Category Archives: Force Modernization

The State of VTA [Addendum]

As if on cue, an anonymous aviation industry source has spilled to Interfaks-AVN on developments in the Il-76MD-90A transport program.  Remarkable timing.  Can you say reflexive control?  But one mustn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  The author is grateful for all info.

The source says Aviastar-SP plans to complete three of the new transports this year.  It has already finished five, according to him.

Two Il-76MD-90A aircraft have gone to the MOD (the VKS presumably).  Two have gone to Beriev in Taganrog for “reequipping into special designation aircraft.”  AWACS and aerial tankers presumably.  The fifth is with Ilyushin for development and testing.

Interfaks-AVN’s source reports that the 2012 contract for 39 Il-76MD-90A transports is still in effect.

By 2025, Aviastar-SP intends to produce 170 aircraft in the Il-76MD-90A family.  By 2021, it aims to make 18 per year and 21 each year after 2021.  It is hoping for 65 export orders.

If you’re still reading in Ulyanovsk or Moscow, we’d all love to hear anything about plans to replace or produce more An-124 transports.

The State of VTA

News on the Il-76MD-90A program provides an opportunity to look at the state of Russia’s VTA, or Military-Transport Aviation.

il-76md-90a-prototype-prepares-for-takeoff

Il-76MD-90A prototype prepares for takeoff

The Il-76MD-90A is a new aircraft, an updated version of the venerable Il-76 transport produced by the Soviets in large numbers during the 1970s and 1980s.

According to most sources, the VTA is supposed to acquire 39 Il-76MD-90A transports by 2020 [or 2021?].  This may have been slashed to 30, others say.  Manufacturer Aviastar-SP reports it has ten of the aircraft in various stages of assembly.

The new transport was at TsAGI in Moscow recently for static structural testing. Prior to that, it conducted flight tests from the Aviastar-SP production facility at Ulyanovsk-Vostochnyy.

Besides new PS-90 engines, the Il-76MD-90A has an all-glass digital cockpit, new flight controls, navigation, and communication systems.  The airframe and landing gear have been reinforced.  It lifts 60 tons while reportedly consuming less fuel.

The original Il-76 had slightly greater cargo capacity than the U.S. C-141.  It’s critical to the mobility of Russia’s Airborne Troops (VDV) and their air-droppable equipment.  Civilian versions of the Il-76 remain in use worldwide.

At present, VTA may operate about 100 Il-76M or Il-76MD, and perhaps ten An-124 transports.  But the number of operational aircraft could be as low as 60 Il-76 variants and a handful of An-124. 

At the outset of the current GPV in 2011, the air forces hoped to procure 100 or more new and updated heavy transport aircraft.  The current inventory needs complete replacement in the 2020s and early 2030s.  But they have relatively little to show well into 2017.

Together with 39 (or 30?) Il-76MD-90A transports, VTA plans to acquire 30 Il-76MDM aircraft.  It’s a renovated Il-76MD with its original engines but the glass cockpit and other updates from the Il-76MD-90A.

Cooperation with the Antonov design bureau and its production facilities is off the table now that military-industrial ties with Ukraine have been severed. Observers once looked for Russia’s VTA to buy 30-50 An-70 transports and the same number of Il-76MD variants and updates.

They also anticipated that Moscow would buy 20 new An-124 aircraft and modernize quite a few existing ones.  No alternative for replacing the super-heavy transport has been proffered.

The PAK TA (future aircraft system — transport aviation) remains a mirage. Moscow could mobilize Aviastar-SP to renew production of the An-124, but it would require a lot of resources and time, plus the facility will already have its hands full with the Il-76MD-90A, etc.

There is also the question of VTA’s smaller transports which are ancient and in dire need of replacement.  The MOD has settled on procurement of 48 turboprop Il-112V aircraft in GPV 2018-2025 to replace some of its aged An-26 fleet.  This decision came after it abandoned efforts to get Antonov’s An-140.  The Russians reportedly will continue to develop the turbojet Il-214 medium transport despite India’s decision to bow out of the once joint effort.  But there’s little tangible in this program to date.

Postscript on PAK FA

As if on cue, Russian Deputy Defense Minister and arms tsar Yuriy Borisov told journalists on February 2 that production of Russia’s T-50 / PAK FA fifth generation fighter may not begin until after 2018.

“Most likely,” he said, “this will be the next state armaments program, that is 2018-2025,” TASS reported.

Borisov added that the Defense Ministry is not in a hurry.  He said, as long as existing analogues satisfy the armed forces’ requirements, there is no need to spend money to buy expensive new equipment, according to TASS.

“We’ll use it on a trial basis, we’ve bought limited quantities, we’ll see how they work in practice, identify all deficiencies, put in place all changes so when the time comes to buy the models have been developed in practice,” Borisov noted.

What satisfies the requirements at this point is the procurement of 12 MiG-29SMT, two Su-30M2, 17 Su-30SM, and 12 Su-35S fighters, or 43 fighters in all, in 2016.  But, after peaking in 2014, Moscow’s acquisition of combat aircraft declined some in 2015 and then fell more sharply in 2016, according to bmpd.

Cold Water on PAK FA

ODK General Director Aleksandr Artyukhov has dampened the prospects for Russia’s developmental fifth generation fighter aircraft, the T-50 or PAK FA.  Friday in Lukhovitsy at the presentation of the MiG-35, Artyukhov told RIA Novosti that R&D on PAK FA’s “second phase” engine won’t be complete until 2020.

t-50-pak-fa-photo-ria-novosti-aleksandr-vilf

T-50 / PAK FA (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksandr Vilf)

This contrasts with the more hopeful announcement late last year from Sukhoy aircraft plant KnAAZ when the “second phase” engine or “item 30” commenced stand tests.

ODK’s Artyukhov told the media that the plan is to begin flight tests of the “second phase” engine this year.

Existing prototypes fly with the first phase or “item 117S” engine (AL-41F1S). However, “item 30” advertises reduced infrared signature, increased thrust, supercruise, improved fuel efficiency, and lower life-cycle costs.

Artyukhov’s predecessor said more than two years ago that a PAK FA with a “second phase” engine would not fly until 2017.  ODK once hoped this would happen in 2015, but OAK’s former chief Mikhail Pogosyan said possibly not even before 2019.

But even with a tested “item 30” engine, it will be a challenge to integrate and test it fully this year.  So the first PAK FA fighters to reach the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) will probably have “item 117S” engines.

As the PAK FA’s engine has slipped, so has the aircraft itself.

The VKS officially hopes to accept its newest fighter in 2017, and take delivery of five in late 2017 or 2018.  It looks toward a total buy of 55 PAK FA.

However, in mid-2015, Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov said the military would procure one squadron of 12 PAK FA.  He didn’t commit to more.  Borisov said Russia would buy fewer PAK FA than planned because the 4++ generation Su-35 is superior to new foreign fighters in many respects.

Il-112V Light Transport in Next Armaments Program

The Voronezh Aircraft Plant is assembling the first prototype of the Il-112V light transport aircraft, according to the Ilyushin design bureau.  Russian Deputy Defence Minister and procurement tsar Yuriy Borisov has indicated that the Russian military will buy 48 of them in the state armaments program for 2018-2025, expected to be approved by mid-2017.

first-il-112v-fuselage-assembled-photo-www-ilyushin-org

First Il-112V Fuselage Assembled (photo: http://www.ilyushin.org)

The first Il-112V airframe should be complete by the end of January when ground testing is to begin.  Flight tests could start this summer followed soon thereafter by state acceptance testing, Borisov told Gazeta.ru’s Mikhail Khodarenok.  The Voronezh plant has also begun assembly of a second Il-112V.

The new transport will take the place of aging Antonov An-26 / Curl aircraft.  The Russian military still operates about 100 of the venerable transports.  More than 1,100 were produced between 1969 and 1986.

Series production of the Il-112V is supposed to start in 2019 with a rate of 12 aircraft per year.  The production run has been pared back to 48 from the original target of 62 transports.

Funding for Il-112V development was cut in 2010 when former defense minister Anatoliy Serdyukov opted to buy modified An-140 transports from Ukraine.  But the Russian light transport program was revived in 2013.  It received special impetus after Kyiv halted military-technical cooperation with Moscow in early 2014.

The Il-112V depends on successful production of TV7-117ST turbofan engines by Russian manufacturer Klimov.  The first two are scheduled for delivery and installation on the prototype airframe in February.  The Klimov engines will substitute for ones that Moscow used to import from Ukraine’s Motor Sich. However, they are not equal to Ukrainian engines in several respects including horsepower, service ceiling, and reliability, according to Khodarenok’s aviation sector sources.

The new Russian transport is designed for a takeoff weight of 21 tons with a maximum useful load of five tons.  It will carry 3.5 tons to a range of 2,400 km.

artists-concept-of-il-112v

Artist’s Concept of Il-112V

According to a recent report in Izvestiya, the Central Aerodynamic Institute (TsAGI or ЦАГИ) has raised the prospect of developing a different Russian light transport that could be rapidly converted between passenger and cargo variants.

Outside Russia, there are some 600 An-26 transports still operating, but they are at the end of the service lives and need replacement.  This provides a ready market for Ilyushin’s new light transport, but it already faces stiff competition from established products like the Airbus CASA C-295 and Alenia C-27J Spartan.

The Il-112V is an increasingly critical requirement given the obsolescence of Russia’s existing light transport inventory.  The urgency of the program is further underscored by Russia’s apparent difficulties in producing components to assemble the Ukrainian-designed An-140.

What They Got

reloading-iskander-m-photo-tass-yuriy-smityuk

Reloading Iskander-M (photo: TASS / Yuriy Smityuk)

Time to review what the Russian Armed Forces say they got during the last year. One can’t confirm what weapons and equipment were delivered, so Russian claims have to suffice.

This information appeared in Sergey Shoygu’s speech to the MOD Collegium on December 22 found here.  TASS recapped the speech later that day. And Krasnaya zvezda dutifully recounted some of it on December 27.

Overall, Defense Minister Shoygu reported that state defense order (GOZ) deliveries increased five percent over 2015.

Beyond what the Russian military procured, Shoygu had interesting remarks on other issues.  They are grouped more coherently below than in the original, to preserve the reader’s patience.

Modernization, Serviceability, and Manning

Shoygu announced that Russia’s “combat possibilities” increased 14 percent in 2016. From what to what, he didn’t say.  “Combat possibilities” is a Russian measure of how forces are equipped, divided by other key factors like manning, readiness, training, and morale.

Service modernization percentages are:

  • Navy up to 47 percent.
  • Aerospace Forces (VKS) up to 66 percent.
  • Ground Troops — 42 percent.
  • Airborne Troops — 47 percent.
  • RVSN — 51 percent.

(N.B.  Percentages reported at the end of 2015 were 39, 52, 35, 41, and 51 respectively.)

Arms and equipment in “permanent readiness” units are 58 percent modern, according to the defense minister.  The in-service rate of equipment in these units is 94 percent (up 5 percent from 2015).

Serviceability of VKS aircraft is 62 percent.

According to Shoygu, the armed forces are manned at 93 percent of their authorized strength, and 384,000 contractees are in the ranks.  The NCO ranks are fully professional for the first time.  Apparently, the military no longer relies on conscripts hastily turned into sergeants.

Force Structure Changes

New equipment allowed for force structure expansion in the Ground and Airborne Troops. According to TASS, Shoygu reported that nine new formations, including four motorized rifle and one tank division, appeared in the former.  In the latter, three reconnaissance battalions, six tank companies, and EW and UAV companies were established.

Navy

In 2016, the Russian Navy received 24 ships and support vessels, and the Proyekt 636.3 diesel-electric submarines Velikiy Novgorod and Kolpino for the Black Sea Fleet.  The surface vessels included a Proyekt 22870 rescue ship, a Proyekt 19920 hydrographic ship, Proyekt 11356 frigates Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen, and Proyekt 12700 mine countermeasures ship Aleksandr Obukhov.

The Navy acquired 100 Kalibr (SS-N-27 / Sizzler) and Oniks (SS-N-26 / Strobile) cruise missiles.  These missiles are carried on new Proyekt 636.3 subs and Proyekt 11356 frigates.

In early December, logistics chief Army General Dmitriy Bulgakov said 19 of the 24 ships delivered were auxiliaries.  And Admiral Essen fouled its screws while mooring before departing for its Black Sea homeport.  The third Proyekt 11356 Admiral Makarov did not reach the fleet, nor did the first Proyekt 22350 Admiral Gorshkov frigate, or the initial Proyekt 11711 LSD Ivan Gren. Another less than impressive year of naval construction.

Aerospace Forces

The air forces received:

  • 139 aircraft, including Su-35S fighters and ten Yak-130 trainers.  Eight Su-30SM fighters went to Crimea, two to Rostov-na-Donu, and others to the Northern and Baltic Fleet.
  • Unspecified numbers of new Mi-28N, Ka-52, Mi-35M, Mi-26, Mi-8AMTSh-VA, and Mi-8MTV-5 helicopters.
  • Four regimental sets of S-400 SAMs, 25 Pantsir-S gun-missile systems, and 74 radars.
  • Two modernized Tu-160M and two modernized Tu-95MS strategic bombers.

Ground Troops

The Ground Troops reportedly received 2,930 new or modernized systems allowing for two missile brigades, two SAM brigades and two SAM regiments, one Spetsnaz brigade, 12 motorized rifle and tank battalions, and three artillery battalions to be reequipped.

Besides two brigade sets of Iskander-M, they obtained 60 Tornado-G MRLs, 70 modernized Grad-M MRLs, and 20 Msta-SM SP howitzers.  They acquired 22,000 communications systems bringing that equipment to 49 percent modern. More than 100 BTR-82AM joined Western MD forces.  They also received ten new EW systems.

eleron-3sv-uav-package-for-ground-troops

Eleron-3SV UAV package for Ground Troops

The armed forces procured 105 systems with 260 UAVs.  These included more than ten new Orlan-10 and Eleron-3 UAVs.  They formed 36 units and subunits. The Russian military now operates 600 systems with 2,000 UAVs, compared with only 180 old systems in 2011.

Airborne Troops

The Russian airborne got 188 new or modernized vehicles, including 60 BMD-4M and BTR-MDM, 35 BTR-82A, 40 modernized BREM-D, 2S9-1M SP mortars, and more than 6,000 D-10 and Arbalet-2 parachutes.

At his final MOD teleconference of the year, the defense minister said 764 armored vehicles and 88 artillery systems of all types were acquired in 2016.

rs-24-yars-icbm

RS-24 Yars ICBM

RVSN

Russia’s strategic missile troops placed four RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2 or SS-29?) ICBM regiments on combat duty in 2016, according to Shoygu.  RVSN Commander General-Colonel Karakayev earlier said 23 Yars mobile and silo-based missiles were put into service.

The defense minister said the armed forces got a total of 41 new (intercontinental-range) ballistic missiles (presumably both land- and sea-launched), bringing Russia’s strategic nuclear triad to 60 percent modern.

The balance — 18 missiles — could be Bulava SLBMs.  They might be for Borey-class SSBN hull four Knyaz Vladimir, along with a couple spares for practice launches.

 Syria

Regarding use of the Syrian war as a proving ground, Shoygu said:

“162 types of modern and modernized arms were tested in the course of combat operations in Syria and showed high effectiveness.  They include the newest Su-30SM and Su-34 aircraft, and Mi-28N and Ka-52 helicopters.  Precision munitions and sea-based cruise missiles employed in combat conditions for the first time confirmed their tactical characteristics.”

Deficiencies were revealed which did not appear in the course of range testing.  The purchase of 10 types of arms has been stopped until [deficiencies] are eliminated.  As a result, we have significantly increased the quality of equipment that guarantees the reliability of its employment in battle.”

P.S.  TASS added that, in 2016, the Southern MD got 350 pieces of armor, other vehicles, missiles, artillery, communications, EW, engineering, and special equipment items. Crimea in particular was reinforced with the S-400, Pantsir-S, Su-30SM, and Bastion (SSC-5 / Stooge) coastal missile launchers, which fire Oniks (SS-N-26 / Strobile) cruise missiles.

Future Firepower

In this slow news season, Russia’s chief artilleryman has provided something to keep us going.  

The missile and artillery firepower of Russian Ground Troops could double in the near future.  New Iskander-M brigades are likely to be fielded through 2020. 

general-lieutenant-matveyevskiy

General-Lieutenant Matveyevskiy

Today General-Lieutenant Mikhail Matveyevskiy told RIA Novosti that the “combat possibilities” of Missile Troops and Artillery (RViA or  РВиА) will increase by a factor of 1.5 to two by 2021.  He said Russia will establish and equip new missile and artillery “formations and units” (i.e. divisions, brigades, regiments).

Matveyevskiy also told the news agency:

“In 2016, the development of the new generation Tornado-S multiple launch rocket system with increased range, accuracy, and more powerful warheads was completed. Volley fire Tornado-G systems, with automated target direction capability, continued to enter MLRS sub-units [i.e. battalions, batteries].  Anti-tank sub-units are outfitted with new Khizantema-S anti-tank guided missile systems with a unique capability to penetrate the armor of all modern tanks at night and in low visibility conditions.”

General-Lieutenant Matveyevskiy indicated that the rearming of missile brigades with Iskander-M SRBMs is “proceeding on a planned basis,” and deliveries are synchronized with the construction of facilities to support their deployment.

According to a January 4 Mil.ru press-release, Matveyevskiy said “by 2020 all existing formations will be fully rearmed with the Iskander-M missile system.” This item also noted that defense enterprises are currently working on improvements to the Iskander-M as well as a unified trainer for crew commanders, drivers, and other specialists.

Through last year, nine missile brigades have received the Iskander-M.  The 448th and 152nd are likely candidates to be ten and eleven in 2017.  The rejuvenated 1st Tank Army and a new army in the Southern MD might be twelve and thirteen at some point. And that still leaves the possibility of fielding four more Iskander-M brigades (numbers 14-17) before the end of 2020 if the current pace of two per year continues.

By way of reference and comparison, the Soviet Army had roughly 40 SRBM brigades at one point or another.