Who Will Own VKO (Part I)

Retired General-Major Aleksandr Tazekhulakhov — Deputy Chief of Troop Air Defense in 2005-2009 — has written on military reform (and on VKO) before, but his piece in Friday’s Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye caught one’s attention.

Let’s get to the main points of his very long, but interesting, article.

Essentially, Tazekhulakhov asks whether trying to decide which service or branch will own VKO isn’t the most expensive and useless project.

The former air defender suggests that, if the character of future wars, dangers, and threats are considered:

“. . . it is essential to give priority to the development and improvement not of separate services and troop branches of the Armed Forces, but of strategic and operational-strategic reconnaissance-combat (offensive and defensive) systems, which are being established on the basis of troop (force) groupings on strategic axes with concrete combat missions.”

Tazekhulakhov says President Medvedev is looking for a unified VKO system, while Defense Minister Serdyukov is planning to deliver VKO Troops [войска ВКО].  The former one-star says:

“Considering that the creation of a system of aerospace defense (VKO), or of VKO Troops could turn out to be the most visible, expensive and at the same time most senseless and useless project, it’s essential to review once more the existential problems and variants for solving this complex mission.”

He stresses that the national missions of VKO can only be resolved according to a common concept and plan, under united command and control.  And he argues against near- or medium-term thoughts of providing equal defense for all Russian territory and borders.  He cautions against thinking the combat potential of VKO systems might someday compare with that of strategic nuclear forces:

“No country in the world today has or can foresee in the medium-term future a missile defense [ПРО] system which would be capable of repulsing a mass (counterforce) missile-nuclear strike, or even a strike consisting of several ICBMs.  Therefore it’s expedient to limit the scale of employing VKO systems to the following framework:  repulsing strikes employing single or small groups (3-5) of ICBMs, IRBMs, operational-tactical missiles, tactical missiles, single, group, or mass strikes by other means of air attack, destruction (suppression) of satellites and other space objects.  Limiting the scale of VKO system employment will allow for reducing expenditures on its maintenance, for making combat missions specific, and for concentrating efforts on developing the most important system components.”

Establishing the VKO system, according to Tazekhulakhov, is a two-fold task. 

Firstly, PVO, PRO, PRN, and KKP [air defense, missile defense, missile attack early warning, and space monitoring] systems have to come under unitary command and control.  This, he says, is an administrative and organizational task that can and should be done in the timeframe indicated by Medvedev.

Secondly, and more troublesome, is the process of uniting the various supporting elements of VKO — what Tazekhulakhov calls the “hidden part of the iceberg” or the “horizontal system components.”  They include reconnaissance and warning, fire and functional defeat (suppression), command and control, and material support.

He claims, however, that, for 30 years, state leaders, military leaders, military scientists, and industry representatives have tried without success to resolve this problem.  It has administrative, functional, technical, algorithmic, and programming aspects requiring resolution on a state level rather than a departmental [Defense Ministry] one.

Thus, Tazekhulakhov limits his discussion to the possibilities for solving the first (“tip of iceberg” or “vertical system components”) problem.

To be continued.

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