Tag Archives: Army Aviation

Zelin’s Press Availability

Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin made a variety of remarks to the media this morning.  It’s not clear where yet, but it might have been a press-conference at ITAR-TASS.  It’s the season for such things with Air Forces Day and MAKS-2011 just ahead.

At any rate, Zelin had a lot of information on the status of different VVS programs and plans:

  • Army aviation will expand by more than 1,000 helicopters by 2020.  The number of army aviation bases will grow from 8 to 14 during that time.  He mentioned reestablishing production of Mi-26 transports in a POL supply variant.  Zelin doesn’t sound like he’s willing to surrender the VVS’ hold on army aviation.
  • Zelin mentioned getting 8 or 6 new Su-34 this year.  ITAR-TASS gave both numbers, but we’ve seen six elsewhere.
  • The VVS CINC criticized work on the Su-35, saying it has a number of problems.  PAK FA / T-50 is going on schedule, but he wouldn’t say when he expects it to enter the inventory.
  • On UAVs, some drones will go to the Ground Troops per a Genshtab decision, but Zelin says operational-tactical unmanned aircraft will stay at air bases under the control of military district commanders.
  • Without mentioning S-500 development, Zelin talked about new Morfey and Vityaz SAMs.  Morfey is a short-range system mentioned before as part of S-500.  Zelin described Vityaz in greater detail, calling it an improvement on the S-300 with greater capabilities and 16 missiles per launcher.  See ITAR-TASS for this.
  • Zelin said there will be four S-400 regiments by the end of 2011.  He said the second one, the 210th Air Defense Regiment, went on combat duty with it last week, so two more are expected.  The CINC said the manufacturer’s had problems with the system’s long-range missile, but there is an understanding on how to resolve them.  The Air Forces, he says, still want Almaz-Antey to build another production plant.  Interfaks posted on this.
  • The next 6 Pantsir-S gun-missile air defense systems will go to the OSK VKO around Moscow.  Zelin said the first 4 went to the 4th Air Forces and Air Defense Command at Novorossiysk.
  • Another flight demonstration group will be formed using Yak-130 trainers.
  • Zelin expects to get a new A-100 AWACS aircraft, based on the Il-476, by 2016.  He says it will have both air and ground surveillance missions.  The plan has Genshtab and financial support, according to Zelin.
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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.

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.

Shamanov Wants Aviation Back

VDV Commander General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov told ITAR-TASS today that the airborne troops need their organic light transport aviation back because its absence is complicating their training.  He says:

“The results of the air-assault training of the VDV in the first quarter of this year show that the transfer of light aviation to the Air Forces is stalling the system.”

As an example of this, Shamanov said light aviation fulfilled only 60 percent of planned jump training at the VDV’s Omsk Training Center.  He said its commander has asked to continue jumps until 7 May.

Shamanov said the VVS ban on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday flights was making the VDV a hostage.  He continues:

“We’ve already had cases.  The VVS command allocated one helicopter each for jumps by our Spetsnaz and communications regiments near Moscow.  However in practice it turned out that the regiment having clear priority, the Spetsnaz regiment, could use the helicopter coming from Levashovo in Leningrad Oblast for jumps in all for only a half day out of five for purely aviation reasons, at the same time as the second, communications regiment, with the other helicopter coming from Ryazan, jumped for a full week.”

“We’ve sent the Genshtab our proposals to create organic sub-units of light aviation in the VDV.  Unfortunately, there’s no hope for them since no answer has been received from the  Genshtab, but we will continue to assert our position.” 

A VDV spokesman said last year, when they still belonged to the VDV, An-2s supported 140,000 jumps in combat training, and the VVS’ Il-76 medium military transport aircraft only 35,000.

The VDV’s light transport force had 7 squadrons of Mi-8 helicopters and An-2 and An-3 aircraft and three airfields until the General Staff Chief’s 1 January directive transferred them to the VVS.

Shamanov also repeated his past calls for each of his three air-assault formations to have its own regiment of 20 combat and 40 transport helicopters.  He said a proposal to this effect is being prepared.  An interlocutor told ITAR-TASS:

“Having organic helicopter regiments in the VDV’s air-assault formations undoubtedly would raise their air-mobility, fire power, responsiveness of command and control in combat conditions, and in the course of combat training.  So the formation commander, who gets a helicopter regiment, could independently, when he considers it necessary, without turning to the VVS command, decide to have air-assault training for personnel including helicopter jumps.”  

Recall the early January Genshtab directive that transferred all aviation units in other services and arms, with the exception of RVSN, to the VVS. 

Shamanov’s complaint and appeal for a change is interesting.  He isn’t one to be afraid to demand special treatment.  He warded off the change from divisions to brigades in 2009.  

Shamanov last publicly lobbied for an upgraded VDV rotary wing component, both attack and transport helicopters, in late 2009.  The Ground Troops would also like army aviation, which they lost to the VVS in 2002, returned to them.  ITAR-TASS noted that former Ground Troops CINC Army General Boldyrev said as much last September.  He wanted helicopter regiments for air-assault brigades that belong to the military districts.

The organic aviation issue will be another place to watch for a possible policy about-face.