Category Archives: Ground Troops

Motovilikha’s Year

2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers leaving the factory in Perm

2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers leaving the factory in Perm

In September, we checked in on Motovilikha and its contract to produce 20 Tornado-S multiple launch rocket systems for the Russian MOD in 2020. Today it put out a press-release detailing its completion of state defense order work for 2019.

The enterprises of Motovilikhinskiye Plants put out more than 70 pieces of tube and rocket artillery, and spares for the MOD this year. Work on GOZ contracts finished last week.

Motovilikha subsidiary ZAO Special Design Bureau (SKB) repaired more than 30 2A65 Msta-B 152-mm towed howitzers and 2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers, and carried out capital repair and modernization of about 20 Grad MLRS updating them to Tornado-G systems.

Msta-B towed howitzers leaving the plant.PNG

Msta-B 152-mm towed howtizers leaving the plant

Quoting Motovilikhinskiye Plants director Aleksandr Anokhin, the press-release reported the volume of GOZ work will increase “substantially” in 2020.

The item notes that Motovilikha is the developer and only producer of Grad and Smerch MLRS, modified Tornado-G and Tornado-S systems, and associated reload vehicles. It produces 2S23 Nona-SVK and 2S31 Vena 120-mm self-propelled guns, the towed Msta-B, 2B23 Nona-M1 120-mm towed mortar, and other artillery systems.

Interestingly, the end of the press-release added that:

State corporation Rostekh, OOO RT-Kapital specifically, is currently implementing a systematic anti-crisis program in connection with the Motovilikhinskiye Plants group of enterprises which aims to preserve and develop their fundamental productive competencies in their existing facilities.

So despite the year just ending, Motovilikha is experiencing a crisis. But owner Rostekh wants to keep it operating in Perm. Beyond that, who knows. RT-Kapital is a branch of the conglomerate that works with “problem” equity and consolidates and restructures debt.

Krasnoselskaya Brigade

Here’s a look at one Russian motorized rifle brigade, created for another purpose, but perhaps worth sharing. The Kamenka brigade’s appeared on these pages before but mainly because of its order and discipline problems.

The 138th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (v/ch 02511) is based in Kamenka village, Vyborg rayon of Leningrad oblast. Its full honorific name is the 138th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Krasnoselskaya Order of Lenin Red Banner Brigade. 138th IMRB for short.

Krasnoselskaya

The brigade’s lineage goes to the 45th Guards Rifle Division. That formation participated in the liberation of German-occupied Krasnoye Selo in January 1944.

The division’s regiments (now battalions) received the Leningrad honorific for fighting to lift the German blockade of the city.

The 138th IMRB is part of the 6th Combined Arms Army and the Western Military District.

The following units are subordinate to the 138th IMRB:

  • Brigade headquarters
  • 667th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Leningrad Battalion (v/ch 67616)
  • 697th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Leningrad Battalion (v/ch 67636)
  • 708th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Leningrad Red Banner Battalion (v/ch 67661)
  • 133rd Independent Guards Idritsa Red Banner Order of Suvorov Tank Battalion (v/ch 52800)
  • 486th Independent Guards Self-Propelled Howitzer Leningrad Red Banner Battalion (v/ch 67752)
  • 721st Independent Self-Propelled Howitzer Battalion (v/ch 84647)
  • 383rd Independent MLRS Battalion (v/ch 82265)
  • 1525th Independent Anti-Tank Battalion (v/ch 96459)
  • 247th Independent Guards Anti-Aircraft Missile Battalion (v/ch 07727)
  • 49th Independent Guards Engineer-Sapper Battalion (v/ch 18427)
  • 511th Independent EW Company (v/ch 63704)
  • 197th Federal Postal Service Station (v/ch 48768)
  • Signal battalion
  • Material support battalion
  • Maintenance battalion
  • Reconnaissance battalion
  • UAV company
  • Radio-electronic reconnaissance company
  • Radiological, Chemical, Biological Defense company
  • Medical company
  • Commandant company
  • Fire control and artillery reconnaissance battery (chief of artillery)
  • Reconnaissance headquarters platoon (chief of reconnaissance)
  • Fire control and radar reconnaissance platoon (chief of air defense)
  • Sniper platoon
  • Instructor platoon
  • Simulator platoon
  • Training ground
  • Orchestra
  • Radio-television center
Construction of new facilities at Kamenka in 2016

Construction of new facilities at Kamenka in 2016

Today’s IMRB should have nearly 4,000 personnel compared to a nominal 2,500-man motorized rifle regiment (MRR). While the maneuver battalions are similar, the IMRB is heavier in fire support, combat support, and service sub-units [подразделения – battalion or lower]. It has two self-propelled howitzer battalions and an MLRS battalion against the single battalion of towed 122-mm D-30 howitzers in Soviet regiments.

The IMRB’s anti-aircraft and anti-tank capabilities are organized in battalions. They used to be single batteries in old MRRs. Most of today’s combat support and service is provided by battalions compared with companies in Soviet times. The old MRR relied more on support and service from the division level.

The 138th IMRB’s motorized rifle battalions have about 500 personnel with about 100 men in each of three companies operating ten MT-LB light armored vehicles. A battalion probably has 31 MT-LBs. The MT-LB is also the prime mover for other sub-units, so the brigade has a significantly larger total inventory, often put at 159 in all. For example, artillery battalions have eight each and anti-tank gun batteries have six.

The 138th is one of several MR brigades primarily using venerable MT-LBs rather than more modern BTRs or BMPs. The 25th near Pskov is another. Others are in mountainous areas of the North Caucasus or in the Eastern MD. The Russian Army may like the MT-LB’s performance in the marshy terrain of Leningrad oblast. At any rate, it’s a simple, reliable armored vehicle that the MOD still has in large numbers.

For integral fire support, each motorized rifle battalion has a battery of six towed 120-mm 2B16 Nona-K gun-mortars in two firing platoons of three weapons. The battalion has a man-portable 9K115 Metis ATGM battery of three platoons of three launchers. The battalion has an air defense battery organized similarly with three platoons of three hand-held 9K38 Igla SAMs.

The 138th IMRB’s tank battalion is outfitted with 41 T-72B3 tanks, ten tanks in each of four tank companies.

The brigade’s two SP howitzer battalions are organized in traditional fashion – 18 152-mm 2S3 Akatsiya systems in three batteries of two platoons with three guns each. The MLRS battalion with 18 122-mm BM-21 Grad systems is similar with three batteries, two platoons of three vehicles.

The brigade’s anti-tank battalion has two batteries of six towed 100-mm MT-12 Rapira guns and six 9P149 Shturm-S ATGMs. The batteries have two firing platoons with three weapons. The anti-tank guns are towed by MT-LBs, and the ATGMs are mounted on MT-LBs.

The brigade SAM battalion has three launch batteries of four 9K332M Tor-M2 SAMs. It has a battery with two launch platoons of three 9A34 Strela-10 SAMs, and probably a battery (two three-vehicle platoons) of older remaining 2S6 (9K22) Tunguska gun-missile systems.

Overall, the 138th IMRB is a pretty average formation that hasn’t been particularly favored with equipment upgrades or modernization.

Contract for Tornado-S MLRS

Tornado-S

According to Kommersant, Perm-based ZAO Special Design Bureau (SKB) received a contract worth 6-7 billion rubles ($93-$108 million) to produce 20 combat systems for the Russian MOD. The paper’s sources say the contract is for Tornado-S multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) and transport-reload vehicles. The equipment is to be delivered in 2020.

The 12-tube, 300-mm Tornado-S (9K515) MLRS is a “deeply modernized” version of the Smerch. It reportedly features GLONASS satellite navigation, automated fire control, and 9M542 PGMs. Unlike earlier systems, Tornado-S gives specific flight profile data to each rocket. Its effective range is 120 km.

Tornado-S first entered the inventory in late 2016. Smerch was accepted for service in 1989.

The new 9K515 weapons system includes the 9A54 launch vehicle and 9T255 transport-reload vehicle.

Tornado-S and TZM

The 20 systems in the contract likely include 16 launch vehicles (two battalions of eight) and four transport-reload vehicles (two per launch battalion).

The Russian MOD is using new Tornado-S MLRS to build a heavy rocket launcher brigade at the district level in each of its four MDs. In Soviet times, each MD (front) disposed of its own rocket launcher brigade, typically four battalions of 18 40-tube, 122-mm BM-21 Grad systems.

Those “brigades” look like this now:

  • Western MD…Tver…79th Brigade…three battalions of Tornado-S…12 launchers.
  • Southern MD…Znamensk…439th Brigade…??? battalions of Tornado-S…??? launchers.
  • Central MD…Shchuchye…232nd Brigade…two battalions of 220-mm Uragan…16 launchers.
  • Eastern MD…Novosysoyevka…338th Brigade…2-3 battalions of Uragan…16-18 launchers.

But these are more like rocket battalions than the brigades of old days.

The first Tornado-S deployments began in 2017 in the Western MD and continued in the Southern MD in early 2019.

It seems likely the Tornado-S systems due in 2020 will go to the Central or Eastern MD before the Western or Southern get more.

Kommersant detailed the poor financial status of ZAO SKB. Its parent, long-time sole producer of Russian MLRS Motovilikhinskiye Plants is bankrupt. SKB was split away to keep creditors at bay. The rest of Motovilikha is supposed to retool to make civilian products. The growing problem of insolvency in Russia’s OPK is worthy of a look.

New Tank Regiment?

RG gave us the scantest info. The Russian Army is upgrading an independent tank battalion to a regiment in Smolensk oblast, in the Western MD. The new regiment will belong to one of the 20th CAA’s motorized rifle divisions.

It reportedly will be outfitted with T-72BA tanks, BMP-2 AIFVs, engineer and repair-recovery vehicles, air defense, and recce.

According to RG, the 20th CAA is the largest “large formation” [объединение — anything above a division] in Russia’s armed forces. It is deployed along Russia’s western border in Belgorod, Bryansk, Voronezh, Kursk, and Smolensk oblasts.

Then one has to scrounge. There’s info of varying quality and completeness available. Sometimes you find something like this or this.

The new tank regiment will be part of the 144th Motorized Rifle Division, based in Smolensk and Bryansk oblasts. The 144th at present may look like this:

  • Headquarters (Yelnya, Smolensk obl.)
  • 448th Motorized Rifle Regiment (Klintsy, Bryansk obl.)
  • 182nd Motorized Rifle Regiment (Zaymishche, Bryansk obl.)
  • 254th Motorized Rifle Regiment (Klintsy)
  • 228th Tank Regiment (Klintsy)
  • 856th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment (Pochep, Bryansk obl.)
  • 1259th SAM Regiment (???)
  • 673rd SAM Battalion (???)
  • 148th Reconnaissance Battalion (Smolensk)
  • 1281st Anti-Tank Battalion (Yelnya)
  • 295th Engineer Battalion (Yelnya)
  • 686th Signals Battalion (Smolensk)
  • 1032nd Material Support Battalion (Pochep)
  • 150th Medical Battalion (Pochep)
  • UAV Company (???)
  • EW Company (???)
  • Radiological, Chemical, Biological Defense Company (???)

In the first link above, Yuriy Barash, a Ukrainian observer, maintains in 2017 the 144th began forming up its 182nd MRR, 228th TR, and 1259th SAM Regiment as well as anti-tank, material support, and medical battalions. It had not started forming up the 254th MRR or the specialist companies, according to him.

T-72

So does the 228th Tank Regiment already exist? No and yes.

If Barash’s TO&E for the 144th isn’t wrong (but it could be), the 448th MRR and 856th SP Artillery Regiment appear to be its only fleshed out and combat-capable units. In 2017, he held only 40 T-72s in the division (the tank battalion of the 448th).

CAST, however, suggested that the 144th has an independent tank battalion that will be upgraded to a regiment, to become the 228th TR.

There are also discrepancies regarding the locations of different units.

Welcome to following Russia’s OOB.

Here’s the moral. Saying you have a division on your western border is one thing;  actually having one is something else. 

Expected in 2019

On June 4, Sergey Shoygu told the Russian Defense Ministry collegium the armed forces will receive 400 new or modernized armored vehicles before the end of this year. T-90M, T-72B3M, and T-80BVM tanks and BMP-1AM infantry fighting vehicles are among the systems to be delivered.

T-90M

T-90M

Interfaks-AVN reported that the T-90M was developed through the Proryv-3 [Breakthrough-3] R&D program — a deep modernization of the T-90 fielded in the mid-1990s. The T-90M has a new turret, 125-mm main gun, remote-controlled 12.7-mm machine gun, and digital fire control.

The Pacific Fleet’s Troops and Forces in the North-East are supposed to get more updated MiG-31BM interceptors, T-80BVM tanks, and BMP-2M IFVs, according to Interfaks-AVN.

Big Star for Salyukov

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin signed out his Defenders’ Day promotion list yesterday with something unexpected.

Putin handed out the four-star rank of army general for the first time in a while. To Ground Troops CINC Oleg Salyukov.

Salyukov wearing general-colonel

Salyukov wearing general-colonel

Russian media outlets say Putin gave army general to Rosgvardiya chief Viktor Zolotov and Deputy Defense Minister Pavel Popov in 2015. But we’re not talking about cronies and creatures of Putin or Defense Minister Shoygu.

We’re not talking about Shoygu himself, who got his four-star rank as a politician and bureaucrat.

And we’re not talking about Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov, FSB man and associate of former defense minister Sergey Ivanov. (Pankov’s a fascinating and separate story. He’s the longtime éminence grise of the MOD. One might bet he’s always been Putin’s reliable spy in the high command. He’s also been officially retired from military service for some time.)

So here’s the short list of current Russian Armed Forces four-stars:

  • Army General Valeriy Gerasimov obviously. He became Chief of the General Staff when Shoygu became Minister of Defense. Gerasimov got his fourth star less than four months later — February 20, 2013.
  • Deputy Defense Minister and Chief of Material-Technical Support Dmitriy Bulgakov has been at his post since 2008. He became army general on February 23, 2011.

It’s safe to conclude then that Putin’s been quite parsimonious with the “big star.”

Recall Russia’s gone back and forth on four stars. For some time, army generals actually wore four stars. Now they wear a single “big star” like marshals, but on different epaulets.

The Russian army general rank, however, is equivalent to a full U.S. General (O-10) wearing four stars.

The last Ground Troops, Air Forces, and Navy CINCs to wear four stars were Vladimir Boldyrev in 2010, Vladimir Mikhaylov in 2007, and Vladimir Masorin in 2007.

So why promote Salyukov to four-star? It doesn’t buy him more service time; by law, he still has to retire in 2020. He’ll be 65 on May 21, 2020.

We should note also that Gerasimov will be 65 on September 8, 2020 and old man Bulgakov on October 20, 2019.

But like all Russian laws, the law on military service tenure can be ignored or changed easily if Putin wants.

A little more about Salyukov. He’s a tanker. He served in the old Kiev MD as a junior officer, and then the Moscow MD. He was deputy commander of the 4th Kantemir Tank Division. After the General Staff Academy, he went to the old Far East MD in 1996, serving from division commander to commander of the district in 2010.

When the MD system was reduced to just four MDs, Salyukov returned to Moscow for a four-year stint as deputy chief of the General Staff. In May 2014, he became Ground Troops CINC. His official bio says he’s a combat veteran, but it’s unclear where he was actually under fire.

P.S. Here’s the latest official photo of Salyukov.

Salyukov sporting big star

Salyukov sporting “big star”

Army Commanders

general-major andrey kolotovkin receives the 2nd caa standard

General-Major Andrey Kolotovkin receives the 2nd CAA standard

Seven new Russian combined arms (or tank) army commanders have been appointed since early 2017. Five old ones remain in place.

Eighteen months ago, only three were at post they held 18 months prior to that (i.e. in early 2016).

But two — General-Lieutenants Kuzmenko and Sevryukov — have now served in the same spot for three years or more.

The current rundown of armies, headquarters, MD/OSK, and commanders looks like this:

1st TA…Bakovka…Western…General-Major Sergey Kisel.

6th CAA…Agalatovo…Western…General-Lieutenant Andrey Kuzmenko.

20th CAA…Voronezh…Western…General-Major Andrey Ivanayev.

8th CAA…Novocherkassk…Southern…General-Lieutenant Sergey Kuzovlev.

49th CAA…Stavropol…Southern…General-Lieutenant Sergey Sevryukov.

58th CAA…Vladikavkaz…Southern…General-Lieutenant Yevgeniy Nikiforov.

2nd CAA…Samara…Central…General-Major Andrey Kolotovkin.

41st CAA…Novosibirsk…Central…General-Major Yakov Rezantsev.

36th CAA…Ulan Ude…Eastern…General-Major Mikhail Nosulev.

29th CAA…Chita…Eastern…General-Major Roman Berdnikov.

35th CAA…Belogorsk…Eastern…General-Major Sergey Chebotarev.

5th CAA…Ussuriysk…Eastern…General-Major Oleg Tsekov.

Kisel replaced General-Lieutenant Avdeyev who went to head the Combined Arms Academy. Ivanayev took the place of General-Major Peryazev who moved to the MOD’s Main Combat Training Directorate. 

There’s been considerable churn in the 2nd CAA. In early 2017, General-Major Zhidko was its commander. In less than two years, he served as chief of staff, first deputy commander for the Russian group of forces in Syria, deputy chief of the General Staff, and Commander of the Eastern MD.

General-Major Rustam Muradov replaced the meteoric Zhidko before being replaced himself by General-Major Kolotovkin. Muradov is now a deputy commander of the Southern MD.

General-Lieutenant Zavizon was relieved by Rezantsev. Zavizon is probably in Syria, or, less likely but possibly, even eastern Ukraine.

Followed by Nosulev, General-Major Kovalenko went to the unusual post of deputy commander of the Pacific Fleet for ground and coastal troops.

General-Major Poplavskiy became a deputy commander of the Central MD when Berdnikov replaced him.

Tsekov took over the 5th CAA after General-Lieutenant Asapov died in a mortar attack in Syria in 2017.

general-lieutenant asapov's grave

General-Lieutenant Asapov’s grave

An observer has noted a flag from the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic on Asapov’s grave. According to some, he commanded the DNR’s “1st Army Corps” at one point. He reportedly also saw combat in Chechnya and Abkhazia as well.