Category Archives: Command and Control

(More) Gerasimov on Future War

Let’s round out what Russian General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov said on March 24. Though the conference was held at the Military Academy of the General Staff, Gerasimov was actually addressing a plenary of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences.

The Academy is technically non-governmental, but more accurately quasi-official. It counts many senior Russian military officers, scientists, and researchers (and even more retired ones) in its membership. It’s an august unofficial think tank for the MOD.

One can be sure of a couple of things.

First, Gerasimov’s remarks would have differed had he spoken to a strictly MOD audience. But the General Staff likely shares most of its thinking about modern war with the Academy of Military Sciences. Second, it’s unlikely KZ covered every aspect of what Gerasimov said. Some portions probably weren’t reported. One wonders what the entire, unfiltered speech sounded like. 

At any rate, Gerasimov had this to say about Russia’s involvement in Syria:

“Before Russia entered the conflict on the government’s side, this country actually conducted an undeclared war for the right to exist for more than four years. There’s no clear answer when this struggle transformed from internal disorder into military conflict. No state openly declared war on Syria, but all illegal armed formations are armed, financed and controlled from abroad. With time the list of participants in the military conflicts there is broadening. Together with regular troops, the internal protest potential of the population is active, as are terrorist and extremist formations.”

“Today independent military specialists see the military conflict in Syria as the prototype of a ‘new generation war.’ Its main feature is the fact that Syria’s state-enemies conduct covert, undetectable actions against it, without being dragged into direct military conflict.”

Then KZ paraphrases Gerasimov:

“The changing character of armed struggle is a continuous process, and all previous military conflicts substantially differ from one another. The content of military actions itself is changing. Their spatial scale is growing, their tension and dynamism are increasing. The time parameters for preparing and conducting operations is being reduced.”

“A transition from sequential and concentrated actions to continuous and distributed ones, conducted simultaneously in all spheres of confrontation, and also in distant theaters of military operations is occurring.”

The MOD daily quotes him again:

“The requirements for troop mobility are becoming more severe. The transition to systematic destruction of the enemy on the basis of integrating the forces of all strike and fire means into a single system is occurring. The role of electronic warfare, information-technical and information-psychological actions is increasing. The growth in the share of precision weapons supports pinpoint and selective target destruction, including critically important ones, in real time.”

On the growing size of theaters of military operations:

“They encompass areas with installations of military and economic potential located at a significant distance from the zone of immediate military actions. The scale of employing remotely-controlled robotic strike systems is growing. In a complicated, rapidly-changing situation, the capability to control troops and forces effectively is acquiring special importance.”

This is when Gerasimov said every conflict has its own features and talked about targeting the enemy’s economy, C3, reconnaissance, and navigation systems.

He said:

“The organization development and training of the RF Armed Forces is being realized accounting for these tendencies in the changing character of armed struggle.”

KZ paraphrases the General Staff Chief’s words about balanced development of the armed services and the provision of modern weapons. Reserves and the VDV — with their new tank, EW, and UAV capabilities — will reinforce troop groupings in strategic directions. Here Gerasimov also mentioned the extension of air and fleet deployment areas — including to the Arctic. Then Gerasimov described groupings of cruise missile launchers established in all strategic directions, reducing the time to fire them, and developing unmanned reconnaissance-strike systems.

According to KZ’s account, Gerasimov referenced President Vladimir Putin’s March 1 description of Russia’s future strategic weapons. He said new missiles and other weapons — including hypersonic ones and those “without foreign analogues” — will have increased capability to overcome U.S. missile defenses. He ended with his statement that new precision systems — including hypersonic missiles — will allow for non-nuclear strategic deterrence.

It’s quite a vision of the Russian military and what it needs to do in the future. It sounds like it describes the situation in a military already at war. But Gerasimov and his troops have a way to go to achieve all of this.

One senses in the General Staff Chief’s comments a reaction to Russia’s recent participation in old-school kinetic conflicts (albeit with the use of modern ground-, sea-, and air-launched missiles) in Ukraine and Syria. It could be a call to develop Russia’s command and control warfare capabilities.

Finally, it’s possible to hear the lingering echo of Soviet Marshal Nikolay Ogarkov’s words from 34 years ago:

“. . . rapid changes in the development of conventional means of destruction and the emergence in the developed countries of automated reconnaissance-strike systems, long-range precision terminally-guided combat systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, and qualitatively new electronic control systems make many types of weapons global and make it possible to increase sharply (by at least an order of magnitude) the destructive potential of conventional weapons, bringing them closer, so to speak, to weapons of mass destruction in terms of effectiveness. The sharply increased range of conventional weapons makes it possible immediately to extend active combat operations not just to border regions, but to the whole country’s territory, which was not possible in past wars. This qualitative leap in the development of conventional means of destruction will inevitably entail a change in the nature of the preparation and conduct of operations, which will in turn predetermine the possibility of conducting military operations using conventional systems in qualitatively new, incomparably more destructive forms than before.”

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Gerasimov on Future War

Army General Gerasimov addressing the conference

Army General Gerasimov addressing the conference

Russia’s General Staff Chief and First Deputy Defense Minister Army General Valeriy Gerasimov delivered the keynote before a “military-operational conference” at the Military Academy of the General Staff yesterday.

His address rehashed the Kremlin’s view of the world (and of the U.S.) but it also picked up where President Vladimir Putin left off in his March 1 speech on Russia’s new “invincible” weapons.

But rather than Russia’s putative future strategic weapons, Gerasimov focuses on deterrence, command and control, and conventional operations. He describes “inter-service groupings” and cruise missiles deployed in strategic directions. He stresses destruction of the enemy’s command and control and improvements in Russia’s. Finally, he discusses integrating reconnaissance to speed mission planning for precision strikes.

In one form or another, Gerasimov’s remarks will almost certainly be the lead story in tomorrow’s Krasnaya zvezda.

Some excerpts published by Russia media outlets follow.

From TASS:

“Today the U.S. commitment to maintaining global dominance and a monocentric world order through every possible means, including military, is critical for the development of the military and political environment in the world. This conflicts with the views of many countries, including Russia, which consider global leadership inappropriate and advocate a just world order.”

“As a result a transnational struggle has sharply accelerated. It is still based on non-military measures — political, economic and information. Moreover, apart from mentioned areas it has gradually spread over all activities of the modern society – diplomatic, scientific, cultural, and has virtually swept across the board.”

“The reality shows that economic, political, diplomatic and other non-military measures taken by the west against dissenting countries go together with the threat of military force employment or its direct employment.”

“The U.S. and its allies often employ military force in circumvention of generally accepted norms of international law or on the base of distorted renderings of those norms for its own benefit, under the slogan of protecting democracy.”

From Interfaks-AVN:

“It goes without saying that each military conflict has its own distinctive features. Broad employment of precision and other types of new weapons, including robotic ones, will be fundamental characteristics of future conflicts. The enemy’s economy and state command and control system will be the priority targets. Besides traditional spheres of armed struggle, the information sphere and space will be actively involved.”

“Countering communications, reconnaissance and navigation systems will play a special role.”

“These are just the contours of the most probable war of the future. Together with them, the spectrum of possible conflicts is extremely broad and the Armed Forces have to be ready for any of them.”

“The possibility that armed conflicts will arise simultaneously in various strategic directions predetermined the creation of inter-service groupings of troops and forces in the military districts which guarantee the effective conduct of combat actions by military personnel in peacetime as well as in wartime.”

TV Zvezda quotes Gerasimov as saying the experience of recent “local wars” and operations in Syria has “given a new impulse” to the development of Russia’s weapons systems. He also said:

“In each strategic direction, groupings of long-range air- and sea-based cruise missile delivery platforms capable of deterrence in strategically important areas have been established.”

Again Interfaks-AVN:

“In the future, the increase in possibilities of precision weapons, including hypersonic ones, will allow for transferring the fundamental part of strategic deterrence from the nuclear to the non-nuclear sphere.

More from Interfaks-AVN:

“Improvements in the structure of command and control organs, the establishment of special information support sub-units, and also the introduction of computer systems allowed for reducing the time to prepare to use a long-range precision weapon in combat by 1.5 times.”

Interfaks-AVN again:

“Reconnaissance-strike and reconnaissance-fire systems are being developed which aim to support the effectiveness and continuity of fire suppression on the enemy. The integration of reconnaissance-information and information-command systems with the weapons systems of services and troop branches is being implemented.”

“Work to develop an inter-service automated reconnaissance-system is being conducted. It should result in reducing the time cycle for completing fire missions — from reconnaissance to target destruction — by 2-2.5 times. At the same time, the accuracy of targeting will increase by 1.5-2 times, and the potential for delivering precision weapons will expand.”

And back to Interfaks-AVN:

“The broadening scale of using unmanned aviation systems (UAS) and the difficulty of defeating them with existing air defense systems requires creation of an effective system of counteraction. Future systems to counter the employment of UAS, including those based on new physical principles, are being developed and have started to enter the force.”

“Priority attention is being given to developing the Armed Forces’ command and control systems. Development of modern means of combat control and communications integrated in a single information space is being realized. The system of modeling the Armed Forces has received new development.”

“The level of automation of the processes of situational information collection and analysis and combat action planning will grow because of the introduction of the unified automated system of troop and weapons command and control at the tactical level [YeSU TZ], the development of which was finished last year. This year supplies of it in sets to motorized rifle and tank formations and units are beginning.”

And finally TASS with more on UAS and EW:

“Currently the development of future multipurpose systems is being completed. Their introduction into the inventory will allow for fulfilling not only reconnaissance, but also strike missions where the employment of other means is difficult or less effective.”

“The troops are being outfitted with systems of electronic warfare against aerospace means, navigation systems and digital radio communications. Means of counteracting precision weapons are being perfected.”

The Dust Has Settled

General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin

General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin

On November 29, Krasnaya zvezda summarized the high command changes in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s November 22 decree. As anticipated, Ground Troops General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin is the new CINC of the Aerospace Forces (VKS). General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev has taken Surovikin’s place as Commander of the Eastern MD. And General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Lapin replaced General-Colonel Zarudnitskiy in the Central MD.

General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev

General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev

Izvestiya called it the largest rotation of top military leaders in the last decade. It continued the Kremlin policy of advancing generals who’ve gotten real experience in command and control of combat actions in Syria.

While Commander of the Eastern MD, General-Colonel Sergey Vladimirovich Surovikin  served temporary duty as Commander of the Russian Group of Troops in Syria from May 2017 to present. KZ reported that Russian forces achieved “maximum success” in Syria under his command.

The 51-year-old VKS CINC was born in Novosibirsk. He is a combined arms officer who commanded the 42nd MRD in Chechnya and 20th CAA.  served as Chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff. He served as chief of staff and first deputy commander of the former Volga-Ural (now Central MD) and then of the Eastern MD beginning in late 2012. A year later he was appointed Commander of the Eastern MD.

No one would accuse Surovikin of being an uncontroversial figure. His biography features a number of incidents but nothing seems to stick to him.

As described on these pages in 2011 when he was reportedly considered to head the MOD’s new military police:

Kommersant gave details on Surovikin’s background.  As a captain in August 1991, he was acting commander of the Taman division motorized rifle battalion responsible for the death of three Yeltsin supporters.  He was arrested and investigated for seven months before charges against him were lifted.

As noted on these pages, he commanded the 34th MRD when one his colonels blew his brains out in front of the entire staff after an upbraiding from the commander.  And Surovikin had a very short tenure as Chief of the GOU.

He seems an odd choice to be responsible for the army’s new enforcers of law and order.  To be in charge of those charged with preventing dedovshchina and other barracks violence.

Not noted above is the fact that, as a major in 1995, he almost went to jail for the illegal possession and sale of a hand gun. This earned him one year of probation, and it later disqualified him from heading the MOD’s new military police force.

He always seemed like a strange choice for the head of MPs; it was almost as if someone was trying to sidetrack his career.

General-Colonel Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Zhuravlev moved from his post as a deputy chief of the General Staff to take over the Eastern MD from Surovikin. The tank troops officer was born in Tyumen Oblast in 1965. He commanded Russian forces in Syria in 2016.

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Lapin

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Lapin

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Pavlovich Lapin became Commander of the Central MD after serving as chief of staff and first deputy commander to Surovikin in Syria. Also a tank officer, he was born in Kazan in 1964.

Former Central MD Commander, General-Colonel Zarudnitskiy has taken over the Military Academy of the General Staff, a sinecure for senior officers nearing retirement.

KZ reported two new deputy chiefs of the General Staff have been named: Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Alekseyevich Moiseyev previously served as chief of staff and first deputy commander of the Northern Fleet, and General-Major Gennadiy Valeryevich Zhidko commanded the 2nd CAA and served as chief of staff and first deputy commander in Syria.

According to Izvestiya, the Navy also got a new deputy commander for ground and coastal troops General-Lieutenant Oleg Makarevich. The paper claims he’s second only to Surovikin in his “experience and charisma.” The position was made necessary because the land-based components of the navy have grown with army corps added to the fleets. The Navy is looking to Makarevich to smooth out their force structure and combat training, particularly in Kaliningrad and Crimea.

Russia may be drawing down in Syria, but General-Colonel Surovikin was still in charge when President Putin visited the Russian command center a few days ago. So the question is when will Surovikin take up his VKS duties, and who will relieve him in Syria.

Command Rokirovka

Rokirovka (рокировка) appears often in the Russian press. Borrowed from chess, it means castling in the strictest sense. In political and administrative terms, it’s when people shift places in an organization or hierarchy.

The Russian military seems poised for a command rokirovka.

The rokirovka might have begun with General-Colonel Viktor Bondarev’s abrupt departure from the Aerospace Forces (VKS) to accept an appointment to the Federation Council. With over five years as the CINC of Russia’s air forces (and its air defense, missile defense, and space forces now as well), Bondarev is just shy of 58. A three-star, he could have served to age 65.

Senator Bondarev

Senator Bondarev

It’s interesting that he would leave just now. But entering the upper chamber of Russia’s national legislature provides immunity from prosecution.

Observers were confronted then with the surprising prospect that General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin — an army general — might be the leading candidate to replace Bondarev. Others seem like distant challengers at best. But we’re still waiting for the shoe to drop on Surovikin. Bondarev joined the FC on September 19, yet his picture remains on Mil.ru as CINC of VKS.

The complicating factor is that Surovikin’s been away from his permanent post as commander of Russia’s Eastern MD while commanding the Group of Russian Forces in Syria since early summer.

To give the VKS to Surovikin, the Russian MOD will have to settle on new commanders for both posts.

Syria is toughest. Although winding down, Moscow can’t send just anyone. It might send General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev back. He commanded the group for the last part of 2016. Perhaps the original commander — General-Colonel Aleksandr Dvornikov — might return from his post in the Southern MD. Commander of the Central MD General-Colonel Vladimir Zarudnitskiy could go.

General-Colonel Zhuravlev

General-Colonel Zhuravlev

We can’t say who’ll be picked, but the choice is complicated by Defense Minister Shoygu’s announcement that the endgame has begun. The Kremlin won’t jeopardize its final push there.

A new Eastern MD commander is easier. Here are some possibilities:

General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev…only 52…deputy commander of Central MD…chief of staff, first deputy commander of Central MD…chief of staff, first deputy commander, then briefly commander of the Russian Group of Forces in Syria…chief of staff, first deputy commander of Southern MD…deputy chief of the General Staff.

General-Lieutenant Viktor Astapov…55…VDV officer…commanded a division, then an army…deputy commander of Southern MD…now chief of staff, first deputy commander of Western MD.

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Chayko…46…chief of staff, first deputy commander of 20th CAA…commander of resurrected 1st Tank Army…chief of staff, first deputy commander of Eastern MD.

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Lapin…53…commander of 20th CAA…chief of staff, first deputy commander of Eastern MD…chief of staff, first deputy commander of Russian Group of Forces in Syria.

General-Lieutenant Mikhail Teplinskiy…48…VDV officer…Hero of Russian Federation in First Chechen War…chief of staff, first deputy commander of 20th CAA…commander of 36th CAA…chief of staff, first deputy commander of Southern MD.

General-Lieutenant Yevgeniy Ustinov…57…VDV officer…combat veteran of Afghanistan…deputy commander of former Leningrad MD…commander of 6th CAA…deputy commander of Central MD…chief of staff and first deputy commander of Central MD.

No matter who gets the Eastern MD, these generals are worthy of notice. They’ve punched the right tickets, and if they don’t advance now, they will later. But Zhuravlev seems most ready and he has the third star customary for MD commanders. But inside-trackers have a way of getting side-tracked in the Russian military. It could happen to Zhuravlev.

A wild card scenario might be built around 59-year-old General-Colonel Aleksandr Galkin. He’s serving as assistant to Shoygu after a long tenure as commander of the Southern MD. It might not be safe to rule him out appearing in Syria or the Eastern MD.

Some generational change could be coming to the top Russian MOD posts typically occupied by army generals. The Chief of the General Staff — Army General Valeriy Gerasimov — has been in place since late 2012. He’s 62.  Ground Troops CINC — General-Colonel Oleg Salyukov — is also 62 this year.

The current MD commanders might really hope for Gerasimov’s job. General-Colonel Andrey Kartapolov in the Western MD and General-Colonel Dvornikov in the Southern MD would seem to have the best shot, with the runner-up becoming Ground Troops CINC instead. A little older, General-Colonel Zarudnitskiy in the Central MD could be the odd man out.

Moves by the MD commanders would open spaces for the rising group of mostly two-stars introduced earlier.

The future of the commander of Airborne Troops — General-Colonel Andrey Serdyukov — is a bit uncertain after his car crash last month, even though he’s only 55. If available, his post might be attractive to the three youngish generals with VDV backgrounds highlighted above.

But this entire rokirovka might unravel if General-Colonel Surovikin doesn’t move to the VKS for some reason. Still major command and leadership changes, driven inexorably by the passage of time and aging of the incumbents, are coming to Russia’s military.

Electronic Warfare Chief Interviewed

Russia’s Chief of EW Troops, General-Major Yuriy Lastochkin gave an interview to Krasnaya zvezda in April for the Day of the Electronic Warfare Specialist.  His remarks make interesting reading on the direction of Russian EW.  The interview was subsequently carried by other media outlets, most recently by VPK.

General-Major Lastochkin

General-Major Lastochkin

Asked what areas of EW are most critical today, Lastochkin replied:

“The introduction of modern electronic technologies in the command and control systems of forces and means of the armed forces of leading foreign countries is a component part of realizing the prompt global strike concept.  This, adopted in the U.S. Armed Forces as a Doctrine of conducting combat actions in a unified information space, substantially increases the level of threat to the military security of the Russian Federation, and fundamentally changes the character and content of armed struggle.”

“The increase in the role of EW is determined by the very mission of disorganizing the command and control of enemy troops and weapons by means of electronic defeat.  We have to recognize distinctly that a new realm of confrontation has appeared — the information-telecommunications space.  The spectrum of missions of EW Troops is broadening significantly.  The effect of using developmental EW means is comparable to defeat by precision fire. Conceptual documents approved by the RF President in the realm of electronic warfare aim for this.  The country’s military-political leadership attaches great significance to the improvement of EW systems as one of the most important elements of guaranteeing national security. Today electronic warfare is a most complex intellectual-technical component, particularly in hybrid conflicts.  This in turn requires the development of principally new means capable of neutralizing the enemy’s technological and information advantage.”

The chief described Russia’s EW forces:

“Our troops are designated for the electronic defeat of enemy targets and systematic control of measures to counter technical reconnaissance means, and electronic defense of our own troops. They consist of command and control organs, formations [brigades], military units [regiments] and sub-units [battalions, companies] of various subordination.  EW forces and means are part of the strategic system of radio jamming, the Unified System of Systematic Technical Control (KTK¹), and the array of EW units of military districts, large formations [armies] and formations [divisions, brigades] of the services and branches of the RF Armed Forces.”

“At present, the main forces and means are concentrated in the Ground Troops, Aerospace Forces and Navy, and the component inter-service groupings of military districts.  In the VDV, we’ve established EW sub-units in assault divisions.  In the RVSN, there are KTK sub-units for every missile army, division, and testing ground. Since 2014, the forces and means of radio jamming in the districts have carried out duty missions.”

What the priority directions for development of EW systems?

“The improvement of EW equipment needs to be balanced.  There is a traditional approach.  It suggests broadening the list of targets countered, cutting the types of EW means, unification, increasing protection against precision weapons, mobility and modernization potential.  In the innovation plan, I would single out five directions:

  • deployment of controlled fields of radio suppression on enemy territory on the basis of unified small dimension reconnaissance and jamming modules delivered by UAVs;
  • creation of defeat means with powerful electromagnetic radiation on the basis of the employment of specialized munitions and mobile systems;
  • development of programmable equipment for action on highly-organized command and control systems by destroying the accessibility, integrity, and confidentiality of information;
  • introduction of means of imitating a false electronic situation and disinforming the enemy’s system of troop command and control and weaponry;
  • increasing the level of information security of organs (points) of EW command and control, improving decisionmaking support algorithms through the unified circuit of command and control of forces and means.”

Lastochkin mentioned that Zaslon-REB [Barrier-EW] entered state acceptance testing last year.  It seems to be some kind of COMSEC system designed to “block all possible channels for leaking confidential information and establish an ‘impenetrable information dome’ over Russian Defense Ministry facilities.”

Russian EW exercises, he said, have doubled during the past four years. “Electron-2016” exercise was the first strategic level drill for EW Troops since 1979.  They used this training to experiment with new equipment, and develop procedures and tactics.

Asked about countering enemy UAVs, Lastochkin said EW is the only effective means against small unmanned aircraft.

He indicated that a “situation center” has been established in the Directorate of the Chief of EW Troops.  It links EW formations [brigades] to their units in the field.  He looks forward to a system that presents Russia’s operational and electronic situation in a “single information space.”

Lastochkin claimed Western sanctions have had only a minimal effect on equipping Russia’s EW units, and he expects to have 70 percent modern systems by 2020.  Besides Sozvezdiye and KRET, STTs — a UAV developer — works closely with the EW Troops, according to their chief.

He told his interviewer that the EW Troops have tested 30 different types of equipment during the past three years.  He intends to make “serious investments in modernizing the experimental-testing base.”

In conclusion, General-Major Lastochkin summarized the goal of Russian EW:

“The entire system of measures of organizational development of EW Troops will substantially increase their contribution to winning superiority in command and control, and in employing weapons.  The volume of effectively fulfilled missions in various strategic directions will grow by two – two and a half times and by 2020 will reach 85 percent.  This in turn will become the basis of an effective air-ground EW system, capable of neutralizing the enemy’s technological advantage in the aerospace sphere and the information-telecommunications space.”

__________________________

¹KTK appears to be analogous to electronic support, i.e. “actions tasked by, or under direct control of, an operational commander to search for, intercept, identify, and locate or localize sources of intentional and unintentional radiated electromagnetic energy for the purpose of immediate threat recognition, targeting, planning, and conduct of future operations,” to quote Joint Pub 3-13.1 Electronic Warfare.

Who’s Fighting in the Donbass?

Various media sources late this week reported that Kyiv’s SBU sent the United States a 30-page report detailing Russia’s role in fighting in the Donbass.

The report indicates that militia fighters in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic are led by Russian Army general-majors Oleg Tsekov, Sergey Kuzovlev, and Roman Shadrin.  In the Donetsk People’s Republic, general-majors Valeriy Solodchuk and Aleksey Zavizon reportedly lead the ethnic Russian militiamen. Russian Colonel Anatoliy Barankevich is in charge of combat training.

Sergey Kuzovlev

Sergey Kuzovlev

Roman Shadrin

Roman Shadrin

The Ukrainian report claims 15 Russian battalion tactical groups — about 9,000 men — are fighting in eastern Ukraine.  Unnamed Washington sources say this confirms what U.S. intelligence agencies believed.  But, as recently as his 26 June conversation with President Obama, President Putin insisted there are no Russian troops in Luhansk or Donetsk.

Who are the Russian officers identified by name?

  • Oleg Tsekov commands the Northern Fleet’s 200th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade — it’s a long way from eastern Ukraine, but his troops wouldn’t be easily missed like forces in the Southern MD. He once served under Southern MD Commander, General-Colonel Aleksandr Galkin.
  • Sergey Kuzovlev was, at last report, chief of staff of the Southern MD’s 58th CAA. He’s known by the call sign Tambov. He fought in both Chechen campaigns, and he commanded the 18th IMRB in Khankala before his current staff assignment.
  • Roman Shadrin is another Chechen vet, Hero of Russia, and Ural Cossack activist turned United Russia politician.  He did time with the MVD VV and served with Russian “peacekeeping” forces in South Ossetia.
  • Valeriy Solodchuk commands the VDV’s 7th Air-Assault Division in Novorossiysk.  He was previously chief of staff for the 98th Airborne Division and commanded its 217th Parachute Regiment.
  • Aleksey Zavizon is deputy commander of the 41st CAA in the Central MD.  Prior to that, he commanded the 136th IMRB in Dagestan and the 201st MB in Tajikistan.  He was also chief of staff, deputy commander for the 4th (Kantemir) Tank Division.
  • Anatoliy Barankevich served widely in the Soviet Army and fought in both Chechen wars before retiring in 2004.  He went to South Ossetia, became its defense minister, and directed the defense of Tskhinvali during the August 2008 five-day war with Georgia.  He fell out with South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity and presumably resumed his free-agent status.
Valeriy Solodchuk

Valeriy Solodchuk

Aleksey Zavizon

Aleksey Zavizon

Anatoliy Barankevich

Anatoliy Barankevich

It would be an understatement to say these six Russian military men have a good deal of experience — command experience, combat experience, Caucasus experience.  They represent a particular subset of Russian commanders who’ve long served on the country’s borders and in its hinterlands.  They seem like men with little compunction when it comes to pushing Russia’s sway outward over non-Russians.

Aerospace Forces

At some point, probably next summer, the Air Forces (VVS) will cease being one of Russia’s three armed services.  The Aerospace Forces (VKS or ВКС) will take their place.  The Aerospace Defense Troops (VVKO) will likewise disappear as a branch and get rolled into the new VKS.  Russia will be left with three services and two branches (not three of each).

RF and Air Forces Flags (photo: Mil.ru)

RF and Air Forces Flags (photo: Mil.ru)

The Aerospace Forces will be responsible for all Russian air forces and air defense (and more).

This news comes on the heels of six months of studious MOD denials that such a move was even contemplated.

It began quietly on 1 December  with Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s remarks to a regular military leadership videoconference.

According to Krasnaya zvezda, Shoygu discussed changing the organizational structure of the Air Forces in connection with turning VVKO aerospace defense brigades back into air defense (PVO) divisions.  He said the decision was made in mid-2013 after an analysis of mission fulfillment by the Air Forces.  He explained that:

“The goal of the changes being made is to increase the effectiveness of VVS [Air Forces] command and control, to improve the quality of the organization of everyday activity and planning for the combat employment of the troops.”

It echoed an earlier decision to reverse course on Anatoliy Serdyukov’s large composite air bases and groups and put aircraft back into more dispersed divisions and regiments.

By 10 December, Interfaks-AVN reported that the decision to replace the VVS with the VKS awaited only an official announcement.  

The news agency’s MOD source said:

“Formation of the new service [VKS] will proceed gradually, and, as expected, take several years.  In the course of this period, the forces and means entering the VKS must develop in the direction of unification and standardization of command and control, information and strike systems.”

The source also claimed the first CINC of the new service would be a general officer with experience commanding large inter-service [unified or joint] troop groupings, including aviation and PVO.  The most likely candidate — according to the source — Central MD Commander General-Colonel Vladimir Zarudnitskiy.

Then Defense Minister Shoygu made it official on 18 December when he said creating Aerospace Forces would be a priority task for 2015.

TASS reported the VKS CINC will have deputies for aviation, air defense, missile defense (PRO), and space.  It also indicated that VKS will control all current VVS aviation, including frontal and army aviation.  But its sway over the latter two — with the exception of fighter aircraft — will be “purely nominal,” and they will be employed in “coordination” with MD commanders.  Troop PVO will apparently continue to protect army formations.

Military commentator Igor Korotchenko captured the essence of VKS as a reaction to the possibility of a devastating U.S. aerospace attack on Russia:

“The main function [of VKS] is to guarantee realization of the Russian Federation’s concept of aerospace defense, proceeding from the need to counter existing plans, particularly of the United States of America, to implement the prompt global strike concept.  The Americans are planning in the conceivable future to use precision weapons, including hypersonic ones, to destroy [launch] positions and silos of intercontinental ballistic missiles, command centers, communications centers.  The fact here is that this concept will potentially be a great threat for Russia.  These new structures, the new service of the Russian armed forces will be occupied with its deterrence and neutralization.”

Such a potentially disarming threat might mobilize the military and public against America, but Korotchenko and the VKS will have to wait a very long time for it to materialize.  And if it doesn’t appear, then the deterrent worked, right?  A no-lose proposition from Moscow’s perspective.

VKS will be something of an effort to resurrect or reconstruct Soviet PVO Strany — national air defense — that was dismantled beginning in the late 1970s. Serdyukov’s reorganization of the VVS and creation of VVKO are criticized now as focused solely on saving money.  The current thinking is that all aerospace defense systems should be concentrated in a single service and single CINC with authority and responsibility for protecting the country’s aerospace borders.

The new VKS will be anything but compact, as President Putin often calls on the army to be.  They will be a sprawling enterprise that may be challenging to link and inter-connect for operations as a unified command.  If Serdyukov’s changes were too economy-minded, this one errs on the side of Soviet-style giantism. And now isn’t an auspicious time for expensive undertakings.

There are practical issues too.  How will the VKS CINC manage competing requirements for modern fighter aircraft from frontal aviation and air defense?Their number is limited and insufficient for both needs.  So creation of VKS won’t change the fact that they will be spread thinly over a gigantic landmass.

Moral of the story:  Reform, reorganization, and reshuffling never really end no matter the boss — Serdyukov, Shoygu, etc.  VKS may be the answer for a time, but they’re very unlikely to be the last word. 

P.S.  Various reports on VKS provided some indication of deployments in 2015. What is currently the VKO brigade (or will become a PVO division) in Novosibirsk may receive the S-400 this summer.  Shoygu said the MOD will put an air and air defense army (AVVSiPVO or АВВСиПВО) in the Arctic.  More recently, TASS reported an S-400 regiment will be deployed on Novaya Zemlya.