Tag Archives: Military District

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.

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Who Will Own VKO (Part II)

Returning to former General-Major Tazekhulakhov’s article in NVO . . . to make VKO an integral organism under unitary leadership and command and control, with personal responsibility for solving the tasks laid on the system, Tazekhulakhov believes it best, in the current Armed Forces structure, to concentrate troops (forces) and VKO system resources in one service or troop branch.

The ex-Deputy Chief of VPVO then reviews five possibilities:

  1. Give VVS PVO (including air defense aviation) to KV, and turn KV into a new branch called VVKO.
  2. Disband KV, give RKO to the VVS and space launch, monitoring, and other supporting structures to RVSN.
  3. Using KV as the base, create a new branch VVKO by including those VVS forces and resources currently in OSK VKO (the old KSpN, Moscow AVVSPVO, Moscow Air Defense District, etc.).
  4. Without transferring or resubordinating any of VVS or KV, establish a Strategic Command of VKO (SK VKO), and designate a commander to whom every MD / OSK, and every PVO, RKO, and REB resource would be subordinate for VKO missions in peace and wartime.
  5. Divide VKO along the existing MD / OSK lines with each of the four commanders responsible for the mission with common command and control exercised by the RF Armed Forces Central Command Post (ЦКП ВС РФ).

Tazekhulakhov says none of these possibilities is ideal.  Currently, VKO elements belong to different services, troop branches, Armed Forces structures, and even civilian departments.  PVO and RKO forces and resources aren’t evenly distributed throughout the RF.  And some are operationally subordinate to regional MD / OSK commanders and others (RKO and REB) to the center.  Triple subordination — administrative, operational, and support — violates one-man command for the VKO system.

Tazekhulakhov says the first three variants ask service or branches to perform missions outside their traditional competence.  Variant four would require agreement on the authorities of the VVS CINC, MD / OSK commanders, and the SK VKO commander.  Variant five makes it hard to find one commander responsible for VKO.

Of all variants, Tazekhulakhov finds variant two best.  It keeps the current integrity of VVS, and cuts one branch and reduces command and control organs.

But he’s found another problem not yet addressed — how to treat operational-tactical PVO and PRO of the MDs and fleets.  For it to operate on the same territory and with the same missions as strategic VKO, reconnaissance and warning information exchange and command and control and REB coordination has to be worked out.  And MD / OSK commanders won’t want to subordinate their forces, plans, and responsibilities to a VKO commander.

Lastly, Tazekhulakhov steps back to look at a bigger picture.  Why develop VKO?  With whom and how is Russia preparing to fight?  He concludes, from all appearances, U.S. missile defense won’t seriously impede Russian strategic nuclear forces, and, to some extent, Moscow has wasted time worrying about it:

“Russians need to stop getting harnessed, it’s time to get moving, and not simply waddle, but race full speed.  The result of our procrastination is obvious:  Russia is still trying through negotiations to find a compromise between its and NATO’s positions on missile defense, under cover of the protracted negotiating process, the American missile defense system in Europe is already approaching very close to Russia’s borders.  Evidently, it doesn’t do to waste time, hope and focus on NATO.  It’s essential to take serious military-political decisions and do what’s needed and useful for Russia, without looking at others.  No one, first and foremost the U.S., will give us anything, especially in the armaments area.  We have to rely only on ourselves.  Russia, undoubtedly, has no other way.”

Makarov Interview

Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer published an interview with the Chief of the General Staff, Army General Nikolay Makarov last Tuesday.  It’s not exactly a hard-ball interview.  But it’s fairly consistent with his other statements.  Among the priorities, preserving mobilization appears again.  Inter-service C2 in the new OSKs is a big theme.  He can’t explain why the Air Forces aren’t getting more new aircraft, and PVO sounds like it’s destined for joining VKO under the Space Troops. 

VPK asked about the possibility of changes in Russia’s military doctrine following the NATO-Russia summit and more talk of a strategic partnership.  Makarov said the approach of NATO infrastructure to Russia’s borders and the alliance’s continued “open door” policy vis-a-vis Ukraine and Georgia are still factors in Russia’s military doctrine.  Therefore, there’s no need to adjust it.

Makarov expounded on the concept of force and force structure development [строительство] to 2020 adopted by President Medvedev last April 19.  Its main measures include:

  • Establishment of the air-space (aerospace) defense (VKO) system;
  • Formation of the optimal composition of inter-service troop (force) groupings on strategic axes;
  • Supporting mobilization of military formations and troop groupings;
  • Establishing modern command and control systems;
  • Deploying military towns of a new troop basing system;
  • Reequipping formations and units with new and future types of armaments and military equipment;
  • Resolving social protection issues of servicemen.

Asked about military science and operational training, Makarov said the main task of the military-scientific complex is to “support the training and employment of the Armed Forces in their new profile, especially inter-service training of the military command and control organs” of the new MDs / OSKs. 

Makarov admitted that Russia lags behind developed countries in reconnaissance and command and control, and is still using communications systems developed in the 1990s.  He continued:

“Another problem is the fact that every service and troop branch of the Armed Forces developed its own means of automation and communications without looking at the others.  The command and control systems of the Ground Troops, Navy, and Air Forces didn’t interface with each other, that lowered the possibilities for controlling troop groupings on the operational-strategic and operational level.”

He says the General Staff has given the OPK requirements for high-tech digital reconnaissance and communications systems.  Industry is already developing a fundamentally new, sixth generation radio system with digital signal processing to implement a net organization in radio communications.  He says it’s being built as a unitary, integrated net at all levels, from the General Staff to the individual soldier on the battlefield.  Command and control systems will get 300 billion rubles under GPV-2020, according to Makarov.

Sounding very much the net-centric warfare disciple, Makarov says the main task is to form a unitary information space uniting reconnaissance, navigation, command and control, and new generation weapons.

Makarov doesn’t have a good answer when asked why the Air Forces don’t have a single fully reequipped unit despite increased defense expenditures.  He maintains they are getting new aircraft and their units are now all permanently combat ready and fully equipped and manned.

On aerospace defense, Makarov says PVO, PRO, SPRN, and KKP (space monitoring) will be concentrated in the hands of one commander, but:

“I’d like to note this won’t be a simple, mechanistic merger of different military entities under the leadership of a new strategic command.  Their deep integration and echelonment by mission, information exchange, and interception fire is envisaged.  We’ve already started fulfilling the initial measures on this issue.”

Obviously speaking much prior to last week’s news about reversing cuts in the officer ranks, Makarov addressed the moratorium on inducting new cadets.  He said 78.5 percent of 2010 VVUZ graduates became officers.  Others, he says, who wanted to stay in the service were temporarily placed in lower-ranking [i.e. sergeant] posts, but will participate in command training and form a cadre reserve for filling officer positions.

Lastly, Makarov talked about the new military pay system coming next year.  Military retirees have been especially concerned about its effect on pensions.  Makarov didn’t say much to assuage them.  He said there will be no difference in pensions depending on when servicemen retired, and a commission under Finance Ministry leadership is working on the issue.  That will probably reassure army pensioners.

General Staff Chief Makarov’s Retirement Rumored

On Thursday, Argumenty nedeli said its source claims Defense Minister Serdyukov will soon send some well-known generals into retirement.  The Defense Ministry press service, of course, denies it.

AN’s source says the departure of these generals isn’t due to conflict between them and Serdyukov, but rather to the latter’s policy of “rejuvenating” Russia’s high command.  Among those who will allegedly be retired:

  • General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov (61).
  • Deputy Defense Minister for Rear Services, General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov (56).
  • Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin (57).
  • Navy CINC, Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy (56).
  • Space Troops Commander, General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko (53).

It’s interesting because none of them is really up against the legal age limit for leaving military service.  And Makarov apparently already has a service term extension from President Medvedev. 

One presumes, according to AN’s information, that the Ground Troops CINC, and RVSN and VDV Commanders are safe for now.

AN also expects some of the newly appointed MD commanders to be dismissed or moved to new posts.

There are other angles to AN’s story besides more rotation in cadres.

First, it repeats earlier press on trouble in finding a replacement for “key military department figure,” former Deputy Defense Minister for Finance-Economic Work Vera Chistova who left her post three months ago. 

An AN source in the Finance-Economic Service claims the lack of a replacement puts in doubt Prime Minister Putin’s promise to deliver a 6.5 percent increase in military pensions on 1 April.  Budget resources weren’t allocated for this.  And there’s still no candidate to replace Chistova.  And without one such issues simply won’t be resolved. 

AN doesn’t mention also that as active duty officer pay is reformed this year, the Defense Ministry will have to figure what to do about retiree pay.  If, as expected, they break the long-standing link between active pay and military pensions, the vets aren’t going to be very happy just before the 2011 and 2012 elections.  Putin just courted representatives of veterans’ organizations about a week ago.

According to AN, the Defense Minister has offered the military finance portfolio to more than one official at different levels in the Finance and Economic Development Ministries, but all of them declined.

The military department’s officers are also talking loudly about the coming appointment of a new Serdyukov deputy who will be called in to “correctly”  track the military’s political preferences ahead of the fast-approaching legislative and presidential elections.  

A high-ranking but unnamed military man tells AN

“He will be an important civilian and definitely a member of ‘United Russia.’  It goes without saying this is connected with the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.  The negative mood of officers is great, it is directed against the minister, his assistants and the party of power which is conducting the reforms without considering the human costs.”

Makarov’s Year-Ender

On Tuesday, General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov provided his year-end wrap-up on the ‘new profile’ of the Armed Forces in the form of a press-conference featuring a videolink with the four new MD / OSK commanders.

It was pretty much a self-congratulatory celebration of how Makarov and company have turned everything in the Russian military around for the better.  As Moskovskiy komsomolets put it, “Nikolay Makarov told the media how bad it was in the army in the past, and how good it will be in the future.”

Rossiyskaya gazeta paraphrased Makarov’s remarks, giving only a couple direct quotes.  First up was President Medvedev’s call for unified aerospace defense (VKO) before the end of 2011.

RG says Makarov said VKO will be fully operational in 2020 when new reconnaissance and weapons systems have been deployed.  He said its purpose is to defend the state [interestingly the state, not the country] from ballistic and cruise missiles.  It needs to be an umbrella against any kind of threat, including low-altitude ones.

Makarov said different military structures have been occupied with the security of the skies.  Space Troops do orbital reconnaissance and ground-based missile early warning.  The air forces and air defense armies (АВВСиПВО or АВВСПВО) and radar troops monitor air space for approaching hostile aircraft.  The Special Designation Command (КСпН) covers the Moscow air defense zone [didn’t this long ago change its name to the OSK VKO?].  Air defense troops (ЗРВ) and fighter aviation cover other important facilities.  The system was set-up on a service (видовой) basis and that’s why it was uncoordinated.  It needs to be made integrated and put under the command of the General Staff [of course – this sounds like Olga Bozhyeva in MK].  In the Defense Ministry, they understand unification won’t be quick and will require a lot of resources, but there’s simply no other way.

Izvestiya proffered a quotation on this one:

“If we look at how this system was built earlier, then it’s possible to see that it acted separately by services and branches of troops, and also by regions.  So, Space Troops answered for space reconnaissance, the work of missile attack warning stations.  The Ground Troops for the activity of radar units.  Now we are uniting all these separate organizations in a unitary whole.  We need to establish the foundation of this system in 2011.  To finish its formation completely by 2020.”

According to RG, Makarov said a modern army would be useless without a new command and control system for the Armed Forces.  Russia’s move to a unified information environment will cost 300 billion rubles, and will be phased, with the initial phase being the replacement of all analog equipment with digital systems by 2012.  Command and control systems will be developed and produced in Russia, but other weapons will be bought abroad.  This is when he broke the news about Mistral winning the amphibious command ship tender.

RG concludes Makarov called for a fully professional Armed Forces, but the words it quoted aren’t particularly convincing:

“Now we can’t do them like this.  But year by year we’ll increase the selection of contract servicemen with commensurate pay.”

However, Moskovskiy komsomolets quoted the General Staff Chief this way:

“We are aiming for a contract army.  Now we can’t make it so instantly, but year by year the number of contract servicemen, with commensurate pay, will increase.”

Olga Bozhyeva viewed this as a total reversal of Makarov’s earlier rejection of contractees and insistence on conscripts as the backbone of the army.

Makarov also talked about efforts to create ‘human’ service and living conditions.  He referred, as always, to outsourcing and civilianizing mess hall and other housekeeping duties.  He repeated that, starting in 2012, officer pay will increase by several times.  According to Krasnaya zvezda, Makarov said 50 percent of officers now receive higher pay through premiums and incentives.  Officers and their families will be moved from remote garrison towns to oblast centers where their children can get a better education and wives can find work.  About the large cut in military towns, he said:

“We had about 22 thousand of them, approximately 5,500 remain, but in all, we’re taking the number of military towns to 180.”

Of course, he didn’t mention who will take care of large numbers of retirees left behind in that archipelago of abandoned military towns.

KZ gave its own recap of Makarov’s press-conference, and it’s interesting to hear his rehash of why the army needed a ‘new profile.’  His remarks blow up any lingering myth about the 2000s, at least the Putin years, as the time of the Russian military’s rejuvenation.  He said:

“Before 2009, 87 percent of the Armed Forces consisted of formations and military units with abbreviated personnel and cadres, practically not having personnel.  They almost didn’t conduct operational and combat training.  The army didn’t just degrade.  During this time, we grew an entire generation of officers and generals who ceased to understand the very essence of military service, they didn’t have experience in training and educating personnel.”

KZ paraphrases more of Makarov.  The personnel training system caused complaints.  VVUZy were teaching the Great Patriotic War.  Low pay and poor prospects for housing made the officer’s profession a low-prestige one.  In units, personnel weren’t occupied with combat training, but serving themselves, and military discipline fell as a result.  On the whole, the Armed Forces stopped fulfilling the missions for which they are intended, and could scarcely react to threats and challenges beyond the state’s borders and inside the country.

Makarov addressed how the MDs were changed to meet future threats and challenges:

“Planning and troop employment happened with significant difficulties, since each of six military districts had a series of missions where one often contradicted another.  Moreover, four air forces and air defense armies were established, as a result, the zones of responsibility of the military districts and these armies didn’t coincide at all.  This led to confusion in employing air defense forces.  At the same time, experience showed that military actions in recent decades are conducted, as a rule, by unified force groupings and forces under a unitary command.  Each of our districts and each of our four fleets existed independently. Each had its own zone of responsibility, not matching the others.  In order to organize any kind of joint actions, it was necessary to establish temporary commands, temporary structures, which, as a rule, were poorly prepared, didn’t have corresponding experience.  All this led to unsatisfactory results.”

Izvestiya quoted him:

“In the bounds of the ongoing transformations, full-blooded troop groupings have been established on all strategic axes.  Four full-blooded commands have appeared for us which, having in their composition and immediately subordinate to them all forces and means, can react adequately to all challenges and threats to the borders of our districts.  Changes in the Armed Forces command and control structure are a necessary occurrence since the old administrative-territorial division had stopped answering the challenges and threats of the time.”

New MDs (photo: ITAR-TASS)

Then Makarov brought in MD commanders over the video so they could attest to how it’s going.  They remarked on how cutting intermediate, redundant command levels has made their jobs easier.  Western MD Commander, General-Colonel Arkadiy Bakhin said 40 percent of his formations and units have outsourced some support functions. 

KZ says earlier MD commanders answered only for Ground Troops, and when they needed forces from another service or branch, they had to get permission from above.  Southern MD Commander, General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Galkin claims making these requests cost the commander time, but now all forces and means are in one command, the fundamentally new unified strategic command (OSK).  Galkin also says freeing soldiers from support tasks means there are now 20-22 training days per month instead of 15-16.

Army Outsourcing

Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov conducted another extramural collegium Wednesday, this time in Khabarovsk.  Serdyukov and company congratulated themselves for completing the ‘large-scale work’ of forming the Eastern Military District (VVO or ВВО), and the other three new districts, ahead of schedule.  This reshuffling was done in less than a year, so it probably really doesn’t count as ‘large-scale work.’

General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov reported the VVO has operated since 1 October.  For his part, Serdyukov noted:

“The Eastern Military District is the largest in combat composition, area, and length of ground and maritime borders.”

The VVO sports the Pacific Fleet, an air and air defense army, and four combined arms armies, leading the Defense Minister to conclude:

“Unifying all forces and means under a single commander allowed for a substantial increase in the combat possibilities and potential of the district.”

Possibly, yes, but it remains to be realized and proven . . . since the very same forces have just been aggregated in a new way.  Is this new whole more than the sum of its parts, or not?

Attendees discussed unified logistics as well as unified combat forces.  Reports said along with unified commands a unified system of material-technical support (MTO) is being established in the military districts.  As previously reported, it is supposed to unite arms supply and logistics in one function and organization.

At any rate, the collegium had new or semi-new business as well . . .

Serdyukov, Makarov, and other attendees also discussed Defense Ministry outsourcing.

Before the meeting, Makarov told wire services the issue of delimiting spheres of activity between the military department and outside organizations that will provide support functions for servicemen and military towns, including heating, electricity, and food service, would be discussed.  According to Rossiyskaya gazeta, Makarov said:

“We need to clearly determine the bounds within which structures should work to support the everyday life of military bodies.”

Speaking like an old-hand, Makarov said the outsourcing system will take care of noncore tasks like feeding the troops and providing utilities to military towns.  The Defense Ministry’s board of directors discussed transferring responsibilities and corresponding property to these contractors.  Are they going to operate or own these assets?

RG reminded readers 340,000 troops are supposed to be fed by civilian firms by year’s end.  They include students in cadet corps, Suvorov schools, military VUZy, and patients in Defense Ministry hospitals.  The paper said outsourced food service would be coming soon to permanent readiness units.  And laundry services, part of military transportation, and equipment supply, including aviation, POL, and support for all deployed Navy ships, will be outsourced.

Finally, Army General Makarov said the collegium discussed in detail the issue of replacing or scrapping worn out equipment.  According to RIA Novosti, Makarov indicated there’ll be a major inventory and weeding out of what’s usable and what isn’t:

“In the course of 2011, everything that’s inoperable, particularly, in the aviation and ship inventory, we will manage to restore and put back on the line.  That which has outlived its time according to its parameters should be withdrawn from service.  This is quite a solid sum which could be redirected to acquiring new types of equipment and armaments.”

Not sure how much they make on this scrap sale.  Not so long ago the Defense Ministry said it was cutting repairs (as well as RDT&E) to focus more money on buying new systems.

Western MD Opens for Business

According to ITAR-TASS, General-Colonel Valeriy Gerasimov told journalists yesterday that the new Western Military District (MD) was fully formed and functional on 1 September.  Gerasimov said:

“The Western Military District started functioning on 1 September.  Command and control organs of the former Leningrad and Moscow Military Districts, Northern and Baltic Fleets, and also the 1st Air Forces and Air Defense Command went into the composition of the staff located in St. Petersburg.”

Gerasimov said the majority of Moscow MD staff officers:

“. . . were appointed to positions in the staff of the Western Military District and other organs of military command and control.  Part of the officers, having served out their prescribed terms, were dismissed, but those who have a half-year to a year remaining to serve are at the disposition [of their commanding officers].”

Gerasimov himself went from Commander, Moscow MD to become a deputy chief of the General Staff.

The Defense Ministry now wants the other three new MDs / OSKs to be functional by 1 October.