The Annual Report

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin addressed an expanded session of the MOD Collegium at the new RVSN training facility in Balashikha on December 22.

Putin

According to the Kremlin.ru transcript, Putin gave attention to Syria, where he said the Russian Federation Armed Forces displayed “qualitatively developed modern capabilities” to deliver the “decisive contribution” to the defeat of international terrorists.

Putin said Russian arms and equipment will be nearly 60 percent modern by the end of 2017, and 70 percent by 2021. Again that word modern. Russia, he declared, will be a world leader in developing a “new generation” army.

The Russian leader took pains to accuse the U.S. of violating the 1987 INF Treaty.

He indicated Moscow’s priorities in the next GPV will be precision weapons,  unmanned strike systems, individual soldier systems, reconnaissance, communications, and EW systems. Not very different from what he said last year.

Preserving strategic nuclear parity is a perennial priority. Putin said the Russian triad would be 79 percent modern at end of 2017. By 2021, Russian ground-based ICBMs are supposed to be 90 percent modern.

Russia’s president also called for strengthening the SSO and VDV.

All in all, there’s less of interest in Putin’s report than Shoygu’s.

Shoygu

Shoygu had much to say about Syria as a training ground for the Russian Army and Russian pilots. Some figures were new. Others we’ve heard before.

He said 48,000 Russian troops fought in Syria over the last two years. The Aerospace Forces (VKS) flew 34,000 combat missions. The Navy delivered 100 strikes, presumably Kalibr LACMs. Long-Range Aviation flew 66 strike missions. Shoygu reported that 60,318 enemy fighters were killed, including 819 leaders and 2,840 Russian Federation expatriates.

Then the head of the MOD got to what the Russian military received in 2017:

  • Three mobile RVSN regiments were fully reequipped with RS-24 Yars ICBMs;
  • LRA got three modernized bombers;
  • The army got 2,055 new or modernized systems to reequip three formations [divisions or brigades] and 11 units [regiments];
  • VKS received 191 aircraft and 143 air and missile defense systems;
  • Ten ships and boats, 13 support ships, and four land-based Bal (SSC-6 / Sennight) and Bastion (SSC-5 / Stooge) ASCM systems probable “battalion sets” entered the Navy. Naval aviation got 15 aircraft;
  • VDV acquired 184 armored vehicles and SP guns;
  • The armed forces got 59 UAV systems with 199 UAVs;
  • The Unified Tactical Level Command and Control System (YeSU TZ) now meets the MOD’s requirements and was used successfully in combat training.

Compare this list with 2016. And for reference, with year-enders for 2015 and 2014.

Shoygu expounded on the list of weapons and equipment acquired since 2012. It was originally outlined in less detail by Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov in a November 1 interview with VPK. The list included:

  • 80 ICBMs;
  • 102 SLBMs;
  • Three Borey-class SSBNs;
  • 55 satellites;
  • 3,237 tanks and combat vehicles;
  • More than 1,000 planes and helicopters;
  • 150 ships and vessels;
  • Six proyekt 636.3 Improved Kilo diesel-electric submarines;
  • 13 Bal (SSC-5 / Stooge) and Bastion (SSC-6 / Sennight) launchers probable “battalion sets.”

Shoygu said this procurement enabled the MOD to outfit:

  • 12 RVSN regiments with RS-24 Yars ICBMs;
  • 10 missile brigades with Iskander-M SRBMs;
  • 12 regiments with MiG-31BM, Su-35S, Su-30SM, and Su-34 aircraft;
  • Three army aviation brigades and six regiments with Ka-52 and Mi-28 helicopters;
  • 16 air defense regiments with S-400 SAMs;
  • 19 battalions with Pantsir-S gun-missile systems;
  • 13 battalions with four Bal and Bastion ASCMs apiece;
  • 35 formations with Ratnik-2 individual soldier systems;
  • Six new Voronezh radar systems and refurbished Daryal, Dnepr, and Volga systems.

The Defense Minister said the Russian Armed Forces now have 59.5 percent modern arms and equipment. Specific service percentages are:

  • RVSN — 79 percent;
  • Ground Troops — 45 percent;
  • Aerospace Forces — 73 percent;
  • Navy — 53 percent.

Much of what’s claimed seems like it happened. Some seems disputable. “More than 1,000 planes and helicopters” seems a stretch. CAST counted 370 fighters and trainers since 2012. Do helos and transports account for the other 630? Other claims are useful starting points but require research.

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Kremlin Raising Military Pay

Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova told journalists on Friday that military pay and pensions will increase four percent per annum in 2018, 2019, and 2020. RIA Novosti reported that the defense budget will include 18, 22.6, and 41.2 billion rubles each year for that purpose.

Kremlin Raising Military Pay

Shevtsova said a lieutenant serving as a platoon commander will make 66,100 rubles on average this month. That’s roughly 2,500 rubles more than he earned each month in 2017. A lieutenant colonel battalion commander will add 3,400 rubles making his pay 88,700 per month.

It’s sounds like four percent is being applied to the entire pay package — to rank and duty pay and to supplements [надбавки] that not all serviceman get. If this is the case, four percent won’t have the same monthly impact for officers and contractees not receiving supplemental pay. Past pay increases have typically applied only to rank and duty pay.

Shevtsova’s 18 billion would provide an extra 30,000 rubles a year for 600,000 officers and contractees, but 41.2 billion in 2020 won’t cover that year’s bill. A lieutenant might get an extra 8,000 per month or 96,000 in 2020. Multiply that times 600,000 and the MOD will need 57.6 billion rubles.

Shevtsova says a retired battalion commander will receive an extra 947, 1,932, and 2,956 rubles in his pension every month in 2018, 2019, and 2020. That means the pension for that lieutenant colonel is 23,675 rubles at present. The increase reportedly will go to 2.6 million military pensioners, according to RIA Novosti.

As NVO noted, in June 2017, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin addressed military pay publicly for the first time since 2012. It hasn’t been indexed for inflation once during the interval according to NVO.

But Putin said he wants to improve the “material stimulus” for the MOD, MVD, FSB, and SVR. With another presidential election looming, he wanted to show he’s still concerned about men in uniform.

This isn’t easy when the federal budgets scarcely have money for it and economic recovery is weak.

Still four percent raises will be welcome. But they won’t make up for the eroded purchasing power of military pay. The CPI in Russia has increased more than 50 percent since May 2012. 

Military men are doing reasonably well in the Russian economic context now.

Shevtsova claimed the average monthly military salary in 2014 was 62,000 rubles, roughly the same as in 2017. She said that was 10 percent more than average pay in Russia’s oil and gas sector, according to RIA Novosti. It also appears to exceed what’s paid to the average worker in defense industries.

As long as that pay arrives on time, their housing needs are met, and their work is the focus of national resources and attention, servicemen should be satisfied with their lot. So it’s interesting that Putin still felt a military pay increase was needed in an election year. But, as some say, campaign promises are made to be broken.

Promotion List

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin signed out his Constitution Day promotion list on December 12. You can view it here.

The 19 MOD promotees included two three-stars, a two-star, and 16 one-stars.

By comparison, Putin’s National Guard got two three-star, seven two-star, and 15 one-star appointments.

For the MOD, newly-minted General-Colonel Khalil Arslanov heads the General Staff’s Main Communications Directorate.

General-Colonel Arslanov wearing two stars

General-Colonel Arslanov wearing two stars

Also granted his third star, Admiral Nikolay Yevmenov commands the Northern Fleet. He was the sole naval officer promoted on this list.

Nikolay Yevmenov as a vice-admiral

Nikolay Yevmenov as a vice-admiral

Airborne Troops deputy commander Vladimir Kochetkov became a general-lieutenant.

The 16 general-majors include the:

  • Head of the Ground Troops’ Combat Training Directorate;
  • Chief of the VDV’s EW Service;
  • Deputy commander of air and air defense forces in the Central MD;
  • Deputy commander of the Southern MD’s 8th CAA;
  • Chief of Naval Aviation for the BSF;
  • Commander of the 4th Kantemir Tank Division;
  • Chief of Operations, Deputy Chief of Staff for Space Troops, Aerospace Forces;
  • Chief of the Central MD’s EW Service;
  • Commander of the Eastern MD’s 303rd Composite Aviation Division;
  • Chief of air and air defense troops for the Eastern MD staff.

There were four new generals for whom no position could be identified at this time.

Other generals and admirals besides those noted above have been added or updated.

The promotion list file now covers about 450 Russian general and flag officers.

The Dust Has Settled

General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin

General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin

On November 29, Krasnaya zvezda summarized the high command changes in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s November 22 decree. As anticipated, Ground Troops General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin is the new CINC of the Aerospace Forces (VKS). General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev has taken Surovikin’s place as Commander of the Eastern MD. And General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Lapin replaced General-Colonel Zarudnitskiy in the Central MD.

General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev

General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev

Izvestiya called it the largest rotation of top military leaders in the last decade. It continued the Kremlin policy of advancing generals who’ve gotten real experience in command and control of combat actions in Syria.

While Commander of the Eastern MD, General-Colonel Sergey Vladimirovich Surovikin  served temporary duty as Commander of the Russian Group of Troops in Syria from May 2017 to present. KZ reported that Russian forces achieved “maximum success” in Syria under his command.

The 51-year-old VKS CINC was born in Novosibirsk. He is a combined arms officer who commanded the 42nd MRD in Chechnya and 20th CAA.  served as Chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff. He served as chief of staff and first deputy commander of the former Volga-Ural (now Central MD) and then of the Eastern MD beginning in late 2012. A year later he was appointed Commander of the Eastern MD.

No one would accuse Surovikin of being an uncontroversial figure. His biography features a number of incidents but nothing seems to stick to him.

As described on these pages in 2011 when he was reportedly considered to head the MOD’s new military police:

Kommersant gave details on Surovikin’s background.  As a captain in August 1991, he was acting commander of the Taman division motorized rifle battalion responsible for the death of three Yeltsin supporters.  He was arrested and investigated for seven months before charges against him were lifted.

As noted on these pages, he commanded the 34th MRD when one his colonels blew his brains out in front of the entire staff after an upbraiding from the commander.  And Surovikin had a very short tenure as Chief of the GOU.

He seems an odd choice to be responsible for the army’s new enforcers of law and order.  To be in charge of those charged with preventing dedovshchina and other barracks violence.

Not noted above is the fact that, as a major in 1995, he almost went to jail for the illegal possession and sale of a hand gun. This earned him one year of probation, and it later disqualified him from heading the MOD’s new military police force.

He always seemed like a strange choice for the head of MPs; it was almost as if someone was trying to sidetrack his career.

General-Colonel Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Zhuravlev moved from his post as a deputy chief of the General Staff to take over the Eastern MD from Surovikin. The tank troops officer was born in Tyumen Oblast in 1965. He commanded Russian forces in Syria in 2016.

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Lapin

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Lapin

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Pavlovich Lapin became Commander of the Central MD after serving as chief of staff and first deputy commander to Surovikin in Syria. Also a tank officer, he was born in Kazan in 1964.

Former Central MD Commander, General-Colonel Zarudnitskiy has taken over the Military Academy of the General Staff, a sinecure for senior officers nearing retirement.

KZ reported two new deputy chiefs of the General Staff have been named: Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Alekseyevich Moiseyev previously served as chief of staff and first deputy commander of the Northern Fleet, and General-Major Gennadiy Valeryevich Zhidko commanded the 2nd CAA and served as chief of staff and first deputy commander in Syria.

According to Izvestiya, the Navy also got a new deputy commander for ground and coastal troops General-Lieutenant Oleg Makarevich. The paper claims he’s second only to Surovikin in his “experience and charisma.” The position was made necessary because the land-based components of the navy have grown with army corps added to the fleets. The Navy is looking to Makarevich to smooth out their force structure and combat training, particularly in Kaliningrad and Crimea.

Russia may be drawing down in Syria, but General-Colonel Surovikin was still in charge when President Putin visited the Russian command center a few days ago. So the question is when will Surovikin take up his VKS duties, and who will relieve him in Syria.

Iskander-M in Kaliningrad

It’s always been clear Moscow would deploy new Iskander-M SRBMs in its Baltic exclave Kaliningrad. Now it has.

Iskander-M comes to Kaliningrad

Iskander-M comes to Kaliningrad

The folks at CAST posted the news to their blog on Saturday. They were impressively attentive to the military press while yours truly remained in a slothful tryptophan-induced post-Thanksgiving stupor.

Let’s look at what CAST saw.

On November 23, KZ wrote that the next “brigade set” of Iskander-M missiles has just been handed over to a missile formation from the Western MD. The MOD paper noted that Colonel Anatoliy Gorodetskiy commands the brigade in question. That is the 152nd Missile Brigade based at Chernyakhovsk in Kaliningrad. For now, the formation is still practicing with its new equipment on the range at Kapustin Yar.

As CAST noted, this is the eleventh “brigade set” delivered to Russian ground forces.

Iskander-M SRBMs in Kaliningrad can reach targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, even southern Sweden

Iskander-M SRBMs in Kaliningrad can reach targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, even southern Sweden

With reported 500-km range from Kaliningrad, the Iskander-M can cover targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, and southern Sweden. If armed with cruise missiles (SSC-8 or Russian designator 9M729), their reach is much greater. Their 2,000-km or greater range allows them to strike targets close to Paris.

Why Now? Why Not?

Iskander-M in Kaliningrad was always just a question of timing.

Since at least 2014, the Russian Army has temporarily deployed Iskander-M launchers to Kaliningrad from the “mainland” for exercises.

As CAST reported, Jane’s Defence Weekly published photographs of characteristic “tent-mobile shelters” under construction for the new SRBMs at the Chernyakhovsk base in February.

But why now? Because the missiles and associated equipment have been produced and Moscow loses nothing at this point.

The Kremlin always said it could deploy the new SRBMs to its Baltic exclave to counter Aegis BMD (Aegis Ashore) in Poland slated for completion in 2018.

There are enhanced U.S. and NATO ground deployments to Poland to assure the easternmost allies in the wake of Russia’s occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Perhaps relevant here is the possibility the U.S. Congress will authorize DOD development of a new U.S. intermediate-range missile to answer Russia’s material breach of the 1987 INF Treaty.

And U.S.-Russian relations are the worst since the end of the Cold War.

Next Stop Kursk

CAST adds only the 448th Missile Brigade in Kursk remains armed with the late 1980s vintage Tochka-U (SS-21 / Scarab-B) SRBM. Kursk-based Iskander-M SRBMs deployed to launch positions in southwestern Russia will easily reach Kyiv, and central and eastern Ukraine.

What Does Modern Mean?

Is this modern?

The Russian military reports routinely on the growing proportion of “modern types of armaments, military and special equipment” entering its forces. On November 7,  Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said:

“As a result, we have managed to increase the level of equipping troops with modern weapons by 4 times since 2012. Today it stands at 58.9 percent.”

Interviewed on October 31, MOD armaments tsar Yuriy Borisov stated that weapons and equipment in Russia’s permanent readiness units won’t be less than 60 percent modern at the end of 2017. The standing goal for GPV 2011-2020 is 70 percent.

The chief of the 46th TsNII recently gave the following percentages for modern armaments in the Russian inventory.

Percentage of Modern Weapons and Equipment

So Shoygu’s math above isn’t quite right — four times 16 is 64 rather than 58.9 percent modern weapons.

But what is modern? On Arms-expo.ru, military commentator Viktor Murakhovskiy not long ago described how the MOD categorizes its armaments.

The RF Armed Forces have five categories of weapons and equipment:

  • 1st category — New types entering the armed forces from industry which are under factory warranty and in use.
  • 2nd category — Serviceable types in use.
  • 3rd category — Types requiring some kind of repair.
  • 4th category — Types requiring capital repair.
  • 5th category — Types to be decommissioned.

Murakhovskiy turns to the RF standards agency to define modern armament:

Modern armaments are defined by state standard (GOST RV 51540-2005, Military Equipment, Terms and Definitions) — modern means a type of armament which is not inferior or superior to the best analogous foreign types in its combat, technical, and usage characteristics, or does not have foreign analogues.

All of which makes timely this little expounding on a point. New doesn’t always mean modern. There is new production of old designs. But by the same token one shouldn’t doubt that old weapons can be just as lethal and effective in combat as new ones in the right tactical situation.

With the long life cycles of today’s military technology, the distinction between new and modern will remain murky.

Take Russia’s Pantsir-S gun-missile air defense system. It was designed in the late 1980s and early 1990s to replace Tunguska from the 1970s. Because of Russia’s various troubles, Pantsir-S wasn’t produced until the late 2000s, and entered service by 2012. Obviously new but how modern? Now it’s slated for modernization by 2019. The Pantsir-SM is supposed to feature increased detection and engagement range with a new missile.

OSK Cries Poor on Knyaz Oleg

A Borey-class SSBN (photo Sevmash Press-Service)

A Borey-class SSBN (photo: Sevmash Press-Service)

Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC or OSK) is reportedly experiencing a shortage of funding for Borey-class SSBN Knyaz Oleg. OSK President Aleksey Rakhmanov told RIA Novosti on November 16, “Everything depends on issues of the shortage of financing which has somehow formed for us. We hope that [the launch of Knyaz Oleg] will be on schedule.”

Rakhmanov reportedly told the official news agency that the schedule for launching Knyaz Oleg has been pushed back several times.

Knyaz Oleg is the fifth Borey SSBN overall, and the second Borey-A boat. Like the first three Borey ballistic missile submarines, the Borey-A is expected to carry 16 Bulava SLBMs.

First-of-class Yuriy Dolgorukiy is assigned to the Northern Fleet. Aleksandr Nevskiy and Vladimir Monomakh are part of the Pacific Fleet.

Like Knyaz Oleg, unit four — Knyaz Vladimir — the first Borey-A is also destined to reinforce the Russian Pacific Fleet’s strategic nuclear force.

Rakhmanov’s public cry for more money is somewhat unusual and harks back to 2011 when OSK railed at the MOD for adequate financing to produce modern nuclear submarines.

Russia planned to have eight Borey boats in its order-of-battle by 2020. But with Sevmash taking six, seven, or eight years to lay down, launch, and commission them, Knyaz Oleg might be the last to reach the navy this decade. And Rakhmanov pretty clearly linked money to sticking to his SSBN production schedule.