Category Archives: Order-of-Battle

Serviceability

On August 1, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu conducted a teleconference during which he addressed the serviceability (исправность) of Russia’s weapons and military equipment.

Defense Minister Shoygu

Defense Minister Shoygu

Serviceability is pretty synonymous with “in service,” “good condition,” “operability,” or “equipment operational readiness.”

Shoygu reported that the Russian military has achieved the following serviceability rates:

  • 63 percent for Aerospace Forces (VKS) aircraft;
  • 96 percent for air and missile defense systems;
  • 98 percent for space systems;
  • 76 percent for the Navy;
  • 94 percent for armored units;
  • 93 percent for artillery units.

Shoygu claimed that the military has devoted attention to obtaining higher quality weapons systems and to supporting their serviceability in the future.  He attributed high equipment availability to the shift to “full life cycle” maintenance contracts.  He said the MOD has worked with producers and developers to find problems that occur during use and work out measures to prevent them in the future.

In 2014, Shoygu reported that the overall serviceability of Russian arms and equipment improved from 80 to 85 percent.

In late 2013, Kommersant reported that the serviceability rate of aircraft in the air forces (VVS) was below 50 percent.  “Permanent readiness” requires 80 percent operational availability.

The MOD Action Plan (2013) specifies that equipment in-service rates for the ground troops and navy should be 85 percent and 80 percent for aircraft by 2020.

The U.S. military goal is 90 percent for all equipment except aircraft, which is 75 percent. But actual serviceability varies widely depending on a unit’s training and operational tempo.  Recovery time might actually be more critical.

The Canadian Army recently assessed its major vehicle and equipment fleet serviceability at 60 percent, which apparently didn’t make it too happy.

What do we make of Shoygu’s claims about the Russian military’s serviceability rates?

The Russians have put more effort against equipment modernization, overhauls, and repairs since Shoygu came to the MOD.  Therefore, increasing rates of serviceability aren’t surprising.

At the same time, the serviceability rate can be manipulated easily.

In most militaries, serviceability is determined and reported up the chain by military units themselves.  In the U.S., equipment readiness/serviceability is an element of the Unit Status Report (USR). It’s possible for commanders to fudge it.  The question is are they inclined to do this?

In Russia — where fulfilling the plan and meeting norms is highly valued, it seems likely.  Add to this the recent command housecleaning in the Baltic Fleet.  The MOD did a clean sweep on its headquarters for, among other things, padding numbers on training, readiness, etc.  So perhaps Shoygu double-checks his subordinates’ claims.

This is the country that created the Potemkin village.  For centuries, Russian provincials have been trying to fool any inspector-general (or party bureaucrat) sent from St. Petersburg (or Moscow).

At the same time, fudging can also be initiated at the top.  Mentioned on these pages more than once is the old trick of slashing the denominator to raise your percentage.  If 7,000 of 10,000 tanks are running, write 2,000 off and suddenly 88 percent of the army’s assets are serviceable, right?

In the end, we may have suspicions about Shoygu’s serviceability claims, but we don’t have any independent insight.  It’s true, though, that any military establishment that fools itself (at whatever level) about its “equipment operational readiness” runs an awful risk the next time bullets are fired in anger.

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New Division in Rostov-na-Donu

Rostov-na-Donu and the Western Direction

Rostov-na-Donu and the Western Direction

A Southern MD staff source told TASS on 24 March the Russian Army will establish a “full-blooded” motorized rifle division in the vicinity of Rostov-na-Donu this year.  The source indicated orders to this effect came from Chief of the General Staff Army General Valeriy Gerasimov.

The new division will reportedly be based in three garrison towns in Rostov Oblast.  Staff buildings and barracks will be constructed initially, with other facilities to follow in 2017.  Housing the division, storing its equipment, and providing training grounds and other essential infrastructure improvements will cost at least 5 billion rubles [$73 million].

Headquarters to the Southern MD, Rostov-na-Donu is opposite Donetsk and was the staging area for Russian forces that intervened in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

On 12 January, Defense Minister Shoygu announced that three divisions would be established in the western direction during 2016, but didn’t say where.  He also didn’t indicate if they would be completely new formations or existing ones moved to a new location and beefed up.

Most Southern MD forces are located south of Stavropol (headquarters of the 49th CAA) and are oriented on the Caucasus.

But Aleksey Ramm has suggested that an MRD at Rostov-na-Donu might be formed out of the current 33rd Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (Mountain) now based in Maykop and Novocherkassk.  There aren’t other good candidates except to make a new division out of whole cloth.

If Rostov-na-Donu is one division, what about the other two?

The reincarnated 1st Tank Army just west of Moscow probably needs its 6th Tank Brigade to become a division for the army to be a real tank army (at least two tank divisions).

The 20th CAA — moved from around Nizhniy Novgorod to Voronezh — could have either its 9th MRB or 1st Tank Brigade (both near Boguchar) turned into a division.

But in light of increased tension with NATO, especially with its newest and easternmost members, it seems the Kremlin might want a new division opposite the Baltic states, or perhaps even in Kaliningrad. The latter would be a low-cost reorganization since the Ground Troops already have an independent brigade and regiment in the Russian exclave.

20th CAA on Ukraine’s Border

Russia’s 20th Combined Arms Army (CAA) is redeploying from Nizhegorod to Voronezh on Ukraine’s border, according to a TASS news agency source in the General Staff.

Reports of the army’s transfer from Nizhegorod Oblast, east of Moscow, first appeared in March.  Some Russian media say its 9th Motorized Rifle Brigade has already relocated to Boguchar, southeast of Voronezh on the Ukrainian border.  On 13 August, TASS reported that the army’s units will occupy existing garrisons in Orel, Kursk, Tambov, and Lipetsk Oblasts.

Moscow withdrew the 20th CAA from Germany by 1994, and it spent 16 years in Voronezh before relocating to Mulino, Nizhegorod in 2010.

Voronezh and Boguchar (Red Marker)

Voronezh and Boguchar (Red Marker)

The news agency’s source said the General Staff and Western Military District are determining the future composition of the 20th CAA, particularly new units to be formed or transferred from other military districts.  Its major maneuver forces will likely include another motorized rifle brigade and a tank brigade.  The process is in the initial phase, but should be complete by 1 December, the start of the army’s training year.

The 20th Army will need reinforcement because its most capable formations — the 2nd Taman Motorized Rifle Division, 4th Kantemir Tank Division, and 6th Tank Brigade — reportedly will become part of Russia’s reconstituted 1st Tank Army near Moscow this fall.

TASS reported that General-Major Sergey Kuzovlev will command the army. The Ukrainian Security Service alleges he commands Russian forces and local militia in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic.  Officially, he is chief of staff of the Southern MD’s 58th Army, and previously commanded the 18th Motorized Rifle Brigade in Chechnya.

Moving the 20th CAA is a reaction to a year and a half of fighting in eastern Ukraine, and an effort to enhance Kremlin options for border contingencies.  Nevertheless, it’s likely to be some time before most elements of the 20th CAA are settled, manned, trained, and combat ready.

Ten “New” Chemical Defense Regiments

Russian Soldier in Chemical Defense Gear (photo: Mil.ru)

Russian Soldier in Chemical Defense Gear (photo: Mil.ru)

In late June, Mil.ru provided comments by the Deputy Chief of Radiological, Chemical, and Biological Defense (RKhBZ) Troops, General-Major Igor Klimov. He said:

“Development of the troops of RKhB defense is currently directed at supporting conditions for an adequate response to all possible threats — radiological, chemical, and biological.”

The RKhBZ Troops are capable of completing missions for the Armed Forces and the state as a whole, according to him.

General-Major Igor Klimov

General-Major Igor Klimov

But Klimov added:

“One should note that just in 2014 alone ten regiments of RKhBZ were formed in the composition of combined arms armies.”

At the same time, the TO&E structure of the four independent RKhBZ brigades of the military districts was “optimized.”  That means, of course, reduced, cut, slashed, etc.

Klimov added:

“In 2016-2020, the composition and TO&E of formations, military units and organizations of the RKhBZ Troops will improve with the goal of guaranteeing fulfillment of RKhBZ missions for Armed Forces groupings in armed conflicts and local wars, eliminating the effects of emergency situations, and conducting research in the applied sciences (chemistry, biology, biochemistry, genetics, biotechnology).”

Mil.ru also noted that RKhBZ formations, units, and organizations will undergo a transition to new org-shtat structures as they receive new types of weapons and equipment.

The ten “new” regiments look like this:

The shift from brigades is creating regiments that aren’t really “new.”  It’s a reshuffling of existing RKhBZ units to integrate them into Russia’s combined arms armies.  They will be army- rather than MD-level assets.  

The “new regiments” are rather sparse.  Most press indicates they will have about 300-600 personnel and 100-200 pieces of equipment each.  In Soviet times, a combined arms army had several RKhBZ battalions including recon, protection, decon, flamethrower, and smoke.

TOS-1A

TOS-1A

Perhaps RKhBZ is returning to army-level control because of the growing role of thermobaric rocket launchers like the TOS-1A in Russia’s fire support plans.

More OOB Notes

Found new data points based on reports about the Central MD’s 2nd CAA during the recent readiness inspection.  Here’s the link.