Tag Archives: Readiness

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

Russia’s Regional Power

On 8 April, the HASC explored Russia’s military development and its strategic implications.  The second of two witnesses was the U.S. Joint Staff J5, Vice Admiral Frank Pandolfe.  Here’s the public opening statement to his testimony [emphasis added].

“Chairman McKeon, Ranking Member Smith, and distinguished Committee Members, good morning.  Thank you for this opportunity to update you on Russian military developments.”

“You just heard [from Mr. Chollet] a review of actions taken by the United States, the NATO Alliance, and the international community in response to Russia’s unlawful military intervention in Ukraine. Russia’s seizure of Crimea is a flagrant violation of international law, and it reintroduces into Europe the threat of external aggression.  By doing so, Russia set back decades of international progress.”

“The United States military and the wider NATO Alliance have supported our response to this unwarranted intervention:”

“- We have given support to Ukraine by way of material assistance, defense consultations, and the offer of enhanced training.”

“- We are reassuring our NATO Allies, with whom we have Article V security guarantees, by sending additional air power to the Baltic States and Poland, increasing our surveillance over Poland and Romania, and sending naval ships into the Black Sea.”

“- And we are helping to impose costs on Russia by halting all bilateral military-to-military interaction.  However, as noted by Mr. Chollet, we are keeping open channels for senior leader communications, to help deescalate the crisis.”

“I would now like to widen the focus of my remarks beyond Ukraine, to discuss the evolution of Russian conventional military power, thereby providing context to today’s events.”

“At the height of its military power, the Soviet Union was truly a global competitor.  With millions of people under arms, vast numbers of tanks and planes, a global navy, and an extensive intelligence gathering infrastructure, the Soviet military machine posed a very real and dangerous threat.”

“Following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, that arsenal fell into disrepair.  Starved of funding and fragmented, Russian military capabilities rapidly decayed throughout the 1990s.  From the start of his term in office in 2000, President Putin has made military modernization a top priority of the Russian government.  When Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, a number of shortcomings were noted in its military performance.  This led the Russian government to further increase investment in its military services.”

“Since 2008, those efforts have had some success. Russian military forces have been streamlined into smaller, more mobile units. Their overall readiness has improved and their most elite units are well trained and equipped.  They now employ a more sophisticated approach to joint warfare.”

“Their military has implemented organizational change, creating regional commands within Russia.  These coordinate and synchronize planning, joint service integration, force movement, intelligence support, and the tactical employment of units.”

“Finally, the Russian military adopted doctrinal change, placing greater emphasis on speed of movement, the use of Special Operations Forces, and information and cyber warfare.  They instituted ‘snap exercises.’  These no-notice drills serve the dual purpose of sharpening military readiness while also inducing strategic uncertainty as to whether they will swiftly transition from training to offensive operations.”

“Today, Russia is a regional power that can project force into nearby states but has very limited global power projection capability.  It has a military of uneven readiness.  While some units are well trained, most are less so. It suffers from corruption and its logistical capabilities are limited.  Aging equipment and infrastructure, fiscal challenges, and demographic and social problems will continue to hamper reform efforts.”

“The United States, in contrast, employs a military of global reach and engagement.  The readiness of our rotationally deployed forces is high and we are working to address readiness shortfalls at home.  And we operate within alliances; the strongest of which is NATO.  Composed of 28 nations, NATO is the most successful military alliance in history.  Should Russia undertake an armed attack against any NATO state, it will find that our commitment to collective defense is immediate and unwavering.”

“Russia’s military objectives are difficult to predict.  But it is clear that Russia is sustaining a significant military force on Ukraine’s eastern border.  This is deeply troubling to all states in the region and beyond, and we are watching Russian military movements very carefully.”

“I spoke with General Breedlove, the Commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, last Friday.  He is formulating recommendations for presentation to the North Atlantic Council on April fifteenth.  These recommendations will be aimed at further reassuring our NATO allies.  As part of this effort, he will consider increasing military exercises, forward deploying additional military equipment and personnel, and increasing our naval, air, and ground presence.  He will update members of Congress on those recommendations at the earliest opportunity.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for this opportunity to address your Committee.  I look forward to your questions.”

According to Defense News, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) asked Vice Admiral Pandolfe about reports from “senior U.S. commanders in Europe” that up to 80,000 Russian troops are massed on the border with Ukraine.  Pandolfe demurred, saying he would answer in closed session.

Other than that, we don’t know much about what was said or asked.

Pandolfe’s opening statement is a pretty accurate, albeit brief, description of what’s happened with Russia’s military, its progress and limitations, in recent years.

But it’s a little off-the-mark.  Regional power, not global reach, is the critical issue today.  Ukraine is a prototypical regional crisis. The kind of regional crisis for which Moscow has tried to prepare its armed forces.

In contrast to what Pandolfe said, Russia’s military objectives are pretty easy to understand.  

The ultimate Heartland of geopolitics, Russia sees itself hard-pressed by a Rimland alliance [NATO] expanding deeper into eastern Europe.  Now Moscow feels it’s imperative to push back.  Unfortunately for Ukraine, it is the object of contention.

Russia has marshaled an ominous, overweening force to influence the situation just over the border in Ukraine.  Moscow can let events in Kharkhiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Slovyansk unfold, perhaps with some provocation by intelligence operatives, special forces, and agents of influence.

As Mark Galeotti concludes:  

“The forces massed on the border (ranging from low-end estimates of 40,000 to 80,000 upwards), combined with dire warnings to Kyiv about the risk of ‘civil war’ if it uses force against the paramilitaries represent a formidable political cover, which is deterring the [Ukrainian] government from using the full means at its disposal.  Moscow is a past master of fighting its battles with proxies, agents, allies and dupes.  Whether or not there are many actual Russian soldiers and agents in eastern Ukraine, Moscow’s role is clear and, if anything, increasing.”

So Ukraine is damned if it responds to Russian-orchestrated unrest in the east, and damned if it doesn’t.

And Russia still holds the high card because it can still intervene with more “little green men” — Russian Army forces without insignia.  Or it may just want to keep Ukraine off-balance and unstable.  But events on the ground sometimes create their own dynamic.

Unlike Russia, for America, Ukraine is neither close nor vital.  Washington has already indicated it will not respond with military force, but only with support to its frontline NATO allies, and with MREs, consultations, and training for Kyiv. The Kremlin’s one fear might be that, under certain circumstances, the unpredictable Americans could change their minds about what’s at stake in Ukraine.

Paul Goble captured commentator  Georgiy Mirskiy’s insights last week, noting [emphasis added]:

“Neither [Russian President Vladimir] Putin nor [U.S. President Barack] Obama wants to go into history as the politician who ‘lost’ Ukraine, although [that country] does not belong to either the one or the other.”

“What is going on in Donetsk and Kharkhiv, [Mirskiy] continues, is ‘a Maidan in reverse,’ backed by a powerful neighboring state that is interested in destroying Ukraine.  Local support for these ‘people’s republics’ is not that great, but the Ukrainian authorities are ‘afraid’ to use force lest they ‘provoke the introduction of Russian forces’ as Putin has promised to do.”

“Given this fear, it may also be the case that ‘perhaps in the depth of their souls,’ some in Kyiv may ‘prefer to lose several unstable and hostile eastern oblasts’ in order to ‘keep firm control over a ‘mini-Ukraine,’ including Kyiv, Lviv, and so on.’”

“If that is so, then a repeat of the Crimean scenario is possible, although in any referendum there, support for joining Russia will be 60 percent at most and not 97 percent as it was on the peninsula, [Mirskiy] suggests.  Because Moscow won’t have introduced troops, ‘the West will again swallow everything.’ After all, ‘what is left for it to do?’”

In the strategic and ultimately cynical sense, maybe it wouldn’t be bad to watch while the Russian snake tries to swallow something it probably cannot digest.  This comes from the “worse is better” school of thought.

Trying to absorb Crimea and eastern Ukraine might worsen Russia’s domestic political and economic circumstances.  It will certainly refocus NATO on reinforcing Article V security guarantees (against Russia).  Thus, the Kremlin will have succeeded in creating the threat to which it has constantly pointed.  It will isolate Russia further, and possibly even hasten the end of the Putin era. Some foundering future Russian government may even one day have to relinquish occupied territories to Ukraine as a condition for international acceptance and assistance.

Golts Sidebar

Is a caption even necessary?

Is a caption even necessary?

The Golts article on Sergey Shoygu’s tenure is largely on-point.

But, for whatever reason, Golts neglects a positive change wrought by the new defense minister:  the surprise readiness inspections conducted since the beginning of this year.

While no longer a “surprise” and not as large-scale as the MOD would like us to believe, the exercises demonstrate what’s wrong and needs fixing.

But let’s return to some criticism, or witticism.

Along with Golts’ article, Kommersant published a sidebar listing Shoygu’s “significant” decisions.  Olga Shkurenko compiled it.

“New Annals of Military Organizational Development”

“A Chronicle”

“‘Ogonek’ has recalled the loudest of loud initiatives to strengthen the army and navy put forward during the time Sergey Shoygu has been in the post of defense minister.”

“On 7 November 2012 the minister decided to resurrect the tradition of Suvorov and Nakhimov cadets participating in the 9 May parade.”

On 12 November it became known that shoulderboards soon again will be worn on the shoulders, not on the chest.”

On 7 December it was decided to resubordinate military VUZy to the CINCs and Commanders of the services and branches of the Armed Forces (the MOD’s education department managed them previously).”

On 9 December Shoygu proposed reestablishing the Defense Ministry’s film studio.”

On 24 December the MOD announced that the troops will get a new uniform in 2014 and stop wearing undercollars.”

On 14 January 2013 Shoygu announced that by year’s end the army ‘should forget the word footwrappings.'”

On 25 January the Air Forces agreed with the minister on returning red stars instead of tricolors to the sides of airplanes and helicopters.”

On 4 February Shoygu gave the order ‘to install showers in all military units before the end of 2013.'”

On 26 February plans were announced to reestablish the institution of warrant officers.”

On 7 March mass media announced that the MOD had disposed of gas masks for horses.”

On 13 March ‘Interfaks’ reported from a source in the company ‘Russian Balloon’ that in 2014 purchases of inflatable tanks, aircraft and missile systems would begin.”

On 18 March the MOD press-service said that in 2013 172 dining halls of military units are transferring to the ‘smorgasbord’ feeding system.”

On 29 March the reestablishment of the first sports company was completed.  Then the minister proposed creation of analogous ‘scientific companies.'”

On 2 April the MOD culture directorate was created.  The poster contest ‘Homeland Army’ and the rebirth of army KVN¹ are among its first initiatives.”

On 3 April an OPK source said that the army was rejecting camouflage on tanks and other combat equipment and returning to a one-tone color scheme.”

On 9 and 16 April the recreation of the historic Preobrazhenskiy and Semenovskiy regiments was completed.”

On 4 May the earlier disbanded Taman and Kantemirov tank divisions [sic] were reestablished by decision of the minister.”

On 22 May in the State Duma the minister proposed to send those conducting alternative service in the army and navy to perform construction and housekeeping duties.”

On 23 July after the exercises in the Eastern Military District the MOD chief proposed ‘increasing by several times’ ammunition expenditure norms.”

On 31 July Shoygu ordered commanders to begin every morning in the barracks with a rendition of the Russian Anthem, to compile an obligatory military-patriotic book reading list and take the preparation of demob albums under their control.”

On 14-17 August the first competitions in the tank biathlon took place in the Moscow region at the minister’s initiative.”

On 16 August it was announced that the ‘office suit’ is being introduced for military men and civilians serving in the department.”

On 20 August it became known that in the MOD they are working on the issue of rearranging the Russian anthem in two variants — for a standard choir and for young people.”

¹KVN is a little hard to describe.  Literally, the “Club of the Happy and Resourceful.”  A television game show where teams from various institutions and organizations compete in answering questions and performing skits.

Another Readiness Ex

Putin and Shoygu (photo: mil.ru)

Putin and Shoygu (photo: mil.ru)

President and Glavk Vladimir Putin ordered Defense Minister Shoygu to conduct another readiness exercise yesterday.  This time in the Eastern MD, to include the Pacific Fleet.

Putin hinted he might show up in the Far East to watch.

The Supreme CINC directed that particular attention should be paid to transferring large masses of troops to assembly points, to transportation support, and to logistical and medical support.

Putin ordered Shoygu to:

“Also conduct all necessary measures relative to rescue at sea and the rescue of transportation means, including the submarine fleet.”

Apparently, the Glavk’s bitter (but important) memory of August 12, 2000 is jogged at this time of year.

He said he regards this year’s readiness checks as highly effective and extremely useful in eliminating problems.

Today Mil.ru indicated the exercise has started, and expanded a bit.  It includes not only the Eastern MD and Pacific Fleet, but the Central MD, LRA, and VTA.

The “formations and units of the Central MD’s Novosibirsk large formation” (i.e. the 41st CAA) will play a notional enemy role.

The ex aims to evaluate sub-units’ readiness to fulfill designated missions, the skill level of personnel, technical readiness, and proper outfitting with weapons and equipment.

As in others, the readiness ex will feature marches (convoys) to unfamiliar ranges far from permanent bases for two-sided tactical play with combat firings.

It will test the operational mobility of a formation (brigade) to a distance of more than 3,000 km.  Troops will move by rail, ship, and VTA.  More than 80,000 personnel, 1,000 tank and armored vehicles, 130 aircraft, and 70 ships will participate.  The drill concludes on 20 July.

Mil.ru also covered a high command videocon devoted to the ex.  Shoygu said up to 160,000 troops might be involved in one way or another.

More on the Inspection

Inspection Report Delivered in Central Command Post

Inspection Report Delivered in Central Command Post

More reaction to the results of the inspection . . .

Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye editor Viktor Litovkin expressed surprise at “the military’s absolute openness” in allowing journalists to attend General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov’s report on the results of the exercise.

Litovkin noted the 98th Air-Assault Division’s 227th Parachute-Assault Regiment participated in the exercise.  Su-25 and Su-24 aircraft flew from 4th Air and Air Defense Command bases at Primorsko-Akhtarsk, Morozovsk, and Marinovka.

201st Military Base Commander, Colonel Sergey Ryumshin attributed his problems in communicating to the Russian military in Tajikistan using old local phone lines, which are often out of order.  Gerasimov ordered the chief of the Main (?!) Directorate of Communications to sort out the problems.

Litovkin added that part and system malfunctions kept five Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters from the 2nd Air and Air Defense Command’s 565th Aviation Base from joining the exercise.  Su-25 ground attack aircraft from the 4th Command’s 6972nd Aviation Base returned home without dropping ordnance. 

Two Msta-S artillery systems were out of order in the Central MD’s 28th Motorized Rifle Brigade.  Oleg Sidenko [sic] was there to answer for this.  He said there are defects in 900 Msta-S systems.  Siyenko, you’ll recall, is General Director of Uralvagonzavod, owner of Uraltransmash.  The latter has a contract to maintain the Msta-S, but needs to buy new components from sub-contractors.  Siyenko indicated he wants his enterprise to take over Oboronservis affiliate Spetsremont, currently responsible for Defense Ministry armored vehicles.  He said UVZ can’t constantly make repairs “on the fly.”

Litovkin reported 100 R-168-5un radios in the 58th Army are inoperable.  Specialists call these systems from the Yaroslavl Radio Factory unreliable.

However, an earlier NVO article, by Oleg Vladykin, points to the positive; 20 VTA transports were able to operate successfully. 

Vedomosti’s Aleksey Nikolskiy summed the inspection up this way:

“In Soviet times such evaluations were conducted so often that every officer fell into them at least once every two years, says retired Colonel Viktor Murakhovskiy.  Unsatisfactory results after so many years without normal combat training don’t surprise the expert, in his words, such an inspection is very useful and will give the Genshtab a picture of the true condition of combat readiness.  The reason such a large quantity of equipment is out of order is also fully clear — organizational chaos has ruled in the realm of equipment repair in the troops in recent years, the expert says.  Therefore Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s decision to return repair sub-units which were liquidated in the course of the transition to outsourcing should be implemented as quickly as possible.”

Yes, it’s not surprising, and the honesty is the first step toward improvement.  But we should remember the civilian side of the Serdyukov-led Defense Ministry really didn’t, and wasn’t supposed to, worry too much about what the troops could do in strictly military terms.  That was properly the responsibility of the General Staff.  Shouldn’t it be criticizing itself too?  Shouldn’t it have come forward about problems earlier?

And one has to wonder, in the relatively short period of time since Serdyukov announced the outsourcing of most army maintenance, how much outsourcing was actually done?  Certainly some, but certainly not all of it.  Nevertheless, Serdyukov’s scheme is certainly bearing the brunt of the blame.  A proper question might be how capable were those repair sub-units before Serdyukov supposedly swept them all away?  Probably not very.

Army General Gerasimov promised surprise inspections and exercises will occur regularly now.  It’ll be interesting to see just how routine they become.

Surprise Inspection

Army General Valeriy Gerasimov

Army General Valeriy Gerasimov

Complete coverage of General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov’s remarks on the surprise inspection and readiness exercise can be found on Radio Voice of Russia or Mil.ru.

According to the newly-minted army general (four stars), the General Staff planned the inspection on the Defense Minister’s order.  It evaluated command and control organs, formations, and units of the Central and Southern MDs, VDV, VTA, and the 12th GUMO.  It was the largest of its kind in 20 years. 

The inspection began at 0400 on 18 February when operational and unit duty officers received packets with General Staff orders to go to higher states of combat readiness and carry out combat training missions.  This, Gerasimov said, required moving and transporting forces to exercise areas and “unfamiliar terrain” far from their permanent deployment locations.  The inspection included 7,000 soldiers, several hundred pieces of equipment, and 48 aircraft.

The General Staff Chief emphasized that the inspection was a complete surprise to command and control organs and troops to allow for objectively the combat readiness of formations and uncovering problems.

He praised the readiness and performance of sub-units of the VDV’s 98th Air-Assault Division (Ivanovo) and the 4th Air Forces and Air Defense Command (Southern MD / Rostov).  What was likely a battalion tactical group of the 98th loaded in twenty Il-76 transports and flew to Shagol outside Chelyabinsk, marched 100 km under difficult conditions (-20° C / -4° F, broken terrain, deep snow cover) to Chebarkul, and conducted its combat training.  For its part, the 4th VVS and PVO Command’s aircraft conducted bombing exercises with good or excellent results.

There were, however, “a number of systematic deficiencies in the state of combat readiness and lever of personnel training.” 

In practically all evaluated elements, duty officers showed weak skill in transmitting orders via automated combat command and control systems.  They weren’t certain how to receive the order to go to higher readiness.  In the VDV and the 201st Military Base, it took too long to send signals to subordinate troops.

In the Central MD’s 28th Motorized Rifle Brigade, training center graduates, drivers, and mechanic-drivers showed a low level of training.  Tank and BMP crews usually got only satisfactory in firing exercises.  Young officers just graduated from military schools exhibited poor knowledge of weapons and equipment.

Equipment generally performed reliably, given the weather conditions and its age.  Some of it required repair in the field, and, according to Gerasimov, this demonstrated the expedience of the Defense Minister’s decision to reestablish maintenance units.  But they need more training, spare parts, and improved organization.  Factory repair is more problematic:

“Sufficiently efficient work by repair factories and industrial enterprises is a serious problem for the troops.  Equipment coming from capital or medium repair, even under a service guarantee, often breaks down in the first months of its use in line units.  An analysis of deficiencies discovered is currently being conducted.”

Interesting, where does the fault lie?  The factory or troops and young officers who don’t know how to use or repair it?

Gerasimov admitted and lamented that nearly two-thirds of aircraft (in units being drilled?) is out of repair.  He called effective resolution of this problem the most important joint task of command and control organs and industry.

Gerasimov called the BMD-2 both obsolete and worn-out at 20 to 25 years old, or even more.  At 14.2 metric tons, he said the BMD-4M’s weight is at the limit for air transport, and an Il-76 can only carry three.  The General Staff Chief cited repair problems with Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters, Su-25, self-propelled Msta artillery, and R-168-5un radio.  He indicated the still experimental Volk armored vehicle doesn’t meet 12 of its TTZs and won’t undergo repeat state testing.

Gerasimov said the Defense Minister has decided inspections like this will now take place on a regular basis.

Russian Military Power

Finland’s National Defense University has published a study entitled Russian Politico-Military Development and Finland.  If the media reporting is accurate, it may read a little like a latter-day Soviet Military Power.

Now few have read the document since there’s only a two-page English precis to go with press accounts of its contents.  Perhaps the entire thing will appear in English soon.

But here’s the gist. 

NATO and other Western countries believe war is an outdated idea, and U.S. power and interest in Europe are waning.  Russia, meanwhile, is seeking to revise the verdict of the Cold War, restore its great power status, and regain the Soviet sphere of influence.

It’s modernizing its crumbling armed forces with increasing investments [i.e. the 19-trillion-ruble State Program of Armaments or GPV 2011-2020].  The formation of the Unified Strategic Command (OSK) West (aka the new Western MD) has shifted the Russian Army’s center of gravity from Western Europe to the Northwest [at Finland].  And:

“The Russian armed forces are being improved by forming high-readiness forces with a capability of achieving operational results directly from peacetime employment.”

Finally, the study’s authors seem to see a Russian military resurgence that needs to be met by reinvigorating Finland’s territorial defense system:

“A large military reserve force is an indication of the will to defend the country, and has a major preventative value.”

It’s worth challenging three central propositions here.

Russia’s “increasing investments” in its military.  The Finnish report is reacting a priori to plans for large outlays for defense procurement that may or may not happen.  They authors are concerned about Russia’s intention to modernize, and what its forces might look like after modernization.  The current GPV could go the way of its predecessors; the first annual state defense order (GOZ) to fulfill the GPV isn’t exactly proceeding smoothly.  It’s important also to consider what’s being modernized.  In many cases, Moscow plans to replace arms and equipment from the 1980s and earlier, and not everything will be a world-class fourth- or fifth-generation weapons system.  Lots of the “new” models will be based on late Soviet-era designs.  

The shift to the Northwest.  To some extent, there may be an effort to get forces closer to their likely theater of operations.  But hysterical assertions of vastly increased Russian forces shouldn’t be taken seriously.  It’s largely the same forces organized differently, and certainly not all opposite Finland.  The creation of OSK West or the Western MD was also an attempt to cut redundant command and staff echelons and get the Ground Troops out of the expensive environs of Moscow and Moscow Oblast.  One could easily argue the Defense Ministry’s placed a higher priority on forces in the Southern or Eastern MDs. 

The formation of high readiness units.  The report’s authors are quoted as saying Russia’s high readiness forces will be ready to leave garrison, and begin offensive operations in an hour, according to Vzglyad’s interpretation of a Russian-language media outlet in Estonia.  In reality, the forces are now more highly ready to depart the garrison and get combat orders.  No one can say what those orders will say.  Any combat missions will have to be carried out by troops who generally have less than six months in the army, and they’ll be lucky to execute a successful defensive operation.  Also, let’s hope the Finnish study says that this high readiness was really more about getting rid of useless, hollow, low readiness cadre units.

But, as Newsru cites a former deputy commander of the OGV(s) in the North Caucasus, it’s hardly possible to talk about Russian efforts to encircle anyone “in the condition which we’re in, and with those obvious army problems which we have.”

No one should misunderstand.  The Finns are to be admired for their perspicacity when it comes to Moscow.  They’re keen observers of what’s happening in Russia.  They have to be. 

But there’s obviously a huge issue of perspective.  Things look very different from Helsinki, Washington, Paris, London, and Berlin.  Russia’s capabilities are somewhat hyped in a public debate about what level of forces and readiness Finland needs to deter Russia.

But, all in all, it doesn’t help anyone in the long-term to inflate [re-inflate?] a Soviet-style military threat.  A realistic assessment of Russian capabilities and intentions will lead to practical, affordable measures to counter them.