Category Archives: Shoygu’s Reforms

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.

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More Airborne

The Russian MOD has announced that the Eastern MD’s 83rd Independent Air-Assault Brigade will conduct the first large-scale parachute drop in its history on October 18.

Recall the 83rd transferred from Ground Troops to VDV control almost exactly four years ago. It apparently spent the interval preparing and training to be more airborne than air mobile.

Colonel Sergey Maksimov takes command in November 2016

Colonel Sergey Maksimov takes command in November 2016

According to the MOD, the Ussuriysk-based brigade will drop combat equipment and personnel. It will proceed to a standard scenario involving seizure of a notional enemy airfield. About 2,000 troops and 400 pieces of equipment will be deployed.

Ussuriysk

Ussuriysk

In the evolution’s second phase, the brigade’s airborne and air-assault battalions will conduct a march with a pontoon bridge crossing and combat firings in a mobile defense.

The MOD didn’t indicate how many troops will parachute into the exercise. But the 83rd likely now has a parachute battalion to air-drop from Il-76 transports. VDV air-assault brigades traditionally also have two air mobile battalions. When the 83rd arrived from the army in 2013, it likely had three air-assault battalions.

The ex-army 56th ODShBr in the Southern MD may also have a parachute battalion already, but it seems less likely that the 11th in Buryatia has one.

Steppe and Desert Warriors

In early July, Krasnaya zvezda covered an exercise by Russia’s first light — even “superlight” — brigade. The MOD paper provided insight into the rationale and structure of this new formation. 

The MOD raised the prospect of light brigades in 2011, late in the tenure of Anatoliy Serdyukov. The concept was to build TOEs for light, medium, and heavy brigades, but the idea faded after Sergey Shoygu’s arrival. However, the Central MD is natural for a light brigade because it’s Russia’s peacekeeping and rapid reaction district. It’s the expeditionary one now too.

Capture

UAZ-3163 Patriot with 2B11 mortar loaded

The 30th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade falls under the Samara-based 2nd CAA of the Central MD. Forty-year-old North Caucasus combat veteran Colonel Dmitriy Medvedev is in command. The brigade started forming up in late 2016 largely with UAZ-3163 Patriot vehicles in place of many BTRs.

Colonel Medvedev and his acting chief of artillery

Colonel Medvedev and his chief of artillery

KZ reported the new formation is designed for action on “mountain-desert terrain” using combat experience gained in Syria. But it’s more like a desert warfare brigade. It’s lighter than the Central MD’s peacekeeping brigade — the 15th IMRB — with BTRs and BRDMs. The 30th IMRB is also lighter than Russian mountain brigades.

The new brigade’s 1st motorized rifle battalion has UAZ-3163 Patriots armed with machine guns, grenade launchers, and/or ATGMs. It received 30 of the military SUVs/pickups in early July and expected more, according to the MOD website.

Izvestiya depicts weapons mounted on UAZ-3163 Patriot

Izvestiya depicts weapons mounted on UAZ-3163 Patriot

The 2nd battalion operates the BTR-82A. About forty have been delivered this year. The brigade’s vehicle inventory is entirely wheeled. It received about 20 R-149MA1 command-staff vehicles and more than 80 enhanced ground clearance Ural trucks this year.

Mortar batteries operating 82-mm 2B14-1 Podnos and 2B9M Vasilek mortars are maneuver battalion assets. Brigade fire support includes battalions of D-30A towed howitzers, BM-21 Grad MRLs, and MT-12 anti-tank guns.

KZ described the brigade’s live fire training on the scrublands of Roshchinskiy training ground. Its artillery sub-units conducted unplanned barrage and concentrated fire on columns of “jihad-mobiles” armed with heavy machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, or ATGMs. The paper concludes the formation learned to operate without air support or missile strikes, but only artillery fire against a mobile, maneuvering enemy in his depth to prevent him from making fire contact with its sub-units.

The Russian Army first deployed UAZ-3163 Patriots to Syria in early 2016, and has used them extensively. Light brigades with the military SUVs/pickups may appear in the Southern as well as the Central MD, according to Russian press. Mil.ru reports the Eastern MD’s 14th Spetsnaz Brigade in Khabarovsk accepted a “large delivery” of UAZ-3163 pickups in early July.

An Ordinary Conflict

Broken glass in the barracks (photo Ura.ru)

Broken glass in the barracks (photo: Ura.ru)

Some may have seen this picture of the aftermath of a massive brawl which occurred on August 2 between 60 Tuvan contractees and 100 soldiers at the Russian Army’s 437th District Training Center (v/ch 31612). The incident says much about the Russian military effort to recruit large numbers of volunteers to serve as soldiers on contract.

The center is near the village of Yelan, 200 km east of Yekaterinburg, and belongs to the Central MD. It trains junior specialists — conscripts and contractees — to be NCOs or operate particular weapons systems.

According to Ura.ru, the Tuvans just completed three months of survival training at the center and got booze to celebrate the occasion. That particular training course comes early, so the men were relatively new contractees.

At some point, their party turned into a rampage with drunken Tuvans wielding knives and other sharpened implements and fighting 100 contractees permanently assigned to the Yelan garrison.

In the end, one officer and 13 contractees from the garrison were hurt and required hospitalization. So the Tuvans got the best of them in the melee.

What started the fight is fairly unclear. Vzglyad postulates possibilities including revanche for insults or mistreatment or a dispute between a single Tuvan and Russian officer with the rest of the Tuvans intervening for their coethnic and the garrison’s 6th company for the latter.

For its part, the MOD officially denies alcohol or knives were involved. According to TASS, several unidentified soldiers received light injuries and scrapes. But Lenta.ru point out that the MOD didn’t deny it was a large-scale fight, and it subsequently admitted that two soldiers are in serious condition.

Deputy commander General-Lieutenant Khasan Kaloyev heads the Central MD’s investigation into the disturbance. The Central MD says the disturbance wasn’t massive and calls it an “ordinary conflict.” But the district military prosecutor has opened a large investigation of his own.

Vzglyad reports that Tuvan troops were involved in a fight with a Spetsnaz unit near Irkutsk in 2015.

The news portal also cites former Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy who said, as early as 2010, investigators first observed the phenomenon of servicemen from the same ethnic group, or from the same locality, imposing their rule on the everyday life of certain military units.

Recall a 2012 post in which a newly-demobbed soldier described something worse than dedovshchina:

“The non-Russians, Tuvans and Dagestanis, in the unit and their petty exactions were worse.  Even officers feared them, according to Ufimtsev.”

Vzglyad spoke with long-time observer of the situation inside the Russian military Sergey Krivenko, who’s also a member of the RF Presidential Council on Human Rights.

Krivenko said it’s difficult to monitor the observance of the rights of servicemen inside a closed organization like the military. But he believes the level of army violence is still very high, but significantly lower now than in the 1990s and early 2000s.

He notes that soldiers come from the same regions, republics, oblasts, and cities and unite on this foundation, then act like they are welded together in any conflict. In this way, zemlyachestvo has replaced dedovshchina to some degree.

Zemlyachestvo

Zemlyachestvo (землячество) means belonging by birth or residence to one republic, oblast, or village.

It can refer to a group of natives from one place living outside its borders. The term also describes a “foreign” community or society for mutual aid somewhere other than its members’ place of origin. It is a group of Russian Federation citizens of the same nationality (in the internal RF sense) living as a minority among people of a preponderant nationality, usually ethnic Russians.

In an American sense, think of a bunch of homeboys joining a gang to defend themselves from a perceived or real external threat.

Contrast this with dedovshchina — the rule of the “grandfathers” — senior conscripts nearing demobilization lording it over younger, newer draftees, generally without much regard to ethnicity.

Krivenko blames commanders who fail to work with subordinates arriving from various cultural levels, regions, and societies. He concludes:

“If the commander worked professionally with them, he would succeed in avoiding such excesses.”

He recalls similar problems with conscripts from the North Caucasus:

“So here our command, to avoid this, simply cut sharply the call-up from the regions of the North Caucasus. This again shows there haven’t been structural changes in working with personnel.”

Despite the presence of psychologists, sergeants, and deputy commanders for personnel work, the commander ultimately has to do everything in indoctrinating his charges properly. According to Krivenko:

“The commander answers for everything. Really now among the troops there is no one to work with personnel in maintaining discipline, in the prevention of similar violations. If the commander is good, he manages to do all this, then such incidents don’t happen in his unit.”

But some of the problem may lie with attitudes toward contractees:

“Often officers treat men on contract service like conscripts. They almost see them as serfs.”

Krivenko says officers are currently trained to deal with a mass of conscripts, not large numbers of contractees.

The commander often ends up investigating incidents and he has little incentive to find something wrong in his own unit. He asks where the newly-created Military Police are in all this since it seems to be a perfect mission for them. There is always the issue of why senior NCOs and warrant officers can’t be responsible for good order in battalions and lower-level units.

Krivenko concludes the brawl reflects the existence of a criminal attitude among some contractees on one hand, and the fact they don’t feel safe in their units on the other. It’s the commander’s task to make sure this isn’t the case.

From this incident, two broad conclusions might be drawn.

First, the whole thing is bad for Defense Minister Shoygu who, though thoroughly Russified and one of the Moscow elite, is still Tuvan. Tuva got the 55th OMSBr (G), and possibly considerable infrastructure as well, with Shoygu at the helm of the military. Troops from the 55th were almost certainly the ones involved in the fight at Yelan. It’s possible the brigade is mono-ethnic, so this would highlight recent MOD laxness on the old Soviet practice of extraterritoriality — sending conscripts and recruits far from home to serve and not overloading units with men of the same ethnicity (unless they’re Russians). One can imagine Tuvans “feeling their oats” with a Tuvan as Defense Minister and some Russians perhaps resenting their new impudence as a result.

Second, the brawl also reflects the state of the massive effort to enlist contractees. As the MOD searches for more volunteers, the more marginal the candidates are likely to be. The military may be increasingly reliant on less qualified men. It could be recruiting more non-Russians than in the past. Finally, what happened at Yelan demonstrates simply that many Russian Army contractees are professionals in name only. It’s often hard for a 24-year-old junior lieutenant to handle a platoon of 19-year-old conscripts let alone an unruly assortment of older and tougher would-be contractees.

New Industrial-Logistical Complex

Moscow region’s Telekanal 360 station recently reported on Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s tour of the Russian military’s first “industrial-logistic complex.”

The first PLK [ПЛК] is located in Naro-Fominsk, not far from Moscow. The 450-acre facility reportedly will store 120 thousand tons of spare parts, to include vehicle engines, transmissions, treads, and tires, as well as other supplies.

The MOD is planning for throughput of 230 thousand tons of freight annually. The PLK will have a centralized dispatch service to provide more streamlined ordering for troop units.

Its first section — two 20,000-square-meter warehouses — was built in seven months. The second section is due for completion in September.  The MOD plans to construct more than 20 PLKs throughout the RF.

The first report on the military’s effort to build “industrial-logistic complexes” appeared in 2014. The initial complex was touted as being a public-private partnership including some commercial space. It was supposed to be finished before the end of 2015.

Announcing the effort, MOD rear services chief Army General Dmitriy Bulgakov said 24 new complexes would be erected before the end of 2018 to replace 400 obsolete military depots and warehouses. He also indicated that construction of one in Armavir (Krasnodar territory) had begun, and work on another in Khabarovsk was to start imminently.

First Weekly MOD Graphic

As promised, the RF MOD has published a graphic depiction of its recent activities.  It’s dated June 30.

Weekly graphic for RF Armed Forces

What the graphic depicts may change over time.  It’s not hugely interesting so far.

It has a section on arms and equipment procurement.  It shows the Iskander-M brigade delivery which was news on June 9.  “More than 20” vehicles and armored combat vehicles were also received over some indeterminate time period.  The graphic depicts the launch of the first proyekt 20385 Gremyashchiy corvette announced June 30.

The MOD graphic indicates 1,767 Russians were accepted for contract service “over a week,” and 1,520 applied.

The MOD transported 9,000 personnel, 47,000 tons of cargo, and 600 pieces of equipment over some indeterminate period.

Some facility at Engels air base was commissioned.

Surprisingly, the graphic has nothing on training or exercises or Russian ops in Syria.

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.