Testing Army Reforms in Vostok-2010

Readers seem eager for anything they can get on Vostok-2010.  Here’s something. 

Russia’s largest maneuvers of the year, Vostok-2010, began June 29, and continue until July 8.  This broad-scale operational-strategic exercise (OSU or ОСУ) encompasses the Siberian and Far East MDs, as well as the Pacific Fleet—in other words, what will reportedly become the new Far East MD or operational-strategic command (OSK or ОСК) before the end of 2010.  

General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov talked to RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS at length about Vostok-2010 recently.  He said the Far East was chosen for its broad expanses, limited infrastructure, and difficult weather and climate.  Eleven combined arms, 3 air forces, and 4 naval training ranges will be used.  Makarov noted up to 20,000 soldiers, 2,500 weapons systems and pieces of equipment, 70 aircraft, and 30 ships will take part in the exercise. 

Makarov said Vostok-2010 will be a logical continuation of last year’s large training events.  Beyond Defense Ministry forces, operational groups and sub-units from the MVD, FSB, FSO, MChS, and FSIN will participate.

As is customary, Makarov said the maneuvers:

“. . . are not directed against any real country or military-political bloc.  They have an exclusively defensive orientation for ensuring the security and defense of the state’s interests on the Far East border against a notional enemy.”

And the exercise’s theme is:

“. . . preparation and employment of formations [military units] in a new TO&E structure to fulfill missions in isolated sectors to ensure the Russian Federation’s military security.”

Makarov said the maneuvers will:

  • Check the effectiveness of the newly-created three-level system of troop command and control;
  • Evaluate the readiness of new TO&E formations and military units to  conduct combat actions in isolated sectors in a constantly changing situation, as well as their mobility and combat possibilities;
  • Resolve training and command and control issues at the operational-strategic and operational level while conducting combat actions;       
  • Organize coordination of military command and control organs with the troops and military formations of other federal ministries and departments, and also local organs of executive authority in resolving joint missions; and
  • Investigate the capabilities of a unified system of material-technical support (MTO) which was created during the structural reformation of the army and fleet.

The exercise will include special operations, air defense and ship combat firings, and air and amphibious assaults.  Makarov said the RVSN will join the exercise play, but no ICBM training launches will occur.  Military transports will bring independent sub-units from the Moscow and Volga-Ural MDs to join the exercise, but they will draw their weapons and equipment from Siberian and Far East storage bases.

Makarov noted the participation of an unidentified number of Su-24M and Su-34 aircraft arriving from Central Russia during a direct flight with aerial refueling.   Black Sea Fleet flagship Slava-class CG Moskva and Northern Fleet Kirov-class CGN Petr Velikiy also completed long-range cruises to participate.

Makarov said new operational and operational-strategic level command and control posts will be used in the exercise, as will ‘fifth generation’ radio communications gear and future soldier systems under development at Sozvezdiye.  Iskander operational-tactical missiles and Russian-made UAVs will also be employed.

Siberian MD Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Chirkin told Krasnaya zvezda the exercise will focus on defensive operations, but also special operations to localize and destroy irregular armed formations in several RF regions.  He said there will be more than a little new given that new combat regulations will be used.  He added:

“We’re moving away from linear tactics, from large-scale front operations.  As the experience of local wars and armed conflicts in recent years shows, there’s no need to utilize a massive quantity of forces and means to conduct front and army operations.”

In Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vladimir Mukhin focused on the logistics of Vostok-2010.  He noted Rear Services Chief, General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov’s expectation that President Medvedev will soon issue a decree combining the jobs of Chief of Armaments and Chief of Rear Services.  And leaving First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin’s old job vacant could be a hint of this.  After Vostok-2010, Mukhin expects a new deputy defense minister for material-technical support (MTO), presumably Bulgakov, to be appointed.

A lot of the activity before Vostok-2010 has apparently involved trying out new combat service and support arrangements.  A special logistics exercise tested the new MTO system.  And this year, according to Mukhin’s information, ten MTO brigades will be formed, one for each combined arms army.  The Railroad Troops will reportedly be downgraded to a directorate and each MD (OSK) will absorb the Railroad Troops units on their territory.

Krasnaya zvezda described these exercises.  Rear Services troops used 4,000 men, 30 units of different sizes, and 1,000 pieces of equipment in a pipeline-building exercise, training to repair damaged bridges over the Aga River, and refueling a brigade before its Onon River crossing.

General-Colonel Bulgakov talked about the new MTO regiments and the exercises.  He said they are permanent combat readiness units which have all necessary troops support structures and sub-units.  This was the first test of the new TO&E structure for logistics.  Based on the results, Bulgakov thinks this year the army can move from material support regiments (PMO) to material support brigades.  In every district (OSK), there will be a minimum of two, according to him.  Unlike regiments, material support brigades (BMOs?) will have repair and maintenance battalions.  Brigades were chosen to conform as much as possible to the prevailing three link ‘district-army-brigade’ command scheme.

Trud’s Mikhail Lukanin put Vostok-2010’s most difficult missions this way:

  • Moving troops great distances, including Siberian river crossings;
  • Supplying fuel, ammunition, and food to the area of combat actions;
  • Conducting an amphibious assault under enemy fire.

Prominent commentators view Vostok-2010 as a test of the success of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s army reforms.  Trud talked to independent defense analyst Aleksandr Khramchikhin who said:

“Military reform has gone on already for more than a year and a half, but there’s still no answer to the main question:  what have we gotten from it?  That is, after radical cuts in the officer ranks, the reorganization of military command and control organs, turning former divisions into combined arms brigades, are the Armed Forces capable of conducting modern combat actions.”

Anatoliy Tsyganok believes the army made a hash of Zapad-2009, with only 30 percent  of Russia’s maneuver brigades receiving good evaluations, most only satisfactory, and a handful unsatisfactory.  Presumably, he doesn’t expect to be more impressed by Vostok-2010.

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