Tag Archives: ВКС

Aerospace Forces

At some point, probably next summer, the Air Forces (VVS) will cease being one of Russia’s three armed services.  The Aerospace Forces (VKS or ВКС) will take their place.  The Aerospace Defense Troops (VVKO) will likewise disappear as a branch and get rolled into the new VKS.  Russia will be left with three services and two branches (not three of each).

RF and Air Forces Flags (photo: Mil.ru)

RF and Air Forces Flags (photo: Mil.ru)

The Aerospace Forces will be responsible for all Russian air forces and air defense (and more).

This news comes on the heels of six months of studious MOD denials that such a move was even contemplated.

It began quietly on 1 December  with Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s remarks to a regular military leadership videoconference.

According to Krasnaya zvezda, Shoygu discussed changing the organizational structure of the Air Forces in connection with turning VVKO aerospace defense brigades back into air defense (PVO) divisions.  He said the decision was made in mid-2013 after an analysis of mission fulfillment by the Air Forces.  He explained that:

“The goal of the changes being made is to increase the effectiveness of VVS [Air Forces] command and control, to improve the quality of the organization of everyday activity and planning for the combat employment of the troops.”

It echoed an earlier decision to reverse course on Anatoliy Serdyukov’s large composite air bases and groups and put aircraft back into more dispersed divisions and regiments.

By 10 December, Interfaks-AVN reported that the decision to replace the VVS with the VKS awaited only an official announcement.  

The news agency’s MOD source said:

“Formation of the new service [VKS] will proceed gradually, and, as expected, take several years.  In the course of this period, the forces and means entering the VKS must develop in the direction of unification and standardization of command and control, information and strike systems.”

The source also claimed the first CINC of the new service would be a general officer with experience commanding large inter-service [unified or joint] troop groupings, including aviation and PVO.  The most likely candidate — according to the source — Central MD Commander General-Colonel Vladimir Zarudnitskiy.

Then Defense Minister Shoygu made it official on 18 December when he said creating Aerospace Forces would be a priority task for 2015.

TASS reported the VKS CINC will have deputies for aviation, air defense, missile defense (PRO), and space.  It also indicated that VKS will control all current VVS aviation, including frontal and army aviation.  But its sway over the latter two — with the exception of fighter aircraft — will be “purely nominal,” and they will be employed in “coordination” with MD commanders.  Troop PVO will apparently continue to protect army formations.

Military commentator Igor Korotchenko captured the essence of VKS as a reaction to the possibility of a devastating U.S. aerospace attack on Russia:

“The main function [of VKS] is to guarantee realization of the Russian Federation’s concept of aerospace defense, proceeding from the need to counter existing plans, particularly of the United States of America, to implement the prompt global strike concept.  The Americans are planning in the conceivable future to use precision weapons, including hypersonic ones, to destroy [launch] positions and silos of intercontinental ballistic missiles, command centers, communications centers.  The fact here is that this concept will potentially be a great threat for Russia.  These new structures, the new service of the Russian armed forces will be occupied with its deterrence and neutralization.”

Such a potentially disarming threat might mobilize the military and public against America, but Korotchenko and the VKS will have to wait a very long time for it to materialize.  And if it doesn’t appear, then the deterrent worked, right?  A no-lose proposition from Moscow’s perspective.

VKS will be something of an effort to resurrect or reconstruct Soviet PVO Strany — national air defense — that was dismantled beginning in the late 1970s. Serdyukov’s reorganization of the VVS and creation of VVKO are criticized now as focused solely on saving money.  The current thinking is that all aerospace defense systems should be concentrated in a single service and single CINC with authority and responsibility for protecting the country’s aerospace borders.

The new VKS will be anything but compact, as President Putin often calls on the army to be.  They will be a sprawling enterprise that may be challenging to link and inter-connect for operations as a unified command.  If Serdyukov’s changes were too economy-minded, this one errs on the side of Soviet-style giantism. And now isn’t an auspicious time for expensive undertakings.

There are practical issues too.  How will the VKS CINC manage competing requirements for modern fighter aircraft from frontal aviation and air defense?Their number is limited and insufficient for both needs.  So creation of VKS won’t change the fact that they will be spread thinly over a gigantic landmass.

Moral of the story:  Reform, reorganization, and reshuffling never really end no matter the boss — Serdyukov, Shoygu, etc.  VKS may be the answer for a time, but they’re very unlikely to be the last word. 

P.S.  Various reports on VKS provided some indication of deployments in 2015. What is currently the VKO brigade (or will become a PVO division) in Novosibirsk may receive the S-400 this summer.  Shoygu said the MOD will put an air and air defense army (AVVSiPVO or АВВСиПВО) in the Arctic.  More recently, TASS reported an S-400 regiment will be deployed on Novaya Zemlya.

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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.”