Tag Archives: Aleksandr Zelin

A Thoroughly Modern CINC

You have to like Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin. 

He’s open and candid about what Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s ‘new profile’ reforms mean for him and his service.  He’s talked earlier, more often, and longer about it than his Ground Troops or Navy counterparts.  He’s matter of fact and accepting of the entire process. 

Serdyukov’s changes turned General-Colonel into a trainer and force provider, and he nonchalantly admits as much. 

At 57, Zelin understands he can be replaced at any time, or allowed to serve three more years or even longer. 

If he were a tad younger, he would have been the right kind of general to command one of the new military districts / unified strategic commands (OSK / ОСК), say the Western or Central.  An air or air defense officer would have been just the right choice for a potential future war on those axes.  Instead, the Kremlin has three Ground Troops generals and one admiral (a step in the right direction).  It’s hard to argue against Ground Troops leadership in Russia’s restive south.  But Air Forces (VVS or ВВС) would have been a really good choice in the Western or Central Military Districts . . . a missed opportunity for now.

But back to Zelin.  On Tuesday, he addressed a foreign military attaché audience (and the Russian media) about the future of the VVS.

According to Gzt.ru, Zelin said the VVS will be reduced by a third and spread among the four new  OSKs.  And its Main Command (Glavkomat) will be responsible only for combat training.  The OSKs are in charge of employing the VVS in their theaters.

The VVS now consist of the Glavkomat, 7 operational commands, 7 first-rank air bases, 8 second-rank air bases, and 13 aerospace defense (VKO) brigades.  Before the ‘new profile,’ the Air Forces consisted of 72 regiments, 14 air bases, and 12 independent squadrons and detachments, with a third more aircraft than the VVS now have.

Four of today’s 7 operational commands are subordinate to the new OSKs.  Army Aviation also falls under them.

According to Zelin, in the future, the VVS Main Command (Glavkomat or Главкомат) could become a “branch department” of the General Staff responsible for the combat training of the Air Forces and Air Defense, while the OSKs employ the trained forces.

Zelin says VVS personnel will number 170,000 with 40,000 officers, nearly 30,000 sergeants, and the balance conscripts or civilian specialists.  He says today’s personnel training system doesn’t satisfy him, and so he’ll probably change the system of flight schools.  Only four remain today.  Voronezh will be the main training center.  Flight training will also be conducted in Krasnodar and Lipetsk.  Yaroslavl will remain home to air defense officer training.

According to the CINC, the VVS airfield network won’t change.  Base airfields will be first priority for reconstruction and modernization.  Zelin says civilian airfields could be used for operational purposes in the future.

He noted the VVS plans to go to a fully automated command and control system in the future, and, of course, develop its VKO forces.

Lenta.ua quoted Zelin’s remarks to Interfaks.  Zelin said the VVS will renew 30 percent of its inventory by 2015, and 100 percent new in some areas and 80 percent new overall by 2020.  He doesn’t say where the VVS are today in this regard, but recall Defense Minister Serdyukov has said only 10 percent of equipment in the Armed Forces is modern.

Zelin said the VVS will get new aircraft, air defense, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare systems, but modernization of some existing systems is still part of the plan.  Although the State Armaments Program 2011-2020 and its 19 or 20 trillion rubles have to be finalized, Zelin repeated that 10 T-50 (PAK FA) will be acquired in 2013-2015, and 60 more from 2016.  He mentioned Military-Transport Aviation (VTA or ВТА) is a priority – including the An-124 Ruslan, Il-112, Il-476, Il-76M, and An-70 – but he doesn’t venture any numbers or dates for new production.  Zelin does give a target of 400 new and modernized helicopters in the inventory by 2015.

Who knows what was or wasn’t covered in these media contacts, but it seems odd there’s still no mention of more S-400 deliveries.  Zelin was still talking about getting 5-6 more battalions in 2010 earlier this year.  But no sign of them.  It’ll be a big deal when or if they appear.  Also, no mention of S-500 development.

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.

Air Forces News

A couple Air Forces items of interest today . . . .

A major live-fire exercise is taking place in the Far East today and tomorrow.  According to RIA Novosti, about 20 aircraft from the Far East Air Forces and Air Defense Army will fire more than 30 air-to-air missiles over the ‘Endurance Bay’ range on Sakhalin Island. 

A Defense Ministry spokesman said the aircraft are Dzemgi-based Su-27 fighters, and they’ll perform both day and night firings.  He emphasized that junior pilots will participate in the exercise.

There’s no readily available indication of the last time the Russian Air Forces conducted live-fire air-to-air training on this scale, so one presumes it’s been a while. 

Visiting Voronezh today, Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Zelin said the city’s air base — soon to be one of Russia’s largest — will get four Su-34 bombers by year’s end.  The air base will be a first rank one, with 100 or more aircraft.

RIA Novosti reports the base’s expansion isn’t making nearby residents happy.  Those who object to it say its noise exceeds permissible levels, and causes headaches and sleeplessness.

On the Su-34s, Zelin said:

“I was recently at Novosibirsk aircraft plant.  One aircraft was already in flight test status.  The remainder are already in final assembly.”

Emblem of Procurement Problems

On Friday, amidst Krasnaya zvezda’s usual fare, there was interesting coverage of a high-level meeting to review the military’s UAV (BPLA or БПЛА) procurement program.

Technically, it was a session of the collegium of the Federal Service for the Defense Order (Rosoboronzakaz or Рособоронзаказ) with the agenda item “Results of Inspecting the Placement and Fulfillment of the State Defense Order (GOZ) in the Area of Development and Supply of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.”

Rosoboronzakaz Director Aleksandr Sukhorukov, a former Serdyukov tax service deputy, conducted the session.  Also participating were newly-minted Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova, also a former Serdyukov tax service deputy, and Director of the Federal Agency for Supplies of Armaments, Military and Special Equipment, and Material Resources (Rosoboronpostavka), Nadezhda Sinikova, another of the Defense Minister’s long-time proteges.

The military paper noted that representatives of the government, ministries, and other federal executive organs, state customers from the Defense Ministry, FSB, FSO, MVD, and MChS, representatives of the Main Military Prosecutor, and OPK officials also attended.

One Yu. Stolyarov gave the main report.  He’s Chief of the Directorate of Oversight of the State Defense Order in the Area of General Armaments and Military Equipment, Aviation Equipment, Aerospace Defense Means and Armaments, Ships, and Naval Armaments and Military Equipment.  Quite a broad portfolio.  Krasnaya zvezda didn’t elaborate on what Mr. Stolyarov said, however.

Ground Troops CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov, VDV Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander, General-Lieutenant Nikolay Ignatov, an OAO Tupolev deputy chief designer, and OAO ‘Vega’ Radiobuilding Concern General Director, V. Verba also spoke at the session.  Their remarks weren’t reported either.

Krasnaya zvezda reported that all presentations were thorough and constructive, and the collegium adopted some draft directive, but we don’t know what it said.  The paper, however, says the main theme of all presentations was the same:

“. . . in their TTKh (ТТХ – tactical-technical characteristics) domestic UAVs must not lag behind foreign ones and it’s essential to do everything to achieve this.  State money has to be spent with maximum effectiveness.  Troops and power structures need to be supplied with those UAVs that will be most effective on the battlefield, and in conducting special operations.”

What should we conclude from this?  Firstly, the meeting highlighted Shevtsova’s new oversight and auditing role in procurement.

Secondly, the Defense Ministry’s leaving the door open for domestic UAV producers, and so this seems to amount to just another warning to them.  It doesn’t seem to be anything like a decision to include Russian firms or exclude foreign ones, or vice versa.

It’s not surprising the Defense Ministry highlighted this particular program review.  Few procurement issues have caused Russia as much angst recently as UAVs. 

Georgia’s Israeli-supplied UAV capabilities, and Russia’s relative lack of them, highlighted this issue in 2008.  Moscow had to risk manned aircraft instead of employing unmanned ones on reconnaissance missions.  What’s worse, two years after the five-day war, there’s still no fix to the UAV problem.  And it will become more acute should unmanned aircraft become the backbone of future air power for the world’s leading militaries.  Russia’s clearly behind on UAVs, and questions remain about whether it should catch up, and whether it can.

The Russian defense establishment has spent months debating buying from foreign manufacturers, purchasing sample quantities abroad, or producing jointly to jumpstart or pressure domestic producers.  In late 2009, Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Zelin flatly stated it would be ‘criminal’ to accept inferior Russian UAVs into the arms inventory.  The FSB reportedly said it would buy Israeli UAVs.  In March, Defense Minister Serdyukov admitted domestic UAVs ‘seriously lag’ behind world standards, and, in April, then Armaments Chief, now First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin reported that Russia had spent 5 billion rubles on UAVs without result.

So UAVs joined the list of other systems – helicopter carriers, soldier systems, light armored vehicles, etc. – that could be bought abroad, but it doesn’t look like Moscow is ready to rely, at least entirely, on foreign producers for any of them.

Frontal, Army Aviation to OSK Commanders

Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin had many announcements yesterday on the eve of his service’s holiday, but none more interesting than the not-completely-surprising news that frontal and army aviation will transfer from the Air Forces to be directly subordinate to Russia’s four new ‘operational-strategic commands.’

Zelin said:

“The Air Forces will remain a service of the Armed Forces, its Main Command [Glavkomat or Главкомат] will continue functioning, the transfer of four Air Forces and Air Defense commands [i.e. armies] to the commanders of the new military districts — Western, Southern, Central and Eastern is planned.”

“Frontal and army aviation is transferring to the commanders of these districts and, accordingly, to the unified strategic commands.  As regards the aviation component of the RF strategic nuclear triad — Long-Range Aviation, it, like Military-Transport Aviation and the Operational-Strategic Command of Aerospace Defense [ОСК ВКО] will remain immediately subordinate to the Air Forces CINC.”

So what’s happened?

After years of lobbying, army aviation is leaving the Air Forces, but not exactly returning to the Ground Troops.  It is, however, returning to a Ground Troops-dominated environment in the OSKs.

The OSKs look more and more like U.S.-style unified, combatant commands, and the RF armed services like force providers.  

One supposes that the Air Forces, like the Navy, will have to continue playing a very large role in developing doctrine, tactics, acquisition, training, and operations and maintenance of frontal aviation at least, and probably army aviation as well. 

Zelin had more fragmentary comments on this subject.  The Air Forces CINC will retain:

“. . . immediate authority to direct combat training of all aviation and air defense forces, development of all directive documents, and also material-technical support.”

“This entire system is arranged just to optimize command and control and concentrate the main forces and means in the troops [i.e. OSKs].”

He added that these measures must:

“. . . prevent theft and waste of material and financial means and guarantee their strict centralization.”

One wonders how aspects of this ‘material-technical support’ (MTO) role for the Air Forces CINC will track with General-Colonel Bulgakov’s new MTO empire in the increasingly civilian Defense Ministry.

Popovkin on GPV Financing, Inter Alia

Perhaps lobbying for more money for armaments pays off . . . at least a little.

At Farnborough today, First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin told journalists financing for GPV 2011-2020 will be almost doubled.

Popovkin said:

 “We’re talking about increasing the amount.”

“With the Finance Ministry we’re now deciding the issue of the amount and the schedule of year-by-year financing taking into account of the state’s economic possibilities.”

“Now we’re talking about 20 trillion [rubles].”

Recall early June’s comments to the effect that the proposed 13 trillion would cover only one-third of the Defense Ministry’s needs.

Popovkin also said [again] that a state program for developing the OPK needs to be adopted at the same time as the new GPV.  He said:

“Both documents will be confirmed by the President this year.”

But he didn’t offer anything on the amount of financing for an OPK development program, but said ‘negotiations’ with the Finance Ministry are being conducted.

On the fifth generation fighter, Popovkin said the Defense Ministry plans to receive its first experimental model in 2013.  He also said:

“By 2015 the Defense Ministry plans to buy ten aircraft from the first assembly run which will go to operational forces.  And from 2016 we plan to implement a series purchase of fifth generation fighters.”

Air Forces CINC General-Colonel Zelin recently told the press more than 60 will be bought starting in 2015-2016.

More to follow . . .

Leadership Looking at the OPK’s Problems

Since fall, Putin, Medvedev, and Serdyukov have focused on the problems of Russia’s defense-industrial complex (OPK) and whether it will be up to the job of rearming the armed forces by 2020.

At an OPK conference in Nizhniy Novgorod on 24 December, Serdyukov noted that the oblast has nearly 16 billion rubles worth of state contracts for arms and equipment.  Defense Ministry armaments chief Vladimir Popovkin said, however, that the region’s producers who fail to supply weapons on time will be subject to millions of rubles in fines.

Conference participants also discussed necessary measures to organize timely placement of tasks and financing with contractors.  In particular, the Defense and Finance Ministries are reportedly trying to make production advances available in January 2010 for next year’s contracts.

In Vremya novostey, some Nizhniy Novgorod producers gave their own views on their problems.  They call the state’s pricing policy one of their main problems.  Despite the government constant statements about an increasing State Defense Order (GOZ), defense enterprises are not being paid on time or fully.  The oblast’s production grew in 2009, but the Defense Ministry has not hurried to pay for it.  Advances range from 30-70 percent, but firms often wait a long time for the balance and may have to take out expensive loans in the interim.  The profitability of the region’s defense producers was low in 2009 in part because of higher prices for natural gas and electricity.  Enterprises shaved some personnel to improve their bottom lines.  They’ve asked for tenders in December, rather than in spring or summer for the 2010 GOZ, and for higher advance payments.  They say they cannot cut prices as the government has asked because they work within the real economy where inflation is a factor.

On 22 December, Putin discussed the 1.17 trillion ruble 2010 GOZ (8 percent higher than this year’s) with the government’s presidium.  He said the GOZ can’t “be limited only to modernization,” the forces need to receive “large shipments of modern equipment, not just individual samples.”  Putin noted the recent series of conferences on the OPK and said, “We’ll be seriously occupied with these problems.  However it’s already now obvious:  it’s necessary not simply to increase financing for the state defense order, that’s necessary itself, but it doesn’t solve all problems.  It’s necessary to seriously increase the demands for quality in production, reestablish effective cooperation links, to work on personnel support for the OPK.”  He also said long-term rearmament programs need to be formed and they need to be closely linked to the missions facing the armed forces.   Defense industry needs to make its technological development and modernization plans, conduct RDT&E and organize series production of equipment for the troops under these programs.  Putin promised to concentrate the work of the government’s Military-Industrial Commission (VPK), the Defense Ministry, and other core ministries on this in 2010.

On 18 December, Putin visited St. Petersburg to have a conference on shipbuilding.  He called for naval shipbuilding to develop a minimum 30-year plan of development.  He said there’s nothing wrong with buying foreign equipment if, in the future, Russian ships are built with 100 percent domestic materials and equipment.  He called on naval shipbuilding to have clear priorities and not shift between projects.  Writing in Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye a week later, Vladimir Shcherbakov noted that Putin’s words don’t square with the government’s actions.  Shcherbakov doesn’t believe buying the French Mistral amphibious landing ship will do much to move Russian shipbuilding forward.  He contrasts the government’s willingness to send money to the Amur Shipbuilding Factory working on the Akula-class SSN Nerpa for lease to India and its inability to help save smaller shipyards like Avangard in Petrozavodsk from bankruptcy.  He suspects Mistral may be a special deal just for Mezhprombank’s United Industrial Corporation (OPK) and its shipyards.  Whereas Putin had praise for civilian shipbuilding, he criticized the quality of naval construction.  Putin called for military shipbuilding to reestablish its technological and production links among enterprises, but he didn’t say anything about the state’s United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) which is supposed to perform this function.  To Shcherbakov, the government, Defense Ministry, and Navy just aren’t prepared to provide proper financing and orders to shipbuilders.

On 12 December, TV Tsentr’s Postscriptum featured independent views on rearmament from Leonid Ivashov and Ruslan Pukhov.  They talked about the role of corruption in high prices for defense production.  Pukhov said, “Of course, there is monstrous corruption and ineffective management, which exists in an entire range of defense enterprises, and then this collusion between the purchasing authorities of the armed forces branches and services and military-industrial complex enterprises, when under the cover of secrecy a huge quantity of resources are doled out, and it is practically stolen.  In the opinion of many high officials and directors of the Defense Ministry, kickbacks often go up to 50 percent.”  Ivashov said, “There are many causes for high prices.  Which of them is first, I don’t know, however there is pervasive corruption, Putin recognized this, and Medvedev recognizes this, it exists and, it means a system of kickbacks exists.  And for a defense enterprise director or even a group of enterprises to receive a defense order, they openly demand a kickback, this raises the price.

On 9 December, Viktor Litovkin reviewed Putin’s recent activity on OPK issues, noting that his 8 December visit to Uralmashzavod and other Sverdlovsk Oblast enterprises was his third trip to OPK plants in two months.  He earlier visited missile producers in Kolomna, and liquid-fueled rocket engine maker Energomash in Khimki.  Litovkin noted that Russian tank production is now more important to India than Moscow.  In Nizhniy Tagil, Putin called for a unified plan of future design work for armored systems.  Putin said Uralvagonzavod would receive 10 billion rubles in early 2010 to establish and run armor “service centers” for the Defense Ministry, relieving troops of this noncore function.

In early December, Air Forces Commander-in-Chief indicated he is not happy with the development of Russia’s new S-500 air defense system.  He doesn’t want a continuation of the S-400, but a system to counter missiles in “near space.”  Sergey Ivanov once called for it to be a 5th generation anti-air, anti-missile or aerospace defense system.