Motovilikha’s Year

2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers leaving the factory in Perm

2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers leaving the factory in Perm

In September, we checked in on Motovilikha and its contract to produce 20 Tornado-S multiple launch rocket systems for the Russian MOD in 2020. Today it put out a press-release detailing its completion of state defense order work for 2019.

The enterprises of Motovilikhinskiye Plants put out more than 70 pieces of tube and rocket artillery, and spares for the MOD this year. Work on GOZ contracts finished last week.

Motovilikha subsidiary ZAO Special Design Bureau (SKB) repaired more than 30 2A65 Msta-B 152-mm towed howitzers and 2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers, and carried out capital repair and modernization of about 20 Grad MLRS updating them to Tornado-G systems.

Msta-B towed howitzers leaving the plant.PNG

Msta-B 152-mm towed howtizers leaving the plant

Quoting Motovilikhinskiye Plants director Aleksandr Anokhin, the press-release reported the volume of GOZ work will increase “substantially” in 2020.

The item notes that Motovilikha is the developer and only producer of Grad and Smerch MLRS, modified Tornado-G and Tornado-S systems, and associated reload vehicles. It produces 2S23 Nona-SVK and 2S31 Vena 120-mm self-propelled guns, the towed Msta-B, 2B23 Nona-M1 120-mm towed mortar, and other artillery systems.

Interestingly, the end of the press-release added that:

State corporation Rostekh, OOO RT-Kapital specifically, is currently implementing a systematic anti-crisis program in connection with the Motovilikhinskiye Plants group of enterprises which aims to preserve and develop their fundamental productive competencies in their existing facilities.

So despite the year just ending, Motovilikha is experiencing a crisis. But owner Rostekh wants to keep it operating in Perm. Beyond that, who knows. RT-Kapital is a branch of the conglomerate that works with “problem” equity and consolidates and restructures debt.

It Was That Bad

General-Lieutenant Yevgeniy Burdinskiy

General-Lieutenant Yevgeniy Burdinskiy

Another lesson in the value of collecting and following data points over the long term.

On October 24, GOMU Chief General-Lieutenant Burdinskiy made a simple statement to the Russian media:

“The manning of the armed forces is 95 percent, since 2012 this indicator has risen by 35 percent.”

So Russian armed forces manning was only 60 percent of the nominal org-shtat in 2012. The forces were undermanned by 40 percent.

Wow.

On these pages, reports of Russian military commentators to the effect that undermanning was 20, 25, or even 30 percent have been repeated and highlighted many times. But no one would have written or believed 40 percent undermanning. Now the report has come from GOMU itself.

As recently as seven years ago, that’s how bad undermanning was, and that’s how hard the Russian MOD worked to conceal the state of affairs with its manpower.

Now the MOD can demonstrate how dramatically its personnel situation has changed, but only by admitting just how bad it was in the past.

Airborne Data Point

Collect data points wherever you can. You never know when they’ll become useful, especially if you gather them over the long term.

Parade at the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School named for Army General V. F. Magelov

Parade at the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School named for Army General V. F. Margelov

In early November, Interfaks-AVN reported on a Russian MOD press-release stating that more than 40,000 airborne troops had just gone through a final examination for the 2019 training year.

The MOD statement said:

More than 40,000 servicemen in all formations, military units and sub-units of the VDV deployed in the Western, Central, Southern and Eastern military districts participated in the final examination.

So that’s 40,000 personnel in four divisions, four brigades, units, and sub-units. If we count only those eight formations, that’s certainly no more — probably significantly less — than 5,000 per division or brigade.

If 40,000 is right, then there hasn’t been much expansion of the VDV despite a 2014 report that the elite Russian force could grow by 20,000 troops from a base level somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000.

Krasnoselskaya Brigade

Here’s a look at one Russian motorized rifle brigade, created for another purpose, but perhaps worth sharing. The Kamenka brigade’s appeared on these pages before but mainly because of its order and discipline problems.

The 138th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (v/ch 02511) is based in Kamenka village, Vyborg rayon of Leningrad oblast. Its full honorific name is the 138th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Krasnoselskaya Order of Lenin Red Banner Brigade. 138th IMRB for short.

Krasnoselskaya

The brigade’s lineage goes to the 45th Guards Rifle Division. That formation participated in the liberation of German-occupied Krasnoye Selo in January 1944.

The division’s regiments (now battalions) received the Leningrad honorific for fighting to lift the German blockade of the city.

The 138th IMRB is part of the 6th Combined Arms Army and the Western Military District.

The following units are subordinate to the 138th IMRB:

  • Brigade headquarters
  • 667th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Leningrad Battalion (v/ch 67616)
  • 697th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Leningrad Battalion (v/ch 67636)
  • 708th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Leningrad Red Banner Battalion (v/ch 67661)
  • 133rd Independent Guards Idritsa Red Banner Order of Suvorov Tank Battalion (v/ch 52800)
  • 486th Independent Guards Self-Propelled Howitzer Leningrad Red Banner Battalion (v/ch 67752)
  • 721st Independent Self-Propelled Howitzer Battalion (v/ch 84647)
  • 383rd Independent MLRS Battalion (v/ch 82265)
  • 1525th Independent Anti-Tank Battalion (v/ch 96459)
  • 247th Independent Guards Anti-Aircraft Missile Battalion (v/ch 07727)
  • 49th Independent Guards Engineer-Sapper Battalion (v/ch 18427)
  • 511th Independent EW Company (v/ch 63704)
  • 197th Federal Postal Service Station (v/ch 48768)
  • Signal battalion
  • Material support battalion
  • Maintenance battalion
  • Reconnaissance battalion
  • UAV company
  • Radio-electronic reconnaissance company
  • Radiological, Chemical, Biological Defense company
  • Medical company
  • Commandant company
  • Fire control and artillery reconnaissance battery (chief of artillery)
  • Reconnaissance headquarters platoon (chief of reconnaissance)
  • Fire control and radar reconnaissance platoon (chief of air defense)
  • Sniper platoon
  • Instructor platoon
  • Simulator platoon
  • Training ground
  • Orchestra
  • Radio-television center
Construction of new facilities at Kamenka in 2016

Construction of new facilities at Kamenka in 2016

Today’s IMRB should have nearly 4,000 personnel compared to a nominal 2,500-man motorized rifle regiment (MRR). While the maneuver battalions are similar, the IMRB is heavier in fire support, combat support, and service sub-units [подразделения – battalion or lower]. It has two self-propelled howitzer battalions and an MLRS battalion against the single battalion of towed 122-mm D-30 howitzers in Soviet regiments.

The IMRB’s anti-aircraft and anti-tank capabilities are organized in battalions. They used to be single batteries in old MRRs. Most of today’s combat support and service is provided by battalions compared with companies in Soviet times. The old MRR relied more on support and service from the division level.

The 138th IMRB’s motorized rifle battalions have about 500 personnel with about 100 men in each of three companies operating ten MT-LB light armored vehicles. A battalion probably has 31 MT-LBs. The MT-LB is also the prime mover for other sub-units, so the brigade has a significantly larger total inventory, often put at 159 in all. For example, artillery battalions have eight each and anti-tank gun batteries have six.

The 138th is one of several MR brigades primarily using venerable MT-LBs rather than more modern BTRs or BMPs. The 25th near Pskov is another. Others are in mountainous areas of the North Caucasus or in the Eastern MD. The Russian Army may like the MT-LB’s performance in the marshy terrain of Leningrad oblast. At any rate, it’s a simple, reliable armored vehicle that the MOD still has in large numbers.

For integral fire support, each motorized rifle battalion has a battery of six towed 120-mm 2B16 Nona-K gun-mortars in two firing platoons of three weapons. The battalion has a man-portable 9K115 Metis ATGM battery of three platoons of three launchers. The battalion has an air defense battery organized similarly with three platoons of three hand-held 9K38 Igla SAMs.

The 138th IMRB’s tank battalion is outfitted with 41 T-72B3 tanks, ten tanks in each of four tank companies.

The brigade’s two SP howitzer battalions are organized in traditional fashion – 18 152-mm 2S3 Akatsiya systems in three batteries of two platoons with three guns each. The MLRS battalion with 18 122-mm BM-21 Grad systems is similar with three batteries, two platoons of three vehicles.

The brigade’s anti-tank battalion has two batteries of six towed 100-mm MT-12 Rapira guns and six 9P149 Shturm-S ATGMs. The batteries have two firing platoons with three weapons. The anti-tank guns are towed by MT-LBs, and the ATGMs are mounted on MT-LBs.

The brigade SAM battalion has three launch batteries of four 9K332M Tor-M2 SAMs. It has a battery with two launch platoons of three 9A34 Strela-10 SAMs, and probably a battery (two three-vehicle platoons) of older remaining 2S6 (9K22) Tunguska gun-missile systems.

Overall, the 138th IMRB is a pretty average formation that hasn’t been particularly favored with equipment upgrades or modernization.

Cold War Sans CoCom

TMX-4000

Russia’s Kovrov Electromechanical Plant (KEMZ) is set to begin producing licensed copies of Takisawa’s TMX-4000 five-axis digital milling machine. KEMZ and Japan’s Takisawa have a contract for joint production of six machines before the end of 2021. The first is due in April 2020 and will be exhibited at Metal Working-2020 in Moscow in May.

According to a November 8 press release:

The transition to new generation digital equipment will substantially increase the volume of high technology civilian products. At KEMZ we are beginning to produce five-axis milling centers which have not been manufactured in Russia until now. One of these centers can replace several three-coordinate lathes and reduce the production cycle by several times. Potential buyers — Rostekh’s manufacturing enterprises and companies of the shipbuilding and oil processing sectors — are already interested in the model.

The advanced milling machine is designed to make complex parts for, inter alia, aircraft engines, hydraulic systems, and nuclear reactors with 5-micron accuracy. Only seven companies in the world can make such a machine, according to the press statement.

KEMZ and Takisawa have collaborated since 2013, producing six models of machine tools jointly and more than 30 modifications to systems now produced locally in the Russian Federation.

The TMX-4000 and other, essentially foreign, CNC milling systems will make much more than “high technology civilian products.” KEMZ belongs to Russian government-owned NPO Precision Systems (Высокоточные комплексы) which holds companies producing:

  • a wide variety of small arms and ammunition
  • grenade launchers
  • anti-tank missile systems
  • laser-guided munitions
  • aircraft- and helicopter-mounted guns and cannons
  • naval close-in weapons systems
  • Bakhcha and Berezhok turrets for armored vehicles
  • Arena and Drozd active armor defense systems
  • Pantsir-S1 gun-missile systems
  • Strela-10 and Igla-S SAM systems
  • Iskander-M SRBMs

One of Precision Systems’ main holdings — KBP — has been under U.S. DOT OFAC sanctions since 2014.

Precision Systems is controlled by government-owned conglomerate Rostekh which is also under U.S. sanctions.

Technology export controls and sanctions aimed at the Kremlin are an old story. They are difficult to manage. They threaten to punish allied countries and companies for doing business with Moscow in order to deter that activity and deprive Russia of commerce. They become as much a bone of contention among allies as a tool against an adversary.

During the Cold War, U.S. leadership was strong and CoCom prevented some strategic exports to the USSR. But that system, such as it was, also failed infamously.

In 1983-1984, Japan’s Toshiba sold the Russians sophisticated milling machines and Norway’s Kongsberg gave the Kremlin the computer and software needed to make more sophisticated propellers that eventually quieted its Improved Akula SSN and fourth-generation nuclear-powered submarines.

In 1987, the CIA assessed the damage like this:

Capture

But even with its massive purloining of Western technology in the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviet Union lost the Cold War. It proved incapable of exploiting the equipment and knowledge it stole. They didn’t help Moscow fix the enormous social and economic problems that doomed the CPSU and USSR in 1991.

In today’s Cold War redux, there’s little U.S. leadership, no CoCom, and a plethora of places Russia can get technology it needs and can’t produce. Now it’s buying the right to manufacture the same equipment it obtained surreptitiously nearly 40 years ago. It hasn’t fixed an economic system that struggles even to copy things.

It looked like post-Soviet Russia might join the Western community nations after the end of the First Cold War. It benefited from economic and technological cooperation and collaboration it could never imagine. As the Second Cold War unfolded, Russia largely retained that benefit despite sanctions. That benefit has been put to work in Mr. Putin’s arms buildup, in the development and production of more sophisticated weapons systems. The TMX-4000 and other machinery might be used to make an Iskander-MS (S for improved) that is on the Russian MOD’s agenda, or PAK DA, or Tsirkon hypersonic missiles, etc.

For its part, Japan only symbolically joined in sanctions against Russia following its 2014 invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Tokyo has kept its relations with Moscow on track in its (probably futile) pursuit of the Northern Territories and a peace treaty to end World War II. The Japanese also balance between Russia and China in the (probably vain) hope that the two great powers won’t get too close at their expense.

But all this is neither here nor there because, under other circumstances, it might have been a different allied country working with KEMZ or some other Russian firm.

Russia will get the technology it wants from other countries somehow, some way. The past shows that. But it’s far from certain, again based on history, that Russia can do what it wants with that technology successfully.

He Simply Couldn’t Take It

Shamsutdinov detained in his barracks

Shamsutdinov detained in his barracks

Russian Army conscript Ramil Shamsutdinov may have killed his fellow servicemen because of the constant abuse he endured, according to a report in Gazeta.ru.

On October 25, Ramil Shamsutdinov killed eight personnel (including two officers) and seriously wounded two more during guard duty shift change at military unit 54160 in the Gornyy ZATO not far from Chita in Zabaykalye.

According to a former worker at the unit, one of the victims was “famous” for abusing his subordinates. Sources also said Shamsutdinov may have been ridiculed or singled out as a non-Russian. But the investigation on that score continues.

The 20-year-old was called up in early July, assessed to be psychologically stable, and allowed to carry a weapon. The draft board had placed him in the second group for “nervous-psychological stability” meaning he would experience a nervous breakdown only after being in a difficult or dangerous situation for a prolonged period. The MOD routinely trusts conscripts in this group to carry out missions with weapons and ordnance.

The MOD officially stated that Shamsutdinov’s actions may have been the result of a breakdown brought on by personal difficulties unrelated to his military service.

But, according to Gazeta.ru, media sources with sources in Shamsutdinov’s unit claim he was a target of constant abuse from other servicemen.

Tyumen news outlet 72.ru published a report from a unit source saying that one of Shamsutdinov’s victims, Senior Lieutenant Danil Pyankov, was well-known for abusing conscripts and driving them to a “serious psychological state.” Shamsutdinov is from a village in Tyumen.

The source said Pyankov once kept him awake studying military regulations for four days straight and forced his troops to put on and take off protective gear for five consecutive hours. He concluded Shamsutdinov simply couldn’t take it.

Shamsutdinov’s father — a policeman — said his son never complained about abuse from officers or more senior soldiers, i.e. dedovshchina. Friends say he once asked relatives to put money on someone else’s bank card because his was supposedly frozen. But he also said he planned to stay in the army as a contractee.

Unit 54160 is inside a closed administrative-territorial entity. It was formerly known as Chita-46 and is operated by the MOD’s 12th GUMO — Russia’s nuclear weapons custodial force.

It served the RVSN’s 4th Missile Division equipped with UR-100 (SS-11 / Sego) ICBMs at Drovyanaya in the 1960s and 1970s. In the late 1970s and 1980s, it transitioned to RSD-10 (SS-20 / Saber) IRBMs, then to mobile RT-2PM (SS-25 / Sickle) ICBMs before disbanding in 2002.

The unit is still under GUMO command and RVSN prosecutors went to investigate. It likely serves the 200th Artillery Brigade and newly-established 3rd Missile Brigade (Iskander missiles) in Gornyy and Drovyanaya.

The Russian military has avoided similar incidents for some time. The MOD claims the climate inside units and barracks has improved drastically over the past decade, but this assessment is apparently exaggerated.

With the fall draft underway, the MOD has to question the quality, or lack of quality, in the screening of potential soldiers. 

Grom-2019

RS-24 Yars ICBM launched from Plesetsk

RS-24 Yars ICBM launch from Plesetsk

Recall the Russian press reported in advance that Grom-2019 would be a command and control CSX with live activity by RVSN, LRA, VTA, and Northern and Pacific Fleet forces and 16 ballistic and cruise missile launches.

According to Mil.ru, Supreme CINC Vladimir Putin participated in the exercise from the NTsUO.

Russian Northern and Pacific Fleet SSBNs fired SLBMs from the Barents Sea and Sea of Okhotsk to the Kura and Chizha impact areas respectively.

Video showed Delta IV-class SSBN Karelia (SS-N-23 Sineva SLBM) was the Northern Fleet shooter. An SS-N-18 Stingray was supposed to be fired, so the Pacific Fleet boat had to be one of three Delta III-class SSBNs.

Media accounts indicated Northern Fleet and Caspian Flotilla surface ships launched 3M-14 Kalibr (SS-N-30A) cruise missiles against land targets at the same time.

NVO claimed more Kalibr missiles were fired from submarines and from Pacific, Baltic, and Black Sea Fleet platforms. This should be considered unsubstantiated for now.

A mobile RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2) ICBM was fired from Plesetsk to Kura.

Iskander crews launched cruise missiles (SSC-8 or 9M729) from ranges in the Southern and Eastern MDs. The SSC-8 was the Russian system that busted the INF Treaty.

Russian TV news Pervyy kanal provided this report on Grom-2019:

 

Tu-95MS / Bear-H bombers fired their Kh-55 (AS-15 Kent) cruise missiles to Pemboy and Kura.

Mil.ru reiterated that Grom-2019 was intended to check the readiness of Russia’s military command and control organs and the skill of commanders and operational staffs in organizing command and control of subordinate forces. The MOD website reported all missions were fulfilled, and all missiles reached their targets and confirmed their capabilities.

With INF gone and New START (START III or what the Russians call SNV-III) approaching expiration in 2021, Grom-2019 might have been the first stratex of a post-arms control era. When were intermediate-range nuclear missiles used to such a degree in a stratex? Moscow may have tested its nuclear response and escalation in a world without a ban on systems short of truly strategic ones.