Tag Archives: ВВС

Zelin Out?

An Interfaks source in the Defense Ministry says Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin might be retiring on age grounds.  The rumor goes that Zelin’s Deputy for Aviation, General-Lieutenant Igor Sadofyev will relieve him, while Zelin moves into a defense industry job.  RIA Novosti reports the same story, citing several media outlets.  The Air Forces spokesman, meanwhile, says the VVS cannot comment because it doesn’t have any information to this effect.

RIA Novosti talked to defense commentator Igor Korotchenko, who expressed caution about the Zelin rumor, but said the move to four MDs / OSKs has diminished the service CINC’s influence:

“The role and place of the main commands of the services of the Armed Forces has been reduced accordingly.  Practically all aviation, except strategic, will be subordinate to the OSK commander.”

He says the story of Zelin’s possible departure may have surfaced because of the downgrading of the service CINCs.

It’s interesting that age was cited since Zelin’s only 57, and can serve until age 60 under the law.  He’s headed the VVS since May 2007. 

The three-star general was the subject of dismissal rumors in 2009 when the General Staff Chief and Defense Minister were allegedly unhappy with his insufficient command of air-space (aerospace) defense (VKO) issues.  See Newsru.com and Grani.ru for that story.

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Early Bidding on VKO

2011 should be interesting on the Aerospace Defense (VKO or ВКО) front. 

The President’s poslaniye has been turned into orders, including Medvedev’s directive to unify missile defense (PRO), air defense (PVO), missile attack warning (PRN), and space monitoring systems under the command and control of a single strategic command before next December.

This issue will likely take more than a year to come to any kind of resolution.  Moreover, it’s likely to be a bruising bureaucratic battle royale over control and organization that does nothing to improve Russia’s military capabilities, certainly in the near-term and possibly longer. 

Both Deynekin and Svpressa.ru below make the point that there are real live officers who’ll get jerked around (again) by major moves in aerospace-related branches.  Konovalov wonders whether the Kremlin won’t spend too much effort against the wrong threat.

According to RIA Novosti, a Defense Ministry source says the issue of establishing this command by taking PVO from the Air Forces (VVS) and giving it to the Space Troops (KV) is being worked.  And he doesn’t rule out that “significant organizational and structural changes” could occur in the KV.  But, of course, the final decision on this strategic command lies with the Supreme CINC.

RIA Novosti interviewed former VVS CINC, Army General Petr Deynekin, who said:

“. . . the new structure [VKO] shouldn’t be subordinate to some new command.  It should go under the Air Forces, since they are the most modern service of the armed forces.”

He also warned the Defense Ministry against a reorganization which creates more tension in the officer corps.

Olga Bozhyeva in Moskovskiy komsomolets reviews the past history of transformations involving PVO and Missile-Space Defense (RKO), and concludes the VVS and KV will both end up subordinate to a new command under the General Staff.

Interviewed for Novyy region, Leonid Ivashov sees nothing new in Medvedev’s order on a unitary VKO command.  But it will be an uphill task.  He says Russia currently has practically no missile defense system.  The PVO system’s been reduced to point defense, and it doesn’t cover much of Russia’s territory.  More than anything, he sees it as a defense-industrial issue – can the OPK provide the military with new air and space defense systems?

Svpressa.ru concludes there’s no doubt aerospace attack is Russia’s biggest threat, but over the last two decades armed forces reformers have just played their favorite game of putting services and branches together and taking them apart again, and:

“No one considers the money and material resources expended, or even the fates of thousands of officers who’ve fallen under the chariot wheel of organizational-personnel measures.”

Svpressa.ru describes how RKO and the Military-Space Forces (VKS) went to the RVSN under Defense Minister Sergeyev in 1997, then PVO went to the VVS, and they had to create the KV as a home for elements the RVSN no longer wanted in 2001.  The article concludes that this kept VKO divided in half.  Now VVS and KV generals are already hotly debating how Medvedev’s new order on VKO will be implemented.

Svpressa.ru asked Aleksandr Konovalov what he thinks.  Konovalov says VKO is being created against the U.S., when Russia faces more immediate threats from countries without any space capabilities.

In terms of how a unitary strategic command of VKO might be established, Konovalov concludes:

“It’s still impossible to judge this.  I think Serdyukov doesn’t know the answer to this question yet.  Another thing worries me more.  Here we’ve created four operational-strategic [sic] commands – ‘East,’ ‘Center,’ ‘South,’ and ‘West’ – in the Armed Forces in the event of war.  And in peacetime on these borders four military districts remain.  I can’t understand how they will interact.  And it’s all right if I don’t understand.  It’s worse if the Defense Ministry itself is also ignorant.  Judging by everything, it’s impossible to rule this out.  And there are much more real enemies than the U.S. against these newly-minted operational-strategic [sic] commands and districts.  That’s something to think about.  But VKO . . .  If there’s extra money, VKO could also be created.  It could be useful some time.”

LRA Command-Staff Exercise

Today Russian Long-Range Aviation (LRA or ДА) began a large three-day command-staff exercise (CSX or КШУ) under Air Forces CINC General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin’s direction.  The CSX involves units from Siberia, the Far East, but also Lipetsk, and 40 aircraft including the Tu-160, Tu-22M3, Tu-95MS, Il-78, A-50, MiG-29, MiG-31, and Su-27SM.  They will operate both from their home and temporary bases, and fly over central Russia, the Far East, and extreme northern parts of the Russian Federation.  A-50 crews will control the airspace for the exercise.  Il-78 tankers will conduct mid-air refueling, and ranges at Pemboy near Vorkuta and at Nogotay in Irkutsk Oblast will be used for missile launches and other weapons training.

Aerospace Defense in Disarray

Retired Army General Kornukov

While Russian air and aerospace defenders were meeting in Tver last week, former Air Forces (VVS) CINC, Army General Anatoliy Kornukov gave Interfaks his opinions in a Moscow news conference.  

Kornukov is a member of a group calling themselves the ‘Extradepartmental Expert Council on the Problems of RF Aerospace Defense.’  He also advises the General Director of Almaz-Antey. 

He called aerospace threats the greatest danger for Russia’s security.  He said: 

“An attack from space decides everything now, strikes from space can be delivered to any point on Earth.” 

Kornukov thinks Russia’s aerospace defense (VKO or ВКО) concept’s been thought over long enough, and: 

“Unfortunately, there are still few practical decisions and concrete results.  New air defense systems are being developed very slowly.” 

“We, unfortunately, created a time lag of 20-30 years behind our possible enemy.” 

The ex-CINC says, although the VKO concept was approved in 2006, little has changed: 

“Years pass, but everything stays the same.  And to say that we’re ready for something now would be an exaggeration.  We can now resist an air attack from the standpoint of remaining S-300 systems.  As well as with those residual Su-27 and MiG-29 aircraft, the majority of which lack engines and spare parts.  The picture is simply terrible.” 

He also noted that new systems are progressing slowly, and are entering the armed forces’ inventory even more slowly.  He believes the Operational-Strategic Command of Aerospace Defense (OSK VKO or ОСК ВКО–the old Moscow Air and Air Defense District) can only destroy 1 in 5 targets: 

“If the reliability earlier was 96 or 98 percent, then now the effectiveness [of systems in the inventory] is in the range of 15-20 percent.  What’s meant is how many aircraft of 100 could get through without being countered.  Now about 80.” 

Kornukov recommends establishing VKO under the VVS, and under PVO specifically.  For example, he’d like the Moscow-based OSK VKO to control its own missile-space defense (RKO or РКО) formations and units.  He says: 

“Once all missile-space defense was in one set of hands–the PVO CINC.  He answered for PVO and for RKO.  Now the thinking is inexplicable:  each is dying by itself.  There’s not a person defined as responsible even for air defense.” 

“I think the correct decision would be for everything  to be located in one set of hands, and one person answering for the condition, training, employment [of PVO means]. 

He reminded the audience that, once the province of PVO, control of anti-missile defense went first to the RVSN, and now resides with the Space Troops.  Olga Bozhyeva reported that Kornukov wants RKO, specifically the 3rd Missile Attack Warning System Army to come to the Air Forces, and the latter should change its name to reflect its aerospace orientation.  He doesn’t like the idea of creating a new armed service called aerospace troops that would control PVO.  

Asked about Russia’s ability to defend against potential missile attacks from North Korea or Iran, Kornukov called the country’s capability to counter these threats ‘limited.’  He said, although the S-400 can cope with air-breathing threats, Moscow has no means for countering ‘operational’ (i.e. intermediate-range) missiles. 

Other members of the ‘Extradepartmental Expert Council’ had their say as well.  Former chief of PVO’s equipment ordering directorate General-Major Kolganov said: 

“. . . the VKO concept developed several years ago is not supported today organizationally or financially.  There is no targeted program for its realization.” 

Former Armaments Chief General-Colonel Anatoliy Sitnov says: 

“. . . in Russia they remembered about VKO only after the U.S. began to test the X-37 orbital glider.   . . . everyone’s occupied with a general assimilation of budget resources, and not at all with the development of new strategic technologies for modern space systems, reconnaissance, [and] missile attack warning satellites . . . .  This can’t come from a private businessman.  He comes to grab some budget money and sell what’s been made for scrap.” 

“We lost 300 super-technologies, primarily in aviation and air defense.  In particular, in the production of supergraphite, which is used in nose cones for missiles . . . .” 

Sitnov also criticizes poor organization for VKO: 

“There is no one to be in command, no one to command and control forces and means, no one to commission new air defense systems.” 

“It is time to move from words to deeds, to take purposeful directions and targeted programs for developing new aerospace defense systems.” 

“But we are waiting for someone to come and help us.  No one will.” 

Kornukov is an old PVO guy–albeit an Air Defense Aviation pilot; he was the first CINC of the VVS after it subsumed PVO.  Maybe he, and the others, are just shilling for Almaz-Antey to get even more from the State Defense Order.  Or perhaps their assessments are sincere.