“Training” for Zapad-2017

Rail cars carrying armored vehicles

In Military-Political Review, Pavel Kovalev takes issue with a contention that Russia will send 4,000 rail cars carrying 30,000 troops and their equipment to Belarus for Zapad-2017. That claim appeared in National Interest three months ago.

Kovalev’s rebuttal is interesting in the context of Russia’s major annual exercise. But it’s significant for what it shows about the military’s use of trains, i.e. how much they can transport. It’s particularly useful given that the MOD now provides figures on what military trains deliver each week.

Kovalev says the Russian MOD contracted for 4,162 rail cars to carry cargo back and forth to Belarus during the 2017 training year. That’s 2,081 round trips over the course of 11 months, not just before the one-week Zapad-2017 exercise which takes place September 14-20. He indicates that a military train typically has 57 rail cars, so 2,081 cars is 36 round-trip train loads.

To Belarus this year, Moscow has sent 1,000 troops and equipment for a VDV exercise on four (round-trip) trains, 1,500 troops and 200 pieces of equipment for an EW exercise on four trains, troops and equipment for an engineering exercise on two trains, and forces for a communications exercise on one train. One train is needed to serve two Russian facilities on Belarusian territory.

Estimating two trains after Zapad-2017, Kovalev concludes there are 22 round-trip train loads or 1,254 rail cars available to carry what’s required for the exercise.

Soldiers secure 2S19 SP howitzer to a rail car

Soldiers secure a 2S19 SP howitzer to a flat car

The number is virtually unchanged from the 1,250 rail cars Kovalev says were used for Zapad-2013.

Moscow announced 3,000 Russian troops and 280 pieces of equipment will travel to Belarus for Zapad-2017. So 1,254 rail cars might seem like too many. But a motorized rifle battalion with 550 personnel and 120 vehicles requires 78, according to Kovalev’s depiction below.

An MR battalion on roughly 78 rail cars.jpg

There are variations, e.g. a tank battalion might require 20-30 additional rail cars.

In the end, per Kovalev, transporting one battalion might take 80-110, or two train loads. Add to this a train with rear support including rations, ammunition, POL, medical units, etc.

Kovalev never says what 22 train loads could carry. But they might deliver a brigade, depending on the materiel needed to support it. However, he says after Zapad-2017 he won’t be surprised to read Western accounts of 100,000 Russian troops delivered to Belarus.

Russia will maintain it’s below the threshold of 13,000 troops conveniently mooting the OSCE Vienna Document’s politically-binding requirement for foreign observers on ground. But tens of thousands of Russian soldiers will almost certainly participate in related drills in the Western MD.

Kovalev’s explanation of the use of rail transport provides perspective on MOD weekly graphics showing more than 4,000 train-loads of men and equipment delivered since early July. Exactly where the MOD doesn’t say. But there are many possibilities given Russia’s dependence on its railroads and internal lines of communication.

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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.

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.

More MOD Graphics

This week, the Russian MOD reported 1,793 individuals accepted on contract service and 1,379 going through the selection process.

For military transportation, 185 aircraft, 3,000 vehicles, 900 trains, and 10 ships delivered 95,000 tons of cargo, 390 pieces of equipment, and 60,000 personnel. The large number of personnel transported reflects the end of the conscription campaign and the final deliveries of new soldiers to their duty stations.

The VDV received eight BMDs (presumably BMD-4Ms) and the MOD also got 19 unspecified BMPs.

This Week.jpg

The week prior, the MOD reported receiving two Nebo-UM radars, 17 Orlan-10 UAVs, 18 2S12A Sani-A mortars, and proyekt 20380 frigate Sovershennyy from the Amur Shipbuilding Plant.

It announced that 190 aircraft, 3,000 vehicles, 1,000 trains, and 10 ships delivered 68,000 tons of cargo, 460 pieces of equipment, and 27,000 personnel.

For contract service, 1,061 individuals were accepted and 3,047 were undergoing the selection process.

The MOD also reported nine buildings or facilities at the PLK in Naro-Fominsk were accepted for use.

Week Prior

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.

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.

Weekly MOD Graphics

Here’s a link to a spreadsheet with some data from the RF MOD’s new weekly infographics. It doesn’t have everything, just the data that seems like it can be followed over time.