Ground Troops CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov really stirred up the hornet’s nest on Tuesday. Russia’s defense sector – its OPK or oboronki – feeling offended recently, is abuzz about his comments. Postnikov told a session of the Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee:
“Those models of weapons that industry produces, including armor, artillery and infantry weapons, don’t correspond to NATO’s or even China’s models in their characteristics.”
The military hadn’t criticized the domestic OPK’s heavy armor and artillery systems to this point.
Insulting Russian tanks is the particular point here. According to Newsru.com, Postnikov apparently called the much-praised, newest T-90 in actuality just the 17th modification of the Soviet T-72. And, at the current cost of 118 million rubles per tank, he suggested:
“It would be simpler for us to buy three ‘Leopards’ [German tanks] for this money.”
Newsru.com counters that Rosoboroneksport is proud of the T-90, its sales, and continued interest abroad, but admits it is weak against third generation ATGMs, modern sub-munitions, and “top attack” weapons. The news outlet also notes that the Russian Defense Ministry has eschewed procurement of the T-95 and BMPT.
In its editorial entitled “Import Generals,” Vedomosti takes Postnikov to task, saying it’s not sure whether he means new or used Leopards, but the German tanks probably come in at $7.5 million a piece at least, against the T-90 at $4 million [i.e. only part of one Leopard for 118 million rubles]. And, says Vedomosti, comparing Russian tanks to Chinese ones is lamer still on Postnikov’s part.
According to the business daily, these criticisms of Russian armaments usually come with calls to buy the same systems abroad. But the 2008 war with Georgia showed Russia’s deficiencies lay in soldier systems, comms, recce, C2, and some types of infantry weapons rather than in armor. When Russia doesn’t make something like Mistral or it has inferior technology like UAVs, it’s understandable to buy foreign, but when it’s something like armor, it raises a lot of issues, according to Vedomosti. Uralvagonzavod certainly needs tank orders. The idea of large-scale foreign purchases is utopian, says Mikhail Barabanov. The paper believes thoughts of buying Leopard tanks and Mistral mean Russia’s generalitet has plans beyond local wars.
BFM.ru says Postnikov put the Ground Troops’ modern arms and equipment at only 12 percent of its inventory at present with, again, the goal of 70 percent in 2020. At the end of this year, the army will get its first brigade complement of the newest automated C2 (ASU) system [i.e. presumably YeSU TZ]:
“In November of this year, we plan to conduct research on the newest ASU and hand down our verdict.”
According to BFM.ru, he said NATO and China already have analogous systems:
“But for us it is still the future.”
Nezavisimaya gazeta focused on Postnikov’s comments on Ground Troops brigades. He said he now has 70, but plans for 109 by 2020, including “future type” brigades:
“There will be 42 brigades of the future type, in all there will be 47 military formations of the future type, including military bases abroad which will be built on the same principle.”
The Glavkom didn’t say how the new brigades will be different from the old.
Parsing what he’s talking about is a little tough. At the end of 2008, the army talked about having 39 combined arms, 21 missile and artillery, 12 signal, 7 air defense, and 2 EW brigades for a total of 81, rather than Postnikov’s current 70. One might guess a dozen arms storage bases in Siberia and the Far East could be fleshed out into maneuver brigades. But where does the manpower come from? Maybe some of the 70,000 officers cut and now being returned to the ranks by Defense Minister Serdyukov.
Postnikov elaborated some on heavy, medium, and light brigades. Heavy will have tanks and tracked armor. NG concludes there won’t be a new tank. Tanks in storage will get new electronics and Arena active defense systems. According to Postnikov, medium brigades will get [among other things?] the Bumerang amphibious BTR now in development. This, says NG, is the first time anyone’s heard Bumerang. But if it isn’t successfully developed or produced in sufficient numbers by 2020, the army will just buy armored vehicles abroad since there’s already ample precedent for this.
Light brigades will have vehicles like the Tigr or the Italian LMV (Lynx), licensed production of which could begin in Russia this year. One special Arctic brigade will be created at Pechenga.
Several media outlets quoted Postnikov to the effect that there’s no plan to change 1-year conscription, but he noted:
“In the transition to one year military service, military men received only a headache.”
There’s lots more reaction to Postnikov’s statements, but it’s too much for one day.