Tag Archives: ВКО

Aerospace Defense Troops

Svpressa.ru’s Sergey Ishchenko published an interesting piece on VKO late last Friday.  He wrote that Space Troops Commander, General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko recently reported to the Federation Council on the creation of VKO, making it clear that Ostapenko’s branch, as reported earlier and elsewhere, will be the basis of Russia’s unified VKO due to stand up by 1 December.

Ishchenko makes these additional points:

  • The long-range missile for the S-400 is still in testing.
  • He doubts the S-500 will be delivered in 2015.
  • His interviewee believes the new Aerospace Defense Troops will get all or some of Russia’s SAM force from the VVS.
  • The interviewee thinks the S-500 is on schedule.

Ishchenko says the debate over the lead for VKO didn’t necessarily center on what’s best to protect Russia’s security, but rather on who would receive new resources and general officer billets.

The Air Forces argued they were best suited to lead it, but the Space Troops apparently argued persuasively that they were better prepared to handle Russia’s future transatmospheric threats.

Now, a quick editorial aside from Ishchenko’s narrative . . . this decision is probably a good thing for the Air Forces, which already have their hands full and don’t need more missions.  They stand to lose only some part of the surface-to-air missile business (which hasn’t always been a core mission for them anyway).  And the VVS will benefit by concentrating on their most important tasks.

But back to Ishchenko . . . he provides a fine review of the USSR’s space weapons and space defense efforts, which, arguably, met or exceeded those of the United States.  He notes President Yeltsin’s 1993 decree on creating VKO, for which no one moved so much as a finger, at least partially because of the country’s economic and budgetary predicament at that time. 

Then Ishchenko gets more interesting.  He details the danger posed to Russia by U.S. “noncontact” wars in Iraq (sic), Yugoslavia, and Libya.  These, however, are really wars of the past rather than the future, he says.  Ishchenko moves on to the threat of Prompt Global Strike.

He talks about a hypersonic bomber cruising at Mach 5-7 speeds and altitudes up to 30,000 meters, beyond the reach of Russia’s current SAMs.  Of course, IOC isn’t before 2025, but Moscow needs to start thinking today about how to counter it.  Meanwhile, the state-of-the-art Russian SAM, the S-400, is barely fielded and its extended range missile is still being tested.  Its successor, the S-500, is supposed to be ready in 2015, but Ishchenko is skeptical.

The end of Ishchenko’s article is a brief interview with the chief editor of the journal Vozdushno-kosmicheskaya oborona, Mikhail Khodarenok.  Khodarenok’s a retired colonel, professional air defender, graduate of the General Staff Academy, and former staffer of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate (GOU).  In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was an outstanding military journalist for Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, but by 2003 or 2004, he left for VKO and Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer, both wholly owned by air defense system designer Almaz-Antey.

Ishchenko asks what Khodarenok knows about the process of creating the Aerospace Defense Troops.  The latter hems about not having access to secret directives and documents before concluding:

“But I can say that much has already been determined.  In particular, it’s decided that Space Troops will be the basis of VKO.  Although there were other proposals.  The Air Forces, in particular, proposed taking their service as the basis.”

Asked about this tug-of-war for VKO within the Defense Ministry, he says:

“And this is a beloved Russian pasttime.  In our Armed Forces, they are constantly getting rid of something or resubordinating.  What happened, for example, with army aviation.  In my memory, five times it was given to the Air Forces, then returned to the Ground Troops.  Usually then five years of complete confusion.  Billions lost.  And it all begins again.”

Asked what will be in VKO:

“The basis is the Space Troops.  Evidently, the surface-to-air missile troops (ZRV) will be transferred to them from the VVS.  Fully or partially.  This isn’t determined yet.”

Finally, asked whether Almaz-Antey General Director Igor Ashurbeyli was replaced because of problems with the S-400’s long-range missile or issues in the S-500’s development, Khodarenok says:

“Ashurbeyli’s resignation was not connected with engineering problems in any way.  Neither with difficulties on the S-500, nor on the S-400.”

“I have my suppositions on this score.  But I don’t want to share them.  I repeat:  the most important thing is that the S-500’s development is on schedule.  And this system really will very much help the country’s aerospace defense.”

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Makarov Interview

Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer published an interview with the Chief of the General Staff, Army General Nikolay Makarov last Tuesday.  It’s not exactly a hard-ball interview.  But it’s fairly consistent with his other statements.  Among the priorities, preserving mobilization appears again.  Inter-service C2 in the new OSKs is a big theme.  He can’t explain why the Air Forces aren’t getting more new aircraft, and PVO sounds like it’s destined for joining VKO under the Space Troops. 

VPK asked about the possibility of changes in Russia’s military doctrine following the NATO-Russia summit and more talk of a strategic partnership.  Makarov said the approach of NATO infrastructure to Russia’s borders and the alliance’s continued “open door” policy vis-a-vis Ukraine and Georgia are still factors in Russia’s military doctrine.  Therefore, there’s no need to adjust it.

Makarov expounded on the concept of force and force structure development [строительство] to 2020 adopted by President Medvedev last April 19.  Its main measures include:

  • Establishment of the air-space (aerospace) defense (VKO) system;
  • Formation of the optimal composition of inter-service troop (force) groupings on strategic axes;
  • Supporting mobilization of military formations and troop groupings;
  • Establishing modern command and control systems;
  • Deploying military towns of a new troop basing system;
  • Reequipping formations and units with new and future types of armaments and military equipment;
  • Resolving social protection issues of servicemen.

Asked about military science and operational training, Makarov said the main task of the military-scientific complex is to “support the training and employment of the Armed Forces in their new profile, especially inter-service training of the military command and control organs” of the new MDs / OSKs. 

Makarov admitted that Russia lags behind developed countries in reconnaissance and command and control, and is still using communications systems developed in the 1990s.  He continued:

“Another problem is the fact that every service and troop branch of the Armed Forces developed its own means of automation and communications without looking at the others.  The command and control systems of the Ground Troops, Navy, and Air Forces didn’t interface with each other, that lowered the possibilities for controlling troop groupings on the operational-strategic and operational level.”

He says the General Staff has given the OPK requirements for high-tech digital reconnaissance and communications systems.  Industry is already developing a fundamentally new, sixth generation radio system with digital signal processing to implement a net organization in radio communications.  He says it’s being built as a unitary, integrated net at all levels, from the General Staff to the individual soldier on the battlefield.  Command and control systems will get 300 billion rubles under GPV-2020, according to Makarov.

Sounding very much the net-centric warfare disciple, Makarov says the main task is to form a unitary information space uniting reconnaissance, navigation, command and control, and new generation weapons.

Makarov doesn’t have a good answer when asked why the Air Forces don’t have a single fully reequipped unit despite increased defense expenditures.  He maintains they are getting new aircraft and their units are now all permanently combat ready and fully equipped and manned.

On aerospace defense, Makarov says PVO, PRO, SPRN, and KKP (space monitoring) will be concentrated in the hands of one commander, but:

“I’d like to note this won’t be a simple, mechanistic merger of different military entities under the leadership of a new strategic command.  Their deep integration and echelonment by mission, information exchange, and interception fire is envisaged.  We’ve already started fulfilling the initial measures on this issue.”

Obviously speaking much prior to last week’s news about reversing cuts in the officer ranks, Makarov addressed the moratorium on inducting new cadets.  He said 78.5 percent of 2010 VVUZ graduates became officers.  Others, he says, who wanted to stay in the service were temporarily placed in lower-ranking [i.e. sergeant] posts, but will participate in command training and form a cadre reserve for filling officer positions.

Lastly, Makarov talked about the new military pay system coming next year.  Military retirees have been especially concerned about its effect on pensions.  Makarov didn’t say much to assuage them.  He said there will be no difference in pensions depending on when servicemen retired, and a commission under Finance Ministry leadership is working on the issue.  That will probably reassure army pensioners.

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.

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.”

Medvedev Calls for Unified Aerospace Defense

Yesterday President Dmitriy Medvedev delivered the annual Federal Assembly address.  It was rather brief, uninspiring, and contained relatively little on the military, except his call for work on a unified aerospace (air-space) defense (VKO or ВКО).  This could be a death knell for independent Space Troops.  He also repeated his warning that an agreement on missile defense is needed, or another round of the arms race will ensue.

But let’s look from the beginning . . . Medvedev suggested the army’s modernization might help jumpstart the scientific and technical modernization of the economy.  He said the 20 trillion rubles for the State Program of Armaments will be doubly effective if they give Russia dual-use technologies that can help modernize production processes and develop both fundamental and applied research.  And Medvedev again mentioned creation of a Russian DARPA:

“Therefore we are creating a special structure which will research and develop breakthrough technologies for the defense sector.  There are such structures, you know, in other countries.  We are expecting many of them will find application in everyday life.”

There seems to be a huge disconnect between Medvedev’s almost offhand comments here and what military men expect out of that 20 trillion.  One doubts many in the armed forces see any of this funding going to R&D.  They see it going almost entirely toward procurement of existing weapons and equipment woefully lacking in today’s military inventory.  Perhaps it’s Medvedev’s way of selling (as if he needs to) these expenditures to the average citizen.  

At any rate, Medvedev then gets down to brief comments on the armed forces:

“The development of our state and society is impossible without effective support of national security and defense.  We have taken a course for a deep modernization of the Armed Forces, for conducting systemic, meaningful transformations in them.  The combat component of the Armed Forces, the combat readiness system, command and control, and material-technical support of troops have already been updated.  Our combat exercises have again become regular and, what’s of no small importance, large-scale.  Four military districts have been formed instead of six.  In the framework of the State Program of Armaments to 2020, troops are being outfitted with modern equipment.”

“What tasks still have to be resolved?  First.  In the next year, particular attention needs to be given to strengthening the country’s aerospace defense, to unify existing air and missile defense systems, missile attack warning, and space monitoring.  They should act under the unitary command and control of a strategic command.”

“Second.  Today’s Russia, it goes without saying, also needs a modern army and fleet, compact and mobile troops manned with high-class specialists and the newest weapons.  This requires both serious resources (I just stated the volumes of these resources), and new, sometimes complex, decisions.  At the same time, it is necessary to fulfill all obligations to people who chose army service for themselves, first and foremost to resolve the housing question within the planned time.”

“Third.  The army should free itself from ancillary tasks and noncore functions.  These functions need to be transferred to civilian organizations, to concentrate attention, most of all, on real combat training.  A young man only goes to the army for one year, and the program of training in military affairs is not becoming easier.  It is essential that every young man assimilate the program in full measure.”

Medvedev goes on to describe his discussions about European missile defense with NATO in Lisbon.  He repeats his warning that, if an agreement on missile defense isn’t reached and a full-fledged joint cooperation mechanism isn’t created over the next decade, another round of the arms race will begin:

“And we will be forced to make a decision on the deployment of new strike means.  It is perfectly obvious that this would be a very grave scenario.”

Kornukov’s VKO Concept

In Izvestiya yesterday, Dmitriy Litovkin wrote that today Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov will receive a new, large-scale concept for establishing Russia’s global aerospace defense system for his review. 

According to Litovkin, the concept’s drafters picked 9 August because it’s the 60th anniversary of the USSR Council of Ministers decision to create the Soviet strategic air defense system.  He adds that Izvestiya is the first to study this just now declassified seven-page document.  It called for Soviet designers to develop an air defense system for Moscow codenamed ‘Berkut,’ in an improbably short period of two and a half years.

Litovkin quotes former Air Forces CINC Anatoliy Kornukov:

“Today we’ve developed and given the Defense Ministry an analogous document, setting down goals and tasks in the area of developing the country’s VKO system – this is a draft of a presidential decree on establishing VKO.”

In this case, the ‘we’ is the Extradepartmental Expert Council for Air-Space Defense (VKO) Problems, which Kornukov chairs.

Of course, Kornukov is a well-known critic of the state of Russia’s current aerospace defenses, who also advises air defense system producer Almaz-Antey.  One might, therefore, logically conclude that Kornukov’s concept will accord with Almaz-Antey’s current plans.

Litovkin goes on to relate stories of Laventiy Beria’s and his son’s involvement in those early air defense development efforts, and the prize money offered to the designers and their teams.

He tells about the Soviet / Russian A-35 and A-135 nuclear-armed ABM interceptors made obsolete by the S-400.  The S-400 he describes as a direct successor to the S-300, but with modern electronics:

“The tactical-technical characteristics of the S-400 were confirmed in the course of large-scale exercises ‘Combat Commonwealth-2009’ and ‘West-2009.’  S-400 combat crews successfully destroyed targets analogous to modern and future air attack systems.  The correctness of the Defense Ministry’s decision on creating air-space defense brigades was confirmed at the same time.”

Litovkin quotes Almaz-Antey Chief Igor Ashurbeyli:

“In modern conditions even the S-400, if you go the way of endless modernization, will end up in a technical dead end.  The system is indisputably effective, it will be modernized in the future, but up to a certain reasonable limit.  Its combat potential will be raised, but it won’t go beyond the bounds of ‘conventional’ PVO-PRO systems.  Today we have the mission of covering the country from the greatest number of potential threats.  On the Defense Ministry’s order, we’ve started development of the fundamentally new S-500 system.”

As stated many times, Litovkin notes the S-500 is to complete development by 2015, but its characteristics haven’t been disclosed, beyond it having a new active X-band phased array radar.  Supplemental short- and medium-range SAMs (Morfey and Vityaz) will be developed.  The S-400, S-500, and these systems are supposed to cover ranges from 5 to 400 kilometers, at heights from 5 meters to near space.

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.