Monthly Archives: January 2020

What They May Get, 2020

S-350 Vityaz launcher

S-350 Vityaz launcher

In his year-end report, Russian Defense Minister Shoygu not only publicized what the MOD received by way of arms and other equipment in 2019, he also mentioned what the military is supposed to get this year.

According to Shoygu, it will receive:

  • Twenty-two ICBM launchers with RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2) and Avangard “hypersonic glide vehicles.” The latter is the long-in-development weapon that will be placed on “dry” SS-19 ICBMs Moscow received from Kyiv in the early 2000s.
  • Six modernized Tu-95MS strategic bombers.
  • The first “series produced” project 955A Borey-A SSBN Knyaz Oleg. (But the very first 955A Borey-A Knyaz Vladimir wasn’t accepted in 2019. It’s now scheduled for delivery during the first quarter of this year.)
  • 565 “modern” (presumably new or modernized) armored vehicles, 436 missile and artillery systems, two battalion sets of Buk-M3 SAMs to round out 11 formations and units. (565 doesn’t go too far — perhaps six motorized rifle regiments, but 436 is a lot — maybe 24 artillery battalions, enough for eight MR brigades.)
  • 106 new and modernized aircraft.
  • Four regimental sets of S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler) SAMs.
  • Six battalion sets of Pantsir (SA-22 Greyhound) gun-missile systems.
  • One Kupol early warning satellite (fourth overall).
  • 14 surface combatants of varying size, three submarines, and 18 other vessels. (Not real precise.) One Bal (SSC-6 Sennight) coastal missile system.

Shoygu said the RF Armed Forces will have 70 percent “modern” arms and equipment in 2020, fulfilling the order given by President Putin in 2012.

He also noted that the Defense Ministry signed long-term contracts for 76 Su-57 Felon (PAK FA) fighters (although the first series model crashed) and more than 200 combat helos in 2019. He reported that 22 ships for the “distant ocean zone” are under construction and eight more will be laid down in 2020.

On January 13, Krasnaya zvezda quoted Shoygu saying procurement will be about 1.5 trillion rubles ($25 billion), about the same as 2019, with 68 percent going to purchase new equipment. Nearly 4,000 new armored and other vehicles (i.e. trucks, etc.) will arrive in 2020 along with 1,700 artillery and missile systems. (How does that track with the 436 above?? Perhaps it includes slightly modernized or repaired?)

RIAN offered its own list of what the Russian military is supposed to get this year. It noted that the MOD and OPK signed about 50 contracts in 2019 worth more than 1 trillion rubles of weapons and equipment. Not all for delivery in 2020 of course.

According to the official news agency, the Russian Navy will receive the second project 636.3 Improved Kilo Volkhov for the Pacific Fleet, the second project 677 Lada Kronshtadt also for the Pacific, and the second project 885M Yasen-M Novosibirsk. (But in 2020 the Navy is still awaiting the first Yasen-M Kazan and expects renovated project 949A Belgorod that will carry Moscow’s doomsday torpedoes.) 

Kronshtadt

Kronshtadt

RIAN says the Russian Navy will get its second project 11711 LST Petr Morgunov in the first quarter of the year. The Black Sea Fleet will accept 16 new ships and other vessels. And the Baltic Fleet will be content with catamaran-type hydrographic survey vessels (project 23370).

The Aerospace Forces will acquire new Su-35S fighters, six Mi-28NM helos, S-400 SAMs, and more S-350 Vityaz SAMs. (These initial deliveries are for troop testing and training. Series production of this system is slated for 2021-2027.)

More random notes on 2020:

  • Mil.ru says the Ground Troops in 2020 will get more than 300 tanks and armored vehicles. Its Moscow-based 1st Tank Army will receive more than 250 weapons systems and other pieces of equipment.
  • Interfaks-AVN indicated some will be BMP-3, BMP-2, and BMPT armored vehicles with new unmanned turrets.
  • The Russian Army is supposed to receive 40,000 new AK-12 assault weapons.
  • The VDV’s 76th DShD in Pskov already got a battalion set of BMD-4M and BTR-MDM armored vehicles.
  • The Central MD reports it’ll acquire more than 850 new or modernized items including 19 aircraft, 10 radars, 145 armored vehicles (30 T-72B3M tanks), four battalion sets (two regiments) of S-400 SAMs.
  • Ilyushin had to bounce two of five new Il-76MD-90A transports it couldn’t finish in 2019 to this year.

Story of the Year

What was the Russian military story of 2019? Here are some possibilities:

  • The July 1 fire aboard the AS-31 “Losharik” — a secret deep-diving nuclear-powered submarine — which cost the lives of fourteen Russian Navy officers, two of whom were already Heroes of the Russian Federation.
  • The August 8 explosion near the Nenoksa test range in which seven Russian nuclear technicians died and others were severely irradiated, apparently while salvaging a nuclear-powered 9M730 Burevestnik (SSC-X-9 Skyfall) cruise missile that fell into Dvina Bay.
  • The December 12 fire aboard aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov caused by careless welding that killed two and injured 12 and could cost 95 billion rubles to repair. The ill-fated ship is already in an expensive overhaul and was damaged when it pulled away from its massive floating drydock in 2018.

But the real story — the tragedy — of the year is Ramil Shamsutdinov’s rampage. On October 25, the conscript killed eight fellow servicemen and wounded two more at his unit in Gornyy.

Ramil Shamsutdinov

Ramil Shamsutdinov

His unit belongs to the MOD’s 12th GUMO — Russia’s nuclear weapons custodian. Gornyy is a “closed administrative-territorial entity” (ZATO) — a high-security area off-limits to all but personnel working in the facility.

He shot down officers, contractees, and conscripts at the end of his guard shift while they were unloading their weapons.

Only contractees are pulling guard duty there now, and, according to NVO,  the unit will be disbanded and another will take its place.

NVO reported in early December that the MOD is extending its investigation into the case, and moving off its initial assertion that Shamsutdinov suffered a nervous breakdown because of “personal circumstances unconnected with his military service.”

Then the General Procuracy announced on December 24 that military prosecutors are investigating more than 40 units in Russia’s Transbaykal region following Shamsutdinov’s shooting spree. The procuracy spokesman said:

Simultaneously with overseeing observance of the law in the investigation of this crime, Main Military Procuracy, together with the RVSN’s military procuracy, in coordination with the task group established by the RF Minister of Defense for this crime, has organized joint investigative measures covering more than 40 military units.

He added that “making final conclusions about why Shamsutdinov committed the crime, and also about the conditions leading to it would be premature before the end of the investigation.”

According to his lawyer, Shamsutdinov committed the crime because of criminal hazing by his commanders and fellow servicemen. He and several other soldiers in his unit were victims of violence and dedovshchina [the rule of the ‘grandfathers’ or senior soldiers, officially known as non-regulation relations between servicemen]. At least one of their reported tormentors is alive and has been formally charged.

This account of the Shamsutdinov case appeared in the MOD newspaper Krasnaya zvezda. So the Russian high command is pretty much on-board with these facts to date. It’s surprising the MOD would decide to look into another 40 units where similar grievous events could occur. 

As Paul Goble observed the day after the murders at Gornyy, dedovshchina and violence in the ranks hasn’t receded into the past with the institution of one-year conscription making the difference between old and new draftees less pronounced or with the influx of “professional” contract soldiers.

He pointed to Ura.news which reported that the Transbaykal is an extremely remote backwater where bad officers often turn up. The same might be said of the entire Eastern MD. The distance to headquarters, poor communications and transportation, especially in winter, also weaken the chain of command. However, this happened in a unit with a critically serious mission.

An MOD source told Izvestiya in November the military will try to uncover problems in units by establishing a “sociological center” in each MD. Its personnel will assess the “moral-political situation” or MPS of units. Commanders reportedly will be accountable for a unit’s poor MPS up to and including dismissal.