Tag Archives: Mobilization

The Army Marches on its Trucks

ZIL-131

ZIL-131

A military establishment marches on its stomach, but the food that fills the stomach (and ammunition that fills the guns) marches on its trucks.

It seems each year there’s less quality Russian military journalism.  But exceptions arise.  Aleksey Ramm for one.  His work is interesting, fairly insightful, and apparently unbiased.

Ramm’s story not too long back on the pedestrian topic of Russian military trucks for VPK is provided for your edification in its entirety without interruption. Photos that didn’t appear in his article have been added.

“The Process is Stuck”

“The military and industrialists are not succeeding in unifying truck transport”

“Recently the appearance of the Kurganets BMP, Armata tank and heavy infantry fighting vehicle on its base has been actively discussed even on social networks.  And real problems with cargo vehicles, which no defense minister has been able to solve, are well-known to only a narrow circle of specialists.”

“‘Without automotive equipment not a single missile will fly, no airplane will take off, no tank will go, and the soldier will be left without ammunition and food. Trucks have to deliver fuel, lubricants, spare parts, etc.  They are making our tanks, buying airplanes, but problems with vehicles still aren’t being resolved,’ says an officer responsible for organizing logistics in the Southern Military District.”

“A Hereditary Disease”

“Until the transition to the so-called new profile begun by former defense minister Anatoliy Serdyukov in 2008, the vehicle park of the RF Armed Forces looked at first glance like a hodgepodge inheritance from the Soviet Army.  Not only models from manufacturers KamAZ and Ural, but also ZIL-131, GAZ-66, KrAZ and MAZ were in its equipment list.”

GAZ-66

GAZ-66

“Truck transport, which supports delivery of material resources, supplies of lubricants (POL), ammunition, etc., comes in companies for regiments and in material-technical support battalions for brigades and divisions (RMO and BMO).  Each company (or platoon) answers for conveyance of a concrete item. For example, the first company of a BMO (or platoon of an RMO) transports ammunition, and the fifth, equipped with tankers, transports fuel.”

“Armies and military districts have material-technical support brigades (BRMO) to organize material-technical support and transportation of material resources.”

“More than 70 percent of the vehicle transportation is constantly in depots, loaded with ammunition, POL and other cargo.”

“‘Of five companies in a BMO, 10-12 vehicles in all are used to support daily needs.  The rest stand in depots, fully loaded, fueled, but with batteries removed. During an alert, drivers come to depots, and drive already loaded vehicles to designated areas,’ the commander of one of the BMOs told VPK’s observer.”

“It’s true that the majority of vehicles standing in depots are in a pitiful state.  ‘When I served as commander of an ammunition transport company, I didn’t have a single fully serviceable vehicle.  Of course, all could go, complete a march, deliver the ammo.  But in many, the engine, the brakes had gone haywire, there were electrical problems.  We didn’t even have complete tents for the whole company.  All my KamAZes had already served 15 or even 20 years and only part of them had gone through a capital repair,’ recalls a vehicle service officer of one combined arms army.”

“Besides the RMO, BMO and BRMO, every battalion had material support platoons, into which go vehicle sections, and sometimes, if the battalion is an independent military unit, even entire platoons.  The mission of these sub-units is transporting material resources from battalion (company) material support depots directly to the front.”

“The transport system which has developed has divided the vehicle inventory.  The GAZ-66, ZIL-131 and Ural, used mainly by material support platoons and distinguished by their high mobility, are designated for supplying cargo, POL, and ammunition to the front.  Regimental RMOs, brigade BMOs, and also army and district BRMOs are practically fully equipped with KamAZes.”

“‘Vehicles of material support brigades and battalions have to complete long marches with big loads over distances of not less than 500-600 km, using regular roads.  Mobility isn’t as important to them as it is to those carrying cargo to the front.  So in this segment, KamAZ didn’t and doesn’t have competitors,’ says a Ministry of Defense Main Automotive and Armor Directorate (GABTU) officer.”

The entire country KamAZized

“‘In the mid-1990s, it already was clear that the Soviet system of four basic vehicle families was an unacceptable luxury for the Russian Army.  Each really has its own parts and components which are not interchangeable.  The ZIL-131 has a gas engine, but the Urals (with the exception of the 375D) are diesel.  So the decision to move to one universal type was made,’ explains the Main Automotive and Armor Directorate officer.”

“In 1998, the Ural Automotive Factory presented the Motovoz truck family for trial by the military, but because of drawn-out fine-tuning and financing problems the new Urals only began to enter troop use in 2006-2008.  As the producer announced, Motovoz was three practically 95 percent common vehicles — Ural-43206 (4×4), Ural-4320-31 (6×6) and Ural-5323 (8×8).”

Ural-4320-31

Ural-4320-31

“‘Only the two-axle Ural-43206 came to our division in 2008.  So we didn’t see the three- or four-axle Urals.  Even though according to initial plans, the Ural-43206 replaced the old Urals, ZIL-131 and GAZ-66 in the material support platoons of battalions, and the -4320 the transport KamAZes in divisional BMOs. We traveled in Motovozes less than six months, after which the order came to give them to depots and we received new KamAZes,’ recalls the automotive service officer.”

“With Anatoliy Serdyukov’s arrival, the Motovoz family fell into disfavor, and Kama Automotive Factory [KamAZ] Mustangs came to replace them.”

KamAZ-4350 Mustang

KamAZ-4350 Mustang

“‘It’s acceptable to abuse Serdyukov now.  Many say the transition to Mustang was connected with lobbying by KamAZ, which belongs to Rostekh, and possibly even with corrupt schemes.  But we have to recognize that only one model — Ural-43206 — was received from the Ural factory into the Motovoz family.  In my view, the ideal vehicle for transport to the front area.  Mobile, reliable, easily repaired.  But the three-axle Ural-4320-31 loses to KamAZ on the road by every indicator.  In essence, a suped up Ural-4320.  I don’t even want to talk about the four-axle.  A very capricious and unreliable vehicle,’ the vehicle service officer from the Southern Military District relates.”

“Three vehicles are in the Mustang family:  KamAZ-4350 (4×4), KamAZ-5350 (6×6) and KamAZ-6350 (8×8).  Supplies began at the end of 2008.”

“‘Currently there are practically neither old Ural-4320, nor ZIL-131, nor even GAZ-66.  A small number of Ural-43206, -4320-31 and -5323 received in 2008 remain.  The Motovozes were sufficiently fresh vehicles but were still written off early,’ the GABTU representative comments.”

“By several evaluations, currently approximately 80-90 percent of the Russian MOD truck inventory is Mustang, 10-15 percent Motovoz, and the rest is remaining and still not written off ZIL-131, GAZ-66, etc.  The MOD’s transition to a single vehicle took a little less than seven years.  In the opinion of almost all representatives of the vehicle service with whom this publication managed to talk, it was able to do this only thanks to the great production capacity of the Kama Automotive Factory and its developed service centers.”

“Mustang ridden too hard”

“‘If you compare the old brigade with different types of trucks, thanks to the Mustangs the tonnage of transported cargo has increased recently.  Because of the commonality of vehicles, going up to 90-95 percent, they succeeded in significantly cutting supplies of parts and components essential for repair, and also in standardizing the list of POL,’ says the GABTU representative.  ‘I can’t name the real figures but believe me:  the capabilities for ‘lifting’ material resources have grown a lot at the present time.'”

“But among the troops they don’t hurry to draw the same optimistic conclusions.  ‘The KamAZ-4350 came to replace Urals in the material-technical support platoons of battalions.  In exercises where they still have factory service centers, all look very good. Everything is much more complicated in real life,’ the Western Military District vehicle officer is sure.”

“In the opinion of all troop officers Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer surveyed, the KamAZ-4350 has not become an adequate replacement for the old Ural family.  ‘In mobility it lags behind the old Ural-4320, meanwhile it does not carry as much of a load.  Simultaneously these vehicles got stuck during off-road exercises in places where the Ural would have gotten through without any problems.  KamAZ has outstanding trucks, but for normal roads,’ the commander of a material-technical support battalion is sure.”

“The spring and summer of last year became especially tense when Russian Armed Forces units and sub-units moved out from permanent basing points to the Ukrainian border, operating completely without the support of repair centers.  All this publication’s interlocutors noted one more problem which appeared during the spring-summer of standing at the border, the -4350 breaks down often.”

“‘This vehicle must operate practically at the front line.  But it is packed electronics that constantly break down.  Even a platoon driver’s capabilities were enough to subdue the Ural.  Here they have to call in specialists.  Once such a vehicle was stuck in the middle of the training ground, and we dragged it from here only after a week.  Yet another problem is the turbine diesel in this KamAZ.  The turbine constantly goes out of order, breaks down.  We just manage to send it off for repair,’ complains a vehicle service officer.”

“In service centers, they do not share the military’s claims against the KamAZ-4350, arguing that the majority of damages happen through the fault of servicemen using the equipment.”

“‘Automotive equipment is developing, new technologies are appearing.  But the military wants everything to be as ‘in grandma’s time.’  The problem with the turbine is not the factory’s fault.  In the instructions it says before turning off the engine, the driver should give it some time to idle.  The military will kill the engine right away, and the turbine suddenly locks up.  But the factory’s to blame,’ complains an associate of one of the service enterprises answering for the repair of KamAZ vehicles.”

“At present, a paradoxical situation is forming where brigade BMOs, army and district BRMOs have increased by many times their capabilities to ‘lift’ and transport supplies, but providing cargo directly to sub-units at the front line is not always successful.”

“A view from the other side”

“In the Ministry of Internal Affairs they tried to find an exit from the vehicle deadend by combining the capabilities of the Motovoz and Mustang families.”

“‘We mainly use six-axle [sic, wheel?] Ural-4320-31, and sometimes Ural-43206s for units and sub-units fulfilling combat service missions in the transport of material resources directly to the area where they are employed in the North Caucasus.  Police detachments working in the region also use these vehicles,’ said an Internal Troops representative.  To transport cargo at great distances, according to our interlocutor, six-axle [sic, wheel?] KamAZ-5350s are already in active service.”

“‘We have the KamAZ-4350s, but the Ural-4320-31s are better suited to conditions in the Caucasus.  They are much more mobile and powerful in conditions of difficult mountain and considerably rugged terrain.  And, for supplying sub-units stationed a great distance away, and fulfilling missions in securing important state facilities, we also use Urals,’ the MVD VV representative answers.”

“From one side, the decision to unite two families in a single vehicle inventory is clear and logical.  Motovoz and Mustang duplicate one another to a sufficiently limited degree.  From the other, several families of trucks again appear in the force requiring separate supplies of parts and components.  VPK’s sources in the MVD acknowledge the problem.  ‘Only Mustangs and Motovozes would be good, but we still have a pretty large number of different armored vehicles and other special equipment,’ the Internal Troops representative laments.”

“‘The problem will be resolved with the acceptance of the future Tayfun and Platform vehicle families into the inventory, work on which is currently ongoing,’ the GABTU representative explained.”

Tayfun

Tayfun

“‘There were many conversations about Platform.  They talked like it was even shown to the defense minister on the test range at Bronnitsy.  But there still aren’t even photos of a prototype.  They say everything is secret.  But what’s the sense of keeping a truck secret?  It’s bull.  There still isn’t a series Tayfun [sic, Platform?].  But there are experimental prototypes of it.  We went through all this already. For several years in a row they assured us that they were fixing equipment for us and factory workers towed it off.  As a result, when the normal work began and the equipment began to break down, everyone looked at it like little kids,’ says the vehicle officer.”

“So for more than seven years the problem of the disparity of the Russian Armed Forces’ truck equipment inventory still has not been conclusively resolved.  The situation is like running in circles.  One can still hope that with the acceptance of future families of vehicles into the inventory the problem will finally be resolved.”

Just a little post-script.  The Tayfun is in serial production.  It’s in the inventory of the RVSN and Spetsnaz units in the Southern MD.  Series-produced Mustangs have been in the inventory since 2003.  The Western MD reports that 30 percent of its vehicle inventory is now less than three years old with the addition of 6,000 Motovoz and KamAZ trucks since 2012.  It also claimed it was slated to have 50 Tayfuns before the end of 2014.  Tayfuns were prominent in today’s Victory Parade as were Mustangs.

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Golts on the Sudden Increase in Officers

Yezhednevnyy zhurnal’s Aleksandr Golts says Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s explanation that 70,000 more officers are needed because of VKO doesn’t hold water since it will be created on the basis of existing formations and units.

Golts concludes that Russian military reform has reached its next turning point.  He recalls that cutting officers to 150,000 and eliminating a large number of cadre formations and units represented the rejection of the old mass mobilization army concept.

But the reduction of so many officers could not but bring bitter opposition.  Nevertheless, Serdyukov stubbornly implemented the cuts, ignoring cries about the destruction of the country’s glorious officer corps (which Golts says hasn’t existed in a very long time).

Then suddenly the chief of the military department reversed himself.  Suddenly, it appears there are not too many officers, but a shortage.  The Armed Forces agonizingly cut 200,000 officer positions just to reintroduce 70,000!

Golts thinks there are several possible reasons.

The most obvious is the state’s inability to meet its obligations (primarily permanent apartments) to dismissed officers.  In mid-2010, there was information about 70,000 officers outside the shtat (штат or TO&E).  Later in the year, the number given was 40,000.  But says Golts:

“. . . to find out how many officers are really outside the shtat is impossible:  whatever figure Defense Ministry officials want to name, they name.  It’s possible to suppose that, having realized their inability to settle up with future retirees, the military department simply decided to put them back in the shtat.”

The second possible cause, according to Golts, is that the Defense Ministry failed to fill the officer posts it cut with well-trained sergeants and civilian personnel because the wages it offered were too low.  On the issue of more sergeants, Golts concludes:

“Sergeant training programs are failing.  Training centers simply can’t put out as many junior commanders as the Armed Forces need – they require not less than 100 thousand.  There’s no where to get them from.  And so they decided again to use officers to perform sergeant functions in combat sub-units, as rear service guys, service personnel.  If so, then this is a serious blow to reform.  Because the officer will cease being the elite of the Armed Forces, again turning into a low-level functionary.”

And Golts provides his third, worst case possibility:

“The generals convinced the president, but most of all, the premier [Putin] that it’s possible to achieve combat readiness by returning to the old mobilization model.  This is an ultimate end to reforms.  If so, then after presidential elections in 2012 the term of conscript service will inevitably be raised.  And everything will be back to normal.”

Golts concludes this concession by Serdyukov – heretofore supported by President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin – will make those who hate him conclude he’s lost support, and they will triple their attacks on reforms.  In the worst case, this will be the first step toward overturning them.

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.

181,000 Officers in the Armed Forces

The 29 December issue of Krasnaya zvezda provides interesting personnel data points . . .

124,000 officers must have been dismissed in the past two years.  At the outset of Serdyukov’s reforms, there were 305,000 occupied officer billets, so subtract 181,000 for 124,000.  Nothing, however, is said about officers put outside the org-shtat who can’t be dismissed for lack of housing.  No word is given on where warrant officers stand; they were slated for “elimination as a class.”

The piece flat out says the state can’t draft enough men to cover the military’s requirements, and there’s little to fix the problem (going below 1 million men apparently isn’t an option).  It also says starkly that contract service was a failure, but it will be gradually resurrected anyway (certainly the right way this time).

More pains are taken to say that mobilization isn’t really dead.  Armies and brigades are freed from worrying about it, but an experiment in raising a reserve brigade will be attempted this year.

As of 1 December 2010, there are 1 million servicemen, including 181,000 officers (18.1 percent).  By 2013, the RF President’s target of 15 percent will be reached.

In 2008, there were nearly 500,000 officers and warrant officers, almost 50 percent of all servicemen in the Armed Forces.  There was an imbalance in the officer ranks.  Sixty percent of officer posts were held by senior officers.  Over the 2008-2010 period, 170,000 officer posts were eliminated.  Meanwhile, the optimal correlation of senior and junior officers was achieved by increasing the latter’s numbers.

But the article notes junior officers ranks were cut too — by stopping the acceptance of cadets into VVUZy and making some officers into sergeants.  Changes in service regulations allowed the Defense Ministry to appoint officers to lower-ranking [i.e. enlisted] duties.  The ex-officers represent a “reserve” for filling officer billets as they become available.

This year, Krasnaya zvezda concedes, the state’s military organization was not able to draft enough young men.  And the number of men reaching draft age is decreasing every year because of the continuing demographic decline.

Regarding contractees, in recent years, the state failed to raise the prestige of contract service, and decided to limit contractees to specific duties with complex equipment or those directly impacting the combat capability of military units.  But, in the future, it’s planned to increase the share of contractees as more attractive service conditions, first and foremost higher pay, are created.  This will allow for putting contractees in all sergeant and training posts, as well as those involving complex armaments and specialized equipment.

KZ says assertions that, in three years, the army will have to draft nearly 80 percent of 18-year-olds are groundless.  It says this fails to account for the fact that the army can take conscripts up to age 27.  But, it concedes, manning problems really exist because of the demographic hole.  In 2010, more than half — about 1.9 million — of the men liable to conscription had student deferments.  So, it concludes, the share of men possible to draft amounted to only 17.4 percent of those in the potential conscript pool.

In 2010, every third man was not fit for service on health grounds, and 66,000 were held back for more medical observation.  More than half had some health limits on their service, and could not be sent for physically demanding service in the VDV, Navy, Internal Troops, etc.

And the Defense Ministry doesn’t have an answer.  The article says it will sequentially increase the number of contractees, make those responsible for the draft be, well, actually responsible for it, and, of course, make military service more attractive.  Less onerous might be a more realistic goal.  And this actually seems like Serdyukov’s intent.

On 4 May 2007, the President (Putin) confirmed a “Concept of Establishing a New Armed Forces Training and Human Mobilization Resource Accumulation System.”  The new “human mobilization reserve” will be formed in stages using both Russian and foreign experience, adapted to Russian conditions and military organizational plans.  The Duma Defense Committee is working on new reserve service conditions in a law on the “human mobilization reserve.”

This article says there are plans to conduct an experiment in manning a single wartime formation [i.e. brigade] with reservists this year.

KZ makes a point of saying that mobilization work and training have been preserved, but permanent readiness armies and brigades are exempt from it.

Battalion Travels Lighter in Mobilnost Redux

Krasnaya zvezda covered the opening phases of Vostok-2010 for those willing to plod through or skim the article.  Motorized rifle brigades are taking turns practicing defeating bandit groups, the VVS are providing air support to MVD Internal Troops units, and PVO battalions are conducting night firing exercises with new C2 systems.

RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS reported that nearly 600 Volga-Ural Military District (PUrVO) troops were flown to the Far East on Tuesday (29 June) to participate in summer’s marquee training event.  Four Military-Transport Aviation (VTA or ВТА) Il-76MD transports delivered a battalion tactical group (BTG) with only light weapons to join in the operational-strategic exercise (OSU or ОСУ). 

According to ITAR-TASS, General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov said that in the course of Vostok-2010:

“. . . issues are being broadly worked out about the expedience of redeploying at a great distance trained personnel which have to take military equipment held at mobilization bases and immediately go into combat.”

This certainly sounds like a military establishment not fully embracing an idea, at least right away.

According to Krasnaya zvezda, a BTG from the 28th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade flew 6,000 kilometers from Koltsovo, outside Yekaterinburg, to Vozdvizhenka, north of Ussuriysk, on a 10-hour flight with a refueling stop at Belaya near Irkutsk.  The 28th was built on the base of a regiment of the old 34th MRD.

Krasnaya zvezda said the battalion moved via truck to an armaments and equipment storage base [БХРВТ] at Sibirtsevo for outfitting with heavy equipment.  The 247th BKhRVT was established last year with the remnants of the former 121st MRD.  After removing equipment from storage and some training, they were slated to join tactical combat firing at Sergeyevka.

Acting PUrVO Commander General-Lieutenant Sergey Surovikin saw off the battalion; he commanded the brigade’s forerunner—the 34th MRD in 2004.  The brigade’s commander, Colonel Anatoliy Sinelnikov, was Surovikin’s deputy division commander in 2004 when it first sent a BTG to the Far East.

Krasnaya zvezda asked Surovikin to compare the current redeployment with the earlier one six years ago in Mobilnost-2004:

“Then a sub-unit with all of its TO&E equipment was sent into action.  And it fulfilled its assigned mission.  The current exercise is being conducted according to the General Staff’s decision which specifies checking the expedience of means of redeploying troops on various strategic axes.  In this instance, the exercise is being conducted only with personnel – without transporting combat equipment and heavy weapons to the Far East.  But it allows us to check the possibility of redeploying troops in other strategic directions.  And to conduct such a redeployment in a very short period.  And using for these purposes Military-Transport Aviation aircraft as well as civilian airlines.”

“In this exercise, means of regrouping troops in short time periods are being tried.  By comparison:  if in OSU Mobilnost-2004 we could send a battalion of the 276th Motorized Rifle Regiment of our division by air to the Far East together with its combat equipment and vehicles in 8 days, then this time such a battalion will get there in significantly less time.  And the quantity of aircraft take-offs to transport the very same sub-unit to another theater of military operations was reduced more than ten times.  High strategic mobility is achieved with much lower expenditure of forces and budget resources.”

While not exactly a Russian Reforger, this redeployment exercise looks like working smarter, not harder.  So it represents some payoff from the effort to turn understrength, excess units into mobilization bases.  Of course, one has to believe there’s still some element of the set piece in all this.  The battalion being moved was probably one of the best, and the BKhRVT was probably well-prepared to hand out the necessary weapons and combat vehicles.

Combat Readiness Doesn’t Equal Combat Capability

Vitaliy Shlykov (photo: RIA Novosti)

In an article entitled Secrets of Serdyukov’s Blitzkreig, Shlykov assesses that Defense Minister Serdyukov has done rapidly what none of his predecessors was able to do.  Shlykov’s positive assessment has something to do with the fact that Serdyukov’s success has validated a lot of things the author advocated.  Nevertheless, Shlykov offers a nice rundown of why Serdyukov’s reforms were needed, and also some cautionary notes for the future.

According to Shlykov, someone not following the changes in the armed forces closely over the last year won’t be able to believe what’s happened.  Serdyukov’s 11-minute speech on 14 October 2008 started a completely unexpected ‘revolution from above’ to put the entire force structure into permanent readiness and turn the officer corps from a ‘bloated egg’ into a pyramid.  Shlykov describes how previous cuts in the armed forces left too many officers in place commanding mobilization units with equipment and no soldiers.  Junior officers escaped pitiful conditions in the army by various means.

But slashing the empty, ‘big war’ force structure in favor of a smaller, permanent readiness army was Serdyukov’s most radical move.  Along the way, Shlykov makes note of Ground Troops CINC Boldyrev’s comment that, in 2008, only six army divisions were considered combat ready.

Shlykov’s math on Russian officers and warrants provides an interesting picture of sharply increasing importance of sergeants and soldiers in the force over the next three years.  In 2008, there were 623,500 sergeants and soldiers in a 1,118,800-man army (56 percent).  In 2012, they are supposed to be 850,000 (including 180,000 contractees) of a million-man army (85 percent).  I think this is why some observers are wondering if the much-reduced officers corps will be able to control its subordinates.

Shlykov notes the drastic cut in the military educational establishment–65 to 10 institutions–and the fact that new cadets in 2009 numbered only 3,000, instead of the 18-19,000 of recent years.

Summarizing a bit, he says no element of the military was untouched by cuts and reorganizations.  Actually, there were some major ones–the RVSN and VDV.

The ‘new profile’ brought sharp criticism in the media, and a “muffled discontent” in the military.  Despite this, according to Shlykov, Serdyukov’s basic goals were achieved a year after he began.

Shlykov says military districts will assume a bigger role in the command and control system, taking responsibility for things like engineer brigades and former GRAU arsenals on their territory.  Taking control of things like the Navy’s arsenal in Ulyanovsk could be a major headache.  He mentions the professional sergeant corps training at Ryazan, but not its very slow and difficult start.

The secret of Serdyukov’s success?  His personal qualities, especially his exceptional management capabilities, played the greatest role, Shlykov says.  But being purely civilian–something Shlykov has advocated–also played a part in his success.

Shlykov says Serdyukov has also succeeded because, unlike his predecessors, he broke the taboo on borrowing what works from foreign experience in “military organizational development,” that is basically force structure and force development policy.  Serdyukov saw that the generals basically didn’t have the answers after nearly 20 years of supposed reforms.  Serdyukov saw that there are certain priniciples of military organization that are axiomatic and don’t need to be tested or examined, and can be introduced without further discussion.  Some were suggested by Shlykov’s SVOP but rudely rejected by the Genshtab.

Shlykov says he and his colleagues don’t claim authorship of Serdyukov’s reforms.  He’s inclined to think that generals themselves proposed the majority of them.  All the innovations are dictated by common sense, which many generals have.  What they didn’t have were ministers who were ready to listen.  From the beginning, Serdyukov said he didn’t intend to launch a grandiose reform, but the avalanche began and other changes inevitably followed the first ones.

Finally, Shlykov says we can’t confuse combat readiness with combat capability.  The army now has only 10 percent new equipment which is up to world standard.  Even President Medvedev has warned about this:  “Our next task is more complex–the technical reequipping of the army and navy.”  And common sense can’t get you around this.