Tag Archives: Air Defense

S-500 in 2016?

Predictions of the imminent appearance of the new anti-air, anti-missile S-500 system come with regularity.  Last week’s press reports aren’t novel in this respect.

Deputy Aerospace Forces (VKS) CINC and Chief of Air and Missile Defense General-Lieutenant Viktor Gumennyy [Goo-MYO-knee] says Almaz-Antey is completing development work on the S-500, and the VKS will receive it “soon.” Hard to argue. We know it’s in development, and he doesn’t say what “soon” means.

TASS and RIA Novosti covered Gumennyy’s comments on Rossiya 24 television.

The prevailing forecast is that the S-500 will complete development, and appear with operational units on an “experimental” basis in 2017.

As recently as early 2015, Deputy Defense Minister and procurement chief Yuriy Borisov predicted the S-500 wouldn’t complete development until 2017.

However, TASS reminds that VKS CINC General-Colonel Viktor Bondarev has said deliveries will start in 2016.  He’s an inveterate optimist; in 2012, he said 2013.

In any event, it’s a chance to review what’s claimed to date about the S-500.

The typical advertisement for the S-500 calls it a new generation, long-range surface-to-air missile with increased capability for high altitude (200 km) intercepts against ballistic missiles and RVs.  It can reportedly engage ten ballistic missiles simultaneously at a range of 600 km.  The S-500 is supposed to be superior to both the S-400 Triumf and U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3).

The system is supposed have 40N6M (possibly a longer-range mod of the S-400’s 400-km missile?) missiles as well as hypersonic 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 missile interceptors.  TASS reported that these anti-missile missiles were successfully tested in mid-2014.

According to Interfaks, GPV 2011-2020 calls for procurement of ten battalions (or five “regimental sets”) of the S-500.  Almaz-Antey’s original contract called for initial deliveries in 2015.

Noted by the regime or not, this is “GOZ breaking.” Some producers get in trouble for it; important ones sometimes don’t.

General-Lieutenant Gumennyy also reported that testing of the S-350 Vityaz SAM continues, and initial launches confirmed the system’s performance.  The S-350 will replace older Russian S-300PS SAMs.

Gumennyy said the share of “modern” SAMs and radars in Russia’s inventory is 45 percent.  Last December, the MOD indicated that 52 percent of all VKS weapons and equipment was “modern.”

P.S. President Vladimir Putin’s assistant for military-technical cooperation confirmed for Izvestiya today that Russia is negotiating sales of the S-400 system to China and India.

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Lobby for PVO Strany

Military reorganizations never stop, they just continue at a barely perceptible pace.

Organizational changes start with a campaign for a realignment.  The campaign to form Aerospace Defense Troops (VVKO) started five or six years before they officially stood up on 1 December 2011.

A new campaign is beginning.  Some are arguing VVKO didn’t get everything they need.

Four KPRF Duma deputies who are members of the legislature’s Defense Committee propose upgrading the VVKO from a branch (род) to a service (вид).  That’s symbolic, but not most significant.

More importantly, they say VVKO should control all ground-based air defense assets currently operated by the Air Forces and commanders of Russia’s four military districts (MDs).

Izvestiya reported the story.

Changes the KPRF deputies envisage would almost turn today’s VVKO into a new Soviet PVO Strany — National Air Defense (sans interceptor aircraft) as it existed between 1954 and the 1980s.  Troop PVO (Ground Troops) and Navy PVO would remain separate.

The KPRF deputies argue the vast majority of PVO assets need to be under a unified command to provide effective air defense for Russia.

Vyacheslav Tetekin, former conscript SA-5 operator and Africa expert, said:

“In military affairs the most dangerous thing is when there is no responsibility:  there is no one to make decisions, and no one to bear responsibility.  Until the time when all PVO and VKO resources are transferred into an independent command, we can’t be sure our country is defended against strikes from space and from the air.”

His colleague Aleksandr Tarnayev, former communications officer and KGB military counterintelligence operative, suggested, rather absurdly, that none of this means big changes, just resubordinating units, and replacing emblems on gates.  Units don’t even have to move, unless they need to redeploy to main strike threat axes.

But it is certainly a big change for air defense units that have reported to MDs for the last couple years, or to the Air Forces for an even longer time.

Taking strategic- and operational-level air defense from MD commanders would reduce their capabilities as unified, combined arms warfighters in regional and local conflicts.

Military expert Viktor Murakhovskiy told Izvestiya the idea of VVKO as a service has been discussed before, and the change would cost trillions of rubles:

“This is the idea of creating a unified air defense system for the country like in Soviet times.  For this we would need to combine all VKO brigades and SAM brigades under a single command.  But we would need to understand that to create a seamless defensive field over the country’s entire territory requires a huge amount of money, and the question arises, are these outlays so necessary or is it better to direct them in a different course.”

Murakhovskiy begs a couple good questions.  Is there an existential national air defense threat that justifies taking funds from other pressing military needs?  Is a U.S. (and NATO?) strategic air operation against Russia possible or probable?

VPK editor-in-chief Mikhail Khodarenok told the paper he believes VVKO needs interceptors and there’s not enough money now to create such a full-fledged service:

“In the Soviet system of PVO, for interceptors alone there were 70 regiments — almost 3 thousand aircraft.  But if we divide current aircraft between the Air Forces and PVO, we get two absurd services.  In the future such a division is justified because the Air Forces’ mission is supporting troops, and PVO’s mission is protecting the country’s important administrative and industrial centers from air strikes.  But this is the future in 20-30 years.”

A Duma hearing on VVKO scheduled for 6 November won’t have much affect on the military’s structure.  But this is how major reorganizations have started in the past.  Just don’t look for results soon.

Third S-400 Regiment for Moscow Oblast

S-400s at Elektrostal and Dubrovki, Zvenigorod Could be Next

S-400s at Elektrostal and Dubrovki, Zvenigorod Could be Next

The VVKO’s spokesman told RIA Novosti this week that the next — the sixth — S-400 SAM regiment (or “regimental set” of two launch battalions) will be deployed in Moscow Oblast before the end of 2013.

S-400s are already located east and north of Moscow at Elektrostal and Dubrovki, respectively.  Dubrovki was reported as Dmitrov (actually further north) by Russian media in the past.

Zvenigorod to the west was first mentioned as a deployment location in 2011.  It was supposed to be the third S-400 location before the end of that year.

Russian reportedly operates five S-400 regiments at the present time — Elektrostal and Dubrovki, and one each in the Baltic Fleet (Gvardeysk, Kaliningrad), Nakhodka in the Far East, and the Southern MD.

Find a better version of the map above here.

What’s It Cost?

S-400

S-400

A reader recently asked:

What’s the cost of one division of the S-400 for Russia and for foreign customers?

Let’s call it a battalion (дивизион).  We’ll start with exports (for which there is actually data).  And we proceed from what was paid for the S-300.

Russia’s planned sale of the S-300PMU1 to Iran reportedly involved the transfer of five “battalion sets” for $800 million.  Some sources said as much as $1-1.2 billion.   

Let’s guess the “battalion set” has three firing batteries, with two launchers per, for a total of 30 TELs, 120+ missiles, and all associated radars, fire control systems, and vehicles.

If $800 million is accurate, the price for one battalion was $160 million.  The price for one S-400 system, four missiles on a TEL, was roughly $27 million.

This isn’t unlike what the Chinese paid for the S-300 in the 1990s and 2000s.  According to Sinodefence.com, they bought battalions for between $25 and $60 million at different times under different contracts.

That done, we make the leap from the S-300 price to the S-400 price.

A couple years ago, Vedomosti drew the scarcely precise conclusion that the price of the S-400 will double the S-300’s price (and the S-500 double the S-400’s). 

So perhaps a “battalion set” or a battalion of the S-400 will go for $320 million.  That would be one full-up launch vehicle for $40-50 million.

The only other shred of information is the widely-reported Financial Times story saying, if the Russians added the S-400 to a $2 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the price of the sale would climb to $7 billion.  But lots of Russian reports say Moscow won’t be selling the S-400 abroad soon.  The military obviously hopes that’s true, so it can get first.

But not every customer is Iranian, not every one will have to pay a premium price, and not every customer is foreign.

Which brings the trickier question of what Russia’s Defense Ministry has to pay.  It’s simply impossible to guess.

Certainly a lot less than buyers abroad.  The military’s bought some S-400 systems so there is a going price.  OAO Concern PVO Almaz-Antey’s costs are a big question as is the level of profit the government is willing to tolerate.  

The government owns Almaz-Antey, so one part of government is selling to another.  It’s a prime example of angst over GOZ “price formation” in recent years.  There was a similar big-ticket dustup over submarine prices with Sevmash.  It’s something of a Mexican standoff.  The buyer doesn’t have other supplier alternatives.  And the seller may not be allowed to sell elsewhere. 

The Defense Ministry, the government don’t want to pay a lot and have the power to refuse and yet still receive goods.  The question is how many.  That’s ECON 101, friends.

If those buyers set their price below equilibrium, Almaz-Antey will provide a lower than desired quantity more slowly than the buyers want.   And Almaz might have other buyers as an option, an advantage Sevmash lacks.  So “price formation” for the S-400 is all about agreement on Almaz’s costs and an acceptable level of profit.  That agreement is apparently not smoothly worked out yet.

General Trash

Late last week news services reported the Investigative Committee (SK) lodged serious allegations against former commander of the Special Designation Command (KSpN), retired General-Colonel Yuriy Solovyev.  The KSpN was a forerunner of today’s VVKO.

Retired General-Colonel Yuriy Solovyev

The gist of the story goes like this.  In 2006, Solovyev supposedly allowed a commercial firm, Proyekt Stroy to establish and operate an unregistered landfill on military property under his command.

Specifically, military unit 62845, which, according to Warfare.ru, is the 584th Guards SAM Regiment (5th PVO Brigade), near the settlements of Lytkino, Marino, and Povarovo in Moscow Oblast’s Solnechnogorsk Rayon.

Vicinity of Lytkino, Marino, and Povarovo

The regiment operates S-300PM (SA-20 / Gargoyle) SAMs.

The SK apparently plans to charge him for “exceeding his authority with infliction of serious consequences.”  Gazeta.ru reports the 64-year-old ex-general checked into a hospital (where he can’t be charged or interrogated).  His alleged crime could bring a possible 3- to 10-year prison sentence.

According to Gazeta, Solovyev contracted with Proyekt Stroy to reclaim some land, but actually allowed it to use it for an illegal landfill.  The dump grew five times, from four to 20 hectares (about 50 acres or 1/5 of a square kilometer), during Solovyev’s tenure, according to the SK announcement.

Gazeta says specialists estimate the landfill has caused 8 billion rubles in environmental damages.  The investigation is continuing, and more names connected to the case are expected to emerge.

The news site noted that the case stemmed from an MVD investigation back in March.  The MVD announced then that “an organized group consisting of former and current highly-placed RF Defense Ministry officials” was responsible for the dump.  At the time, it estimated 13 billion rubles in damages to the state.

The MVD said the pits Proyekt Stroy dug threatened Moscow’s reservoirs and groundwater sources.  Federal Water Resources Agency experts found concentrations of toxins elevated by more than 200 times at the site.  Vzglyad’s report on this story indicated mercury alone was found at 30 times the allowable level.  Proyekt Stroy reportedly cut 18 hectares of forest before digging the landfill.

Gazeta adds that locals described the dump as the size of five soccer fields and having a powerful stench of methane.  One talked of changes in the color of a nearby stream’s water.  He also estimated possible profit from the trash heap at  $100,000 per day, and confirmed that the military controlled access to the site.

Experts claim this isn’t a unique story, with more than 700 unsanctioned dumps located around Moscow.  They’ve been ignored, but the problem is catastrophic.  New Moscow Oblast Governor Sergey Shoygu has vowed to close illegal landfills, according to Vzglyad.

Kommersant’s March reportage indicated the dump was first reported by locals last September.  The paper claimed 50 “guest workers” work there and live in nearby barracks.  It added that the SAM regiment’s missile launchers were not more than 200 meters from the site.

Kommersant concluded ominously:

“Now the investigation will clarify exactly who in the Defense Ministry permitted the organization of a trash heap right next to militarymen and why they closed their auditing eyes to its operation.”

They’ve apparently found at least one person to blame.

Realities of Rearmament

Pantsir-S (photo: Topwar.ru)

RIA Novosti yesterday quoted a VVKO spokesman who indicated a second battery of Pantsir-S anti-aircraft gun-missile systems will go into service this fall around Moscow.  For the record, he stated:

“At present, alongside an A-150 missile defense [PRO] division, two    S-400 anti-aircraft missile regiments in two-battalion configurations, deployed in Elektrostal and Dmitrov, provide Moscow with anti-air and anti-missile defense.  One of them already has a ‘Pantsir-S’ battery in its composition, in September-October, the second regiment will also receive the same battery complement.”

The spokesman added that, in August, the new Pantsir-S battery, along with its  S-400 regiment at Dmitrov, will be in Ashuluk to perform ‘test’ live firings against low-altitude targets.

Novosti has some video of the Pantsir as does a background piece by Arms-Expo.ru.

Let’s add things up as best we can.

First Deputy Defense Minister Sukhorukov has said the army will get 28 Pantsir-S systems in 2012.  The VVS CINC said there would be two more S-400 regiments (for a total of four) before the end of 2011.  But, there are, as the VVKO spokesman says, still only two.  The CINC also said the next six Pantsir-S systems would be for the Moscow area.  The first four went to Novorossiysk.

Recall there was some question whether ten delivered in 2010 were for Russian forces or some foreign customer.  Have we somehow lost track of six of those ten?

Now all these numbers are pretty low when there’s talk that 200, 600, or possibly (incredibly?!) as many as 1,000 Pantsir-S might really be required.

The case of the Pantsir-S is a good example of how, for all the worry about a massive Russian rearmament program, this rearming has been pretty slow thus far.

Zelin’s Update (Part III)

In the middle part of General-Colonel Zelin’s incredibly long NVO interview, he reacts to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s high command changes and other structural realignments over the last couple years.  He also shares thoughts on the state of VVS training.

Zelin speaks to interviewer Viktor Litovkin like a 58-year-old three-star who’s surprised to have stayed at his post as long as he has.  He speaks like he isn’t concerned about being retired.

Asked what he and his Main Staff do now that the VVS operate under the four MD / OSK commanders, Zelin responds that plans to create an automated C2 system (ASU) haven’t quite gotten there.  He talks and is online with the district commanders often.  But, he says:

“The main thing is combat training remains with the VVS Main Command. Organizational development (stroitelstvo or строительство) of the service and combat training.  And without combat training what kind of employment can there be?”

There were, he continues, arguments and unresolved issues:

“But during the decisionmaking I proved my point of view, my vision of present problems, sometimes they had to agree, sometimes they had to listen on several issues, but, since now decisions have been made, we have to fulfill them.  To get to work.”

But he grouses a bit more.  He sounds like a man with responsibility who lacks authority.

The ASU isn’t working, but service central command posts (TsKP or ЦКП) were eliminated.  Regardless, Zelin says he has to organize and control training.  Every day 70-80 units have aircraft flying, and they have to be tracked.  They can’t just be given a mission and forgotten.

Asked about the newly-established Aerospace Defense (VKO) Troops, Zelin claims interestingly, that only PVO brigades in Russia’s central industrial region — the old Moscow AD District, KSpN, or OSK VKO — went over to them.  He says MD / OSK commanders got the rest, and he equips and trains them for regional commands to operate.  His view seems to be VKO is limited to strategic and theater MD.  You can’t, he opines, have PVO without air defense aviation integrated into it.  According to Zelin, a single national system of air defense, including Troop Air Defense, is needed, but a decision’s been made and it’s left but to fulfill it.

Before talking more about training, Zelin reiterates that a single system of net-centric strategic C2 and decisionmaking is the goal, but they aren’t quite there.

He seems envious of the large-scale, largely automated airspace control systems he’s seen in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.

On training and flight hours, Zelin says he’s got no problems with material support (i.e. POL), but problems addressing aircraft service life support [ресурсное обеспечение].  He states frankly he worries about maintenance provided (or not) by civilianized, outsourced Oboronservis affiliate Aviaremont.  There is plenty of money for maintenance, but those responsible aren’t getting it done.  While the Glavkomat has heartache about aircraft serviceability:

“Our other structures for some reason are responsible only for financial flows.”

Zelin was asked earlier if 130 flight hours was the VVS goal.  He says last year pilots got 340,000 hours, or 90 per pilot.  That makes roughly 3,800 pilots, if they’re shared evenly (they’re not).  Eighty percent of young pilots got not less than 100. In some cases, it was harder and they got a little more than 50.  Zelin adds this is still better than the 1990s.