This Week’s MOD Graphic

This week’s Russian MOD graphic shows 195 aircraft, 3,000 trucks, 800 trains, and ten ships delivered military cargo amounting to 65,000 tons of freight, 450 pieces of equipment, and more than 25,000 troops.

This Week

Regarding contract service, 2,037 individuals were accepted and 1,638 applied.

Twenty T-72B3 tanks and six BTR-82AM armored vehicles were delivered to units.

Mil.ru has three graphics posted but yet to be summarized here. They provide the following data:

  • 35,000 tons of cargo, 500 pieces of equipment, and more than 8,000 troops delivered;
  • 1,129 individuals accepted into contract service;
  • More than 20 T-72B3 tanks and 200 armored and other vehicles delivered to units;
  • 7 BMD combat vehicles, 7 radars, and 272 vehicles delivered;
  • 25,000 tons of cargo, 400 pieces of equipment, and more than 10,000 troops;
  • 1,612 individuals accepted into contract service;
  • More than 180 aircraft, more than 2,000 trucks, 700 trains, and ten ships delivered military cargo;
  • 35,000 tons of cargo, 400 pieces of equipment, more than 20,000 troops delivered;
  • 1,474 individuals accepted into contract service and 1,460 applied;
  • 30 R-149MA-1 command-staff vehicles and 1 Mi-26 heavy transport helo delivered to units.

The MOD graphics contain other items of interest which aren’t quite as easily digested. They’re also coming rapidly — six so far in the first month rather than one per week as their name suggests.

Not Necessarily New

Rossiyskaya gazeta reports the first Russian Tu-160M2 airframe has reached final assembly at Tupolev’s Kazan Aircraft Plant (KAZ). But it may not necessarily be new or significantly different from the last Tu-160 / Blackjack produced at KAZ.

RG picked up the story of the first Tu-160M2 from Kazan-based news service Biznes Online which follows plant newspaper Vpered.

The fourth series Tu-160 Valentin Bliznyuk (photo PAO Tupolev)

The fourth Tu-160 Valentin Bliznyuk (photo: PAO Tupolev)

Assembly of bombers at KAZ ended in 1992 with four airframes “in reserve” in various stages of production. Two were completed in 2000 and 2008 with two left unfinished at the factory.

The “Reserve”

For many years, Russian defense industries depended on their Soviet “reserve” [задел]. The “reserve” could be anything from materials to parts to money to technical know-how that helps an enterprise survive lean times. In many instances, they were wartime mobilization supplies. The “reserve” grew out of the Soviet command economy in which a factory would hoard extra resources to use against future production plans. But, over the years, defense industries steadily depleted whatever Soviet-era “reserve” they had. Another classic case of the “reserve” is Sevmash using unfinished Akula-class SSN hull sections to build the first three Borey-class SSBNs.

KAZ management readily admits the bomber bearing factory number 804 is not a full-blooded Tu-160M2. It’s a chance for the factory and its personnel to prove they can renew production of what is surely one of the most complex Russian weapons systems.

The plant has reestablished its vacuum annealing and electron beam welding processes to fabricate Tu-160 airframes. But the Tu-160M2 will depend on many subsystems, components, and parts from a large number of suppliers.

New avionics, navigation, weapons control, and electronic warfare systems aren’t due until series production. The bomber’s principal weapon, a new long-range, high-speed “smart” cruise missile known as Kh-BD, remains in development.

Production of updated NK-32-02 turbofan engines, which has only just begun at PAO Kuznetsov in Samara, could be the most difficult task. In early 2016, Biznes wrote that the company needed to make five engines that year, and 22 per year starting this year. However, it reported that Kuznetsov is “not in very good condition.”

For these reasons, KAZ workers themselves are skeptical about successfully resurrecting bomber production, according to Biznes.

RG indicated Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov stated in early 2017 the initial Tu-160M2 would come from the factory’s “reserve” and be ready for flight testing in 2018. Deputy Defense Minister and arms tsar Yuriy Borisov has also said early 2018. According to Interfaks-AVN, Tupolev announced an “experimental” Tu-160M2 would fly in 2019.

Biznes indicated completely new Tu-160M2 bombers — not Soviet legacy airframes — might not appear until 2020, reaching a rate of three per year by 2023. 

Interviewed by Krasnaya zvezda while visiting KAZ in early May, Borisov fully reiterated Russia’s plans for its strategic bombers: all existing Tu-160, Tu-95MS, and Tu-22M3 will be modernized, 50 Tu-160M2 will be produced, and the prospective PAK DA will fly in 2025-2026 and enter production in 2028-2029.

For its part, in its recent “Russia [sic] Military Power” publication, U.S. military intelligence notes:

“. . . all existing Tu-160s will be upgraded to Tu-160M1 or M2. Russia has announced that it will resume production of Tu-160M2 bombers and complete development of a new generation bomber (Russian designation: PAK-DA) within a decade . . . .”

The report allows that “timelines for both programs may slip if financial difficulties arise.”

But such troubles arose two or three years ago and Moscow’s economic woes make ambitious, if not grandiose, strategic bomber programs unaffordable. The burden of upgrading every existing bomber while developing a new one like the B-2 will be incompatible with declining defense budgets.

Yet strategic nuclear forces are an undeniable priority for the Kremlin and bombers figure as something of a hedge against U.S. missile defense systems.

Russian President Vladimir Putin loves the impression bombers make. In 2007, he restarted regular strategic bomber patrols along NATO borders to signal Russian intent to become more assertive abroad.

Well-worn shot of Putin before his 2005 flight in a Tu-160 (photo Kremlin.ru)

Well-worn shot of Putin before his 2005 flight in a Tu-160 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

He has also sent Tu-160 bombers to Venezuela and Nicaragua in a show-the-flag campaign. The Tu-160 flew its first combat mission over Syria in 2015.

Army Commanders

Time to update the leadership lineup for Russia’s army-level ground formations. Few commanders remain in place since last look in early 2016.

Russia's twelve ground armies

Russia’s twelve ground armies

The Russian Army expanded from seven to ten ground armies in 2010 by resurrecting or adding the 6th, 49th, and 29th CAAs.  More recently, it went to 12 by standing up the 1st TA and 8th CAA.  The process of filling out these armies with personnel and equipment is likely a challenge for their commanders.

The rundown of armies, headquarters, MD/OSK, and commanders looks like this:

1st TA…Bakovka…Western…General-Lieutenant Aleksey Avdeyev.

6th CAA…Agalatovo…Western…General-Lieutenant Andrey Kuzmenko.

20th CAA…Voronezh…Western…General-Major Aleksandr Peryazev.

8th CAA…Novocherkassk…Southern…General-Lieutenant Sergey Kuzovlev.

49th CAA…Stavropol…Southern…General-Lieutenant Sergey Sevryukov.

58th CAA…Vladikavkaz…Southern…General-Major Yevgeniy Nikiforov.

2nd CAA…Samara…Central…General-Major Gennadiy Zhidko.

41st CAA…Novosibirsk…Central…General-Major Aleksey Zavizon.

36th CAA…Ulan Ude…Eastern…General-Major Dmitriy Kovalenko.

29th CAA…Chita…Eastern…General-Major Yevgeniy Poplavskiy.

35th CAA…Belogorsk…Eastern…General-Major Sergey Chebotarev.

5th CAA…Ussuriysk…Eastern…General-Lieutenant Valeriy Asapov.

After his long tenure in the Transbaykal, General-Lieutenant Avdeyev replaced General-Lieutenant Chayko as commander of the new 1st TA.  Chayko is now Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Eastern MD.

General-Major Zhidko was acting commander of the 2nd CAA, but he now appears to be permanent.

General-Major Chebotarev replaced Avdeyev in the 29th CAA.

Only General-Lieutenants Kuzmenko and Sevryukov and General-Major Kovalenko remain where they were 18 months ago.

General-Major Yevgeniy Nikiforov

General-Major Yevgeniy Nikiforov

Numerous former army commanders made the next traditional career step as deputy MD commanders.  Currently, they include General-Lieutenants Tsilko, Romanchuk, Gurulev, Seritskiy, Kaloyev, Solomatin, and Turchenyuk.

Others may have fallen off the promotion track.  General-Colonel Tonkoshkurov got his third star at the General Staff’s Main Organization-Mobilization Directorate (GOMU). He’s likely to remain a long time, but it’s usually a terminal post.  General-Lieutenant Yudin is the chief of the Organization-Mobilization Directorate (OMU) of the Western MD staff. General-Lieutenant Salmin is now reportedly serving in some capacity under Admiral Avakyants in the Pacific Fleet.

The jump from one- to two-star rank is not so difficult for these senior Russian officers. They’ve already held important field commands.  It’s expected that they should make general-lieutenant.

Their third star, however, is not so routine. They have to be tapped, or in line, for more significant responsibilities.  Responsibilities that are strategic or operational-strategic in essence or that concern the defense of the entire country.  

Besides MD commander, some include chief, chief of staff, or deputy chief of an armed service, chief of a major service branch, or chief of an MOD or General Staff main directorate.

This Week’s MOD Graphic

The MOD’s graphic shows four BMD-4M and six multipurpose vehicles reached the troops this week.

Capture

On the contract service front, 1,013 new soldiers were accepted and 861 applied.

More than 150 aircraft, 2,000 vehicles, 800 trains, and 10 ships delivered men and materiel to units.  The large number of trains reflects the delivery of new conscripts to their posts.

The construction and infrastructure portion is a tad busy, but two things are worth noting.  Some 102 permanent apartments were commissioned in the Moscow suburb of Nakhabino.  “Tent-mobile shelters” (ТМУ or TMUs) were erected somewhere in Moscow and Nizhegorod Oblasts.

TMUs are associated with the recent or pending deployment of high-value vehicle-mounted weapons (e.g. Iskander-M and S-400).

More on the Conscription Campaign

The Russian military press has published relatively little on this spring’s draft which is set to end in just a few days.  There are, however, data points worth examining against what was written here.

Northern Fleet draftees lined up with their paperwork in hand

Northern Fleet draftees lined up with paperwork in hand

On June 21, Mil.ru noted that Russia’s Western MD is getting 48,000 of this spring’s conscripts.  That’s a pretty enormous 34 percent of all draftees.

Mil.ru also reported the Black Sea Fleet has gotten 1,700 of 2,600 new men it’s expecting.

Russian Orthodox priest blesses Black Sea Fleet draftees

Russian Orthodox priest blesses Black Sea Fleet draftees

We already heard that the Baltic and Northern Fleets were getting 5,000 and 2,500 conscripts respectively, putting the Navy over 10,000 without counting the Pacific Fleet’s share.  If we guess the latter gets 3,000, this puts the Navy at 13,000 for the spring campaign.  That would be nine percent of all draftees, not the predicted six percent.  A similar number from last fall would make 26,000, and conscription would account for perhaps 19 percent of Navy manpower.  

On May 21, the Russian military indicated that 8,000 draftees were going to the RVSN.  That’s six percent of the spring cohort rather than the estimated eight.  About 26 percent of RVSN personnel might be conscripts.

The MOD website reported on May 7 that the VDV will take more than 6,000 draftees.  That gives the Russian airborne four percent of the current allocation of conscripts, about as predicted.  A roughly similar number in the fall would mean the VDV are 30 percent conscript-manned.

Mil.ru added:

“Few conscripts are fortunate enough to get to serve in VDV sub-units.  The competition for those wishing to serve in the VDV in some military commissariats reaches 30 men per spot.”

The VDV get to pick the best available young men:

“The main selection criteria for the VDV are excellent health and physical preparedness, a high level of neuropsychological stability, [and] positive social and moral characteristics.”

First Weekly MOD Graphic

As promised, the RF MOD has published a graphic depiction of its recent activities.  It’s dated June 30.

Weekly graphic for RF Armed Forces

What the graphic depicts may change over time.  It’s not hugely interesting so far.

It has a section on arms and equipment procurement.  It shows the Iskander-M brigade delivery which was news on June 9.  “More than 20” vehicles and armored combat vehicles were also received over some indeterminate time period.  The graphic depicts the launch of the first proyekt 20385 Gremyashchiy corvette announced June 30.

The MOD graphic indicates 1,767 Russians were accepted for contract service “over a week,” and 1,520 applied.

The MOD transported 9,000 personnel, 47,000 tons of cargo, and 600 pieces of equipment over some indeterminate period.

Some facility at Engels air base was commissioned.

Surprisingly, the graphic has nothing on training or exercises or Russian ops in Syria.

Russia Day Promotions

As noted earlier, there were relatively few Russia Day promotions in the MOD, possibly because President Vladimir Putin handed out a lot of new brass to his personal National Guard.

But to review, there was a single three-star promotion, and five two-star promotions for MOD officers.

Eleven men received their first stars including the:

  • Commanders of the 29th and 60th Missile Divisions of the RVSN;
  • Commander of the 136th Motorized Rifle Brigade;
  • Deputy Commander of Space Troops, Aerospace Forces;
  • Chief of Communications, Eastern MD;
  • Chief of the Personnel Directorate, Northern Fleet;
  • Chief of “Resource Support,” Western MD;
  • Director of the Transportation Support Directorate, MOD; and
  • An associate professor in the Strategy Department of MAGS.
General-Major Shulyak as a colonel.JPG

General-Major Shulyak as a colonel

The latter — 48-year-old General-Major Viktor Shulyak — received his Hero of the Russian Federation award as a young Naval Infantry officer in Chechnya in January 1995.  He commanded a Northern Fleet air-assault company in the fight for the Council of Ministers building in central Groznyy.  He personally destroyed five enemy firing positions and was pretty severely wounded.

He went on to command a battalion, serve in a directorate of the General Staff, and graduate from the Military Academy of the General Staff where he remains a faculty member.

Two new general-majors were not identified precisely, but one is probably in the Aerospace Forces and the other might be a deputy chief of staff for the Central MD.

The promotion list now contains names of more than 400 generals and admirals against the 730 the MOD says it has.