Daily Archives: May 28, 2010

Step Closer to Four OSKs Instead of 6 MDs

ITAR-TASS reports today that the reform of the operational-strategic level of command and control has entered its final phase.  According to the Genshtab’s plan, on 1 December 2010 military districts (MDs) will shrink from 6 to 4.  A Genshtab source told ITAR-TASS that 4 MDs and operational-strategic commands (OSK or ОСК) will be formed–Western, Southern, Central, and Eastern, with their commanders having operational control over all (or most) of the troops (forces) of the armed forces and other militarized structures located on their territory.  

The Genshtab representative says the Western MD/OSK, based in Piter, will include the Moscow and Leningrad MDs, with Baltic and Northern Fleets, VVS, VDV, and other militarized structures operationally subordinate to it.  The Southern MD/OSK in Rostov-na-Donu will have the North Caucasus MD, with the Black Sea Fleet and Caspian Flotilla operationally subordinate.  The Central MD/OSK in Yekaterinburg will have the Volga-Ural MD and the western part of the Siberian MD.  The Eastern MD/OSK in Khabarovsk will have the eastern part of the Siberian MD and the Far East MD, with the Pacific Fleet operationally subordinate to it.

The question of subordinating units and formations of the RVSN, naval strategic nuclear forces, LRA, and the Space Troops hasn’t been decided.  According to the source:

“This issue is now under long-term study, Genshtab Chief Army General Nikolay Makarov is personally occupied with it.”

The Genshtab source said the new MD/OSKs will be tested out during the Vostok-2010 operational-strategic exercise at the end of June.

ITAR-TASS said this major command change will not involve officer cuts, but there will be a redistribution of the officer corps to new service locations.

So there’s more smoke from a fire somewhere, presumably.  If this pans out, it will be the culmination of a command and control change long talked about, and even tried out piecemeal at times.  After many waves of reform since late 2008, one has to wonder whether this is the time for more disruption.  Maybe it is since things are already disrupted.  Which generals will be the winners or losers?

It will be hard to judge the value of this effort just from the name changes or the movement of a major combined formation from one order-of-battle column to another.  A lot will depend on what the exact terms of ‘operational subordination’ are when it comes to the fleets and other major militarized formations outside the Defense Ministry’s administrative control.  The four MD/OSK commanders will certainly have more responsibility, and they must be hoping and working to get the real authority they need to go along with it.

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Shamanov’s Press Conference

General-Lieutenant Shamanov

Ever-loquacious VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov held a wide-ranging press conference on Wednesday.  The Defense Ministry web site covered it hereITAR-TASS also published a number of short items on it. 

Shamanov detailed the work of five immediate deployment VDV battalions, lobbied again for a helicopter regiment, and discussed training issues and his procurement desires.  He joined the dogpile on top of the Russian OPK although he once seemed to defend it, and he credited Putin alone for the initiative to modernize the military’s arms and equipment.

He described his forces as combat ready, and manned and equipped at 100 percent.

Relative to combat readiness, Shamanov announced that the VDV has dedicated five battalions for immediate deployment which, if necessary, will be its first units sent into combat.  He said:

“By agreement with the General Staff, in the VDV we’ve dedicated five battalions for immediate deployment.  The uniqueness of service in these battalions is such that personnel from each of the battalions goes on leave for 45 days as a complete unit.  Therefore, at a minimum four battalions are always ready for combat deployment.  Today one of the sub-units of such a battalion from the 31st Airborne-Assault Brigade (Ulyanovsk) is fulfilling missions in Kyrgyzia [sic].”

Shamanov also gave voice to his desire, more modestly expressed than in April, for some aviation assets for VDV.  Speaking about the VDV’s future development, he said his troops must become airmobile.  To this end, he’s “given the Genshtab’s Main Operations Directorate [GOU] a request on the issue of forming a helicopter regiment in one of the three airborne-assault divisions [DShD or ДШД].”

Shamanov discussed VDV training at great length.  He started, of course, by speaking about jump training.  The parachute jump training plan was 70 percent fulfilled during the winter training period.  He blamed poor weather, saying troops often jumped in minus 30 degrees Celsius—the lowest acceptable temperature.  The plan for jumps from An-2 aircraft was fulfilled, but only 70 percent fulfilled from Il-76 aircraft.  He noted the VDV conducted its first-ever drop of a BMD-2 with its crew on-board, and said this hasn’t been done in 7 years, and then it was a BMD-1.  Use of the BMD-2 was significant, he said, because the BMD-2 represents 80 percent of VDV’s combat vehicle inventory.

Shamanov talked about large Spetsnaz assault group jump training in guided parachutes.  He said the use of guided parachutes allows reconnaissance troops to complete a horizontal flight of 20 kilometers, and:

“Our goal is to get so that such movements reach 40 kilometers, as they do in the Israeli Army.”

The VDV Commander noted that the multi-component Polet-K command and control system was tested for the first time in winter training.  He said: 

“It still isn’t the full suite envisioned in the future.  We are one-third through its introduction into the forces.  This process won’t happen in a year.”

Also for the first time, an artillery sub-unit of the 98th Airborne-Assault Division used Russian-made ‘Eleron’ UAVs for target designation on the Luga training grounds.  Shamanov said five ‘Eleron’ UAVs were employed in the training, and they conducted supplemental reconnaissance to a range of 10 kilometers in advance of fire missions.  This summer, 12 VDV crews will train on Israeli-made UAVs in Moscow Oblast.  Shamanov said:

“Unfortunately, our representatives did not go to Israel where they produce the ‘Hermes’ UAV which has been bought by Russia.”

Shamanov noted more attention to air defense training in the VDV this winter.  There were 40 firings of manportable ‘Strela-10’ and ‘Igla’ SAMs.

For the summer training period, Shamanov noted the VDV has 9,300 conscripts to get through three jumps in the course of 1.5 months.  The VDV will participate in ‘Vostok-2010’ and the CSTO’s ‘Cooperation-2010.’  There will be a VDV-level CSX (КШУ), as well as a CSX involving the 98th VDD (or ВДД).

Following the lessons of the Georgian war, the VDV is periodically training on the Navy’s large assault ships (BDK or БДК).  Shamanov says:

“In the winter training period we transported the 108th Regiment on large assault ships three times.  The exercises ended with a naval assault landing by a reinforced assault-landing battalion (ДШБ).

Last but not least, Shamanov commented on VDV procurement, and transport aircraft in particular:

“Work on the State Armaments Program for 2011-2020 is being completed.  According to our requests, in it there is the modernization of Il-76 aircraft, renewal of production and modernization of An-124 aircraft, the purchase of 30-40 An-70 aircraft.”

An-70

But the VDV Commander stressed these were his requests, and the final say isn’t his.  Utro.ru quoted him:

“In the development of the state [armaments] program, we gave our proposals, whether they’ll be realized in the confirmed version of the state program, I can’t say yet.”

Gzt.ru and Lenta.ru covered the An-70 and An-124 story in detail.

Shamanov said troop testing of the ‘Shakhin’ thermal sight for infantry weapons is complete.  He said:

“There has to be one approach for weapons—they have to be all-weather.  Not long ago the thermal sight ‘Shakhin’ went through troop testing.  After the testing we returned it to the designers for reworking.  We’ve given the task that our weapons work according to the aviation principle—turn your head and firing systems turn after it.”

He commented on air-dropping the BMD-4M, and added that, “The BMD-4M has every chance in the future, owing to its qualities, to be the forces’ main infantry combat vehicle.”

Although he seemed more like a supporter of Russian-made weapons six months ago, Shamanov now applauds Prime Minister Putin [not President Medvedev?] for searching for good weapons and equipment abroad.  Shamanov said the prospect of foreign competitors has forced “the domestic OPK to move,” as reported by Utro.ru.  He continued:

“Last year when industry was told that we’d look for alternatives abroad, they began to move.  In particular, the atmosphere around Mistral is creating a significant context for the domestic OPK.  When people declare that they’re ready to produce 21st century weapons but their equipment is from the 30s and 40s [of the 20th century], how can you talk about the 21st century?  Therefore, every official supports Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s initiative on the requirement to renew our armaments.  As long as this doesn’t happen, we’ll being shifting in place, and this won’t be just a lament of Yaroslav’s daughter [reference to the Prince Igor’s wife in the Lay of the Host of Igor after his defeat by the Turkic Polovtsy in 1185].”

At the same time, Shamanov concluded that GAZ and Izhevsk vehicles perform better for the VDV in the snow that equivalent Italian and Canadian ones.

Shamanov also said it’s essential to decide what to buy without any kind of lobbying, and for his part, he bases his decisions on saving soldiers’ lives and fulfilling missions.