Tag Archives: Operational-Strategic Command

Two New Armies for the Central Military District

This week General-Lieutenant Vladimir Chirkin spoke to Krasnaya zvezda about several things.  Recall that Chirkin is acting commander of the troops of the ‘Combined Strategic Command of the Red Banner Central Military District.’  He has been commander of the SibVO until now of course.

His interview brought two things immediately into focus.  First, it appears that OSKs will actually be unified or combined strategic commands rather than ‘operational-strategic commands.’  Either way the acronym is OSK.  But combined strategic command connotes a couple significant things.  They may really unify all armed services and branches on their territory for warfighting.  Second, they are beyond the ‘operational-strategic’ level of warfare; they are intended to be strategic.

In this interview, Chirkin was asked and talked at length about the scale and scope of Vostok-2010 in Siberia, as well as the performance of his troops in the exercise.

Asked about the formation of the four new OSKs, Chirkin provided a short dissertation on why the Armed Forces command and control system is being overhauled:

“Recently the Russian Federation adopted a new National Security Strategy and Military Doctrine.  The Defense Ministry and General Staff put amendments in these documents.  Possible threats of wars and conflicts, basic forms and capabilities for fulfilling strategic missions were determined.  The National Security Concept of the Russian Federation proposes that the state could encounter real and potential threats.  I won’t reveal all the subtleties, but I will say one thing — the new system of command and control is being created accounting for the realities of the current time and changing international situation, so the state can independently confront possible threats to its security and the security of its allies, and achieve strategic goals.”

“Such a decision was predicated on the realities of our times and repeatedly  thought over by both the General Staff of the Armed Forces and the country’s leadership.  Reforming the system at all levels is the basis of military reform.  In a word, this decision strengthens the preceding results and gives the process a new turn.”

Chirkin says the formation of his new OSK is not interfering with planned combat training at the brigade level and below.

He says there shouldn’t be any concern about excess officers in his command:

“Officers who meet all requirements and wish to continue serving will be appointed to positions.  Firstly, the Combined Strategic Commands in Yekaterinburg and Khabarovsk [i.e. Eastern Military District] will require supplements of several hundred officers ready to serve in their directorates, departments, and services.  You understand the territories and quantity of troops are increasing.  And this means professional-administrators will be needed, and there are not just a few of these among SibVO officers.”

“Secondly, in Chita a combined arms army will be formed.  Officers and civilian personnel will also be required there.  Besides, in Transbaykal, several more formations and units will be formed, which must make up a large formation [i.e. объединение, an army].  And this, you understand, is hundreds more officer positions.  The main thing is an officer should be a qualified specialist, a master of his trade and have the desire to continue serving.”

Recall in early June, General Staff Chief Makarov told the Federation Council three new armies comprising six brigades would be formed, and so it looks like Makarov’s old home, the erstwhile SibVO, and its massive territory in its new Combined Strategic Command of the Central Military District incarnation, will receive two of the new armies.  Look for generals with a strong SibVO pedigree to command them.  No indication of where Makarov’s third new army will appear.  The Eastern Military District might be a good bet.

As a postscript, Chirkin noted that the SibVO has gotten 4,500 apartments to distribute to dismissed or retired officers.

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Frontal, Army Aviation to OSK Commanders

Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin had many announcements yesterday on the eve of his service’s holiday, but none more interesting than the not-completely-surprising news that frontal and army aviation will transfer from the Air Forces to be directly subordinate to Russia’s four new ‘operational-strategic commands.’

Zelin said:

“The Air Forces will remain a service of the Armed Forces, its Main Command [Glavkomat or Главкомат] will continue functioning, the transfer of four Air Forces and Air Defense commands [i.e. armies] to the commanders of the new military districts — Western, Southern, Central and Eastern is planned.”

“Frontal and army aviation is transferring to the commanders of these districts and, accordingly, to the unified strategic commands.  As regards the aviation component of the RF strategic nuclear triad — Long-Range Aviation, it, like Military-Transport Aviation and the Operational-Strategic Command of Aerospace Defense [ОСК ВКО] will remain immediately subordinate to the Air Forces CINC.”

So what’s happened?

After years of lobbying, army aviation is leaving the Air Forces, but not exactly returning to the Ground Troops.  It is, however, returning to a Ground Troops-dominated environment in the OSKs.

The OSKs look more and more like U.S.-style unified, combatant commands, and the RF armed services like force providers.  

One supposes that the Air Forces, like the Navy, will have to continue playing a very large role in developing doctrine, tactics, acquisition, training, and operations and maintenance of frontal aviation at least, and probably army aviation as well. 

Zelin had more fragmentary comments on this subject.  The Air Forces CINC will retain:

“. . . immediate authority to direct combat training of all aviation and air defense forces, development of all directive documents, and also material-technical support.”

“This entire system is arranged just to optimize command and control and concentrate the main forces and means in the troops [i.e. OSKs].”

He added that these measures must:

“. . . prevent theft and waste of material and financial means and guarantee their strict centralization.”

One wonders how aspects of this ‘material-technical support’ (MTO) role for the Air Forces CINC will track with General-Colonel Bulgakov’s new MTO empire in the increasingly civilian Defense Ministry.

Will the Genshtab and OSKs Replace the Glavkomaty?

Writing in Vremya novostey yesterday, Nikolay Khorunzhiy claims the recently-concluded, largest post-Soviet exercise – Vostok-2010 – was intended to test the establishment of four operational-strategic commands (OSK or ОСК) in place of Russia’s six military districts, as well as the establishment of structural sub-units of the General Staff in place of the Main Commands (Glavkomaty or Главкоматы) of the Ground Troops, Air Forces, and Navy.

Khorunzhiy continues:

“It’s proposed that the army’s new structure will allow a sharp cut in the steps in passing commands from 16 levels to three, and increase their precision and reliability.  On 6 July, President Dmitriy Medvedev signed a decree establishing OSKs.  Part of the authority of central command and control organs, but also that earlier entrusted to the Glavkomaty, are going to the OSKs.”

The 6 July decree still hasn’t appeared publicly. 

Khorunzhiy notes that then-General Staff Chief Yuriy Baluyevskiy tested the transition to regional commands during Baykal-2006:

“Then he didn’t manage to break the resistance of district commanders who didn’t want to share their authority with OSK commanders.”

Khorunzhiy digresses to the precursors of OSKs, without calling them High Commands of Forces.  Former General Staff Chief Nikolay Ogarkov set out to reform the army’s command and control:

“The instrument of such a reform he considered main commands on strategic directions (theaters of military operations, in modern terminology) which would improve coordination between services and troop branches and would strengthen the unity of command in combat units (permanent readiness units).”

Ogarkov viewed the Soviet North-Western, Western, and South-Western main commands of troops from World War II as prototypes, but these Glavkomaty were only intermediate links between the Headquarters,  Supreme High Command [Stavka VGK] and the fronts, but received no authority, troops, or communications.  Khorunzhiy contrasts this to Vasilevskiy being sent to fight the Japanese in 1945; he had authority and troops.

Then, in 1978, Army General Vasiliy Petrov was sent out to establish the Main Command of Troops of the Far East, and he had authority up to appoint regiment commanders and arrange cooperation with neighboring states.  The situation of troops in the Far East sharply improved.

Ogarkov set off then to establish main commands on strategic directions, and improve command and control and readiness in yearly exercises (West, East, Autumn).  But in 1984, Ogarkov himself was sent off to be CINC of the Western direction in Legnica.  He failed to get enough authority for these commanders from the CPSU or Defense Ministry, and these main commands were eliminated in 1991.

But Khorunzhiy goes on to describe today’s OSK as an ultimate victory for Ogarkov over the ‘parochial interests of the army elite.’  He doesn’t seem to wonder whether it might be too soon to declare victory.

He finishes by looking at the KPRF’s call for a parliamentary investigation and special Duma session on how Serdyukov’s reforms are ‘disarming Russia.’  In particular, Khorunzhiy quotes the KPRF press-service:

“The system of military districts which has existed for centuries has just been eliminated.  In place of them incomprehensible strategic commands have been established according to an American template.  It’s obvious that this endless modernization of military structures is leading unavoidably to the loss of troop controllability.”

What’s it all mean . . . ?

The possible elimination of the Main Commands — the service headquarters — would be a big deal (no one mentioned what might happen to VDV, Space Troops, or RVSN branch commands).   

This would obviously greatly strengthen General Staff Chief Makarov, and really make him lord and master of the uniformed military.  It would strengthen the General Staff (except Serdyukov’s been cutting its personnel, like the rest of the Central Apparatus).

Would it give Makarov too much power?  Maybe, or maybe not if Serdyukov thinks he can fire him and get another general whenever necessary.

The possibility of eliminating service headquarters makes Navy CINC Vysotskiy’s reticence to talk about moving to St. Petersburg in the midst of a command and control reorganization make more sense.  Maybe he was telling us there’s a much bigger issue at work than just OSKs.

Perhaps in the most objective sense, getting rid of the Glavkomaty would reduce personnel and some resistance to new ideas.  But wouldn’t it also throw away yet another place where the regime should seek good alternative ideas, counterarguments, and feedback on its plans?

General Staff Chief Makarov’s Press Conference

Sound bites from General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov’s press conference today dribbled out one at a time, as usual.

Makarov told reporters President Medvedev signed a decree establishing four operational-strategic commands (OSK) to replace the existing military districts on 6 July, but the text hasn’t been published.  Makarov also said arrangements putting the OSKs in place would be complete on 1 December.

Makarov talked more about the new “unified system of material-technical support (MTO)” also apparently covered in Medvedev’s decree.

Rear Services Chief, Deputy Defense Minister, General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov, as expected, will head the unified MTO system, and new First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin will supervise the new state armaments program, 2011-2020, as well as coordination with military industries. 

Makarov stressed uniting transportation and supply functions under Bulgakov:

“We had a disconnect when all transport for supplies of material means to the troops was at the disposal of the Deputy Defense Minister for Rear Services, but he didn’t have anything he needed to move with this transport.  The other Deputy Defense Minister, on the other hand, had armaments, but no means for transporting them to the troops.”

“This is very important because now the management of transportation and armaments is concentrated in the hands of one man.  The correctness of the decision was confirmed by the recently completed ‘Vostok-2010’ operational-strategic exercise in the Far East.”

 “Now one official serving as a Deputy Defense Minister heads a unified system of material-technical support which has united rear services and armaments.  He alone personally answer for both the transport of supplies of material-technical means, and for these means themselves.  Now one man answers for the state of affairs with armaments and for their supply to the troops, who will also now be responsible for that.”

The way Makarov puts it, Popovkin be on the hook for product quality:

“He will work with defense-industrial complex enterprises to control their production of armaments and military equipment for the Armed Forces.”

Popovkin’s old job of Chief of Armaments, Deputy Defense Minister will disappear most likely.

Makarov told reporters Russia plans to move to netcentric command and control by 2015, once it equips its troops with new C3 systems united in one information space.  Such systems are now scarce, but he says, they are working hard so to install digital equipment everywhere.  Makarov calls this the main renovation that he’s giving all structures and troops starting in the fall of this year.  He says Russia’s new command posts unite reconnaissance, target designation, and troops and weapons to execute combat missions in real time.

It’s interesting that RIA Novosti took time to explain that the netcentric concept is an American creation more than 10 years old, and one not loved by those used to strictly centralized command and control.

Makarov told the press the army will begin forming light brigades, which it currently doesn’t have, this year.  They’ll have light combat vehicles of some type.  While not providing details, Makarov emphasized that light brigades will be built around a standard vehicle, so that, as in Vostok-2010, a brigade can fly in and its personnel can marry up with their normal vehicles in their place of deployment. 

Answering a question, Makarov said Russia will buy more Il-78 tankers in GPV 2011-2020, but he didn’t specify a number.

Makarov announced an intention to equip all Russian combat aircraft with new targeting-navigation systems over the next three years.  He said the new equipment will increase the accuracy of air strikes and allow the Air Forces to “abandon the previous practice of area bombing.”  He said the new system was tried on a Su-24M2 during Vostok-2010.  Installation of the targeting equipment on the Su-24M2 began in 2007.  Makarov said the VVS has nearly 300 Su-24 of all variants, and naval aviation about 60.

Stoletiye.ru had an interesting observation on Makarov and efforts to streamline command and control in the Russian Army.  It said the move to 4 OSKs and other steps are intended to reduce duplication of officer responsibilities and make 2-3 officers responsible for the fulfillment of combat missions.  It quoted Makarov, “We’ve eliminated the system of spreading responsibility throughout the Defense Ministry.”

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.

Step Closer to Four OSKs Instead of 6 MDs

ITAR-TASS reports today that the reform of the operational-strategic level of command and control has entered its final phase.  According to the Genshtab’s plan, on 1 December 2010 military districts (MDs) will shrink from 6 to 4.  A Genshtab source told ITAR-TASS that 4 MDs and operational-strategic commands (OSK or ОСК) will be formed–Western, Southern, Central, and Eastern, with their commanders having operational control over all (or most) of the troops (forces) of the armed forces and other militarized structures located on their territory.  

The Genshtab representative says the Western MD/OSK, based in Piter, will include the Moscow and Leningrad MDs, with Baltic and Northern Fleets, VVS, VDV, and other militarized structures operationally subordinate to it.  The Southern MD/OSK in Rostov-na-Donu will have the North Caucasus MD, with the Black Sea Fleet and Caspian Flotilla operationally subordinate.  The Central MD/OSK in Yekaterinburg will have the Volga-Ural MD and the western part of the Siberian MD.  The Eastern MD/OSK in Khabarovsk will have the eastern part of the Siberian MD and the Far East MD, with the Pacific Fleet operationally subordinate to it.

The question of subordinating units and formations of the RVSN, naval strategic nuclear forces, LRA, and the Space Troops hasn’t been decided.  According to the source:

“This issue is now under long-term study, Genshtab Chief Army General Nikolay Makarov is personally occupied with it.”

The Genshtab source said the new MD/OSKs will be tested out during the Vostok-2010 operational-strategic exercise at the end of June.

ITAR-TASS said this major command change will not involve officer cuts, but there will be a redistribution of the officer corps to new service locations.

So there’s more smoke from a fire somewhere, presumably.  If this pans out, it will be the culmination of a command and control change long talked about, and even tried out piecemeal at times.  After many waves of reform since late 2008, one has to wonder whether this is the time for more disruption.  Maybe it is since things are already disrupted.  Which generals will be the winners or losers?

It will be hard to judge the value of this effort just from the name changes or the movement of a major combined formation from one order-of-battle column to another.  A lot will depend on what the exact terms of ‘operational subordination’ are when it comes to the fleets and other major militarized formations outside the Defense Ministry’s administrative control.  The four MD/OSK commanders will certainly have more responsibility, and they must be hoping and working to get the real authority they need to go along with it.

More on OSKs, and ASU TZ

On Monday, Olga Bozhyeva reminded readers the proposed OSKs were former Genshtab Chief Baluyevskiy’s idea, and she called them part of a command reorganization along an American model.  She contends Baluyevskiy lost his job for pushing the change from military districts (MDs) to operational-strategic commands (OSKs).  And now the OSK will apparently win out, even though Baluyevskiy’s long gone. 

Bozhyeva says Baluyevskiy and the shift to OSKs were defeated in the past by MD commanders [and their powerful patrons] who stood to lose out in the process.  She claims Baluyevskiy’s opposition to the  Navy Main Staff transfer from Moscow to St. Petersburg was a pretext for his dismissal when the OSK was the real issue.  And his OSK experiment in the Far East was quietly dismantled after his departure. 

Actually, it’s more likely Baluyevskiy went down for opposing–rightly or wrongly–the whole range of ideas pushed by Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov.  By contrast, Baluyevskiy’s replacement has been a veritable extension of Serdyukov on policy issues.

With Baluyevskiy gone, according to Bozhyeva, the MD commanders bent the OSK idea to their way of thinking, proposing to make every MD an OSK, without cutting or consolidating MDs, and duplicating efforts in the process.  She says this reflected the MDs as ‘sacred cows’ upon which no one would encroach, and this tracked with new Genshtab Chief Makarov’s background as an MD commander.  Recall that Baluyevskiy was a career Genshtabist.

Bozhyeva continues, saying this year Makarov has begun to think about how to command the ‘new profile’ army.  And wars of the future will hardly accommodate a command structure like the MD.  But Bozhyeva reports a rumor that the name Military District could be retained to appease opponents of merging MDs in favor of modern OSKs.  She concludes, if the OSKs are realized, it’ll be possible to talk of a really ‘new profile’ army.

Dmitriy Litovkin also had his say on the OSK story last Friday.  He describes the possible move to OSKs in terms of more responsive command and control, reducing the transmission of orders from 16 to 3 steps.  But, he cautions, the OSKs are still just a proposal at this point.

Litovkin says the military hasn’t tried to hide the fact that the OSK is borrowed from the U.S. concept.  The main thing achieved in such an approach, he continues, is responsiveness in issuing and receiving combat orders.  The Defense Ministry says this new OSK structure will be tightly tied to the new automated battlefield command and control system ASU TZ (АСУ ТЗ).

Litovkin mentions how Prime Minister Putin saw ASU TZ at Voronezh, and how the system is supposed to centralize command and control down to the ‘electronic soldier’ on the battlefield.  This fall brigade exercises are supposed to employ ASU TZ with the aim of controlling several hundred ‘objects’ in battle simultaneously.  This summer the OSK model will be tried as part of the Vostok-2010 exercise in the Far East.

Litovkin’s source says:

“Developing ASU TZ without trying it in the new armed forces structure is impossible.  We need to understand in practice not just how this works, but also, possibly, that we are developing something unnecessary or, conversely, we aren’t making anything.”

Not a big vote of confidence for the new system.

Litovkin concludes by saying the possibility of unit and even garrison relocations might be a limitation on the OSK scheme.  Forces would need to be better balanced among the four strategic directions.  For example, the Western OSK would have too many motorized rifle units and the Eastern too few.