Monthly Archives: May 2019

Putin Boosts Su-57

Putin walks the flight line at Akhtubinsk on May 14

Putin walks the flight line at Akhtubinsk on May 14

Russia’s Supreme CINC boosted the fortunes of the country’s fifth generation Su-57 fighter declaring yesterday that Moscow will procure 76 of them. Until now it appeared the VKS might only receive a handful and forego series production altogether.

According to Kremlin.ru, Putin said:

“Multipurpose fighters Su-35S and Su-57 are in the final phase of state testing. These aircraft have unique characteristics and are the best in the world. It’s essential to fully rearm three Aerospace Forces regiments with the future aviation system fifth generation Su-57.”

“At the range [Akhtubinsk] yesterday the Minister [of Defense Shoygu] and I talked about this. Under the arms program to 2027 it’s planned to buy 16 of such aircraft. We analyzed the situation yesterday, the Minister reported. As a result of the work we did, as a result of the fact that we agreed with industry, — industry has practically reduced the cost of the aircraft and weapons by 20 percent, — we can buy many more of these combat aircraft of this class, of this, essentially, new generation. We agreed that we will buy over that time period 76 of such airplanes without increasing the cost. We have to say that in such volume, but the volume isn’t even the thing, the thing is we haven’t done anything like this new platform in the last 40 years. I hope the corrected plans will be fulfilled. And we’ll soon complete the contract for the systematic delivery of 76 of these fighters equipped with modern aviation weapons and the essential supporting ground infrastructure.”

Seventy-six is an odd number. Seventy-two would make three two-squadron regiments (24 fighters per).

Looks like Putin laid down a hard line with Sukhoy and KnAAPO. But hardware price issues have a way of persisting even after the Supreme CINC has spoken. Industry, after all, has to recoup its development costs and keep up with rising prices for components, etc.

Presumably, the 76 Su-57 fighters will have the “second phase” engine giving them true fifth generation maneuverability. That engine is still in testing that won’t finish til 2023. Could make for quite a backloaded production scheme.

Capture

A Russian defense industry source has told Kommersant that a 170 billion ruble contract will be signed at the MAKS-2019 air show in August. That’s making 76 Su-57s for a fly-away price of $34 million per plane. The F-22 was $150 million in 2009. The F-35 is at least $100 million. Even adding the 20 percent back in makes the Su-57 only $41 million a copy. We should be skeptical about this plan.

Maybe saying Russia will produce reams of Su-57s is no skin off Putin’s nose. In 2024, he’ll be out of office unless he officially makes himself president-for-life. Still Putin can’t fight time; he’ll be 71 when [if] the 2024 election happens. When those 76 Su-57s are supposed to be done, Putin will be 76 years old. Ironic.

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MiG-35 Update

The Russian MOD has reportedly received the first two MiG-35 multirole fighters under a contract for six signed last August. The other four will be delivered before end of 2019, according to an Interfaks news agency source.

MiG-35D

MiG-35

The first two MiG-35s were ready for acceptance testing in December, but there’s no official word that the MOD has received them. The MOD said its pilots were testing the MiG-35’s maneuverability and aerodynamic stability at the State Flight-Test Center in Akhtubinsk in late 2018.

The MiG-35 has “deeply modernized” RD-33MK engines and an on-board radar capable of detecting and tracking 30 airborne targets at 160 km, and engaging six airborne and four ground targets simultaneously. The fighter has nine hardpoints for carrying air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons.

In 2017, then VKS CINC General-Colonel Bondarev claimed the entire Russian light fighter inventory (MiG-29s and variants) would be replaced with MiG-35s. However, the Interfaks source says the VKS isn’t planning on making a large MiG-35 purchase at least in the near term.

Most Russian MiG-29s are essentially inactive or located at training bases. But fighter regiments in Kursk and Millerovo as well as the Russian air base in Erebuni, Armenia still have a handful of operational MiG-29 and MiG-29SMT squadrons.

Navy Command Swapped Out

At the outset of the May 8 MOD collegium, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu announced a shake up in the Russian Navy’s leadership.

Admiral Vladimir Korolev — Navy CINC for just three years — was retired by a May 3 presidential ukaz. He will be 65 next February 1. Shoygu was gracious saying in 46 years of service Korolev strengthened Russian defense capabilities, returned the fleet to the world’s oceans, and rationalized fulfillment of the shipbuilding program to 2050.

Northern Fleet Commander, Admiral Nikolay Yevmenov, who recently turned 57, replaced Korolev. Yevmenov’s a submariner and Pacific Fleet sailor generally.

Admiral Nikolay Yevmenov

Born April 2, 1962, Yevmenov graduated the Higher Naval School of Submarine Navigation (Leningrad) in 1987. He was assigned to the navigation department of a Soviet Pacific Fleet submarine. He completed his senior service school, the Naval Academy named for Kuznetsov in 1999.

Yevmenov then served as an executive officer before commanding Delta III-class ballistic missile submarines K-490 and K-506 Zelenograd. Following a stint as chief of staff for the Pacific Fleet’s 25th Submarine (SSBN) Division, he graduated the General Staff Academy in 2003.

He returned to the 25th as deputy commander and then commander before becoming chief of staff and commander of the 16th Submarine Squadron (all Pacific Fleet nuclear-powered ballistic missile, cruise missile, and attack subs). In 2012, the 16th was renamed simply Pacific Fleet Submarine Forces.

In September 2012, Yevmenov switched fleets with an appointment as chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Northern Fleet. He became Northern Fleet Commander in April 2016 as a vice-admiral (two-star). He was promoted to admiral in December 2017.

After a very brief stint as Black Sea Fleet commander, Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Moiseyev replaces Yevmenov in the Northern Fleet. Moiseyev’s also an SSBN driver, and his career is very similar to Yevmenov’s but far more illustrious.

He wears two Orders of Courage and a Hero of the Russian Federation. One Order for helping to plant the Russian Federation flag in the North Pole seabed in 2007 and the second for the underice inter-fleet transfer of Delta III SSBN K-44 Ryazan to the Pacific Fleet in 2008.

Admiral Aleksandr Moiseyev

Moiseyev’s Hero came in early 2011 after he’d commanded the Northern Fleet’s 31st Submarine (SSBN) Division. He was awarded for successfully testing new weapons and conducting a series of missile launches (probably tests of R-29RMU Sineva — SS-N-23A Skiff SLBMs).

He’s just two weeks younger than Yevmenov.

It’s difficult to see how Yevmenov got ahead of Moiseyev, but he did. There must be a logic obvious to the Kremlin in the choice of Yevmenov, it’s just not apparent to outsiders right now.

Lonely Lama

Russian media covering the armed forces still have moments. Take Ulan-Ude’s Buryaad UnenHat tip to bmpd for covering dambiev who in turn covered this Buryat piece.

Lonely Lama

Buryaad Unen told the story of the Russian military’s only Buddhist “chaplain” — Bair Batomunkuyev. Bair Lama has served six years as “assistant to the commander for work with religious servicemen” (troop priest) in Kyakhta’s 37th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade.

He was a conscript repairing communications in a radar unit in Yakutia from 1988 to 1990. He wasn’t a very observant Buddhist as a youth although he went with his grandmother to pray at holy places and learned mantras from her.

While serving, he nearly froze to death in a snowstorm and is convinced he survived by thinking of his grandmother and repeating prayers she taught him. A search party rescued him.

He finished his military time and went to study at the Buddhist monastery in Ivolginsk, not far from Ulan-Ude. His grandmother was very happy.

In 2003-2004, Bair Lama answered a request from Kyakhta’s border guards detachment for “spiritual support.” In 2012, the MR brigade offered him a position.

He has met other “priests” working in his capacity, mainly Russian Orthodox of course. According to him, there are three Muslims serving as “assistant commanders for work with religious believers” but only one Buddhist. There are, he says, many Buddhist servicemen and they serve well. Buryat-tankers regularly win prizes in the annual Tank Biathalon, according to Bair.

Bair Lama says the situation in his formation is normal and orderly. He reports directly to the brigade commander, but also to the chief of the section for work with religious servicemen in the Eastern MD staff.

The interviewer asks Bair if the army contradicts his religious convictions given Buddhism’s principles of non-violence and compassion for all living things. He responds:

“The security of my family and relatives, our peoples and state is in the balance. As Napoleon Bonaparte said: ‘A people not wishing to feed its own army will soon have to feed a foreign one.'”

“Absolute pacifism is not characteristic of Buddhism for a follower of Buddha’s Teaching will not remain a passive and passionless bystander of evil and violence, but actively opposes it with compassion for all living things. One of the manifestations of this principle closest to us in time is the participation of Buddhists in the Great Patriotic War. Not just lay Buddhists but even ordained monk-lamas who’d received a Buddhist education without reservation took up weapons and went to war. By the same token, Buddhist Teaching doesn’t impose restrictions on carrying out military service in peacetime. The weapon in itself is not terrible and the nature of the action (peaceful or wrathful by necessity) is not important, but the motivation (compassion toward living things), the essence (goodness) and the purpose of the action (the good of living things).”

How many Russian Federation citizens are Buddhist? Hard to say. Maybe as few as 700,000 or as many as 1.5 million. The Kremlin may not even have an accurate estimate.

The largest concentrations are in Buryatia, Tuva, and Kalmykia. Their combined populations are about 1.5 million. Obviously not all their residents are Buddhists, and, similarly, not all Buddhists in the Russian Federation live those regions.

The number 700,000 is likely an underestimate; 1.5 million might be correct or just somewhat inflated.

Recall that former defense minister Anatoliy Serdyukov started putting clergymen in MOD units to promote better order, discipline, and inter-ethnic accord. They were somewhat intended to replace deputy commanders for “socialization” work — old zampolits — that Serdyukov dismissed to shrink the officer corps.

The first Russian Orthodox priests became “assistant commanders for work with religious believers” in 2010. In 2017, the ROC reported there were 176 priests attached to military units with another 45 in the pipeline.

But only three mullahs? One lama? No rabbis?

From the outset the Russian MOD said clergy would be appointed, probably to brigades and divisions, on a proportional basis. That presupposed (probably unreasonably) comprehensive knowledge of the beliefs of Russian Federation soldiers as a group.

The numbers 3, 1, and 0 are clearly not proportional. In 2009, the MOD figured 90 percent of clergymen in the ranks would be Orthodox priests. But with 20 million Muslims living in the RF, Muslim troops are certainly underserved with just three mullahs in the ranks. The Eastern MD itself said 8 percent of its spring conscripts in 2016 were Muslim and 4 percent Buddhist.

But the MOD’s avoidance of mono-ethnic (and mono-religious) units and its extraterritoriality policy (not allowing draftees to serve in their home regions) have mixed conscripts from many areas and ensured that Russians (and Orthodox Christians) predominate in any military unit. Hence, if there’s any priest, he’s ROC.

Taking it further though, three mullahs and one lama tells us there may be, at least, three predominately Muslim units and one “Buddhist” (Buryat or Tuvan) unit in the RF Armed Forces.

Under Serdyukov, the MOD toyed with forming mono-ethnic units to end frequent conflict between Russian troops and soldiers from Dagestan. Perhaps some majority Muslim units were formed. Which ones are hard to say. But under Sergey Shoygu, the MOD definitely formed a majority Tuvan (likely majority Buddhist) formation — Kyzyl’s 55th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (Mountain), but it doesn’t have its own lama.

Bair Lama’s position tells us the 37th IMRB in Kyakhta is a majority Buryat, majority Buddhist formation. Kalmykia, though majority Buddhist, basically has no MOD units.

It seems safe to conclude the Russian MOD doesn’t have much intention to go further with mono-ethnic or mono-religious units, or to put more clergymen out among the troops except Orthodox priests.