Tag Archives: Pacific Fleet

Yuriy Dolgorukiy Headed for Pacific Fleet

In Vladivostok yesterday, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov made the surprising announcement that the first Borey-class SSBN, Yuriy Dolgorukiy, will deploy to Russia’s Pacific Fleet, once it becomes operational with its complement of Bulava SLBMs. 

To be precise, Serdyukov said:

“The first Borey will enter the TOF [Pacific Ocean Fleet].  This is how it is in our plans.  . . . new barracks are already built for crews of new submarines.  Since 2007, we’ve been taking down old barracks and building new ones, renovating the social infrastructure 100 percent.”

Serdyukov made the comments while inspecting new construction in Vilyuchinsk for Pacific Fleet contractees.

Basing the first Borey away from where it was built, and away from Russia’s Northern Fleet, is a sharp break from the Soviet / Russian Navy tradition of keeping the first units of new classes — especially SSBNs — close to their point of origin at Sevmash.  A Pacific Fleet deployment could complicate service and support not only for Yuriy Dolgorukiy, but for its new missile system as well, and make this more costly too. 

The Defense Ministry seems to have decided it needs to retain a two-fleet naval strategic nuclear deterrent.  And putting the first Borey there seems essential given that the Pacific Fleet has only a handful of 30-year-old Delta III-class SSBNs at this point.  This decision may also reflect what’s been presented several times as an increased Russian military focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

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Suicidal Lieutenants

President Toasts the Kuropatkins (photo: Aleksandr Astafyev)

The Pacific Fleet command and investigators say the shooting of a 22-year-old lieutenant assigned to a 35-year-old LST in Fokino was a suicide attempt, and not the result of ‘nonregulation relations’ or dedovshchina.  The incident occurred 1 December.  Lieutenant Maksim Kuropatkin was found with a gunshot wound to the head, and he remains in a coma.  Investigators say he shot himself with his service sidearm in the presence of two witnesses.  No criminal case has been initiated.  Their preliminary conclusion is that Kuropatkin suffered a nervous breakdown caused by difficulty adapting to life in the service.

Moskovskiy komsomolets point out the Kuropatkin case is a little special because President Dmitriy Medvedev was the surprise guest of honor at the lieutenant’s wedding in early July.  Medvedev was touring the Far East, and arrived at Birobidzhan’s wedding palace in time to witness three marriages including Kuropatkin’s.  Medvedev wished the lieutenant and his bride a “long happy family life.”  He ordered the governor of the Jewish AO to find apartments for all three couples.  About a month ago, the Kuropatkins got their apartment.

Kuropatkin’s family doesn’t believe his shooting was a suicide attempt.  They say he was always goal-oriented, and aimed for a military career from age 14 (presumably he attended a Nakhimov Naval School).  He graduated from the Pacific Naval Institute late this spring, married, and had been in his first assignment only a couple months.

They also say Kuropatkin recently mentioned the name of a senior officer who often picked on him, and was constantly nagging him to draw up some kind of documents, and when Kuropatkin refused, he said, “Well, that’s it, it’s the end for you.” 

A 24-year-old lieutenant named Ivan Yegorov died in what was also called a suicide aboard Slava-class CG Varyag in mid-November.  MK sums up saying:

“According to the opinion of knowledgeable people, dedovshchina in the officer environment ranges up to physical violence and shootings.”

RIA Novosti also reported a Baltic Fleet suicide this week.  A 23-year-old lieutenant from the Pionerskiy garrison reportedly shot himself in the chest with a Makarov pistol.  He apparently left a note.  The chair of the Kaliningrad Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers said she was completely surprised by this incident, adding that there have never been “any signals” of problems from the unit where this lieutenant served.

Vice-Admiral Chirkov and the Pacific Fleet

Vice-Admiral Chirkov

Baltic Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov is apparently being tapped to replace Vice-Admiral Konstantin Sidenko in the Pacific Fleet, according to Russian press agencies and a Kommersant source in the Navy Main Staff.  

Sidenko will command the new Eastern Military District and Combined Strategic Command (OSK) East.  Chirkov will be replaced in the Baltic Fleet by his chief of staff, Rear-Admiral Sergey Farkov.  Kommersant’s source calls these changes a ‘normal rotation.’ 

Gzt.ru’s source says the Pacific Fleet is expecting the Chirkov announcement ‘any minute,’ but drawing up the papers, including the President’s decree on the appointment, is ongoing. 

Viktor Viktorovich Chirkov is a surface warfare officer with Pacific Fleet roots.  He was born on 8 September 1959 in Alma-Ata, capital of the former Kazakh SSR.  In 1982, he graduated from the Vladivostok Higher Naval School and became head of the mine-torpedo department on old Riga-class corvette Lun in the Pacific Fleet.  He served as assistant commander of a corvette, then executive officer of Kotlin-class destroyer Vozbuzhdennyy.  

In 1986-1987, Chirkov completed Higher Special Officers’ Classes in Leningrad, and became commander of the infamous Krivak-class frigate Storozhevoy.  Under a mutinous crew, this Soviet Baltic Fleet unit tried, unsuccessfully, to defect in 1975.  Later it transferred to the Pacific Fleet. 

From 1990 to 1993, Chirkov commanded Udaloy-class destroyer Admiral Spirodonov.  He was deputy chief of staff for an ASW ship division, deputy division commander, and commander of an ASW ship division during 1993-1998.  In 1997, he completed the Kuznetsov Naval Academy as a correspondence student.  

After graduating from the Military Academy of the General Staff in 2000, Chirkov served for five years as chief of staff, first deputy commander of Troops and Forces in the North-East on Kamchatka.  In the first years of this assignment, he served under Vice-Admiral Sidenko.  

In 2005-2007, he commanded the Primorskiy Mixed Forces Flotilla.  For the next two years, he was chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Baltic Fleet, and became its commander in September 2009. 

Chirkov is married with two sons. 

A Pacific Fleet staff source told Gzt.ru Chirkov is happily anticipated since he’s an old friend and ‘not an outsider.’  Another calls him a wise and honorable officer who knows his business. 

Vitaliy Shlykov talked to Gzt.ru about the Pacific Fleet’s growing importance: 

“In the Baltic there’s nothing to do, everyone’s friends, allies.  But the Pacific Ocean is the future, it’s necessary to turn all attention there.  And we don’t have enemies there, so there’s time to strengthen this fleet before there’s a confrontation between the U.S. and China.” 

“Of course, given this state of affairs, the significance of the fleet is growing sharply in comparison with Russia’s other fleets.” 

NVO’s Viktor Litovkin notes that Chirkin will be first to command the Pacific Fleet in its new condition of subordination to OSK East.  He thinks the new commander has multiple problems to solve, including obtaining new ships, dismantling old nuclear submarines, and building housing for servicemen.  Chirkin will also have to grapple with getting contract sailors, rather than conscripts, to man his afloat forces for long deployments.

Testing Army Reforms in Vostok-2010

Readers seem eager for anything they can get on Vostok-2010.  Here’s something. 

Russia’s largest maneuvers of the year, Vostok-2010, began June 29, and continue until July 8.  This broad-scale operational-strategic exercise (OSU or ОСУ) encompasses the Siberian and Far East MDs, as well as the Pacific Fleet—in other words, what will reportedly become the new Far East MD or operational-strategic command (OSK or ОСК) before the end of 2010.  

General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov talked to RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS at length about Vostok-2010 recently.  He said the Far East was chosen for its broad expanses, limited infrastructure, and difficult weather and climate.  Eleven combined arms, 3 air forces, and 4 naval training ranges will be used.  Makarov noted up to 20,000 soldiers, 2,500 weapons systems and pieces of equipment, 70 aircraft, and 30 ships will take part in the exercise. 

Makarov said Vostok-2010 will be a logical continuation of last year’s large training events.  Beyond Defense Ministry forces, operational groups and sub-units from the MVD, FSB, FSO, MChS, and FSIN will participate.

As is customary, Makarov said the maneuvers:

“. . . are not directed against any real country or military-political bloc.  They have an exclusively defensive orientation for ensuring the security and defense of the state’s interests on the Far East border against a notional enemy.”

And the exercise’s theme is:

“. . . preparation and employment of formations [military units] in a new TO&E structure to fulfill missions in isolated sectors to ensure the Russian Federation’s military security.”

Makarov said the maneuvers will:

  • Check the effectiveness of the newly-created three-level system of troop command and control;
  • Evaluate the readiness of new TO&E formations and military units to  conduct combat actions in isolated sectors in a constantly changing situation, as well as their mobility and combat possibilities;
  • Resolve training and command and control issues at the operational-strategic and operational level while conducting combat actions;       
  • Organize coordination of military command and control organs with the troops and military formations of other federal ministries and departments, and also local organs of executive authority in resolving joint missions; and
  • Investigate the capabilities of a unified system of material-technical support (MTO) which was created during the structural reformation of the army and fleet.

The exercise will include special operations, air defense and ship combat firings, and air and amphibious assaults.  Makarov said the RVSN will join the exercise play, but no ICBM training launches will occur.  Military transports will bring independent sub-units from the Moscow and Volga-Ural MDs to join the exercise, but they will draw their weapons and equipment from Siberian and Far East storage bases.

Makarov noted the participation of an unidentified number of Su-24M and Su-34 aircraft arriving from Central Russia during a direct flight with aerial refueling.   Black Sea Fleet flagship Slava-class CG Moskva and Northern Fleet Kirov-class CGN Petr Velikiy also completed long-range cruises to participate.

Makarov said new operational and operational-strategic level command and control posts will be used in the exercise, as will ‘fifth generation’ radio communications gear and future soldier systems under development at Sozvezdiye.  Iskander operational-tactical missiles and Russian-made UAVs will also be employed.

Siberian MD Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Chirkin told Krasnaya zvezda the exercise will focus on defensive operations, but also special operations to localize and destroy irregular armed formations in several RF regions.  He said there will be more than a little new given that new combat regulations will be used.  He added:

“We’re moving away from linear tactics, from large-scale front operations.  As the experience of local wars and armed conflicts in recent years shows, there’s no need to utilize a massive quantity of forces and means to conduct front and army operations.”

In Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vladimir Mukhin focused on the logistics of Vostok-2010.  He noted Rear Services Chief, General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov’s expectation that President Medvedev will soon issue a decree combining the jobs of Chief of Armaments and Chief of Rear Services.  And leaving First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin’s old job vacant could be a hint of this.  After Vostok-2010, Mukhin expects a new deputy defense minister for material-technical support (MTO), presumably Bulgakov, to be appointed.

A lot of the activity before Vostok-2010 has apparently involved trying out new combat service and support arrangements.  A special logistics exercise tested the new MTO system.  And this year, according to Mukhin’s information, ten MTO brigades will be formed, one for each combined arms army.  The Railroad Troops will reportedly be downgraded to a directorate and each MD (OSK) will absorb the Railroad Troops units on their territory.

Krasnaya zvezda described these exercises.  Rear Services troops used 4,000 men, 30 units of different sizes, and 1,000 pieces of equipment in a pipeline-building exercise, training to repair damaged bridges over the Aga River, and refueling a brigade before its Onon River crossing.

General-Colonel Bulgakov talked about the new MTO regiments and the exercises.  He said they are permanent combat readiness units which have all necessary troops support structures and sub-units.  This was the first test of the new TO&E structure for logistics.  Based on the results, Bulgakov thinks this year the army can move from material support regiments (PMO) to material support brigades.  In every district (OSK), there will be a minimum of two, according to him.  Unlike regiments, material support brigades (BMOs?) will have repair and maintenance battalions.  Brigades were chosen to conform as much as possible to the prevailing three link ‘district-army-brigade’ command scheme.

Trud’s Mikhail Lukanin put Vostok-2010’s most difficult missions this way:

  • Moving troops great distances, including Siberian river crossings;
  • Supplying fuel, ammunition, and food to the area of combat actions;
  • Conducting an amphibious assault under enemy fire.

Prominent commentators view Vostok-2010 as a test of the success of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s army reforms.  Trud talked to independent defense analyst Aleksandr Khramchikhin who said:

“Military reform has gone on already for more than a year and a half, but there’s still no answer to the main question:  what have we gotten from it?  That is, after radical cuts in the officer ranks, the reorganization of military command and control organs, turning former divisions into combined arms brigades, are the Armed Forces capable of conducting modern combat actions.”

Anatoliy Tsyganok believes the army made a hash of Zapad-2009, with only 30 percent  of Russia’s maneuver brigades receiving good evaluations, most only satisfactory, and a handful unsatisfactory.  Presumably, he doesn’t expect to be more impressed by Vostok-2010.