Monthly Archives: January 2010

Putin’s Voronezh Trip and Military C3

It takes a while to digest the press devoted to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s 18 January trip to Voronezh and Sozvezdiye, or the state-owned communications conglomerate based on the Voronezh Scientific-Research Institute of Military Communications.  Sozvezdiye is the holding which encompasses 16 other enterprises involved in C3, radio, and electronics.

Watch this NTV coverage of Putin at Sozvezdiye.

Sozvezdiye had a big demo set up outside for Putin.  But as the video shows, Putin was wearing his supremely bored look.  Moskovskiy komsomolets picked up on this, noting that Putin gave a cursory look at everything, and inside the display tent, he apparently picked up the mic on a video link system and tried to use it, but the soldier on the other end couldn’t hear the Prime Minister.

The Voronezh trip was the latest in a series of meetings on the state of the OPK.  Putin started by stating the obvious, noting that C3I is a decisive factor in the combat capability of a modern army, and a precondition for the use of highly accurate weapons.  He said it’s difficult to imagine an effective transition to a modern organizational structure without the right C3.  He called C3 a key priority for defense and noted that significant budget money will be spent on them.

Putin proceeded to chide his C3 producer audience, saying that Russia can’t modernize what it’s got; it needs an entirely new generation of systems.  He said C3 producers suffered from poor leadership, organization, and coordination of efforts.  Finally, he had to admit that they basically ignored his 2000 presidential decree on development of a new C3 system.

Specifically, Putin said:

“…we need not only to conduct a fundamental modernization of existing complexes and systems.  We have to say plainly that they unfortunately have already aged greatly.  And become obsolete, and even their technical condition often leaves much to be desired.  Therefore our focus for the coming years is to give the troops new generation equipment, to take a qualitative step forward.  It is precisely on this that I ask you to focus.”

“Our enterprises have a good scientific-technical pool for resolving this task, we need to use it wisely.”

Noting that dozens of OPK organizations work on C3I, he said:

“I ask that you turn attention to precise coordination of their activity, and also concentrate on working out agreed approaches and requirements for product development.”

“Besides this, I would like to turn attention to this, to this time a number of decisions adopted earlier have not been carried out.  So, to the present day, a general designer for development of an automated C2 system for the armed forces has not been appointed.  An integrated structure which would develop and implement a unified scientific-technical policy in this sphere has not been formed.  A special comprehensive program which would allow us to concentrate resources, to reduce and to optimize, to increase the effectiveness of budget expenditures has not been developed.”

Find the text of Putin’s address here.

Different media outlets reached the same conclusion about Putin’s Sozvezdiye visit and whether his words can fix the OPK’s problems and increase the sluggish pace of military modernization.  Segodnya.ru concluded:

“…the fact that Vladimir Putin directly participates in the problem of modernizing the technical outfitting of the army and promises to give the troops new generation equipment in coming years, inspires some optimisim.  Although the sensation remains that loud pronouncements about modernization traditionally hang in the air.”

Writing in Nezavisimaya gazeta, Viktor Myasnikov called it Putin’s “latest attempt to mobilize the military-industrial complex to equip the armed forces with quality modern products.”  Making note of Putin’s exhortations to the C3 producers, Tribuna said, “We’d like to believe they heard him.”  Newsru.com summed it up simply, Putin demanded that they modernize C3, but how to do it is not clear to anyone.

What exactly did Putin order in 2000?  According to Denis Telmanov writing for Gzt.ru before the Voronezh visit, Putin ordered the development of the Unified Tactical Level Command and Control System [ЕСУ ТЗ or YeSU TZ]. 

What’s it supposed to do?  It is supposed to be a large part of a system tying the armed forces together in one modern C2 network, and enabling them operate in a netcentric fashion.  Several media items reported that the Defense Ministry believes YeSU TZ will provide 2 or 3 times the capability of its predecessor. 

Tribuna noted that the Russians have the individual pieces of equipment, bought with a considerable allocation of money, but they haven’t managed to pull them together into one, integrated and modern C2 system.  According to Segodnya.ru, experts believe only Russia’s strategic forces possess a functioning, albeit increasingly obsolete, C2 system.  The armed services and branches, MDs, fleets, and armies have local automated C2 that isn’t necessarily integrated or compatible with other commands.

At the operational-tactical (battalion-brigade) level, Russia has reportedly fallen 20 years behind Western armies in C2.

Testing of YeSU TZ began in 2006 and continues.  In December, troops at Alabino used the equipment in a battalion tactical exercise.  But Telmanov concludes the military is in no hurry to adopt the system because it’s problem plagued and has obsolete elements.  It’s also hard to integrate with the army’s old comms gear. 

Izvestiya on 20 January reported that the system may be too complex for soldiers and sergeants, but even for some officers.  Myasnikov noted that the equipment suffered a lot of breakdowns at Alabino. 

But Sozvezdiye denies the criticism, saying YeSU TZ is reliable and no more difficult to use than a mobile phone.

Nikolay Khorunzhiy writing in Vremya novostey had said back in November that the Akatsiya system was tested during Kavkaz-2009 but could not be fully employed because operator training was deficient.  Combat situation data had to be input by hand and orders sent out by voice radio, defeating the purpose of automation.  Myasnikov also wrote that Akatsiya isn’t working out.

A little nomenclature is in order here.  It’s difficult to square all the press, but it seems Akatsiya is a name for YeSU TZ, but it’s also known by the name Sozvezdiye, a little confusing since this is the C3 production conglomerate’s name as well.  Apparently, Akatsiya is either based on or relies on the Akveduk satellite radio [?] system as one of its component parts.  These in turn evolved out of Polet-K and Manevr before them.  A couple press pieces said one problem with the system is what was basically a radio comms enterprise was put in charge of the broader C2 system effort which required other expertise as well.

A few other issues from the Voronezh visit bear mentioning…

Many press items cited the 2008 five-day war with Georgia as putting attention on C3 weaknesses.  Vremya novostey recalled the image of a wounded 58th Army commander, the recently dismissed, Khrulev borrowing a satellite phone from a journalist to communicate with Moscow.  Several papers cited a Sozvezdiye deputy director saying the holding ‘got raked over the coals’ for South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  He noted that Georgian forces used Harris equipment from the U.S. and it was better than Russian analogues in a number of ways.

Regarding this technological lag, there’s some dispute.  Moskovskiy komsomolets indicated Putin was told “we’ve approached NATO standards” in computerized C2.  Izvestiya, however, cited an industry source saying that there’s no appreciable lag between Russian and U.S. and Israeli systems.

Nezavisimaya gazeta and Izvestiya tackled the cost issue.  First Deputy Sozvezdiye Director Vasiliy Borisov was widely quoted to the effect that equipping one brigade with the new C2 system will cost 8 billion rubles.  Nezavisimaya multiplied this by 85 ‘new profile’ brigades for a price of 680 billion rubles, or when higher echelons have to outfitted as well, the total cost is probably more like 1 trillion rubles, or the price of one complete year of the State Defense Order (GOZ).  Izvestiya quoted Borisov saying the price to outfit a company commander would be 150,000 rubles, and 50,000 for individual soldiers.  The paper concluded that the new equipment won’t be replacing mobile phones any time soon at these prices.

Nezavisimaya also noted that one can’t do C2 properly without the right navigation system, and GLONASS is not up to the job.  It cited 17 operational GLONASS satellites, but press services today noted that 18 are now functioning.  Still, not enough.  Nezavisimaya compares work on C2 to Bulava and GLONASS–other military programs that defense industry is having a hard time bringing to fruition.  Tribuna makes the same point that a fully functioning and reliable GLONASS system is a ‘sine qua non’ for effective C2.

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Ozerov Tells Attaches About Defense Ministry Auctions

According to RIA Novosti, the chairman of the Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee, Viktor Ozerov told foreign military attaches today the unrealized proceeds from last year’s Defense Ministry property auctions had a negative impact on the conduct of military reforms.  The Audit Chamber reported that only 10 percent of what was expected came in from land and other property sales.  

Ozerov, a vacuous former political officer who usually shills for the Defense Ministry, said this affected the financing of military reforms in a negative way.  He blamed unfavorable economic conditions and a lack of investors or potential buyers, as well as insufficiently experienced managers in the Defense Ministry.  Ozerov called these freed up military towns, buildings, and other facilities the “Defense Minister’s reserve.”  

First, could it be that the Defense Ministry wanted too much for property that might not really be worth very much, or might cost too much to clean up for civilian use.  Or maybe auctions for truly valuable properties were rigged.  Second, we’ve been told that Seryukov’s Defense Ministry is all about experienced management.

Fifth Generation Fighter Maiden Flight Today

What 3 Billion Stolen Rubles Could Buy

Viktor Baranets

On Wednesday, Komsomolskaya pravda commentator Viktor Baranets recapped Sergey Fridinskiy’s latest military corruption report, but Baranets also gave examples of what the Defense Ministry might have bought with the 3 billion rubles [$100 million] lost to corruption.

  • 50-55 T-90 tanks
  • 75-80 BMPs
  • 3 or 4 Su-27 or MiG-29 fighters
  • 8-10 Mi-28N attack helicopters
  • 1 light frigate or corvette
  • 1 or 2 Topol [SS-25] ICBMs
  • 3 or 4 reconnaissance satellites
  • 300-400 apartments
  • food for an MD (130,000 personnel) for a year
  • uniforms for 300,000 or 350,000 conscripts, or 1/3 of the army

So corruption brings a significant opportunity cost in the form of foregone or lost procurement, and ultimately reduces combat capability.  Bear in mind this is, of course, only uncovered corruption.  The real amount is undoubtedly larger, but who knows how much.  And this kind of army corruption didn’t start this year.  It’s been delivering this kind of blow to efforts to operate, maintain, and reequip the armed forces year in and year out for a long time.

The Defense Ministry’s Corruption Poll

Vladimir Mukhin talked about military corruption with Defense Ministry sociologist and pollster Captain First Rank Leonid Peven for today’s Nezavisimaya gazeta.

President Medvedev apparently ordered a study of corruption in the armed forces, and the Defense Ministry conducted a six-month poll, the results of which are reportedly uninspiring to say the least.  Peven wouldn’t talk about the specific results of the polling, saying work on the findings is ongoing.  But he indicated that each district, fleet, and branch of service would be assigned a ‘corruption index.’  Let’s hope–in the interests of fairness–that each armed service, each main directorate, each directorate, etc., gets an index as well.

Not surprisingly, an unnamed official source admits that the poll’s results confirm what the Defense Ministry already knows–as the GVP constantly says, there’s a general tendency toward higher levels of corruption-related crime and law-breaking in the officer corps.

The source also said the Kremlin is especially worried by armed forces corruption, and this poll was one of the largest and most unusual pieces of social research undertaken by the Defense Ministry in recent times.  The Defense Ministry’s sociologists and pollsters have typically been used to monitor military living standards.  A former uniformed sociologist said, however, that his colleagues could not get objective data on corruption in the armed forces by themselves.  Civilian experts at places like VTsIOM and Levada-Center need to be involved.

The formation of a new officer’s corporate ethos at this year’s 3rd All-Army Officers Assembly is supposed to be an answer to the scourge of military corruption, but the Chairman of the All-Russian Professional Union of Servicemen Oleg Shvedkov advises more practical measures like increasing the material well-being of officers as well as severe, but just, personnel policies.

One veteran adds that the leadership can create codes and rules of conduct, but they froze military base pay and pension increases for 2010, while other social groups haven’t similarly been done out of their supplements.  And you can’t beat corruption in the army with that kind of attitude toward men in shoulderboards.

Military Housing-Corruption Nexus

Grani.ru has connected the dots between–on the one hand–former Defense Ministry housing chief General-Colonel Filippov’s sudden retirement on health grounds late in triumphant 2009 just as military men were receiving more than 45,000 apartments, and–on the other hand–GVP Sergey Fridinskiy’s announcement yesterday that military housing is one of the three largest military corruption problems and that an SU-155 affiliate is under investigation for not fulfilling state contracts to provide apartments to Defense Ministry servicemen. 

But hold this thought for a moment.  First, remember the Defense Ministry’s end-of-year housing claims:

“The RF Defense Ministry, continuing implementation of decisions of the country’s leadership regarding providing servicemen permanent housing, planned in the course of 2009 to acquire from all sources 45,400 apartments.  Updated data on last year’s results allows us to talk about overfulfillment of the planned tasks.”

The Defense Ministry’s Press-Service and Information Directorate went on to specify:  45,614 permanent apartments, of which the Defense Ministry built 5,117, bought 19,147, and used GZhS for 7,050.  Another 14,300 were obtained from other sources, specifically through investment contracts and resettling apartments [i.e. moving new residents into existing Defense Ministry apartments].

From what Fridinskiy said in his interview yesterday, Grani.ru concludes that Filippov was dismissed for violating laws concerning housing for servicemen, including signing occupancy documents for nonexistent apartment blocks:

“Filippov signed an order for the distribution of apartments in eight buildings in the Moscow suburb of Chekhov.  However these buildings exist only on paper.  Their construction isn’t really under way, having stopped at the foundation.  The Defense Ministry contract was grossly violated by the contracting firm.”

Here’s what Fridinskiy said:

“…instances of the distribution of living space in buildings which not only haven’t been put into use, but actually aren’t even built, are being brought to us.  We’re investigating violations in housing construction for servicemen in Chekhov, where through the fault of the contractor ZAO ‘Moscow Oblast Investment-Construction Company,’ which is part of ZAO ‘SU-155,’ not one of 8 signed state contracts has been fulfilled.  Construction of apartment buildings to this point ranges in states from ‘installing pilings’–simply put,  digging the foundation–to ‘framing the building.’  Despite this, in August 2009, former Defense Ministry chief of housing and installations, Deputy RF Defense Minister General-Colonel Filippov approved the plan for distributing apartments to servicemen in these, if you’ll permit me to say, buildings.”

Were the ‘apartments’ in these 8 unfinished ‘buildings’ counted as part of the 45,614 supposedly acquired in 2009?  Of the 14,300 supposedly obtained through other means, including investment contracts?  Doesn’t look like these contracts panned out too well.  One wonders how much farther the Defense Ministry’s claim of success in meeting Putin’s task will unravel.  As it was storming to try and finish late in the year, many respected sources claimed something less than 30,000 apartments had actually been acquired.

But a scapegoat has been found in Filippov; he can take any other blame that needs to be assigned.  Perhaps he can borrow General-Colonel Vlasov’s sidearm.

Grani.ru reminds that Fridinskiy didn’t say anything about charges against Filippov; he could get off with just a scare.  But, with Filippov’s signature, state funds could move along the chain to the contracting firm.  So billions are thrown at military housing, but the problem is never solved.  Now one of Serdyukov’s Petersburg comrades is responsible for housing, but rather than say anything about how he plans to clean up the housing and installation service, he just had polite words to say about his predecessor.

Fridinskiy’s Latest Military Corruption Report

Sergey Fridinskiy (photo: photoxpress)

An Interfaks reporter has interviewed Main Military Prosecutor (GVP) Sergey Fridinskiy for the pages of today’s Izvestiya

Not surprisingly, Fridinskiy didn’t really bite when asked if the GVP had any hand in the recent Defense Ministry cadre ‘revolution.’  He said the GVP keeps its hands on its part [i.e. law enforcement]. 

Fridinskiy says the GVP monitored the implementation of the ‘new profile.’  In some places, it went more or less normally, but in others, it got out of hand and there were mass violations of servicemen’s rights, like putting 600 men in a barracks for 300.  So the prosecutor reacts to such a situation.  Fridinskiy said the GVP gave quarterly reports on violations to the Defense Minister. 

Asked about the military’s involvement in the tragic ‘Lame Horse’ club fire in Perm, Fridinskiy said the chief and chief engineer of the KECh which was responsible for the property were aware of what was going on there and might have been getting a cut, but the fact that they allowed gross fire safety violations resulting in a tragedy with many victims is what resulted in the investigation and criminal case against them.  He indicated the KECh chief died in the fire, and they are investigating whether the chief engineer got bribes.  Fridinskiy noted other responsible military officials in the district got disciplinary punishment. 

On the ‘Steppe’ garrison boiler house case, Fridinskiy revealed that state inspectors looked at it in May or June and declared it unfit for use, but the locals did cosmetic repairs and used it anyway.  He says other districts and garrisons, especially Kostroma, are being inspected.  He believes old equipment is largely to blame, but it’s up to the GVP to force people to do their jobs and not let the situation reach the point of an accident. 

Fridinskiy termed the general crime situation in the armed forces as stable, with some favorable points.  Registered offenses were down 16 percent in 2009 against the year before.  The numbers of grievous and especially grievous crimes were down.  These figures were for all uniformed power ministries, not just the armed forces.  Dedovshchina looked like it would continue a significant decline, but actually ended up increasing by 2 percent.

Asked to address the reported interethnic Baltic Fleet incident, involving Slavs and Caucasians, Fridinskiy said:

“As a rule, we’re talking not about interethnic fights, but interpersonal conflicts.  For us it’s just accepted:  if a Slav gives it to another Slav based on appearance, then this is simply a fight.  But if the very same thing happens with a Caucasian participating, then another hue appears here, even though the fight is based, as a rule, on a normal everyday situation.  However taking into account the mentality of southerners, who’re inclined to stick together, a fight between two guys grows into a group fight, and the appearance of an interethnic conflict comes up.  When the affair goes to criminal responsibility for nonregulation relations, an ethnic motive doesn’t figure in.  But rumors continue to pressurize the circumstances.”

Fridinskiy claims that in the group of ‘barracks hooligans’ in the Kaliningrad garrison there were both North Caucasians and Slavs [but were they part of the same group or in different groups?].  He said 8 were charged in the incident, and some have already been convicted.

Asked about crime among higher officers, Fridinskiy says malfeasance, exceeding authority, and fraud were the biggest offenses.  Eight generals [probably from all power ministries] were convicted and six got prison terms from 3 to 5 years.  He said the theft of state money was greatest in the GOZ, RDT&E, and housing programs.  He indicates he’s investigating 8 cases where apartments didn’t get built by the SU-155 construction firm, despite the fact there were state contracts in place for them.

Fridinskiy seems to indicate he registered 1,500 crimes among senior officers in 2009 [as of late October, he had this number at a little less than 900].

As for how to fix the crime situation in the military, Fridinskiy doesn’t offer much advice beyond using the law.  Of course, that gives him lots of business.