You have to like Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin.
He’s open and candid about what Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s ‘new profile’ reforms mean for him and his service. He’s talked earlier, more often, and longer about it than his Ground Troops or Navy counterparts. He’s matter of fact and accepting of the entire process.
Serdyukov’s changes turned General-Colonel into a trainer and force provider, and he nonchalantly admits as much.
At 57, Zelin understands he can be replaced at any time, or allowed to serve three more years or even longer.
If he were a tad younger, he would have been the right kind of general to command one of the new military districts / unified strategic commands (OSK / ОСК), say the Western or Central. An air or air defense officer would have been just the right choice for a potential future war on those axes. Instead, the Kremlin has three Ground Troops generals and one admiral (a step in the right direction). It’s hard to argue against Ground Troops leadership in Russia’s restive south. But Air Forces (VVS or ВВС) would have been a really good choice in the Western or Central Military Districts . . . a missed opportunity for now.
But back to Zelin. On Tuesday, he addressed a foreign military attaché audience (and the Russian media) about the future of the VVS.
According to Gzt.ru, Zelin said the VVS will be reduced by a third and spread among the four new OSKs. And its Main Command (Glavkomat) will be responsible only for combat training. The OSKs are in charge of employing the VVS in their theaters.
The VVS now consist of the Glavkomat, 7 operational commands, 7 first-rank air bases, 8 second-rank air bases, and 13 aerospace defense (VKO) brigades. Before the ‘new profile,’ the Air Forces consisted of 72 regiments, 14 air bases, and 12 independent squadrons and detachments, with a third more aircraft than the VVS now have.
Four of today’s 7 operational commands are subordinate to the new OSKs. Army Aviation also falls under them.
According to Zelin, in the future, the VVS Main Command (Glavkomat or Главкомат) could become a “branch department” of the General Staff responsible for the combat training of the Air Forces and Air Defense, while the OSKs employ the trained forces.
Zelin says VVS personnel will number 170,000 with 40,000 officers, nearly 30,000 sergeants, and the balance conscripts or civilian specialists. He says today’s personnel training system doesn’t satisfy him, and so he’ll probably change the system of flight schools. Only four remain today. Voronezh will be the main training center. Flight training will also be conducted in Krasnodar and Lipetsk. Yaroslavl will remain home to air defense officer training.
According to the CINC, the VVS airfield network won’t change. Base airfields will be first priority for reconstruction and modernization. Zelin says civilian airfields could be used for operational purposes in the future.
He noted the VVS plans to go to a fully automated command and control system in the future, and, of course, develop its VKO forces.
Lenta.ua quoted Zelin’s remarks to Interfaks. Zelin said the VVS will renew 30 percent of its inventory by 2015, and 100 percent new in some areas and 80 percent new overall by 2020. He doesn’t say where the VVS are today in this regard, but recall Defense Minister Serdyukov has said only 10 percent of equipment in the Armed Forces is modern.
Zelin said the VVS will get new aircraft, air defense, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare systems, but modernization of some existing systems is still part of the plan. Although the State Armaments Program 2011-2020 and its 19 or 20 trillion rubles have to be finalized, Zelin repeated that 10 T-50 (PAK FA) will be acquired in 2013-2015, and 60 more from 2016. He mentioned Military-Transport Aviation (VTA or ВТА) is a priority – including the An-124 Ruslan, Il-112, Il-476, Il-76M, and An-70 – but he doesn’t venture any numbers or dates for new production. Zelin does give a target of 400 new and modernized helicopters in the inventory by 2015.
Who knows what was or wasn’t covered in these media contacts, but it seems odd there’s still no mention of more S-400 deliveries. Zelin was still talking about getting 5-6 more battalions in 2010 earlier this year. But no sign of them. It’ll be a big deal when or if they appear. Also, no mention of S-500 development.