Tag Archives: Orlan

Fifth Generation Reconnaissance Man

Last week KZ ran a piece titled “Fifth Generation Reconnaissance Man.”  Easy to overlook, it turned out to be about the Black Sea Fleet’s new 127th Independent Reconnaissance Brigade based in Sevastopol, Crimea.

The article informs us that the brigade was formed after last year’s invasion.  It has the latest and greatest in weapons and equipment, including mobile EW and ELINT systems and Orlan and Leyer UAVs.  But its men, the article says, are the main thing.

The new brigade is 100 percent contract-manned, according to the article, but it is less than clear on the point.  Is it fully manned and all personnel are contractees or is it less than 100 percent manned but men on-hand are all contractees?  The article offers no other information on the brigade’s TO&E.

KZ notes that the commander and sub-unit commanders have combat experience and medals.  Colonel Aleksandr Beglyakov commands the 127th.  But there’s precious little about him.  What looks like a fragment of an Odnoklassniki profile appears below.

Beglyakov's Odnoklassniki Profile?

Beglyakov’s Odnoklassniki Profile?

If it’s him, he’s young at 37, but not exceptionally so for a Russian O-6.  He attended the Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School — cradle of Russian Army reconnaissance men.  He’s completed his mid-career school — VUNTs SV “Combined Arms Academy of the Russian Federation Armed Forces.”

The brigade’s recon men appear to be organized into groups like GRU Spetsnaz. At least one sergeant came from an independent Spetsnaz regiment in Stavropol. He says we are the “most polite” of all “polite people.” We come quietly, fulfill our mission, and leave quietly, according to him.

The KZ author describes another soldier as a “fifth generation reconnaissance man” — physically strong, equally skilled with weapons and modern digital systems.

This article brings us to the independent reconnaissance brigade, the ORBr — what it is, its origin, and what its future will be.

The first modern Russian Army ORBr, the 100th Independent Reconnaissance Brigade, is based in Mozdok.  It was formed in 2009 under former defense minister Serdyukov and was branded “experimental.”  There have been reports it would disband, but it apparently hasn’t.

One apparently knowledgeable observer shared this description:

“The 100th Experimental Independent Reconnaissance Brigade (Mozdok, North Ossetia) was formed in the summer of 2009 on the basis of the 85th Independent Spetsnaz Detachment [ooSpN] of the 10th Independent Spetsnaz Brigade:”

“command, air-assault battalion, reconnaissance battalion (two reconnaissance companies + a tank company), SP howitzer battalion, SpN detachment, UAV detachment, anti-aircraft missile-artillery battalion, EW company (expanding into an independent ELINT battalion), engineer company, maintenance company, material-technical support company, medical company, in the future its own helicopter regiment.”

“A mixed squadron transferred into the brigade from Budennovsk.  The helicopter sub-unit carries out missions for the ground formation and is operationally subordinate to it.  The squadron provides cover for the brigade’s armored columns, transports supplies, and conducts all types of reconnaissance.”

“The brigade’s command was formed on 1 December 2009.”

It’s a very interesting and unique brigade by Russian Army standards.  It has surprisingly robust combined arms firepower to go along with its reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities.

ORBr roots extend to Soviet times.  But it was different then.  The 25th ORBr in Mongolia had three reconnaissance battalions, a “deep reconnaissance” (SpN??) battalion, and fewer technical intelligence systems.  Its helo squadron had 20 Mi-8s and an Mi-2 for the brigade commander.  Soviet forces in Mongolia also included the 20th ORBr.  Most Russians who served in or comment on these formations are pretty adamant that they reported to the GRU.

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Not Enough Resources (Addendum)

Ruslan Pukhov

In Friday’s NVO, CAST Director Ruslan Pukhov expounded on Konstantin Makiyenko’s thoughts about whether Russia’s current military modernization plan is doable.  And he offered ideas on how to make it more doable.

Pukhov points out that, in addition to 19 trillion rubles for military modernization, the Kremlin is footing bills for higher military pay, better living conditions, and housing as well as intensified combat training.  Liberal critics question whether the government can afford a greater defense burden at a time when it also needs to modernize infrastructure, health care, and education.

The planned military expenditures seem, Pukhov continues, balanced and acceptable, following 15 years of army underfinancing.  They shouldn’t threaten the country’s development.

Still, he says, skeptics have a point.  Vladimir Putin’s plan presupposes a decade of growth in the economy, perhaps not dynamic, but growth.  However, it’s also highly possible we’ll see stagnation or even recession in an economy which, with oil prices over $100, shows meager (for a developing market) growth of four percent.

Then Pukhov really gets to it.

With the slightest decline in hydrocarbon prices, “Putin’s preelection promises, including also in the military sphere, will become unfulfillable.”  And the Finance Ministry is developing plans to trim defense spending by 0.5 percent of GDP.

Pukhov asserts the Defense Ministry can continue transforming the armed forces if it sacrifices quantity for quality and foregoes more “metal” for human capital investments.

First, he says abandon the official but never explained million-man army manning level in favor of 700,000 or 600,000 personnel.

Second, the state should meet all its social obligations to servicemen and continue training by skipping some procurement.  The only “holy cow” would be strategic nuclear deterrence forces.

Third, Pukhov suggests sacrificing some planned naval development.  He offers that, as the world’s fifth or sixth largest economy, Russia simply can’t afford to recreate a global navy.  First on the chopping block, Mistral and renovated Kirov-class CGNs.

But Pukhov doesn’t sound fully convinced himself.  Some points not made need to be noted.

Pukhov should know Moscow has already gone well below one million men, if only semi-officially.  There isn’t much savings in reduced conscript numbers.  Pukhov doesn’t mention the huge “human capital” expense of trying (once again) to recruit professional contract soldiers.  The word corruption — the proverbial elephant in this room — isn’t uttered either.  The state already accepts 20, perhaps 40, percent less military than it pays for.  That’s where real savings are.  Foregoing some “metal” is a good idea, but Pukhov has scarcely begun to sort out what Russia’s acquisition priorities should be.

Mr. Pukhov should be commended for addressing this topic, but his critique is pretty mild.  He may still be attacked for it by some.  A much more radical restructuring of Russia’s military development program than Pukhov’s may eventually be needed to save it.