganizations never stop, they just continue at a barely perceptible pace.

Organizational changes start with a campaign for a realignment.  The campaign to form Aerospace Defense Troops (VVKO) started five or six years before they officially stood up on 1 December 2011.

A new campaign is beginning.  Some are arguing VVKO didn’t get everything they need.

Four KPRF Duma deputies who are members of the legislature’s Defense Committee propose upgrading the VVKO from a branch (род) to a service (вид).  That’s symbolic, but not most significant.

More importantly, they say VVKO should control all ground-based air defense assets currently operated by the Air Forces and commanders of Russia’s four military districts (MDs).

Izvestiya reported the story.

Changes the KPRF deputies envisage would almost turn today’s VVKO into a new Soviet PVO Strany — National Air Defense (sans interceptor aircraft) as it existed between 1954 and the 1980s.  Troop PVO (Ground Troops) and Navy PVO would remain separate.

The KPRF deputies argue the vast majority of PVO assets need to be under a unified command to provide effective air defense for Russia.

Vyacheslav Tetekin, former conscript SA-5 operator and Africa expert, said:

“In military affairs the most dangerous thing is when there is no responsibility:  there is no one to make decisions, and no one to bear responsibility.  Until the time when all PVO and VKO resources are transferred into an independent command, we can’t be sure our country is defended against strikes from space and from the air.”

His colleague Aleksandr Tarnayev, former communications officer and KGB military counterintelligence operative, suggested, rather absurdly, that none of this means big changes, just resubordinating units, and replacing emblems on gates.  Units don’t even have to move, unless they need to redeploy to main strike threat axes.

But it is certainly a big change for air defense units that have reported to MDs for the last couple years, or to the Air Forces for an even longer time.

Taking strategic- and operational-level air defense from MD commanders would reduce their capabilities as unified, combined arms warfighters in regional and local conflicts.

Military expert Viktor Murakhovskiy told Izvestiya the idea of VVKO as a service has been discussed before, and the change would cost trillions of rubles:

“This is the idea of creating a unified air defense system for the country like in Soviet times.  For this we would need to combine all VKO brigades and SAM brigades under a single command.  But we would need to understand that to create a seamless defensive field over the country’s entire territory requires a huge amount of money, and the question arises, are these outlays so necessary or is it better to direct them in a different course.”

Murakhovskiy begs a couple good questions.  Is there an existential national air defense threat that justifies taking funds from other pressing military needs?  Is a U.S. (and NATO?) strategic air operation against Russia possible or probable?

VPK editor-in-chief Mikhail Khodarenok told the paper he believes VVKO needs interceptors and there’s not enough money now to create such a full-fledged service:

“In the Soviet system of PVO, for interceptors alone there were 70 regiments — almost 3 thousand aircraft.  But if we divide current aircraft between the Air Forces and PVO, we get two absurd services.  In the future such a division is justified because the Air Forces’ mission is supporting troops, and PVO’s mission is protecting the country’s important administrative and industrial centers from air strikes.  But this is the future in 20-30 years.”

A Duma hearing on VVKO scheduled for 6 November won’t have much affect on the military’s structure.  But this is how major reorganizations have started in the past.  Just don’t look for results soon.

Third S-400 Regiment for Moscow Oblast

S-400s at Elektrostal and Dubrovki, Zvenigorod Could be Next

S-400s at Elektrostal and Dubrovki, Zvenigorod Could be Next

The VVKO’s spokesman told RIA Novosti this week that the next — the sixth — S-400 SAM regiment (or “regimental set” of two launch battalions) will be deployed in Moscow Oblast before the end of 2013.

S-400s are already located east and north of Moscow at Elektrostal and Dubrovki, respectively.  Dubrovki was reported as Dmitrov (actually further north) by Russian media in the past.

Zvenigorod to the west was first mentioned as a deployment location in 2011.  It was supposed to be the third S-400 location before the end of that year.

Russian reportedly operates five S-400 regiments at the present time — Elektrostal and Dubrovki, and one each in the Baltic Fleet (Gvardeysk, Kaliningrad), Nakhodka in the Far East, and the Southern MD.

Find a better version of the map above here.

Those Air Defense Missile Factories

S-300 Launch Canister? (photo: Izvestiya)

S-300 Launch Canister? (photo: Izvestiya)

OK, a lot gets under the radar . . . hadn’t noticed interesting reports since August by Izvestiya’s Aleksey Mikhaylov.

Sue me.

The latest is Mikhaylov’s informative update on two Almaz-Antey factories planned to crank out missiles for the S-400 Triumf and S-500 Prometey.

His OPK source says:

  • By 2014, large factories in Kirov and Nizhniy Novgorod are supposed to manufacture hypersonic 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 missiles for the S-400 and S-500.
  • The missiles will have inert, kinetic kill warheads, and supposedly be capable of intercepting ballistic targets at 7 km/s.
  • The Kirov factory will cost 41.6 billion rubles, the one in Nizhniy 39.5 (81.1  together).  Almaz will get a credit of 25 billion from VEB; the Defense Ministry will invest 35 billion.  One wonders where the balance comes from, and what the terms of this three-way partnership are.

Almaz greatly needs a new production base to field missiles for its SAM launchers.  It was planned in 2008, but the financial crisis prevented it.  The military doesn’t want to repeat the S-400 experience.  It remains armed with older, shorter-range 48N6 and 9M96 missiles.  Since 2007 only seven battalions (3 and 1/2 “regimental sets”) of the S-400 (out of 56 planned) have been fielded.

New missile production should coincide with serial production of the S-500 system (not later than 2014).  It remains under development.  However, Mikhaylov reports rumored sightings of  Prometey prototypes at this or that test range.

Over time, various officers and officials have claimed new, long-range missiles for the S-400 would be fielded in 2013, 2014, or 2015.

By way of conclusion, Mikhaylov turns to independent defense analyst Aleksandr Konovalov to comment:

“The country’s leadership looks at the defense sector like a Coke machine.  Put money in and get a bottle.  Nothing is that simple with the domestic OPK, and investing a lot of money doesn’t guarantee getting production precisely on time.  And discussion about the S-500 is questionable, it’s possible it doesn’t even exist in drawings.”

Putin on Nuclear Forces and Aerospace Defense

Today’s meeting on implementing GPV-2020 (the third thus far) was devoted to nuclear forces and aerospace defense.  However, President Vladimir Putin had little specific to say, at least in his published remarks.

He obligatorily noted how VVKO and especially SYaS bear “special responsibility” for Russia’s security, territorial integrity, and global and regional parity and stability.

VKO, the president said, must not only be in permanent combat readiness to defend military and state command and control facilities against a potential enemy’s attack, but also “provide clear and effective coordination with other services and troop branches.”

In other words, lots of air and aerospace defense assets don’t belong to VVKO, and their job is to integrate them into a network.

On the nuclear side, Putin said Russia isn’t looking for an arms race but rather to ensure “the reliability and effectiveness of our nuclear potential.”

To reequip SYaS and VKO, the Supreme Glavk indicated Russia intends to allocate a “significant part” of the total resources for GPV-2020, but, again, nothing more specific.  By 2020, SYaS is supposed to have 75-80 percent modern weapons systems, and VVKO not less than 70 percent.

And that’s all we learn about the meeting.  Or almost all.

Kremlin.ru provided a participant list that’s a bit interesting.  Many officials and industry leaders you’d expect attended.  But some were noticeably absent — missile designers from MIT, missile builders from Votkinsk, and the RVSN Commander.  Surprisingly, the general director of the Makeyev design bureau was present.

Realities of Rearmament

Pantsir-S (photo: Topwar.ru)

RIA Novosti yesterday quoted a VVKO spokesman who indicated a second battery of Pantsir-S anti-aircraft gun-missile systems will go into service this fall around Moscow.  For the record, he stated:

“At present, alongside an A-150 missile defense [PRO] division, two    S-400 anti-aircraft missile regiments in two-battalion configurations, deployed in Elektrostal and Dmitrov, provide Moscow with anti-air and anti-missile defense.  One of them already has a ‘Pantsir-S’ battery in its composition, in September-October, the second regiment will also receive the same battery complement.”

The spokesman added that, in August, the new Pantsir-S battery, along with its  S-400 regiment at Dmitrov, will be in Ashuluk to perform ‘test’ live firings against low-altitude targets.

Novosti has some video of the Pantsir as does a background piece by Arms-Expo.ru.

Let’s add things up as best we can.

First Deputy Defense Minister Sukhorukov has said the army will get 28 Pantsir-S systems in 2012.  The VVS CINC said there would be two more S-400 regiments (for a total of four) before the end of 2011.  But, there are, as the VVKO spokesman says, still only two.  The CINC also said the next six Pantsir-S systems would be for the Moscow area.  The first four went to Novorossiysk.

Recall there was some question whether ten delivered in 2010 were for Russian forces or some foreign customer.  Have we somehow lost track of six of those ten?

Now all these numbers are pretty low when there’s talk that 200, 600, or possibly (incredibly?!) as many as 1,000 Pantsir-S might really be required.

The case of the Pantsir-S is a good example of how, for all the worry about a massive Russian rearmament program, this rearming has been pretty slow thus far.