Tag Archives: Mikhail Barabanov

Barabanov’s Top 20

Defense commentator Mikhail Barabanov published his annotated list of the top 20 military stories of 2011 in yesterday’s Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer.

Some we’ll just note, but Barabanov’s provided interesting details for others.

1.  The continuation of military reform.  The start of the next phase of reforming the Air Forces and Navy.

Barabanov says Air Forces’ reform included the formation of VVKO and the enlargement of Russian air bases.  The reform of the Navy started December 1 and it will soon be restructured into a “new profile.”

2.  Establishment of VVKO.

He comments, “The given construct essentially looks fundamentally like a return to Soviet Voyska PVO Strany (National Air Defense Troops) in the form of a separate service [well, branch] of the Armed Forces.”

3.  The new pay system effective this year.

4.  GPV 2011-2020.

5.  The increase in the Gosoboronzakaz.

Barabanov puts GOZ-2011 at 460 billion rubles, 570 if RDT&E is added.  This was 20 percent more than GOZ-2010, and allowed for the series production of weapons and equipment.

6.  The war between industry and the Defense Ministry.

7.  Development of the PAK FA.

8.  Large helicopter procurement.

Apparently a post-Soviet record.  About 100 new helos, including Mi-28N, Ka-52, Mi-26, and Mi-24 (Mi-35M), were expected to reach the troops.

9.  Bulava began to fly.

10.  OSK “megacontracts” for submarines.

About 280 billion rubles for modernized proyekt 885 and 955.

11.  Ending serial procurement of many ground systems and equipment.

The Defense Ministry said it didn’t need the T-90, BMP-3, or BMD-4 (!?).  Development of an entire spectrum of new armored vehicle platforms began for procurement after 2015.

12.  Domestic space sector failures.

They evidenced the decline of the OPK’s production capability in the space sector.

13.  “Tsentr-2011” exercises.

They checked the “new profile,” and the greatly enlarged military districts.

14.  Importing arms.

Mistral, Rheinmetall’s training ground in Mulino, foreign sniper rifles, and Israeli UAVs.

15.  Continued growth in Russian arms sales.

$11 billion as opposed to 2010’s $10 billion.  This despite the revolutions in the Arab world.  Rosoboroneksport’s order portfolio is $36 billion.

16.  Arab revolutions.

17.  NATO intervention in Libya.

18.  Military actions in Afghanistan, American troops leave Iraq.

19.  Deadend in missile defense negotiations.

20.  Start of reduced U.S. military spending.

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Postnikov on the Army and OPK (Part II)

T-90 on Red Square

Continuing with reaction to Ground Troops CINC, General-Colonel Postnikov last week . . .

Speaking to a RIA Novosti press conference, Director of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s (Minpromtorg) Defense-Industrial Complex Development Department, Igor Karavayev answered Postnikov this way:

“Unfortunately, we are encountering unwarranted criticism of the tactical-technical characteristics of Russian military equipment lately.  Allegedly, it doesn’t match its international counterparts.  An objective evaluation of the characteristics and tests conducted, but also the pace at which our exports are growing, attest to the contrary.”  

He said more than a few countries buy Russian tanks, and the T-90A got a positive evaluation from testing in difficult climatic conditions, including in Saudi Arabia, India, and Malaysia.  In Saudi Arabia, according to Karavayev, the T-90A was the only tank to destroy more than 60 percent of its targets after a road march.  Karavayev continues:

“The tests conducted in Saudi Arabia as part of an open tender fully and completely contradict the Glavkom’s [Postnikov’s] assertions.”

This T-90 modification supposedly has a new turret, a 1,000-hp engine, an improved thermal sight, new active defense measures, and a number of other improvements.  Karavayev flatly said neither the German Leopard, French LeClerc, nor American Abrams is equal to the T-90: 

“So to talk about how our tanks are worse than Western equivalents is not completely reliable information.”

“The price Postnikov quoted exceeds by approximately one and a half times the price at which the producer is ready to supply the vehicle [tank] to the troops.  This situation requires additional professional discussion.”

So that’s about 78 million vice 118 million rubles per T-90.

Izvestiya talked to Uralvagonzavod’s chief armor designer, Vladimir Nevolin, who said:

“The main complaints against the T-90 today are connected with its insufficient survivability.  Its deficiency is the placement of people, weapons, and fuel in one compartment.  In any case of armor penetration, the igniting of fuel is unavoidable.  Even with a fire suppression system, such a possibility isn’t excluded.  Therefore, the development of modern armored equipment is going the way of separating people from the fuel and munitions.  Moreover, the employment of remotely-controlled armaments is essential.  These principles were implemented in our future product – “item 195.”  For example, on it, the tank turret no longer had the crew.  But it turns out no one needed such a project.”

Vesti FM asked Igor Korotchenko whether Postnikov’s claim that Russian arms aren’t up to snuff is true.  He said there are objective problems with Russian-designed weapons, and some planned for introduction are really obsolete.  But, according to Korotchenko, the Defense Ministry’s main criticism is that Russian combat vehicles don’t meet survivability requirements.

At the same time, Korotchenko says Russia can’t fall into dependence on the West.  New armor has to be financed and put into serial production.  Limited purchases of Western military technology and licenses for the newest thermal sights and munitions are acceptable in his view, he says Russia’s national technological base for producing major weapons needs to be protected.

Finally, it was Viktor Baranets’ turn in Komsomolskaya pravda.

Baranets noted Postnikov complained quite openly about Russia’s weapons for a military leader of his rank.  And he opined that Moscow is not only competitive, but superior in some military systems.  But Baranets claims the T-90 cost has doubled from 60 million rubles two years ago due to higher electricity and metal prices as well as adding expensive French or Israeli thermal sights.  Nevertheless, says Baranets, Postnikov exaggerated about buying Leopards for the price of a T-90.

Baranets also interviewed Mikhail Barabanov.

Barabanov says the T-90 really is the 17th modification of the T-72, initially called the T-72BU, but T-90 sounded more modern, at least in 1992.  The T-90A has grown old, but could still be updated with a new turret, gun, and weapons control system.  The 118-million-ruble pricetag comes from a small production run, and it’s steep for a tank that’s not the most modern.

Barabanov says for 118 million you could only buy 3 1980s-vintage Leopard-2A4 from the Bundswehr reserve.  And such tanks don’t have any particular advantage over T-90.  A new Leopard-2A6 is more than $4 million, but with service, training, spares and munitions, it can’t be obtained for less than $10 million.

Baranets asks Barabanov if the share of modern ground armaments really be brought up to 70 percent by 2020.  The latter says:

“It’s realistic given fulfillment of the State Program of Armaments.  But its [the GPV’s] fulfillment depends first and foremost on the country’s capacity for high economic growth rates.”

More on Mistral

Vedomosti’s Aleksey Nikolskiy published an informative piece on Monday.

He says the announced deal for the first two Mistral helicopter carriers, built in France, includes spare parts and training for a grand total of €1.3 billion (52 billion rubles).  The deal reportedly includes the option to build two more units in a Russian shipyard.  While the deal’s sealed, the final contract is still being worked between France’s DCNS and Russia’s OSK.

Nikolskiy said the Elysee website said the Mistral package would provide 4 years of work for 1,000 French shipbuilders (5 million man-hours) at STX in Saint-Nazaire.

Paris is selling Moscow the SENIT 9 combat information system aboard Mistral, but apparently without license rights.

The contract for unit one is worth €700 million, and €600 million for unit two.

OSK maintains Russia will get a 20 percent share of the work on unit one, fabricating some sections for the ship in Russia.  Its share of the work on the second unit could be more, according to analyst Mikhail Barabanov.

An OSK representative told Nikolskiy the main goal of this deal is to get modern technology, and a possible Russian builder for the optional units hasn’t been determined.

Nikolskiy juxtaposes two views on Russia’s need for Mistral.  He quotes Barabanov:

“Why does the Russian Navy need this ship which was designed for the French Navy’s overseas expeditions?”

And he repeats General Staff Chief Makarov’s statement from June that the first Mistral will go to the Pacific Fleet to transport forces where they might be needed, particularly the Kuril Islands.

As post-script, Nikolskiy gives a snapshot of what 52 billion rubles for two Mistrals could buy:

  • 2 Borey-class (proyekt 955) SSBNs, or
  • 3 proyekt 11356 frigates (Talwar– / Krivak IV-class), or
  • 50 Su-30 fighters, or
  • 800 T-90 tanks, or
  • 50,000 apartments for servicemen.

Of course, you can generally double these alternative purchases if Russia builds a third and fourth Mistral.

Tender for Helicopter Carriers May Just Be Formality

Mistral Schematic

Kommersant reports today that United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) has gotten the Defense Ministry’s permission to hold an open tender for procurement of helicopter carriers.  The paper concludes the Defense Ministry is refraining from a sole-source purchase of the French Mistral, and will consider similar proposals from OSK’s shipyards.  But the military [at least some military officials] haven’t hidden the fact that they prefer Mistral [but Defense Minister Serdyukov has always maintained they’ve been talking to other suppliers], so the tender could just be a formality. 

OSK President Roman Trotsenko says a special commission from the Ministry of Industry and Trade will conduct the tender, but details are sketchy.  A Defense Ministry source told Kommersant that, without a tender, a deal to buy a helicopter carrier [presumably Mistral] would be considered illegal.  So there won’t be a sole-source buy despite a year of government-to-government talks.

The paper reminds readers of OSK’s recent unsuccessful antimonopoly complaint in regard to the government’s consideration of Mistral.  Although the complaint was not reviewed, it must have had some impact on the decision to compete the helicopter carrier purchase.  Kommersant sources say OSK Board Chairman Igor Sechin also had something to do with it.

Trotsenko says far east shipbuilding plant ‘Zvezda,’ Petersburg’s ‘Admiralty Wharves,’ and Kaliningrad’s ‘Yantar’ will bid for the ships.  ‘Zvezda’ already has a joint venture in place with South Korea’s Daewoo – builder of the Dokdo helicopter carrier.  The OSK President says ‘Admiralty’ and ‘Yantar’ might work with ‘Northern’ shipyard or a foreign builder. 

Kommersant has a letter sent from Sechin to Prime Minister Putin this spring saying not only is Dokdo an alternative to Mistral, but Dutch and Spanish helicopter carriers are as well.

Trotsenko says OSK yards can build a helicopter carrier in 30 months for $500-700 million against a Mistral pricetag of €420-680 million.

Kommersant concludes the tender won’t end the conflict between OSK and the Defense Ministry.  Mistral will remain the latter’s priority.  The paper’s sources don’t know if the military wants to buy Mistral itself or place an order for a new unit in a French shipyard (STX).  OSK hasn’t been able to arrange a cooperative agreement with STX.

Mezhprombank-controlled ‘Northern’ and ‘Baltic’ shipyards will participate in the tender according to a representative of the bank. Kommersant’s sources think Mezhprombank, its owner Sergey Pugachev, and shipyards are the favorites among Russian contenders.  Pugachev was an early supporter of buying French, then building other units in his shipyards.  And, according to Kommersant, the Defense Ministry supports Pugachev.

Alongside Pugachev and Mezhprombank, OSK feels its chances to win the tender aren’t great.  Moscow Defense Brief analyst Mikhail Barabanov also says Mezhprombank yards are the favorites to build Mistral in Russia.  Such a deal’s been reached at a political level between Paris and Moscow, so the tender might just be a formality.  CAST’s Konstantin Makiyenko agrees.  But he thinks Mistral orders will go to ‘Baltic,’ since ‘Northern’ is loaded with frigate and corvette orders.  Meanwhile, OSK would like to buy both yards from Mezhprombank, but the sides haven’t reached agreement on a price.

New Commander, Old Fleet

Vice-Admiral Korolev (photo: Novyy Region)

As expected, Northern Fleet Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander, Vice-Admiral Vladimir Ivanovich Korolev (Королёв) officially replaced Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Kletskov as Commander of the Black Sea Fleet on 2 July.  

Turning 55 next month, Kletskov retired on age grounds, but, as only Kommersant bothered to note, Korolev turned 55 in February, so President Medvedev has either officially extended his service a couple years, or plans to give him another star, allowing him to serve to 60, under the law. 

Novyy Region quoted Navy CINC Admiral Vysotskiy introducing the new BSF Commander: 

“Vice-Admiral Korolev is a competent leader, possessing good personal knowledge and work habits, both in the staff and in command duties.” 

About Korolev’s background . . . after finishing officer commissioning school in 1976, he was assigned to a Northern Fleet nuclear submarine, serving as a division head in the navigation department.  

According to Kommersant, in the mid-1980s, he served in the Gadzhiyevo-based 24th Division of Submarines (24th DiPL).  He eventually served as executive officer and commander of Victor II-class (proyekt 671RT) SSNs  K-488 and K-387.  He completed mid-career Higher Specialized Officer’s Classes in 1987. 

In 1993, he became Deputy Commander of the 24th DiPL, and completed his advanced education at the Kuznetsov Naval Academy in 1995.  He then moved to the Northern Fleet’s Operations Directorate as chief of an unidentified department, then chief of fleet ASW.  

By August 2000, he was Commander of the 24th DiPL, and in 2002 became Commander of the Sayda Guba-based 12th Squadron (24th and 18th DiPLs). 

On 19 November 2007, Korolev became Deputy Commander of the Northern Fleet, and was appointed Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander in August 2009. 

Media reports haven’t mentioned whether he’s married or has children. 

Korolev faces a large number of unresolved military and social issues in his fleet.  It has an extremely high percentage of old ships that aren’t combat capable.  Some problems with Ukraine persist despite the recent improvement in relations and the Kharkov agreement extending Russia’s Crimean presence to 2042, as well as the promise of 15 new ships and submarines which followed it. 

Independent analyst Aleksandr Khramchikhin told Novyy Region Korolev inherited a fleet in bad shape: 

“The fleet is in a state of disappearance, complete collapse.  It’s obvious the commander needs to stave off this collapse somehow.  But I don’t understand very well how this can be done.  Because these promises of numerous ships don’t correspond very much to the record of recent decades, and it’s extremely hard to believe in them.” 

“The basic mission of the fleet commander is to try to keep the fleet from dying, even though its service life is close to zero.  He can’t do anything because he doesn’t build ships.  The Black Sea Fleet has gone to the limit of obsolescence.  It’s the very oldest of our fleets.  It’s the only one of the fleets in which there are still ships built in the 1960s.  It’s the only one in which there’s been practically no kind of renewal in the post-Soviet period.” 

“It’s hard to understand what missions are being given to the BSF.  Let’s say it can’t even be closely compared with the Turkish Navy in forces, it is so much weaker.  I repeat, our entire Navy is in a state close to collapse, but the Black Sea Fleet is in first place in this regard.” 

An anonymous BSF staff source told Novyy Region Korolev’s first task is to replenish the fleet with new ships, not just secondhand Baltic Fleet units.  His second job is placing orders for repair and construction of ships not just at the BSF’s 13th Factory, but at Ukrainian shipyards as well.  

The fleet’s social problems are next.  It has hundreds of officers whose duties were eliminated, but they can’t be dismissed since they don’t have apartments.  The source says these guys are walking around in uniform, but have no jobs.  Korolev’s fourth task is a related one–returning Moscow Mayor Luzhkov to full engagement in Sevastopol.  Luzhkov is no longer building apartments there as he has in the past owing to a dust-up with the Defense Ministry over the handling of property in Sevastopol.  

Lastly, Korolev has some real naval missions to worry about like securing southern energy routes, the 2014 Winter Olympics, antipiracy operations, and keeping a Russian presence in the Mediterranean. 

Regarding Admiral Vystoskiy’s promise of new ships and submarines for the BSF, Moscow Defense Brief analyst Mikhail Barabanov told Kommersant the civilian and military leadership may see the fleet’s reinforcement a priority because it may more likely see real combat action than the Northern and Pacific Fleets.  

A Kommersant BSF staff source describes Korolev’s main mission not as planning for new ships by 2020, but simply supporting the combat capability of a fleet contracting before our eyes.

Old Weapons Good Enough, or Worn Out?

In Tuesday’s Gzt.ru, Denis Telmanov writes that Vostok-2010 features arms and military equipment that is 20, or sometimes 30 years old.  Neither the Defense Ministry nor independent experts see anything terrible about this, though they worry it could become physically worn out.

Telmanov says the exercise relies on old weapons systems like the Mi-24, Tu-22M3, and the Petr Velikiy.  The latter was laid down in 1986, and didn’t join the fleet until 12 years later.  The overwhelming majority of Pacific Fleet ships in the exercise were also laid down in the 1980s, and are at least 20-plus years old.  Even the vaunted Su-34 first flew in 1990, but didn’t go into operational use until 2007.  The remaining arms and equipment were developed in the 1960s and 1970s, and produced at the end of 1980s and early 1990s.

This state of affairs allows the Defense Ministry to show that the Russian military can fight successfully with the equipment it has.  The military’s press service chief wouldn’t comment for Gzt.ru on the age of systems taking part in Vostok-2010, except to say they’re the same as those on combat duty in formations and units in the rest of the Armed Forces.

The spokesman said:

“Today the army uses the equipment that it has.  And one of the missions of the exercise is to show how effectively established missions can be fulfilled in the new TO&E structure with this equipment.  The effectiveness of military equipment really doesn’t depend so much on its age, as on skill in using it and on how it corresponds to the established missions.  The course of the exercise still shows that the equipment is fully combat ready and allows troops to fulfill these missions put before them completely.  But it’s understood that this in no way diminishes the importance of the planned modernization and introduction of new equipment which will enable troops to act even more effectively.”

He cited EW equipment and the Su-34 as new systems being used in Vostok-2010.

Gzt.ru goes on to remind readers that, for over a year, President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov have taken pains to tell Russians the majority of the country’s armaments are obsolete or worn out.  Serdyukov said the share of modern military equipment in the inventory was only 10 percent.  That’s when he and Medvedev launched the campaign to increase this figure to 30 percent by 2015 and 70 percent by 2020.

CAST Director Ruslan Pukhov says the absence of serious military threats makes the next ten years a good time to do this:

“. . . Russia has a window of opportunity the next 10 years, and it isn’t threatened by war.  It’s necessary to use these 10 years to bring the armed forces into a condition in which they can repulse any threats which arise.”

Pukhov says the Black Sea and Baltic Fleets should be modernized first, Iskanders deployed to deter Georgia, and S-400s in the Far East to counter North Korean missiles [recall General Staff Chief Makarov’s claim last year that S-400s were there?].

Mikhail Barabanov of Moscow Defense Brief says the problem is not age, but physical wear:

“40-year-old ships and 30-year-old tanks are now almost gone.  In reality, the problem of old equipment in our Armed Forces is not so much its age as the amount of equipment wear and tear.  That leads to breakdowns.  For example, in the Vostok-2010 exercise the guided missile cruiser Moskva didn’t succeed in launching its Vulcan [SS-N-27??] anti-ship missiles.  As a result, missile boats with Moskit missiles destroyed the target.”

Nevertheless, Barabanov remains confident that, even with aging weapons, Russia’s military is superior to neighboring armies, including China’s:

“On the whole, the equipment level of Russian units in the Far East is generally adequate to perform defensive missions, although not at the highest level.  It’s another issue that the equipment is badly worn out.”

Barabanov is not against buying new equipment of older designs:

“Even if industry’s existing models can be criticized for deficiencies from the standpoint of modern requirements, the fact remains they will be physically new, with a full service life, and allow for significantly increasing the combat readiness of troops.”

Telmanov ends by reminding readers of President Medvedev’s late 2009 pledge to provide the military 30 land-based  and naval ballistic missiles, 5 Iskander missile systems, nearly 300 pieces of armored equipment, 30 helicopters, 28 aircraft, 3 nuclear submarines, a corvette, and 11 satellite systems in 2010.

Is Russia Ready for Netcentric Warfare?

Is It Really This Simple?

Dmitriy Litovkin addressed this recently in Izvestiya.  He defines netcentric war as generals in the Arbat controlling not only armies but individual soldiers in real time via a military Internet.  He calls the U.S. concept as gathering all forces into one information space and turning the armed forces into one huge reconnaissance-strike system. 

Litovkin cites one Robert Nikolayev, who worked in an NII, probably the Voronezh Scientific-Research Institute of Communications, now known as OAO Sozvezdiye [Constellation].  Nikolayev worked on the Manevr [Maneuver] system from 1983, which was to unite all fire means in one communications system and tell field commanders what the staff wanted, where friendly forces and targets were, and what weapons to use on them.  But Nikolayev indicates the Armed Forces Communications Directorate viewed the system as a threat and killed it.  He says it was a good system and it supposedly helped the Warsaw Pact defeat Western forces in a NATO war game.  In the early 1990s, Nikolayev worked on Polet-K for the VDV and it went through testing, but wasn’t fielded.

Litovkin says a new tactical C2 system called Sozvezdiye [isn’t this the firm’s name] is in the works, but no one wants to talk about it since it’s a state secret.  He describes it as an Internet-based computer network with secure email.

Litovkin thinks buying Israeli UAVs or French ships will make Russia’s task harder since it surely won’t get SENIT-9 or SIC-21 that give Mistral its automated C3 capability.  Russia will have to provide its own.

Litovkin adds comments from Mikhail Barabanov.  He says the USSR’s lag in electronics and computing equipment during the 1980s hurt the early efforts and then its collapse stopped the development of these sectors for a while.  He thinks Russia will not only have to overcome the continuing lag in information systems, but also change its military organization, manning, and training to become netcentric.

Rossiyskaya gazeta’s Sergey Ptichkin published a similar article not long ago.  Also see this for more on Russian netcentric warfare efforts in the 2009 exercises.  It covers the comms chief’s promises about individual soldier comms by 2011.  The VDV chief of staff also talked about this for his troops in his year-ender.