Tag Archives: MTO

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.

Advertisements

Makarov’s Press-Conference (Part III)

Army General Makarov (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskiy)

Still plumbing General Staff Chief Makarov’s Monday press-conference . . .

Makarov indicated Russia’s Israeli-made UAVs will be used in the Tsentr-2011 exercise.  According to Krasnaya zvezda, he once again worked Vega over for wasting years and money without meeting the military’s requirements, forcing it to turn to Israel to obtain unmanned aircraft.

According to Interfaks, the General Staff Chief asserted Russia won’t buy anything but PGMs for its combat aircraft:

“The purchase of conventional [unguided] means has stopped.  We are buying only highly-accurate means.”

“Western countries conduct military operations almost without ground forces.  Aircraft operate outside the air defense zone and sustain minimal losses.”

Izvestiya noted, however, replacing Russia’s dumb bombs with smart weapons won’t be cheap.  Tens of thousands of rubles versus millions.  But one of the paper’s interlocutors concluded:

“The Defense Ministry believes there’s money for buying them, contracts for the first deliveries of new munitions have already been concluded.”

He estimates they will comprise perhaps half of Russia’s aviation weapons inventory by 2020.

Izvestiya quoted Ruslan Pukhov to the effect that guided ASMs made up only 1 percent of Russia’s stockpile in the five-day war with Georgia, and Russian aircraft had to brave Georgia’s air defenses on most missions, losing four Su-25, two Su-24, and a Tu-22M3.  He added, however, that a Su-34 employed an anti-radar Kh-31P to destroy a radar in Gori.

Lenta.ru recalled General-Lieutenant Igor Sadofyev’s late 2010 comments about plans for a radical increase in PGMs and UAVs in the Air Forces by 2020.  You can refresh your memory here.

Some military commentators and news outlets managed to tie together Makarov’s comments on Arab revolutions, Central Asian exercises, snipers, and sniper rifles in interesting, but not always accurate, ways.

KZ summarized Makarov pretty simply as saying the armed conflicts in Arab countries were difficult to predict, and similar events can’t be ruled out in Central Asia.  In its replay of his remarks, he said:

“. . . we should be ready for everything, therefore we are working on this in the exercises.”

So, Moscow’s pretty obviously looking at the possible repetition of a Libyan or Syrian scenario somewhere in Central Asia . . . no surprise there . . . makes sense.

Komsomolskaya pravda said:

“Our military isn’t hiding the fact that current exercises are directly linked to the probable export of military aggression from Afghanistan into the Central Asian republics after NATO troops withdraw from there.”

It cites Makarov:

“[The exercises] envision developing variants for localizing armed conflicts on the territory of these countries.”

That doesn’t really sound Libyan or Syrian, does it?  It’s not internal.  It’s good old external spillover.  Oh well, as long as it’s “localized” on someone else’s territory, and doesn’t cross Russia’s borders.

ITAR-TASS’s version of Makarov got people more spun up:

“The world situation is complex, quickly changing, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East.  It was difficult to forecast what happened in a number of countries of this region, events developed with great speed.  Now no one can say what will happen next.  But this is a signal for all states.  We military men need to be prepared for the worst scenarios.”

This led a few outlets to take the next step on their own, i.e. a repeat of the Arab scenario inside Russia.

You can read likely exaggerations of what Makarov really said in Gazeta.ru or Rbcdaily.ru.  In its version, the latter claimed Makarov didn’t exclude internal unrest following the Arab example in Russia, and the army has to be ready for the worst case scenario of political developments inside the country.

Pouring gas on the fire it lit, Rbcdaily introduced the sniper issue here.

Of course, snipers are great for urban warfare or urban unrest.  Rbcdaily’s Defense Ministry source says Makarov plans to put independent sniper platoons in every brigade.  They’ll be armed with British rifles, of course.  And the snipers themselves will have to be long-term professionals – contractees, so that’ll have to wait until the middle of next year.

Igor Korotchenko tells Rbcdaily:

“A sniper is a piece of work, he can’t be trained in a year, therefore they must absolutely be professional contractees.  We can’t count on conscript soldiers here, like in the old days when there were enough gifted guys who learned to fire the SVD well among the conscripts.”

KZ didn’t mention Makarov talking about snipers.

Just to finish this off, Makarov’s Syrian comments weren’t construed or misconstrued as much.  KZ said simply that he said Russia is not planning a military presence in Syria, nor the introduction of extra security measures at its material-technical support base in Tartus.

ITAR-TASS put it this way:

“This base remains in our hands.  Besides it, our advisors work in Syria.  That’s enough.  We don’t intend to adopt any preventative measures.  . . . we have to watch closely those forces opposing the government.  There are legal demands, and there are opposition demands which, in our view, need to be ignored because they are illegal.”

Special Command of the Long-Range Zone

This morning’s Nezavisimaya gazeta picked up an Interfaks report from an “informed Navy Main Staff source” that Russia will establish a so-called “special command of the long-range zone” in the Indian Ocean by 2013.  Such a naval group would have antipiracy as its primary, but not its sole, mission.

The Main Staff representative said the new command would be formed from Black Sea Fleet ships, and would be patterned after the Soviet-era 5th and 8th Operational Squadrons.  It would bear full-time responsibility for securing Russian civilian shipping in the Horn of Africa.

NG says questions about the new eskadra’s material-technical support (MTO) and temporary ship basing are now being considered.  The Soviet Mediterranean (5th) Eskadra used a material-technical support point (PMTO) in Tartus, Syria that represents the Russian Navy’s only current overseas facility.  But the paper notes Tartus is too distant to support Indian Ocean operations.  The Indian Ocean (8th) Eskadra used Yemen’s Socotra Island.

NG adds that Pacific Fleet’s Udaloy-class DDG Admiral Vinogradov, a tanker, and naval tug put in at Port Victoria, Seychelles early this month for replenishment after four straight months at sea.  The paper’s report trails off rather weakly adding that the new command will increase the effectiveness of Russian antipiracy operations.

Trud covered the story too.  Its experts think the new naval grouping’s missions will be broader than antipiracy.  A new command wouldn’t have to rely on ships from different fleets arriving every 2-3 months.  The command might have three frigates, a tanker, and tug at a permanent base in the Horn of Africa or Gulf of Aden.

Former Baltic Fleet Commander, Admiral Vladimir Valuyev tells Trud the 8th Eskadra’s mission was monitoring U.S. Navy ship movements and showing support for regimes friendly to the USSR.  But the paper says its former port infrastructure on Socotra is now in ruins.

Trud’s own Main Staff source says Russia doesn’t plan to return to Socotra, and other basing options are being considered.  It doesn’t even have to be a foreign port since an anchorage in neutral waters could be outfitted sufficiently.  Trud says Valuyev is sure antipiracy is a convenient excuse for Russia to demonstrate a naval presence in the Africa-Middle East region where new post-revolutionary regimes are taking shape.

But maybe it’s also a way to show why Russia needs a Navy as well as what it can do.

Material-Technical Supply Points for the Navy

Picking up from President Medvedev’s admission that he has some ideas on the issue of naval bases abroad . . .

A source in military circles told ITAR-TASS today Russia is not conducting negotiations on new military bases abroad, but, if necessary, it’s prepared to return to this issue.  The source says: 

“There are also material-technical supply points for our Navy, and there’s talk about the fact that we’re continuing to resolve questions on their status, [but] we aren’t conducting new negotiations on the establishment of new bases.”

The source said, if necessary, Russia would establish new bases:

“But the main thing here is to arrange it so that they [new bases] would operate on a reliable legal basis.” 

The source gave Cam Ranh as an example of a former naval base which could be used in the future as a material-technical supply point: 

“A base is when a military contingent is located on a permanent basis, weapons are stockpiled, combat missions are set forth, but Russia even has a material-technical supply point in the Maldives.”

So they won’t actually be bases?  It seems pretty obvious that, to be useful, they’d have to have a degree of permanence, and maintenance capabilities and personnel, and stockpiles of POL and spare parts.

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.

A Base By Any Other Name?

Medvedev with Vietnamese Counterpart Nguyen Minh Triet (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Cam Ranh was sure to be a topic for President Dmitriy Medvedev’s Vietnam trip.  But not a major one if Medvedev foreign policy assistant Sergey Prikhodko is to be believed.  Nevertheless, Prikhodko kept alive the idea of renewing some kind of Russian naval presence in Vietnam, whether called a base or a ‘material-technical support point.’  Prikhodko intimates the latter wouldn’t be anything like the former since times have changed so much.  Others will say the name it’s given is less signficant than what it actually turns out to be (if anything).

On Friday RIA Novosti quoted Prikhodko by name, on the eve of the Vietnam trip, saying:

“I don’t think we need to reestablish (in its old form) a base at Cam Ranh.”

And he claimed there was nothing concerning Cam Ranh in the documents  prepared for the visit.

Today ITAR-TASS coyly cited a Presidential Administration source (using Prikhodko’s exact words) who said Moscow is not tabling the issue of fully reestablishing a naval base at Cam Ranh:   

“Russia has material-technical support points for its Navy in many countries, you undoubtedly know them – from the Maldives on an occasional basis to Syria.  Naturally, the Vietnamese are interested in maximum capitalization on what was done by them and us.  But I don’t think we need to raise the issue of reestablishing the base.”

“It’s logical that in the framework of regular Russian Navy exercises, particularly in recent times, given our increased cooperation with European Union and NATO on antipiracy problems, this is an acute issue.  There’s nothing supernatural here.  And the fact is, in order for our ships to resupply with food and replenish in an efficient manner, they need infrastructure capabilities.”

“The idea of the base belongs to the Vietnamese side, it involves using the good groundwork and experience which Vietnam and Russia had earlier in supporting the security of navigation, supplying ships with food, with refueling.  It’s likely we’re talking about the possibilities of material-technical support of Russian ship cruises.”

“This is not the central subject (in the high-level talks), we have no enemies in this region as in past times, but to have the possibility to visit ports on regular and standard conditions wouldn’t be bad.”

“I don’t know the military’s plans in relation to this base and suppose that they don’t have any.  We’re talking about supporting the reliable functioning of our ships, including those fulfilling functions of various types of our cooperation with international organizations.”

Comparing the possibility of Cam Ranh with the existing situation with Syria, he said:

“This [Cam Ranh] is even better than the Syrian variant.  When it comes to Syria, we are always looking around at the reaction of neighbors, Israel, for example.  Here [Cam Ranh] it’s a much softer and more transparent variant.”

“There are complexities connected with ships passing the Strait of Malacca.  Therefore, on the level of public announcements, all countries in the region are interested that we should send military vessels there.”

It all seems like an awful lot of talk for something that ain’t goin’ happen . . .

Disappearing Deputy Defense Minister Portfolios

Or who will answer for what?

On Tuesday, Kommersant and Rossiyskaya gazeta described, even if they can’t explain, Deputy Defense Minister portfolio changes.  The shuffling began in early July, when Grigoriy Naginskiy was ‘freed’ from his responsibilities as Chief of Housing and Construction but remained a Deputy Defense Minister.

According to a decree known, but not published, Medvedev removed General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov from his post as Chief of Rear Services, while retaining him as a Deputy Defense Minister without specific duties.  It’s widely believed, of course, Bulgakov has taken charge of a new Material-Technical Support (MTO) empire that will encompass not only logistics but also arms and equipment supplies.

For his part, Defense Ministry Apparatus Chief Mikhail Mokretsov formally became a Deputy Defense Minister (no longer holding just informal ‘Deputy Minister status’).

Kommersant points out there are still eight Deputy Ministers (six are civilians).  A Defense Ministry source told the paper, however, that Bulgakov might be civilianized.  And his MTO organization will be part of the Defense Ministry’s ‘civilian component’ as opposed to its ‘military component.’  Kommersant says the ‘military component’ (planning and operational troop command and control) will just be the General Staff when the current Defense Ministry reorganization is complete.

Bulgakov has apparently indicated that MTO will have a planning and coordination department, a resource and transportation support department, Main Automotive-Armor Directorate (GABTU), and also repair-refurbishment and metrological directorates.  As announced elsewhere, ten new MTO brigades are to be established in the four new OSKs.  Recall that, in the same presidential decree on Naginskiy, Bulgakov’s rear services chief of staff Sergey Zhirov became Chief of the Planning and Coordination Department (read staff).

One should really look at Mil.ru’s ‘Leadership Structure’ page here.  In it, you’ll see Vera Chistova retains her clear responsibility for finance-economic work.  Bulgakov’s biography notes he became simply Deputy Defense Minister in July.  Naginskiy’s contains no similar notation though it could.  Then comes the oft-forgotten Dmitriy Chushkin who followed Defense Minister Serdyukov from the Federal Tax Service in late 2008.  He has no portfolio spelled out in his title, but his bio reads:

“Responsible for forming and conducting the Defense Ministry’s united military-technical policy in the information and telecommunications technology area which aims to increase the effectiveness of the command and control system, as well as supporting and developing its foundations.”

Mokretsov’s bio has a note that he added Deputy Defense Minister to his title in July.

The ultimate plan behind these moves isn’t clear yet.  But it does seem to go back to late June’s replacement of Kolmakov with Popovkin in one of the Defense Ministry’s two First Deputy slots.  More support functions were and are being consolidated under civilians, while purely military training, planning, and operations may now be more solidly under General Staff Chief, First Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Makarov.