Tag Archives: Стратегическое направление

Not Enough Men or Transports

Il-76 Transport Landing (photo: Kommersant / Anatoliy Zhdanov)

Il-76 Transport Landing (photo: Kommersant / Anatoliy Zhdanov)

Another large-scale Russian military “surprise inspection” has concluded, and military commentator Ilya Kramnik has placed it, and other exercises, into perspective for Lenta.ru.

Interpreted as a prologue to war in Europe by some, the Kremlin-directed “surprise inspections” are the logical continuation of a process in recent years.  It is the process of developing strategic mobility through deployment exercises, according to Kramnik.

The latest six-day “surprise inspection” focused on deploying and redeploying forces in Russia’s Arctic regions, but President Vladimir Putin expanded it into a nation-wide exercise.

Kramnik focuses his analysis first on the Kaliningrad exclave.  Russia has practiced its defense of this region since the mid-2000s on an expanding scale. But the first large-scale drill in Kaliningrad, Kramnik says, was Zapad-2009.

Kaliningrad is where the pattern of special attention to troop mobility developed. In “surprise inspections,” military units from almost every armed service and branch were delivered by ground, rail, sea, or air transport to unfamiliar ranges in that region to conduct training missions.

The pattern has repeated in each of Russia’s “strategic directions.” Although Kramnik doesn’t describe it as such, it is, in effect, the establishment of expeditionary forces within the Russian military intended for internal transfer and use on any of Russia’s borders (or beyond them).  

If mobility questions play a key role in Kaliningrad, Kramnik continues, they are dominant when it comes to the Arctic.  All Arctic deployments depend on Navy and Air Forces transport capabilities.  Then he writes:

“It relies first and foremost on reestablishment of infrastructure which supports, if necessary, the redeployment [переброска] of troops by sea and by air and not requiring large numbers of personnel for daily service and security.  13 airfields, radar stations, repaired ports and other facilities allow forces to return quickly ‘in a threatening period.’  And to control the surrounding sea and air space a rather sufficiently compact grouping based here on a permanent basis.”

Kramnik concludes that Russia is confronting its weakness — armed forces not large enough to garrison its immense territory.  This increased attention to strategic maneuver is a means to compensate for an insufficient number of troops.  He takes a comment from Viktor Murakhovskiy:

“Today we don’t have a single self-sufficient grouping on any of our [strategic] directions.  This is the main reason for the great attention the Armed Forces leadership allocates to the potential for redeploying forces.”

Mobility, guaranteed by a developed railroad network, and in distant and isolated TVDs by the world’s second largest inventory of military-transport aviation, should support the potential for Russia, if necessary, to “swing the pendulum” — effectively maneuvering forces between different TVDs, Kramnik writes.  The capacity provided by the civilian airlines and fleet can also add to this.

But besides men, Russia also lacks enough transport aircraft.  

Kramnik writes that while attention has gone to constructing and reconstructing airfields and finding personnel to service them, the VTA’s order-of-battle is in critical condition, especially in terms of light and medium transports.  The average age of the An-26 inventory is nearly 35 years; the An-12 more than 45 years.

Events of the last year in Ukraine ended what were already difficult talks with Kyiv about building the An-70 and restarting production of the An-124.  Meanwhile, much of the Antonov Design Bureau’s competence has degraded, according to CAST Deputy Director Konstantin Makiyenko.

So today, Kramnik says, Russia has at its disposal only one serial VTA aircraft — the modernized Il-76, developed 40 years ago with serious limits on the weight and dimensions of military equipment it can deliver.  It will be supplemented by the Il-112 (light) and Il-214 (medium) transports, and by a “future aviation system transport aviation” or PAK TA.

The very same reported PAK TA that generated hysterical press here, then here, and here by promising to land an entire armored division of new Russian T-14 / Armata tanks overnight, anywhere in the world.  From an aircraft industry at pains to duplicate large but old designs like Antonov’s?  Obviously, a sudden outbreak of irrational Soviet-style giantism.

In the end, Kramnik concludes that VTA needs a high priority or Russia will have trouble moving combat capable groupings to the Arctic and Far East.  New aerial tankers are needed as well.

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Will the Genshtab and OSKs Replace the Glavkomaty?

Writing in Vremya novostey yesterday, Nikolay Khorunzhiy claims the recently-concluded, largest post-Soviet exercise – Vostok-2010 – was intended to test the establishment of four operational-strategic commands (OSK or ОСК) in place of Russia’s six military districts, as well as the establishment of structural sub-units of the General Staff in place of the Main Commands (Glavkomaty or Главкоматы) of the Ground Troops, Air Forces, and Navy.

Khorunzhiy continues:

“It’s proposed that the army’s new structure will allow a sharp cut in the steps in passing commands from 16 levels to three, and increase their precision and reliability.  On 6 July, President Dmitriy Medvedev signed a decree establishing OSKs.  Part of the authority of central command and control organs, but also that earlier entrusted to the Glavkomaty, are going to the OSKs.”

The 6 July decree still hasn’t appeared publicly. 

Khorunzhiy notes that then-General Staff Chief Yuriy Baluyevskiy tested the transition to regional commands during Baykal-2006:

“Then he didn’t manage to break the resistance of district commanders who didn’t want to share their authority with OSK commanders.”

Khorunzhiy digresses to the precursors of OSKs, without calling them High Commands of Forces.  Former General Staff Chief Nikolay Ogarkov set out to reform the army’s command and control:

“The instrument of such a reform he considered main commands on strategic directions (theaters of military operations, in modern terminology) which would improve coordination between services and troop branches and would strengthen the unity of command in combat units (permanent readiness units).”

Ogarkov viewed the Soviet North-Western, Western, and South-Western main commands of troops from World War II as prototypes, but these Glavkomaty were only intermediate links between the Headquarters,  Supreme High Command [Stavka VGK] and the fronts, but received no authority, troops, or communications.  Khorunzhiy contrasts this to Vasilevskiy being sent to fight the Japanese in 1945; he had authority and troops.

Then, in 1978, Army General Vasiliy Petrov was sent out to establish the Main Command of Troops of the Far East, and he had authority up to appoint regiment commanders and arrange cooperation with neighboring states.  The situation of troops in the Far East sharply improved.

Ogarkov set off then to establish main commands on strategic directions, and improve command and control and readiness in yearly exercises (West, East, Autumn).  But in 1984, Ogarkov himself was sent off to be CINC of the Western direction in Legnica.  He failed to get enough authority for these commanders from the CPSU or Defense Ministry, and these main commands were eliminated in 1991.

But Khorunzhiy goes on to describe today’s OSK as an ultimate victory for Ogarkov over the ‘parochial interests of the army elite.’  He doesn’t seem to wonder whether it might be too soon to declare victory.

He finishes by looking at the KPRF’s call for a parliamentary investigation and special Duma session on how Serdyukov’s reforms are ‘disarming Russia.’  In particular, Khorunzhiy quotes the KPRF press-service:

“The system of military districts which has existed for centuries has just been eliminated.  In place of them incomprehensible strategic commands have been established according to an American template.  It’s obvious that this endless modernization of military structures is leading unavoidably to the loss of troop controllability.”

What’s it all mean . . . ?

The possible elimination of the Main Commands — the service headquarters — would be a big deal (no one mentioned what might happen to VDV, Space Troops, or RVSN branch commands).   

This would obviously greatly strengthen General Staff Chief Makarov, and really make him lord and master of the uniformed military.  It would strengthen the General Staff (except Serdyukov’s been cutting its personnel, like the rest of the Central Apparatus).

Would it give Makarov too much power?  Maybe, or maybe not if Serdyukov thinks he can fire him and get another general whenever necessary.

The possibility of eliminating service headquarters makes Navy CINC Vysotskiy’s reticence to talk about moving to St. Petersburg in the midst of a command and control reorganization make more sense.  Maybe he was telling us there’s a much bigger issue at work than just OSKs.

Perhaps in the most objective sense, getting rid of the Glavkomaty would reduce personnel and some resistance to new ideas.  But wouldn’t it also throw away yet another place where the regime should seek good alternative ideas, counterarguments, and feedback on its plans?