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.

Shamanov Disputes Defense Spending

Shamanov addressing the Duma in 2018.PNG

Shamanov addressing the Duma in 2018

Former VDV commander General-Colonel Vladimir Shamanov’s Defense Committee has criticized the RF government in advance of the first Duma reading of the federal budget for 2020 (and plan for 2021-2022). The committee accused the government of steadfastly “ignoring the army’s needs” — pay for MOD civilians, military pensions, housing, and fuel specifically — in its spending proposals.

Russian media reported the committee’s complaints were spelled out in writing. The legislature will discuss the government budget on October 23.

Committee chairman Shamanov addressed the low wages of the MOD’s 900,000 civilian workers. 

Civilian workers of the MOD march for worthy pay in 2018.jpg

Civilian MOD workers march for “worthy” pay in 2018

As numerous as uniformed officers and soldiers, civilian defense employees are critical to Russia’s military but their pay only averages around 30,000 rubles ($470) per month against 46,000 rubles ($718) elsewhere in the economy, Gazeta.ru reported.

They received a three percent increase on October 1 but, coming so late in the year, it offset only a quarter of this year’s inflation (4%).

The Defense Committee claimed the current average military pension in 2020 will be 23,500 rubles ($368), and has declined 20 percent in recent years because it hasn’t always been adjusted for inflation, wrote Rossiyskaya gazeta.

[NB: Cumulative inflation for the period 2012-2018 in Russia was over 60 percent.]

The committee reminded the government that President Putin promised retirees in 2012 they would get inflation plus two percent to preserve their buying power. It asked for a 6.3 percent pension increase next year.

The MOD’s mortgage savings system for servicemen was lacking 92 billion rubles ($1.4 billion) at the start of this year, the committee said. The mortgage system depends on government contributions and won’t function without this financing.

The military budget also did not contain enough money for other servicemen and their families who depend on MOD rent subsidies.

According to Gazeta.ru, the committee proposed adding 145 billion rubles ($2.3 billion) to close the gaps in the provision of military housing in 2020. But the RF government did not include this funding in the budget bill.

The Defense Committee also reported the MOD owes 7 billion rubles ($110 million) for fuel this year, and the draft three-year budget contains money for only 1.57 million tons against the 2.1 million tons the military will need. Shamanov and company say the MOD will need an extra 20 billion rubles ($314 million) for this, according to Interfaks-AVN.

Speaking to Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer, conservative military commentator Konstantin Sivkov said:

It’s easy to find resources for these needs. Even if we don’t cut their pay, but just the bonuses of the top managers of state corporations, we’d find money for military pensions, and for medicine, and for housing subsidies. According to official data, they amounted to 67 billion rubles [$1 billion] for just the one year 2018.

Why Mr. Shamanov and his committee took on these particular issues isn’t clear. They didn’t tackle pay increases for active duty servicemen who are still several years behind the rate of inflation. They didn’t challenge spending on weapons systems, but then large parts of the defense budget are still secret.

They challenged the government (an easy target) rather than President Putin (a dangerous one). Shamanov and the majority of his committee are members of the party of Putin — United Russia.

Kind of a curious moment for the Russian legislature to offer some checks and balances to Russia’s executive branch.

Grom-2019

A Russian MOD press-release outlined Grom-2019 — Russia’s annual strategic nuclear forces exercise which begins today and runs through Thursday.

Grom-2019

The MOD officially describes the activity as a “strategic command-staff exercise in the command and control of the Armed Forces.”

RVSN, LRA, VTA, and Northern and Pacific Fleet forces will be involved. Ballistic and cruise missile launches will terminate on the Pemboy, Kura, and Chizha ranges.

Pemboy near Vorkuta is typically for ALCMs; Kura and Chizha are for ballistic missiles. VTA tankers will refuel Russian bombers. 

The head of GU MVS General-Major Yevgeniy Ilin indicated activity will include 16 ballistic — Yars ICBMs and Bulava,  Sineva (SS-N-23), and Stingray (SS-N-18) SLBMs — and cruise missile firings.

The press-release said 12,000 personnel will participate in the exercise along with 213 ICBM launchers, 105 aircraft including five bombers, and as many as 15 surface ships and five submarines.

Mil and Kamov Under One Roof

Mi-35

Mil’s Mi-35 multipurpose combat helicopter

State-owned helicopter conglomerate Russian Helicopters plans to bring the Mil and Kamov design bureaus under a single organizational structure before 2022, according to a company statement.

Russian Helicopters (itself controlled by government holding company Rostekh) announced the two longstanding bureaus will be united in a new National Helicopter Center named for M. L. Mil and N. I. Kamov [National Center of Helicopter-building or NTsV — НЦВ].

Mil and Kamov will be joined in one business by mid-2020. “Further integration processes connected with optimizing the activity of the two design bureaus in the format of one company will continue until 2022,” Russian Helicopters noted. The company said the center will unite the potential of the two helicopter-building schools for more effective resolution of design and modernization missions.

The independent Mil and Kamov “brands” will be retained, but their workers will be combined in the NTsV. The merger is supposed to remove existing administrative, legal, and economic barriers to cooperation between their designers.

Ka-52

Kamov’s Ka-52 attack helicopter

Interfaks-AVN reported the establishment of the center is explained by a need to optimize the work of a whole range of supporting and administrative sub-units and to allow engineers from both bureaus to exchange technical solutions, unify standards, and share work loads.

Besides cutting management and labor costs, the union of Mil and Kamov is supposed to reduce the time required to put helicopters into serial production.

According to Russian Helicopters’ deputy general director Mikhail Korotkevich:

By our accounting, the distribution of tasks between two design bureaus, as well as between the production and repair plants of the holding will allow us to free up 15-20% of their annual effort which can be directed at creating technical reserves and developing new equipment.

Korotkevich added that Russian Helicopters wants to eliminate “unnecessary competition” between Mil and Kamov on similar helicopter designs. He expects more efficient use of infrastructure and lower expenditures on testing to come from the merger of the bureaus.

This merger of Russian helicopter giants will be interesting. 

There are mergers and then there are mergers. Putting Mil and Kamov under the same tent as separate entities is one thing. Сhanging their business and breaking their “rice bowls” is something else. Actually achieving efficiencies and savings is another thing too.

From Soviet times, the Russian approach was to create competition where it wasn’t in the socialist centrally-planned economy. That’s how the MOD and defense industry created world-class armaments — Sukhoy vs. Mikoyan, Ilyushin vs. Antonov, Rubin vs. Malakhit, Yuzhnoye vs. Makeyev vs. MITT, etc.

Over time the design bureaus — probably guided by the MOD and government — tended to concentrate on their specialties rather than competing directly.

This hasn’t stopped brutal clashes particularly when state purchases of weapons systems are limited or declining. It may be happening now, and it may have led the Kremlin to rationalize Russia’s military helicopter market. But blending Mil and Kamov won’t be easy. There has been more recent bare knuckle competition between the helicopter designers than in other segments of Russian defense industry.

In recent days, Primorye media reported on a demonstration by workers at Kamov’s AAK Progress plant 100 km northeast of Vladivostok. They are protesting the lack of orders for their helicopters and attendant cuts in the work force.