Tag Archives: Ashuluk

Exercise Casualties

Russia’s fall exercises took a toll on some conscripts participating in them.  Three were killed in Union Shield-2011 at Ashuluk, and two more may have died during Tsentr-2011.

Life.ru reports a conscript died on September 26 from injuries sustained in a fall from a railroad platform while loading equipment during Union Shield-2011.

According to IA Regnum, at Ashuluk on September 24, an automated command and control system operator, a draftee, was found dead in a KamAZ.  An officer and two conscripts had to wait for help overnight when their vehicle broke down.  One of the conscripts apparently died during the night. 

On September 20, a Russian attack aircraft fired an errant air-to-surface rocket that flew several kilometers from its intended target before exploding, killing one soldier and injuring a second.  IA Rosbalt also noted Ashuluk was the scene of an August 23 ordnance accident that killed eight soldiers.

News outlets and military spokesmen are publicly disputing whether two tank crewmen died of carbon monoxide poisoning while President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov reviewed the concluding phase of Tsentr-2011 at Chebarkul on September 27. 

According to Novyy region, a Chelyabinsk rights activist says two conscripts died and the military is trying to cover up the accident.  Another source says the two men are hospitalized in critical and serious condition respectively.  The army says the men were poisoned by powder gases during training before Tsentr, and will soon be discharged from the hospital.  The Central MD’s press-service says the exercise was conducted without incidents, accidents, or equipment failures.

Military prosecutors are investigating at least some of these incidents.

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Where’s the Logic?

A “highly-placed” Navy source has told RIA Novosti that S-400 / Triumf surface-to-air missile systems are arriving in the Baltic Fleet.  The source claims fleet air defense personnel are going to Ashuluk for training.

The news agency said a “highly-placed Baltic Fleet staff representative” confirmed announcements from several media outlets about the fleet receiving two S-400 battalions before the end of 2011.

Perhaps some healthy skepticism is in order.

The S-400 isn’t exactly bursting out the factory gates.  A second S-400 regiment hasn’t appeared at Dmitrov, and a third has already been promised for Moscow’s outskirts. 

There’s also a little matter of earlier spurious reports about where the S-400 would appear.  Recall General Staff Chief Makarov’s remark that it was deployed in the Far East in 2009.  Since then, there was talk of using it to defend the Kurils or Kamchatka, but Air Forces generals have spoken of the system strictly in terms of protecting Russia’s “central administrative and industrial zones,” i.e. Moscow and adjacent oblasts. 

Maybe it would make some sense to protect the country’s northwestern approaches from ever-dangerous Germans, Swedes, Finns, etc.  But it’s not really logical to do so until Moscow’s air defenses are modernized.

And it’s certainly not logical (from a bureaucratic viewpoint) for the VVS or VKO Troops (VVKO?) to let these precious new systems slip from their hands into the Navy’s control.  A second service operator at this point would complicate training and maintenance.

Maybe it’s another tactic for negotiating with the U.S. over missile defense in Eastern Europe (like deploying Iskander SSMs in Kaliningrad).

For its part, Interfaks (according to TsAMTO) reported the Navy S-400s would be placed in Russia’s Baltic exclave.

At any rate, there would seem to be few persuasive arguments and little sense behind a deployment of the S-400 in the Baltic Fleet any time soon.

When Will the Air Forces Get More S-400s?

First S-400 Battalion on Duty in 2007 (photo: Leonid Yakutin)

On 9 February, RIA Novosti quoted Air Forces CINC Aleksandr Zelin:

“All that has been planned and must be supplied in the coming years, has been agreed with Almaz-Antey, will be fulfilled on time.  The S-400 antiaircraft missile system is fully entering the Air Forces’ weapons inventory.  The shift in the schedule for its supply has some organizational but mainly a technical character.”

Reminding the press that he’s member of the Almaz-Antey board of directors, Zelin said, “At the last session, we talked over all issues connected with planned supplies of the S-400 to the Air Forces.”

It sounds like Zelin is admitting the S-400 has been delayed, and the reasons are technical in nature.  Maybe there’s been some problem in the S-400’s operations or capabilities. 

So where does the S-400 stand?  Two battalions were fielded at Elektrostal near Moscow in 2007 and 2008, and Air Forces spokesmen have said repeatedly that 5 additional battalions will be delivered this year. The State Armaments Program, 2007-2015, called for 18 battalions by 2015.  But, as Mikhail Rastopshin has said, 18 battalions don’t cover Russia’s main administrative and industrial centers or support its strategic nuclear forces. 

In the midst of his late November criticism of Russian defense industry’s inability to provide the VVS with the UAVs it needs, Zelin also said Russian needs a second factory to produce the S-400 Triumf and other future air defense systems.  According to him, Almaz-Antey cannot fully satisfy the country’s demand for S-400 systems.  Not sounding too sure, he added that, “In 2010, we need to receive another five battalions, but everything depends on the industry and financing.”

Commenting on the S-400 tests at Ashuluk, Zelin said he was satisfied with the results, but the tactical-technical characteristics in the system are “still less than we wanted.”  He may be referring to lingering, well-known problems with the S-400’s long-range missiles.

VVS CINC General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin

Zelin went on to criticize the pace of development of the next generation S-500:

“Development of this system doesn’t satisfy me.  We would like for the existing potential in the Almaz-Antey concern to be doubled or even tripled.”

He said he planned to raise the S-500 development issue at the December board meeting.

More recently, on 28 January, Rosoboroneksport General Director Isaykin indicated that, although he has foreign orders for the S-400, Russia’s requirements would be met first.

On 17 September, Almaz General Director Ashurbeyli told ITAR-TASS that the S-500 would need 4-5 years to complete.  On possible S-400 export orders, he said he could only say two countries had signed large agreements for more than 10 battalions, but contracts remained to be finalized.  But Zelin made another statement this day that the system would go first to Russia’s armed forces.

So to recap.  The S-400 supply schedule has shifted for technical reasons.  The VVS hasn’t gotten a battalion since 2008.  Zelin admits he’s not fully happy with the S-400’s capabilities.  He says everything depends on the manufacturer, with whom he’s unhappy.  Meanwhile, foreign customers are already lined up for the S-400 that Russia can’t get and Almaz-Antey is marching off on the new S-500.