Category Archives: Force Modernization

Engine Trouble

The Russian media report more trouble for project 11711 LST Ivan Gren (BDK 135). During state trials, the new tank landing ship has been unable to run astern (reverse engines and go backwards). [Did Yantar shipyard really not discover this issue during its factory underway testing?] This comes atop Gren’s earlier degaussing problem which kept the Russian Navy from accepting the ship before the end of 2017.

Ivan Gren (BDK 135)

Ivan Gren (BDK 135)

Yantar announced on February 20 that it might launch unit two, Petr Morgunov, in the second half of May. It’s also sticking to its promise, however unlikely, to deliver the completed LST to the Russian Navy before the end of 2018.

Yantar indicated the second unit’s port and starboard 16ChN26/26 (aka 10D49) diesel engines will be swapped to see if this remedies the astern running problems Gren experienced. But the work on Morgunov has to be done by late April to keep to its launch schedule.

If the swap works, the same [actually, perhaps even more] difficult process will be performed on Gren. But it will apparently be accepted into the fleet in May before its engine trouble is fixed.

Flotprom.ru reports the engine swap will alter the turning of ship’s propellers and eliminate the astern running problem. Any naval engineers out there are invited to explain how this could work to the rest of us! The shipbuilding industry site indicates trading engine places is complex and can consume several months.

The media also report that Gren now lacks good seakeeping qualities due to the many design changes made during its protracted construction. They even claim that the Russian Navy will forego further ships in this class, basically a modification of the Soviet-era project 1171 Alligator-class LST. How Moscow would fill the gaps in its small and rapidly aging landing ship force is anyone’s guess. 

Gren and Morgunov are 5,000 tons displacement and 120 meters long, and can cruise at 18 knots. They have a 100-man crew, and can carry 13 tanks or 36 armored vehicles and 300 troops. They are outfitted with AK-630 30-mm gun systems and a landing deck for a Ka-27 or Ka-29 helo.

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The Annual Report

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin addressed an expanded session of the MOD Collegium at the new RVSN training facility in Balashikha on December 22.

Putin

According to the Kremlin.ru transcript, Putin gave attention to Syria, where he said the Russian Federation Armed Forces displayed “qualitatively developed modern capabilities” to deliver the “decisive contribution” to the defeat of international terrorists.

Putin said Russian arms and equipment will be nearly 60 percent modern by the end of 2017, and 70 percent by 2021. Again that word modern. Russia, he declared, will be a world leader in developing a “new generation” army.

The Russian leader took pains to accuse the U.S. of violating the 1987 INF Treaty.

He indicated Moscow’s priorities in the next GPV will be precision weapons,  unmanned strike systems, individual soldier systems, reconnaissance, communications, and EW systems. Not very different from what he said last year.

Preserving strategic nuclear parity is a perennial priority. Putin said the Russian triad would be 79 percent modern at end of 2017. By 2021, Russian ground-based ICBMs are supposed to be 90 percent modern.

Russia’s president also called for strengthening the SSO and VDV.

All in all, there’s less of interest in Putin’s report than Shoygu’s.

Shoygu

Shoygu had much to say about Syria as a training ground for the Russian Army and Russian pilots. Some figures were new. Others we’ve heard before.

He said 48,000 Russian troops fought in Syria over the last two years. The Aerospace Forces (VKS) flew 34,000 combat missions. The Navy delivered 100 strikes, presumably Kalibr LACMs. Long-Range Aviation flew 66 strike missions. Shoygu reported that 60,318 enemy fighters were killed, including 819 leaders and 2,840 Russian Federation expatriates.

Then the head of the MOD got to what the Russian military received in 2017:

  • Three mobile RVSN regiments were fully reequipped with RS-24 Yars ICBMs;
  • LRA got three modernized bombers;
  • The army got 2,055 new or modernized systems to reequip three formations [divisions or brigades] and 11 units [regiments];
  • VKS received 191 aircraft and 143 air and missile defense systems;
  • Ten ships and boats, 13 support ships, and four land-based Bal (SSC-6 / Sennight) and Bastion (SSC-5 / Stooge) ASCM systems probable “battalion sets” entered the Navy. Naval aviation got 15 aircraft;
  • VDV acquired 184 armored vehicles and SP guns;
  • The armed forces got 59 UAV systems with 199 UAVs;
  • The Unified Tactical Level Command and Control System (YeSU TZ) now meets the MOD’s requirements and was used successfully in combat training.

Compare this list with 2016. And for reference, with year-enders for 2015 and 2014.

Shoygu expounded on the list of weapons and equipment acquired since 2012. It was originally outlined in less detail by Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov in a November 1 interview with VPK. The list included:

  • 80 ICBMs;
  • 102 SLBMs;
  • Three Borey-class SSBNs;
  • 55 satellites;
  • 3,237 tanks and combat vehicles;
  • More than 1,000 planes and helicopters;
  • 150 ships and vessels;
  • Six proyekt 636.3 Improved Kilo diesel-electric submarines;
  • 13 Bal (SSC-5 / Stooge) and Bastion (SSC-6 / Sennight) launchers probable “battalion sets.”

Shoygu said this procurement enabled the MOD to outfit:

  • 12 RVSN regiments with RS-24 Yars ICBMs;
  • 10 missile brigades with Iskander-M SRBMs;
  • 12 regiments with MiG-31BM, Su-35S, Su-30SM, and Su-34 aircraft;
  • Three army aviation brigades and six regiments with Ka-52 and Mi-28 helicopters;
  • 16 air defense regiments with S-400 SAMs;
  • 19 battalions with Pantsir-S gun-missile systems;
  • 13 battalions with four Bal and Bastion ASCMs apiece;
  • 35 formations with Ratnik-2 individual soldier systems;
  • Six new Voronezh radar systems and refurbished Daryal, Dnepr, and Volga systems.

The Defense Minister said the Russian Armed Forces now have 59.5 percent modern arms and equipment. Specific service percentages are:

  • RVSN — 79 percent;
  • Ground Troops — 45 percent;
  • Aerospace Forces — 73 percent;
  • Navy — 53 percent.

Much of what’s claimed seems like it happened. Some seems disputable. “More than 1,000 planes and helicopters” seems a stretch. CAST counted 370 fighters and trainers since 2012. Do helos and transports account for the other 630? Other claims are useful starting points but require research.

Iskander-M in Kaliningrad

It’s always been clear Moscow would deploy new Iskander-M SRBMs in its Baltic exclave Kaliningrad. Now it has.

Iskander-M comes to Kaliningrad

Iskander-M comes to Kaliningrad

The folks at CAST posted the news to their blog on Saturday. They were impressively attentive to the military press while yours truly remained in a slothful tryptophan-induced post-Thanksgiving stupor.

Let’s look at what CAST saw.

On November 23, KZ wrote that the next “brigade set” of Iskander-M missiles has just been handed over to a missile formation from the Western MD. The MOD paper noted that Colonel Anatoliy Gorodetskiy commands the brigade in question. That is the 152nd Missile Brigade based at Chernyakhovsk in Kaliningrad. For now, the formation is still practicing with its new equipment on the range at Kapustin Yar.

As CAST noted, this is the eleventh “brigade set” delivered to Russian ground forces.

Iskander-M SRBMs in Kaliningrad can reach targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, even southern Sweden

Iskander-M SRBMs in Kaliningrad can reach targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, even southern Sweden

With reported 500-km range from Kaliningrad, the Iskander-M can cover targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, and southern Sweden. If armed with cruise missiles (SSC-8 or Russian designator 9M729), their reach is much greater. Their 2,000-km or greater range allows them to strike targets close to Paris.

Why Now? Why Not?

Iskander-M in Kaliningrad was always just a question of timing.

Since at least 2014, the Russian Army has temporarily deployed Iskander-M launchers to Kaliningrad from the “mainland” for exercises.

As CAST reported, Jane’s Defence Weekly published photographs of characteristic “tent-mobile shelters” under construction for the new SRBMs at the Chernyakhovsk base in February.

But why now? Because the missiles and associated equipment have been produced and Moscow loses nothing at this point.

The Kremlin always said it could deploy the new SRBMs to its Baltic exclave to counter Aegis BMD (Aegis Ashore) in Poland slated for completion in 2018.

There are enhanced U.S. and NATO ground deployments to Poland to assure the easternmost allies in the wake of Russia’s occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Perhaps relevant here is the possibility the U.S. Congress will authorize DOD development of a new U.S. intermediate-range missile to answer Russia’s material breach of the 1987 INF Treaty.

And U.S.-Russian relations are the worst since the end of the Cold War.

Next Stop Kursk

CAST adds only the 448th Missile Brigade in Kursk remains armed with the late 1980s vintage Tochka-U (SS-21 / Scarab-B) SRBM. Kursk-based Iskander-M SRBMs deployed to launch positions in southwestern Russia will easily reach Kyiv, and central and eastern Ukraine.

What Does Modern Mean?

Is this modern?

The Russian military reports routinely on the growing proportion of “modern types of armaments, military and special equipment” entering its forces. On November 7,  Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said:

“As a result, we have managed to increase the level of equipping troops with modern weapons by 4 times since 2012. Today it stands at 58.9 percent.”

Interviewed on October 31, MOD armaments tsar Yuriy Borisov stated that weapons and equipment in Russia’s permanent readiness units won’t be less than 60 percent modern at the end of 2017. The standing goal for GPV 2011-2020 is 70 percent.

The chief of the 46th TsNII recently gave the following percentages for modern armaments in the Russian inventory.

Percentage of Modern Weapons and Equipment

So Shoygu’s math above isn’t quite right — four times 16 is 64 rather than 58.9 percent modern weapons.

But what is modern? On Arms-expo.ru, military commentator Viktor Murakhovskiy not long ago described how the MOD categorizes its armaments.

The RF Armed Forces have five categories of weapons and equipment:

  • 1st category — New types entering the armed forces from industry which are under factory warranty and in use.
  • 2nd category — Serviceable types in use.
  • 3rd category — Types requiring some kind of repair.
  • 4th category — Types requiring capital repair.
  • 5th category — Types to be decommissioned.

Murakhovskiy turns to the RF standards agency to define modern armament:

Modern armaments are defined by state standard (GOST RV 51540-2005, Military Equipment, Terms and Definitions) — modern means a type of armament which is not inferior or superior to the best analogous foreign types in its combat, technical, and usage characteristics, or does not have foreign analogues.

All of which makes timely this little expounding on a point. New doesn’t always mean modern. There is new production of old designs. But by the same token one shouldn’t doubt that old weapons can be just as lethal and effective in combat as new ones in the right tactical situation.

With the long life cycles of today’s military technology, the distinction between new and modern will remain murky.

Take Russia’s Pantsir-S gun-missile air defense system. It was designed in the late 1980s and early 1990s to replace Tunguska from the 1970s. Because of Russia’s various troubles, Pantsir-S wasn’t produced until the late 2000s, and entered service by 2012. Obviously new but how modern? Now it’s slated for modernization by 2019. The Pantsir-SM is supposed to feature increased detection and engagement range with a new missile.

Slicing the GPV

Soon something like a final draft State Program of Armaments (GPV) 2018-2025 will go to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He’ll almost certainly affix his official approval prior to the end of 2017.

Many observers bet the new GPV will contain 17 trillion rubles for the MOD to procure weapons and other military equipment. GPV 2011-2020 was a little higher at 19.1 trillion. But the new GPV will disburse its rubles over fewer years. However, Russia’s high inflation rate (e.g. 11% in 2014, 13% in 2015) means a trillion rubles in 2011 bought more guns than it does today.

Last week, Deputy Editor Vladimir Gundarov published a pithy piece in NVO describing how the new funds might be distributed among Russia’s armed services. He sees a shift in favor of the Ground Troops and VDV which will force the Navy to “curb its appetite.” 

It happened already in GPV 2011-2020, writes Gundarov. It originally envisaged 4.7 trillion for the Navy, but this was reportedly cut to 2.6, while the army and airborne went from 2.6 to 4.2 trillion.

The rationale, he says, is multifold. The Ground Troops face the expensive prospect of fielding new generation armored vehicles on the Armata chassis. Given its involvement in wars in Ukraine and Syria, Russia faces a “complex situation” in the southwestern strategic direction requiring more attention to the army’s modernization.

But the main reason for rewickering MOD procurement is economic. GPV 2011-2020 was formulated with oil at $100 per barrel; it’s now half as much.

Gundarov concludes that Russia:

“. . . can’t spend money to buy arms and military equipment in the previous amount, particularly for such expensive systems as those for the Navy. So only the budget for strategic nuclear systems will be preserved whatever the price of oil.”

He doesn’t say where he got his numbers for this article, but it sounds like he based it on some expert opinion and off-the-record comments.

Su-57

Su-57

The Russian Aerospace Forces celebrated the 105th anniversary of their founding today.

From VKS CINC General-Colonel Viktor Bondarev, we learned yesterday that the Future Aviation System Frontal Aviation (PAK FA or ПАК ФА) will be officially known as the Su-57.

At MAKS, it was announced that state joint testing of the “first phase” fighter is concluding. Sukhoy is beginning production of 12 fifth generation Su-57 fighters which will reach front-line units in 2019. But OAK President Yuriy Slyusar admitted publicly that the first 12 will have the “first phase” engine.

PAK FA first flew at Komsomolsk-na-Amure on January 29, 2010.

Interfaks-AVN offered the following recap of Su-57 capabilities: a fundamentally new and deeply integrated avionics system providing a high level of automated control and decisionmaking support to the pilot, supercruise without afterburners, low observability from radar, optical, acoustic, and other detection means, supermaneuverability, and relatively short take-off and landing.

Military Acceptance Day

On July 26, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu presided over the latest “unified day of acceptance of military production.” The review (mostly) covered the second quarter of 2017. According to Krasnaya zvezda, the Ministry of Defense received 600 new and 300 repaired weapons systems and other equipment.

Defense Minister Shoygu

Defense Minister Shoygu

The Ground Troops acquired 35 new and 155 repaired tanks and armored combat vehicles, 4 new artillery reconnaissance systems, 10 self-propelled howitzers, a brigade set of Iskander-M, 38 new and 68 repaired communications systems, 500 new and 273 repaired vehicles, and 9,000 munitions of various types.

Three Khrizantema-S ATGM launchers were accepted. They are reported to have a new domestic optical sight replacing one previously supplied by Ukraine.

The air forces got nine new and 45 repaired and modernized aircraft, as well as six new Mi-8MTV-5-1 helos and 11 repaired and modernized helos, 9 new and 10 repaired and modernized radars, one Pantsir-S gun-missile system, four repaired SAMs, and four Vitebsk EW systems. The VKS also received nine R-441-LM SATCOM systems and one mobile R-423-PM troposcatter comms station.

For the Navy, the just-commissioned proyekt 20380 Sovershennyy frigate was mentioned first, even though it’s a third quarter acquisition not second. Repairs to three submarines, two roadstead boats, a “large anti-sabotage boat,” and a floating pier for Borey-class SSBNs were also cited. Naval air obtained two Su-30SM fighters.

The Defense Minister said the Navy received 60 Kalibr missiles, presumably reloads to replace those expended on targets in Syria. It also got 42 torpedo systems including some Fizik-1 weapons. The Black Sea Fleet is supposed to get 20 Fizik-1 torpedoes before the end of July.

Titan-Barrikady reportedly delivered nine launchers for the Yars-S ICBM. That’s a full regiment’s worth.

KZ’s report also included a new graphic giving more detail on MOD procurement in the second quarter.

Second quarter 2017 procurement

Second quarter 2017 procurement

It’s not easy to read, but it may be worth trying.