Tag Archives: Prompt Global Strike

Electronic Warfare Chief Interviewed

Russia’s Chief of EW Troops, General-Major Yuriy Lastochkin gave an interview to Krasnaya zvezda in April for the Day of the Electronic Warfare Specialist.  His remarks make interesting reading on the direction of Russian EW.  The interview was subsequently carried by other media outlets, most recently by VPK.

General-Major Lastochkin

General-Major Lastochkin

Asked what areas of EW are most critical today, Lastochkin replied:

“The introduction of modern electronic technologies in the command and control systems of forces and means of the armed forces of leading foreign countries is a component part of realizing the prompt global strike concept.  This, adopted in the U.S. Armed Forces as a Doctrine of conducting combat actions in a unified information space, substantially increases the level of threat to the military security of the Russian Federation, and fundamentally changes the character and content of armed struggle.”

“The increase in the role of EW is determined by the very mission of disorganizing the command and control of enemy troops and weapons by means of electronic defeat.  We have to recognize distinctly that a new realm of confrontation has appeared — the information-telecommunications space.  The spectrum of missions of EW Troops is broadening significantly.  The effect of using developmental EW means is comparable to defeat by precision fire. Conceptual documents approved by the RF President in the realm of electronic warfare aim for this.  The country’s military-political leadership attaches great significance to the improvement of EW systems as one of the most important elements of guaranteeing national security. Today electronic warfare is a most complex intellectual-technical component, particularly in hybrid conflicts.  This in turn requires the development of principally new means capable of neutralizing the enemy’s technological and information advantage.”

The chief described Russia’s EW forces:

“Our troops are designated for the electronic defeat of enemy targets and systematic control of measures to counter technical reconnaissance means, and electronic defense of our own troops. They consist of command and control organs, formations [brigades], military units [regiments] and sub-units [battalions, companies] of various subordination.  EW forces and means are part of the strategic system of radio jamming, the Unified System of Systematic Technical Control (KTK¹), and the array of EW units of military districts, large formations [armies] and formations [divisions, brigades] of the services and branches of the RF Armed Forces.”

“At present, the main forces and means are concentrated in the Ground Troops, Aerospace Forces and Navy, and the component inter-service groupings of military districts.  In the VDV, we’ve established EW sub-units in assault divisions.  In the RVSN, there are KTK sub-units for every missile army, division, and testing ground. Since 2014, the forces and means of radio jamming in the districts have carried out duty missions.”

What the priority directions for development of EW systems?

“The improvement of EW equipment needs to be balanced.  There is a traditional approach.  It suggests broadening the list of targets countered, cutting the types of EW means, unification, increasing protection against precision weapons, mobility and modernization potential.  In the innovation plan, I would single out five directions:

  • deployment of controlled fields of radio suppression on enemy territory on the basis of unified small dimension reconnaissance and jamming modules delivered by UAVs;
  • creation of defeat means with powerful electromagnetic radiation on the basis of the employment of specialized munitions and mobile systems;
  • development of programmable equipment for action on highly-organized command and control systems by destroying the accessibility, integrity, and confidentiality of information;
  • introduction of means of imitating a false electronic situation and disinforming the enemy’s system of troop command and control and weaponry;
  • increasing the level of information security of organs (points) of EW command and control, improving decisionmaking support algorithms through the unified circuit of command and control of forces and means.”

Lastochkin mentioned that Zaslon-REB [Barrier-EW] entered state acceptance testing last year.  It seems to be some kind of COMSEC system designed to “block all possible channels for leaking confidential information and establish an ‘impenetrable information dome’ over Russian Defense Ministry facilities.”

Russian EW exercises, he said, have doubled during the past four years. “Electron-2016” exercise was the first strategic level drill for EW Troops since 1979.  They used this training to experiment with new equipment, and develop procedures and tactics.

Asked about countering enemy UAVs, Lastochkin said EW is the only effective means against small unmanned aircraft.

He indicated that a “situation center” has been established in the Directorate of the Chief of EW Troops.  It links EW formations [brigades] to their units in the field.  He looks forward to a system that presents Russia’s operational and electronic situation in a “single information space.”

Lastochkin claimed Western sanctions have had only a minimal effect on equipping Russia’s EW units, and he expects to have 70 percent modern systems by 2020.  Besides Sozvezdiye and KRET, STTs — a UAV developer — works closely with the EW Troops, according to their chief.

He told his interviewer that the EW Troops have tested 30 different types of equipment during the past three years.  He intends to make “serious investments in modernizing the experimental-testing base.”

In conclusion, General-Major Lastochkin summarized the goal of Russian EW:

“The entire system of measures of organizational development of EW Troops will substantially increase their contribution to winning superiority in command and control, and in employing weapons.  The volume of effectively fulfilled missions in various strategic directions will grow by two – two and a half times and by 2020 will reach 85 percent.  This in turn will become the basis of an effective air-ground EW system, capable of neutralizing the enemy’s technological advantage in the aerospace sphere and the information-telecommunications space.”

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¹KTK appears to be analogous to electronic support, i.e. “actions tasked by, or under direct control of, an operational commander to search for, intercept, identify, and locate or localize sources of intentional and unintentional radiated electromagnetic energy for the purpose of immediate threat recognition, targeting, planning, and conduct of future operations,” to quote Joint Pub 3-13.1 Electronic Warfare.

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Aerospace Forces

At some point, probably next summer, the Air Forces (VVS) will cease being one of Russia’s three armed services.  The Aerospace Forces (VKS or ВКС) will take their place.  The Aerospace Defense Troops (VVKO) will likewise disappear as a branch and get rolled into the new VKS.  Russia will be left with three services and two branches (not three of each).

RF and Air Forces Flags (photo: Mil.ru)

RF and Air Forces Flags (photo: Mil.ru)

The Aerospace Forces will be responsible for all Russian air forces and air defense (and more).

This news comes on the heels of six months of studious MOD denials that such a move was even contemplated.

It began quietly on 1 December  with Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s remarks to a regular military leadership videoconference.

According to Krasnaya zvezda, Shoygu discussed changing the organizational structure of the Air Forces in connection with turning VVKO aerospace defense brigades back into air defense (PVO) divisions.  He said the decision was made in mid-2013 after an analysis of mission fulfillment by the Air Forces.  He explained that:

“The goal of the changes being made is to increase the effectiveness of VVS [Air Forces] command and control, to improve the quality of the organization of everyday activity and planning for the combat employment of the troops.”

It echoed an earlier decision to reverse course on Anatoliy Serdyukov’s large composite air bases and groups and put aircraft back into more dispersed divisions and regiments.

By 10 December, Interfaks-AVN reported that the decision to replace the VVS with the VKS awaited only an official announcement.  

The news agency’s MOD source said:

“Formation of the new service [VKS] will proceed gradually, and, as expected, take several years.  In the course of this period, the forces and means entering the VKS must develop in the direction of unification and standardization of command and control, information and strike systems.”

The source also claimed the first CINC of the new service would be a general officer with experience commanding large inter-service [unified or joint] troop groupings, including aviation and PVO.  The most likely candidate — according to the source — Central MD Commander General-Colonel Vladimir Zarudnitskiy.

Then Defense Minister Shoygu made it official on 18 December when he said creating Aerospace Forces would be a priority task for 2015.

TASS reported the VKS CINC will have deputies for aviation, air defense, missile defense (PRO), and space.  It also indicated that VKS will control all current VVS aviation, including frontal and army aviation.  But its sway over the latter two — with the exception of fighter aircraft — will be “purely nominal,” and they will be employed in “coordination” with MD commanders.  Troop PVO will apparently continue to protect army formations.

Military commentator Igor Korotchenko captured the essence of VKS as a reaction to the possibility of a devastating U.S. aerospace attack on Russia:

“The main function [of VKS] is to guarantee realization of the Russian Federation’s concept of aerospace defense, proceeding from the need to counter existing plans, particularly of the United States of America, to implement the prompt global strike concept.  The Americans are planning in the conceivable future to use precision weapons, including hypersonic ones, to destroy [launch] positions and silos of intercontinental ballistic missiles, command centers, communications centers.  The fact here is that this concept will potentially be a great threat for Russia.  These new structures, the new service of the Russian armed forces will be occupied with its deterrence and neutralization.”

Such a potentially disarming threat might mobilize the military and public against America, but Korotchenko and the VKS will have to wait a very long time for it to materialize.  And if it doesn’t appear, then the deterrent worked, right?  A no-lose proposition from Moscow’s perspective.

VKS will be something of an effort to resurrect or reconstruct Soviet PVO Strany — national air defense — that was dismantled beginning in the late 1970s. Serdyukov’s reorganization of the VVS and creation of VVKO are criticized now as focused solely on saving money.  The current thinking is that all aerospace defense systems should be concentrated in a single service and single CINC with authority and responsibility for protecting the country’s aerospace borders.

The new VKS will be anything but compact, as President Putin often calls on the army to be.  They will be a sprawling enterprise that may be challenging to link and inter-connect for operations as a unified command.  If Serdyukov’s changes were too economy-minded, this one errs on the side of Soviet-style giantism. And now isn’t an auspicious time for expensive undertakings.

There are practical issues too.  How will the VKS CINC manage competing requirements for modern fighter aircraft from frontal aviation and air defense?Their number is limited and insufficient for both needs.  So creation of VKS won’t change the fact that they will be spread thinly over a gigantic landmass.

Moral of the story:  Reform, reorganization, and reshuffling never really end no matter the boss — Serdyukov, Shoygu, etc.  VKS may be the answer for a time, but they’re very unlikely to be the last word. 

P.S.  Various reports on VKS provided some indication of deployments in 2015. What is currently the VKO brigade (or will become a PVO division) in Novosibirsk may receive the S-400 this summer.  Shoygu said the MOD will put an air and air defense army (AVVSiPVO or АВВСиПВО) in the Arctic.  More recently, TASS reported an S-400 regiment will be deployed on Novaya Zemlya.

Aerospace Defense Troops

Svpressa.ru’s Sergey Ishchenko published an interesting piece on VKO late last Friday.  He wrote that Space Troops Commander, General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko recently reported to the Federation Council on the creation of VKO, making it clear that Ostapenko’s branch, as reported earlier and elsewhere, will be the basis of Russia’s unified VKO due to stand up by 1 December.

Ishchenko makes these additional points:

  • The long-range missile for the S-400 is still in testing.
  • He doubts the S-500 will be delivered in 2015.
  • His interviewee believes the new Aerospace Defense Troops will get all or some of Russia’s SAM force from the VVS.
  • The interviewee thinks the S-500 is on schedule.

Ishchenko says the debate over the lead for VKO didn’t necessarily center on what’s best to protect Russia’s security, but rather on who would receive new resources and general officer billets.

The Air Forces argued they were best suited to lead it, but the Space Troops apparently argued persuasively that they were better prepared to handle Russia’s future transatmospheric threats.

Now, a quick editorial aside from Ishchenko’s narrative . . . this decision is probably a good thing for the Air Forces, which already have their hands full and don’t need more missions.  They stand to lose only some part of the surface-to-air missile business (which hasn’t always been a core mission for them anyway).  And the VVS will benefit by concentrating on their most important tasks.

But back to Ishchenko . . . he provides a fine review of the USSR’s space weapons and space defense efforts, which, arguably, met or exceeded those of the United States.  He notes President Yeltsin’s 1993 decree on creating VKO, for which no one moved so much as a finger, at least partially because of the country’s economic and budgetary predicament at that time. 

Then Ishchenko gets more interesting.  He details the danger posed to Russia by U.S. “noncontact” wars in Iraq (sic), Yugoslavia, and Libya.  These, however, are really wars of the past rather than the future, he says.  Ishchenko moves on to the threat of Prompt Global Strike.

He talks about a hypersonic bomber cruising at Mach 5-7 speeds and altitudes up to 30,000 meters, beyond the reach of Russia’s current SAMs.  Of course, IOC isn’t before 2025, but Moscow needs to start thinking today about how to counter it.  Meanwhile, the state-of-the-art Russian SAM, the S-400, is barely fielded and its extended range missile is still being tested.  Its successor, the S-500, is supposed to be ready in 2015, but Ishchenko is skeptical.

The end of Ishchenko’s article is a brief interview with the chief editor of the journal Vozdushno-kosmicheskaya oborona, Mikhail Khodarenok.  Khodarenok’s a retired colonel, professional air defender, graduate of the General Staff Academy, and former staffer of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate (GOU).  In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was an outstanding military journalist for Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, but by 2003 or 2004, he left for VKO and Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer, both wholly owned by air defense system designer Almaz-Antey.

Ishchenko asks what Khodarenok knows about the process of creating the Aerospace Defense Troops.  The latter hems about not having access to secret directives and documents before concluding:

“But I can say that much has already been determined.  In particular, it’s decided that Space Troops will be the basis of VKO.  Although there were other proposals.  The Air Forces, in particular, proposed taking their service as the basis.”

Asked about this tug-of-war for VKO within the Defense Ministry, he says:

“And this is a beloved Russian pasttime.  In our Armed Forces, they are constantly getting rid of something or resubordinating.  What happened, for example, with army aviation.  In my memory, five times it was given to the Air Forces, then returned to the Ground Troops.  Usually then five years of complete confusion.  Billions lost.  And it all begins again.”

Asked what will be in VKO:

“The basis is the Space Troops.  Evidently, the surface-to-air missile troops (ZRV) will be transferred to them from the VVS.  Fully or partially.  This isn’t determined yet.”

Finally, asked whether Almaz-Antey General Director Igor Ashurbeyli was replaced because of problems with the S-400’s long-range missile or issues in the S-500’s development, Khodarenok says:

“Ashurbeyli’s resignation was not connected with engineering problems in any way.  Neither with difficulties on the S-500, nor on the S-400.”

“I have my suppositions on this score.  But I don’t want to share them.  I repeat:  the most important thing is that the S-500’s development is on schedule.  And this system really will very much help the country’s aerospace defense.”