Tag Archives: Military Districts

Revenge of the Fallen

Ivan Safronov

Well, more like Return of the Retired, or Dawn of the Dismissed, or whatever.  Your attention’s been grabbed (hopefully).

Last Thursday, Kommersant’s Ivan Safronov reported the Defense Ministry will bring 4,011 ex-general officers back as civilian advisers and consultants, primarily in military districts (unified strategic commands — OSKs) and large operational-tactical formations (armies).  The idea, apparently, is for today’s top commanders to benefit from the experience of their predecessors.

Safronov’s report is based on claims from a source in Defense Minister Serdyukov’s apparat, his immediate staff.  The plan to deploy retired generals as advisers got Serdyukov’s approval on January 20.

The former higher officers will also work as scientific associates in VVUZy and in military commissariats.

Kommersant’s source said these men generally have advanced education and a wealth of combat troop and administrative experience to share with today’s commanders.

Safronov turns to Vitaliy Tsymbal to describe how deploying a huge number of ex-generals contradicts earlier Defense Ministry policy:

“There’s no particular logic evident in this, many now retired generals are already remote from military affairs.  This is a sufficiently magnanimous gesture on the part of the minister, but it doesn’t have some kind of deeper sense in it.  Earlier nothing stopped him from dismissing the very same generals for various reasons.”

According to Safronov’s source, it remains only to determine what to pay the returning generals. 

Who knows if any of this will actually happen?  But if it does, it’s another walk back on a key plank of military reform.  Remember the walk back on keeping 220,000 rather than only 150,000 officers?

In late 2009, General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov said the Defense Ministry had cut 420 of 1,200 generals in the Armed Forces.  With current manning, the remaining 780 generals are enough for a relatively high 1-to-1,000 ratio to other personnel.  So they’ll be digging deep for 4,011 former generals.  Who and what will they find?  

In late 2010, Makarov almost bragged about cutting useless, superannuated officers:

“During this time [before 2009], 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.”

However, those officers and generals saw it differently, for example:

“Ill-conceived reform has left the Russian Army without a central combat training methodology – that is, now no one knows what and how we teach soldiers and officers on the battlefield.”

So either Serdyukov’s shift to a new, younger, and more junior generation of military leaders isn’t working out, or there’s some other reason for bringing the older dudes back.  One obvious possibility would be to keep them from being openly and publicly critical of Putin’s regime and Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry on the eve of the presidential election.  Maybe some can be bought for a small supplement to their pensions.  A couple things are more certain.  If the old generals arrive, their former subordinates — now in charge — probably won’t like having them around.  The old guys probably won’t enjoy it much either.  And the whole scheme may not even get off the ground, or last very long if it does.

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Galkin Promoted

A thing rare in recent times was announced today . . . the promotion of a general officer.  In this case, Southern MD Commander, General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Galkin picked up his third star. 

President Medvedev’s decree on General-Colonel Galkin was dated June 11, according to RIA Novosti.

Large, well-publicized general officer promotion ceremonies used to be the norm, but no longer. 

Recall one of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s objectives was turning the “bloated egg” of the officer corps into a pyramid.  As part of this, he planned to trim 1,100 generals to 900. 

Of course, Serdyukov had to walk back part of his decision on cutting officers this year, but generally it’s clear that lots of O-6s now occupy billets once held by one-stars.  Army commanders routinely two-stars in the past now wear only one.  And MD commanders who typically wore three, have been wearing only two . . . at least until now. 

Galkin joins Western MD Commander, General-Colonel Arkadiy Bakhin at the three-star rank. 

Galkin’s promotion shows the team has to be rewarded for doing the heavy lifting of establishing the “new profile.”  Three-star rank also extends his statutory retirement to 60. 

Central MD Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Chirkin and Eastern MD Commander, Vice-Admiral Konstantin Sidenko are both older than Galkin.  They are likely serving on extensions right now, and might be better candidates for retirement than promotion.  But another star can’t be ruled out.  In Chirkin’s case, the recent arsenal explosions in his AOR won’t help him.

Aleksandr Viktorovich Galkin is especially strongly linked to General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov through his service in the former Siberian MD in the 2000s.  Bakhin and Chirkin are also “Siberians” with ties to Makarov.

Some details on Galkin:  He was born March 22, 1958 in Ordzhonikidze (now Vladikavkaz), North-Ossetian ASSR.  He graduated the Ordzhonikidze Higher Combined Arms Command School in 1979, and served in motorized rifle command posts up to chief of staff and deputy commander of a battalion in the GSFG.  He was a battalion commander in the Far East MD.  In 1990, he completed the Frunze Military Academy, and served as a motorized rifle regiment commander in the Transcaucasus, and chief of staff and deputy commander of a motorized rifle division in the Far East MD.  On completing the General Staff Academy in 2003, he served as deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army (Novosibirsk), and chief of staff and first deputy commander of the 36th Combined Arms Army (Borzya).  In 2006-2007, he commanded the 41st.  In 2008, Galkin became deputy commander, then chief of staff and first deputy commander of the Siberian MD.  In early 2010, he became commander of the North Caucasus MD, and the renamed Southern MD early this year.

New SAM for Troop Air Defense?

Last Thursday, a Ground Troops’ spokesman told ARMS-TASS the army is testing a new portable surface-to-air missile system (PZRK):

“Tests are being conducted at the 726th Training Center on a new portable surface-to-air missile system, the tactical-technical characteristics of which surpass those of other types in the armament of formations and units.”

The spokesman said it’s planned to complete experimental-design work (OKR) on the new system this year, and procure up to 250 of them under this year’s state defense order.  He said the systems will go into the SAM batteries of air defense battalions of independent motorized rifle and SAM brigades.  The new SAM will be deployed on mobile platforms that support automated remote launches.

The army representative also said:

“All together in the framework of the state defense order for 2011, it’s planned to buy more than 400 pieces of missile-artillery armament for Troop PVO units and to conduct capital repair with modernization of nearly 100 pieces of equipment.”

In his estimation, as a result of this, an increase in the combat capabilities of PVO troop groupings of up to 40 percent, according to a number of indicators, is expected.

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.

Goodbye GRU Spetsnaz, Hello Army Spetsnaz

Writing in last Friday’s Stoletiye.ru, Rossiyskaya gazeta correspondent Sergey Ptichkin says that, practically on its 60th anniversary, GRU Spetsnaz have landed in a most unexpected place – the Ground Troops.  His piece is full of bitter sarcasm.

Ptichkin concludes:

“The GRU Spetsnaz brigades have transferred into the Ground Troops structure.  Several units have disbanded altogether.  Ranks for duties have been lowered.  Now a senior lieutenant will command a reconnaissance group, and that’s the ceiling.  All warrant officers have been dismissed – there’s no longer such a rank in the army.  And it’s strange that professional sergeants haven’t magically appeared in place of full-grown warrants.  The issue of halting parachute training for reconnaissance men is on the agenda.  Really, why parachutes if they’ve become ‘pure infantrymen?’  They can deliver them to any rebellious village in the mountains or forests on trains or in KamAZes.”

According to Ptichkin, professional Spetsnaz believe:

“. . . it’s simply impossible to train an eighteen-year-old boy into a genuine reconnaissance man-saboteur in one year.  In Afghanistan, Spetsnaz soldiers were sent out only after a year of intensive combat training.  That is real service, when a professional military reconnaissance man was born even at the very lowest level, began a year after callup, but now they’re dismissed into the reserves where they forget everything they learned after a few months.”

Ptichkin recalls the GRU Spetsnaz’ anniversary ten years ago.  Even though their relations with the Spetsnaz were tense, the Defense Minister and General Staff Chief came and paid their respects.

But this year:

“Neither the Defense Minister, nor the Chief of the General Staff, not even their current chief – the Ground Troops CINC came.”

“Many veterans and even serving officers consider this day a quiet farewell to the GRU Spetsnaz, born 60 years ago.  It’s possible something more mobile, combat ready, and effective will take its place.”

So he’s thrown Putin and Medvedev’s own description of the kind of army they want back at them.  Of course, the Spetsnaz have always considered themselves the ultimate fighting force.

Ptichkin says the Defense Minister didn’t even issue a traditional order of recognition for the day of Spetsnaz troops.

“There is still the symbol of military reconnaissance – the bat [literally, ‘flying mouse’].  But very soon it’ll be possible to boldly replace this silent night hunter on the emblem with a grey field mouse.  A sweet and inoffensive ground-pounder.”

ITAR-TASS’ coverage of the Spetsnaz anniversary also clearly identified them as subordinate to the Ground Troops, CINC General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov, and his Chief of Reconnaissance, Deputy Chief of Staff for Reconnaissance, Colonel Vladimir Mardusin.

The press service said Mardusin indicated that:

“. . . at present, army Spetsnaz are organized in independent brigades of special designation, which exist in every military district, and battalions in several combined arms formations of the Southern Military District.  Within the formation of the new profile of the armed forces, independent brigades of special designation were transferred to the Ground Troops and are in direct subordination to military district commanders / unified strategic commands.”

Izvestiya’s Dmitriy Litovkin predicted the GRU Spetsnaz’ transfer from the General Staff’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) to the Ground Troops last November on the day of military intelligence (6 November).  This was after the 67th, 12th, and 3rd Spetsnaz brigades were disbanded, and even the 16th was in danger of the same.

Igor Korotchenko told Litovkin:

“It’s possible to judge what’s happening in the GRU only through open information.  For example, one of the results of the reform is taking the force component from the GRU and resubordinating Spetsnaz to the military district commanders.  Only space, radioelectronic, and agent reconnaissance, and also the analytic service remain in today’s ‘Aquarium.’”

Just a reminder, this would mean they were taken even before the six old MDs were reformed into 4 MDs / OSKs.  The poor performance of the GRU generally and the Spetsnaz specifically in the 2008 Georgian conflict may have provided impetus for the change.  Litovkin and others have reported that the GRU and Spetsnaz received an ‘unsatisfactory’ for their efforts in that brief war.   Meanwhile, subordinating Spetsnaz to warfighting MD CINCs on different strategic directions would seem to make sense, the angst of the GRU, its officers, and veterans notwithstanding.

We should, however, get back to the original Ptichkin article.  It has a lot of interesting stuff you might want to peruse.  Some is hyperbolic though, so take it with a grain of salt . . .

He describes all details of their formation from 24 October 1950.  The Spetsnaz were subordinate to the General Staff (GRU) because they were first and foremost strategic, and strategic nuclear, warfighting assets designed to disrupt U.S. and NATO capabilities – nuclear weapons, logistics, transport, communications, etc. – in deep rear areas, including even North America.

And, according to Ptichkin, they were supermen capable of singly accomplishing missions not even combined arms sub-units could handle.  And the Spetsnaz were more secret than Soviet nuclear weapons; not even all generals or marshals knew about more than their general outlines.

Everything changed with Afghanistan and glasnost.  Every power structure wanted its own special forces.  And the GRU Spetsnaz were thrust into the forefront of a war they weren’t created for.  But through the skill of their commanders they adapted and were successful.  Ptichkin claims a single Spetsnaz detachment could pacify an entire province.  And, according to him, if the Spetsnaz had been unleashed fully, the Afghan war would have been won and the country under Soviet control by the mid-1980s.

He says Tajikistan in 1992 proves this isn’t a fantasy.  The 15th Spetsnaz brigade under Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov, one of the accused in the Chubays’ assassination attempt, was given a free hand there and pacified the country. 

Ptichkin says Spetsnaz weren’t so involved in the First Chechen War, and the results were bad of course.  But they were used more extensively in the Second Chechen.  And he claims the Chechen Spetsnaz battalion under Sulim Yamadayev prevented Georgian saboteurs from blowing the Roki tunnel in August 2008.

And so, says Ptichkin, for 30 years, Spetsnaz have fought in places they weren’t intended to be, but have fought beautifully anyway.  Instead of landing in he main enemy’s rear areas, they are sitting on their own territory prepared, in extreme circumstances, to be sent to the next hot spot in the CIS, and not further afield.

As proof of how they’ve been used, it’s interesting to note the holiday press which says 8 Spetsnaz became Heroes of the Soviet Union in 40 years, but 44 have become Heroes of the Russian Federation in less than 20 years.

New Air Forces Commander in Far East

Colonel Dronov

On Monday, the Defense Ministry announced Colonel Sergey Vladimirovich Dronov as the new Chief of Air Forces and Air Defense in the Far East.  His predecessor, General-Lieutenant Valeriy Ivanov, has a new post in the Operational-Strategic Command of Air-Space Defense (OSK VKO or ОСК ВКО).

The 48-year-old Dronov was born in rural eastern Ukraine.  In 1983, he graduated from the Yeysk Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots, and began his service as a fighter-bomber pilot in the former Belorussian Military District.  So he’s an aviator, no surprise.

According to the Defense Ministry website, he served in aviation units in the North Caucasus and Siberia, and in command positions from flight commander to division commander.  He graduated from the mid-career Gagarin Air Forces Academy in 1992, and the General Staff Academy in 2007.

Dronov started his Far East service as commander of the Ussuriysk Composite Aviation Division in 2008.  In August 2009, he was assigned as deputy commander of the Air Forces and Air Defense Army (AVVSPVO) in the Far East.

The Defense Ministry reached down to replace an O-8 with an O-6.  This may be part of its continuing effort to reduce its top-heavy rank structure.  Recall Defense Minister Serdyukov’s description of the ‘bloated egg’ in rank distribution.  But Dronov will probably be promoted to general-major soon.

It’ll be interesting to see how other appointments play out.  Dronov just took over the existing Khabarovsk-based 11th AVVSPVO.  That’s an easy one.  But presumably, with the cut to four MDs, two of the current five AVVSPVOs might disappear.  The 6th AVVSPVO in St. Petersburg might meld into the Moscow-based Special Designation Command (КСпН) in the new Western MD.  And the 14th in Novosibirsk could be subsumed by the Yekaterinburg-based 5th  in the Central MD.  Look for more air and air defense command appointments.

OSK Commanders Will Directly Control Navy and Air Forces

Army General Makarov

Russian General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov briefed the Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee today, and, according to Interfaks, he has made the decision to replace Russia’s six military districts with four that will function as operational-strategic commands (OSK).  He said:

“We will propose on the base of six military districts to establish four military districts, to the commander of which all forces and means deployed on their territory, including Navy, Air Forces and Air Defense, will be subordinate.  And subordinate not operationally, but directly.”

“Ground-, sea- and air-based nuclear deterrence forces will remain under the General Staff.”

“Our proposal on establishing four operational-strategic commands is now with the country’s president and I think that this issue will be favorably resolved soon.”

Infox.ru cited Makarov on the creation of three additional combined arms armies for several strategic axes: 

“We conducted a careful analysis of current threats and challenges and came to the conclusion that it’s necessary to create additional combined arms armies on several strategic axes.  There will be three in all.”

Makarov added that one army would be based in Chita, and six additional motorized rifle brigades will be formed to flesh out the newly created armies.

And Makarov wasn’t done . . .

According again to Interfaks, Makarov told these members of Russia’s upper house of parliament that ten combined air (8) and naval air (2) bases will be established in Russia.  Until recently, the military had been talking about new “first- and second-rank air bases” that were basically Air Forces’ equivalents of Ground Troops’ brigades.  This approach may have been abandoned in favor of a smaller number of larger air bases.  The choice of the word ‘combined’ [объединённые] makes these things sound like they’re now equivalent to armies.

Makarov explained that Russia has 245 airfields:

“The approximate cost of using one airfield is 1 billion rubles per year.  This amount is prohibitive, therefore we took a decision on enlarging air bases.”

After this change, Russia will only have 27 airfields, according to the General Staff Chief, and the combined air and naval air bases will be spread out over Russia in cities like Voronezh, Chelyabinsk, Domna (near Chita), and Komsomolsk-na-Amure.

Makarov said the goal was not only excellent conditions for fulfilling flight missions, but also for the everyday lives of servicemen and their families:

“We’re doing everything so that our pilots and their families can live in human conditions.”

Makarov told the assembled lawmakers that Russia will complete contract to buy Mistral from the French:

“Concerning Mistral, the contractual obligations are practically ready.  I think we’ll buy this ship.”

“We need such a ship.  In the Far East, it’s simply essential.”

He went to say, it’s needed around the Kurils which “generally have nothing to defend them.”  And he elaborated:

“Earlier there was an army there.  There’s no one there to cover them, we need mobile means so at the necessary time we can deliver a landing force quickly.”

He repeated his past comments to the effect that Mistral is 4-5 times bigger than Russia’s largest amphibious ship, the Ivan Rogov class.

Tomorrow it’s Serdyukov’s turn to speak to the Federation Council, so prepare for some more news.