Story of the Year

What was the Russian military story of 2019? Here are some possibilities:

  • The July 1 fire aboard the AS-31 “Losharik” — a secret deep-diving nuclear-powered submarine — which cost the lives of fourteen Russian Navy officers, two of whom were already Heroes of the Russian Federation.
  • The August 8 explosion near the Nenoksa test range in which seven Russian nuclear technicians died and others were severely irradiated, apparently while salvaging a nuclear-powered 9M730 Burevestnik (SSC-X-9 Skyfall) cruise missile that fell into Dvina Bay.
  • The December 12 fire aboard aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov caused by careless welding that killed two and injured 12 and could cost 95 billion rubles to repair. The ill-fated ship is already in an expensive overhaul and was damaged when it pulled away from its massive floating drydock in 2018.

But the real story — the tragedy — of the year is Ramil Shamsutdinov’s rampage. On October 25, the conscript killed eight fellow servicemen and wounded two more at his unit in Gornyy.

Ramil Shamsutdinov

Ramil Shamsutdinov

His unit belongs to the MOD’s 12th GUMO — Russia’s nuclear weapons custodian. Gornyy is a “closed administrative-territorial entity” (ZATO) — a high-security area off-limits to all but personnel working in the facility.

He shot down officers, contractees, and conscripts at the end of his guard shift while they were unloading their weapons.

Only contractees are pulling guard duty there now, and, according to NVO,  the unit will be disbanded and another will take its place.

NVO reported in early December that the MOD is extending its investigation into the case, and moving off its initial assertion that Shamsutdinov suffered a nervous breakdown because of “personal circumstances unconnected with his military service.”

Then the General Procuracy announced on December 24 that military prosecutors are investigating more than 40 units in Russia’s Transbaykal region following Shamsutdinov’s shooting spree. The procuracy spokesman said:

Simultaneously with overseeing observance of the law in the investigation of this crime, Main Military Procuracy, together with the RVSN’s military procuracy, in coordination with the task group established by the RF Minister of Defense for this crime, has organized joint investigative measures covering more than 40 military units.

He added that “making final conclusions about why Shamsutdinov committed the crime, and also about the conditions leading to it would be premature before the end of the investigation.”

According to his lawyer, Shamsutdinov committed the crime because of criminal hazing by his commanders and fellow servicemen. He and several other soldiers in his unit were victims of violence and dedovshchina [the rule of the ‘grandfathers’ or senior soldiers, officially known as non-regulation relations between servicemen]. At least one of their reported tormentors is alive and has been formally charged.

This account of the Shamsutdinov case appeared in the MOD newspaper Krasnaya zvezda. So the Russian high command is pretty much on-board with these facts to date. It’s surprising the MOD would decide to look into another 40 units where similar grievous events could occur. 

As Paul Goble observed the day after the murders at Gornyy, dedovshchina and violence in the ranks hasn’t receded into the past with the institution of one-year conscription making the difference between old and new draftees less pronounced or with the influx of “professional” contract soldiers.

He pointed to Ura.news which reported that the Transbaykal is an extremely remote backwater where bad officers often turn up. The same might be said of the entire Eastern MD. The distance to headquarters, poor communications and transportation, especially in winter, also weaken the chain of command. However, this happened in a unit with a critically serious mission.

An MOD source told Izvestiya in November the military will try to uncover problems in units by establishing a “sociological center” in each MD. Its personnel will assess the “moral-political situation” or MPS of units. Commanders reportedly will be accountable for a unit’s poor MPS up to and including dismissal.

What They Got, 2019

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s address to the MOD Collegium on December 24 began with de rigueur descriptions of how the U.S. and NATO menace Russia.

Not bothering, of course, to mention that it’s Moscow’s treaty-busting and its invasion of a neighbor that put America back in the intermediate-range missile business and caused Balts and Poles to bulk up their defenses.

Capture

It’s not propaganda of interest here, but rather what Mr. Shoygu claims the Russian military acquired by way of hardware in 2019.

Shoygu said the MOD had the highest level of arms and equipment supplied to its forces in four years — more than 6,500 — which raised the share of “modern” types to 68.2 percent overall. “Modern” arms reached 76 percent and 82 percent respectively in the RVSN and Russia’s nuclear triad specifically.

He added that the first missile regiment outfitted with Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles began combat duty this week. Three RVSN regiments received RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2) ICBMs. Peresvet laser defense systems are on-duty with five ICBM divisions.

Shoygu enumerated what the rest of the military got this year:

  • Five modernized strategic bombers
  • Completed testing of Borey-A (pr. 955A) SSBN Knyaz Vladimir [but still not accepted for service]
  • 624 tanks and other armored vehicles
  • 143 airplanes and helicopters
  • 13 satellites, including the third Kupol early warning satellite
  • One submarine [the first pr. 636.3 for the Pacific Fleet Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy]
  • Eight surface ships
  • 17 vessels and support ships
  • Four coastal missile systems
  • 10,000 pieces of comms gear [how does that square with 6,500?]

Not everything can be good, so Defense Minister Shoygu said the serviceability rate of the MOD’s training aircraft is only 58 percent, and new Yak-130 jet trainers only 56 percent. But he claimed the overall rate for MOD equipment is 95 percent. Naturally, it’s a game of what gets counted and what doesn’t.

Listing the military’s accomplishments, Shoygu provided other points of interest.

— In 2019, the Russians held two “systematic” surprise inspections of combat readiness involving military districts, armed services, and service branches. He didn’t say which ones or where.

— The MOD conducted an attestatsiya of contractees to evaluate their competence and suitability. Some were found unfit and separated from the service.

— An old problem from the early 2010s is nearly resolved. Housing has been provided for some 61,000 officers who lacked a duty post but couldn’t be retired until they got apartments legally due to them. Only 47 officers in this situation remain to be housed.

— The LRA conducted 48 strategic bomber flights in 2019.

— Russian aircraft sorties in Syria are down to 2-3 per day now. In 2015-2017, there were 80-90 combat flights daily.

— Russian forces have now tested 359 “modern” weapons and equipment items in Syria.

In conclusion, Defense Minister Shoygu said the Russian Armed Forces fulfilled all assigned missions in 2019, and increased their combat potential by 14 percent.

Wouldn’t we love to see the formula used to determine that.

Promotion List

Can see some folks have been waiting for this. Thanks for your patience.

RF President Vladimir Putin signed out his Constitution Day promotion list on December 12.

For the MOD, it included two three-star, five two-star, and 22 one-star promotions (19 general-majors and three rear-admirals).

For Putin’s Natsgvardiya, it was skimpy. Its top ranks must be full. Only two two-stars and five one-stars.

On the MOD list, GOMU Chief Burdinskiy and Eastern MD COS / FDC Kuralenko made general-colonel.

Sergey Kuralenko

Sergey Kuralenko

New general-lieutenants included:

  • Commander, 35th CAA, Eastern MD
  • Deputy Commander, Central MD
  • Deputy Commander for Material-Technical Support, Central MD
  • Director, MOD’s Transportation Support Department (a fast promote — 2 years)
  • A deputy chief of a u/i directorate, Main Operations Directorate, Genshtab

New general-majors and rear-admirals included:

  • Commander, 98th Airborne Division
  • Commanders of two RVSN missile divisions
  • Commander, 9th Missile Defense Division
  • Commander, 102nd Military Base (Armenia)
  • Chief of Staff, Submarine Forces, Northern Fleet
  • Deputy Commander, Submarine Forces, Northern Fleet
  • Chief of Air Defense Troops and Aviation, Central MD
  • Chief of Personnel, Southern MD
  • Chief of Combat Training, Airborne Troops
  • Chief of RKhBZ Troops, Eastern MD
  • Chief of Communications, Central MD
  • Chief, State Secrets Protection Service, Ground Troops
  • Chief, 333rd Combat Training Center, Western MD
  • Chief, Military Education Department, MOD
  • Chief, Chelyabinsk Branch, Air Forces Academy

Six new one-stars couldn’t be identified in a post right now.

The updated spreadsheet with more detail is available here.

Contractee Goal Quietly Pushed Way Right

A couple years ago Russia’s MOD aimed to have 499,000 professional enlisted soldiers — contract servicemen — manning its forces in 2020. That goal has, without notice, dropped to 475,600 by the end of 2025.

The MOD has been unable to get above 384,000 contractees for several years. Every year it claims to sign up its annual quota of 50,000, but separations are high enough to stop progress toward its ultimate contract manning target.

Pankov-240.jpg

Pankov

TASS recently reported Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov — who supervises execution of MOD manpower policies — said this about recruiting volunteers into the ranks during 2019:

More than 50,000 men were accepted into military service on contract which allowed for manning the armed forces with well-prepared specialists, and the main emphasis was on the quality of candidates being selected — 70 percent have professional education.

“Professional education” means some type of post-secondary schooling (community college, trade school, etc.) short of a university degree.

Recall Moscow has, since the early 2000s, tried to establish contract service — a program to attract and retain long-term enlisted personnel and build a strong non-commissioned officer corps.

The news agency continued:

The draft action plan for the RF Ministry of Defense in 2019-2025 calls for an increase in the quantity of contractees to 475,600 men by the end of 2025.

This “475,600 by 2025” is basically what General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov said last winter.

Cutting the number and shifting the date five years to the right is becoming official policy.

We haven’t seen a new MOD “action plan” yet. The last “action plan” covered the 2013-2020 period. That plan called for signing up 50,000 contractees every year to have 425,000 in the armed forces by the end of 2017.

Gerasimov said the Russian military had 384,000 contractees in late 2018. Defense Minister Shoygu reported the same number in 2016.

Russian Army recruiting is barely holding its ground even with new volunteers. This year’s 50,000 just compensate for those who don’t re-up at the end of their contracts.

In recognition of the MOD’s recruitment dilemma, the RF government in September increased base pay for contractees by 50 percent, raised compensation for family housing, and also supplemented specialist pay and performance bonuses. It remains to be seen if this will attract more men into the ranks.

Recruiting is difficult for any military. The U.S. Armed Forces invest great resources into the effort because human capital acquisition is the sine qua non of military power.

Of course, Russia intends to continue drafting men to serve. But maybe it’s reached some natural limit on its ability to attract volunteers.

Perhaps Moscow has signed up the easiest and most willing candidates and, in some HR corollary to the law of diminishing returns, MOD attempts to recruit the next one increasingly demand more effort, time, and expense.

Russia’s Second Best Protected City

St. Petersburg is probably now Russia’s second best protected city in terms of air defense (as common sense would dictate).

Interfaks-AVN reported today that another regiment of the Western MD’s 2nd Air Defense Division in Leningrad oblast has completed training with the S-400 to include combat firings against Favorit targets (the 5V55 missile from the S-300P system).

S-400 deployments in the 2nd ADD

S-400 deployments in the 2nd ADD

The regiment, likely the 1489th SAM Regiment, has returned to its home base of Vaganovo ENE of StP. It’s supposed to begin combat duty in February 2020, according to Interfaks-AVN.

The 500th SAM Regiment at Gostilitsy WSW of StP got its S-400s in 2015. The 1488th at Zelenogorsk NW of StP in 2016, the 1490th at Ulyanovka SE of StP probably in 2017, and the 1544th at Vladimirskiy Lager (but launch battalions split between Luga and Strugi Krasnyye) S of StP in 2018.

So not only is the 2nd ADD now all S-400, it’s also a five-regiment SAM division.

Here’s a handy reference to S-400 deployments (which have been difficult to keep up on). No wonder Mr. Putin wants to unplug the Internet and get rid of ru.wikipedia.org.

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.

It Was That Bad

General-Lieutenant Yevgeniy Burdinskiy

General-Lieutenant Yevgeniy Burdinskiy

Another lesson in the value of collecting and following data points over the long term.

On October 24, GOMU Chief General-Lieutenant Burdinskiy made a simple statement to the Russian media:

“The manning of the armed forces is 95 percent, since 2012 this indicator has risen by 35 percent.”

So Russian armed forces manning was only 60 percent of the nominal org-shtat in 2012. The forces were undermanned by 40 percent.

Wow.

On these pages, reports of Russian military commentators to the effect that undermanning was 20, 25, or even 30 percent have been repeated and highlighted many times. But no one would have written or believed 40 percent undermanning. Now the report has come from GOMU itself.

As recently as seven years ago, that’s how bad undermanning was, and that’s how hard the Russian MOD worked to conceal the state of affairs with its manpower.

Now the MOD can demonstrate how dramatically its personnel situation has changed, but only by admitting just how bad it was in the past.