Tag Archives: Redeployment

Not Enough Men or Transports

Il-76 Transport Landing (photo: Kommersant / Anatoliy Zhdanov)

Il-76 Transport Landing (photo: Kommersant / Anatoliy Zhdanov)

Another large-scale Russian military “surprise inspection” has concluded, and military commentator Ilya Kramnik has placed it, and other exercises, into perspective for Lenta.ru.

Interpreted as a prologue to war in Europe by some, the Kremlin-directed “surprise inspections” are the logical continuation of a process in recent years.  It is the process of developing strategic mobility through deployment exercises, according to Kramnik.

The latest six-day “surprise inspection” focused on deploying and redeploying forces in Russia’s Arctic regions, but President Vladimir Putin expanded it into a nation-wide exercise.

Kramnik focuses his analysis first on the Kaliningrad exclave.  Russia has practiced its defense of this region since the mid-2000s on an expanding scale. But the first large-scale drill in Kaliningrad, Kramnik says, was Zapad-2009.

Kaliningrad is where the pattern of special attention to troop mobility developed. In “surprise inspections,” military units from almost every armed service and branch were delivered by ground, rail, sea, or air transport to unfamiliar ranges in that region to conduct training missions.

The pattern has repeated in each of Russia’s “strategic directions.” Although Kramnik doesn’t describe it as such, it is, in effect, the establishment of expeditionary forces within the Russian military intended for internal transfer and use on any of Russia’s borders (or beyond them).  

If mobility questions play a key role in Kaliningrad, Kramnik continues, they are dominant when it comes to the Arctic.  All Arctic deployments depend on Navy and Air Forces transport capabilities.  Then he writes:

“It relies first and foremost on reestablishment of infrastructure which supports, if necessary, the redeployment [переброска] of troops by sea and by air and not requiring large numbers of personnel for daily service and security.  13 airfields, radar stations, repaired ports and other facilities allow forces to return quickly ‘in a threatening period.’  And to control the surrounding sea and air space a rather sufficiently compact grouping based here on a permanent basis.”

Kramnik concludes that Russia is confronting its weakness — armed forces not large enough to garrison its immense territory.  This increased attention to strategic maneuver is a means to compensate for an insufficient number of troops.  He takes a comment from Viktor Murakhovskiy:

“Today we don’t have a single self-sufficient grouping on any of our [strategic] directions.  This is the main reason for the great attention the Armed Forces leadership allocates to the potential for redeploying forces.”

Mobility, guaranteed by a developed railroad network, and in distant and isolated TVDs by the world’s second largest inventory of military-transport aviation, should support the potential for Russia, if necessary, to “swing the pendulum” — effectively maneuvering forces between different TVDs, Kramnik writes.  The capacity provided by the civilian airlines and fleet can also add to this.

But besides men, Russia also lacks enough transport aircraft.  

Kramnik writes that while attention has gone to constructing and reconstructing airfields and finding personnel to service them, the VTA’s order-of-battle is in critical condition, especially in terms of light and medium transports.  The average age of the An-26 inventory is nearly 35 years; the An-12 more than 45 years.

Events of the last year in Ukraine ended what were already difficult talks with Kyiv about building the An-70 and restarting production of the An-124.  Meanwhile, much of the Antonov Design Bureau’s competence has degraded, according to CAST Deputy Director Konstantin Makiyenko.

So today, Kramnik says, Russia has at its disposal only one serial VTA aircraft — the modernized Il-76, developed 40 years ago with serious limits on the weight and dimensions of military equipment it can deliver.  It will be supplemented by the Il-112 (light) and Il-214 (medium) transports, and by a “future aviation system transport aviation” or PAK TA.

The very same reported PAK TA that generated hysterical press here, then here, and here by promising to land an entire armored division of new Russian T-14 / Armata tanks overnight, anywhere in the world.  From an aircraft industry at pains to duplicate large but old designs like Antonov’s?  Obviously, a sudden outbreak of irrational Soviet-style giantism.

In the end, Kramnik concludes that VTA needs a high priority or Russia will have trouble moving combat capable groupings to the Arctic and Far East.  New aerial tankers are needed as well.

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Battalion Travels Lighter in Mobilnost Redux

Krasnaya zvezda covered the opening phases of Vostok-2010 for those willing to plod through or skim the article.  Motorized rifle brigades are taking turns practicing defeating bandit groups, the VVS are providing air support to MVD Internal Troops units, and PVO battalions are conducting night firing exercises with new C2 systems.

RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS reported that nearly 600 Volga-Ural Military District (PUrVO) troops were flown to the Far East on Tuesday (29 June) to participate in summer’s marquee training event.  Four Military-Transport Aviation (VTA or ВТА) Il-76MD transports delivered a battalion tactical group (BTG) with only light weapons to join in the operational-strategic exercise (OSU or ОСУ). 

According to ITAR-TASS, General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov said that in the course of Vostok-2010:

“. . . issues are being broadly worked out about the expedience of redeploying at a great distance trained personnel which have to take military equipment held at mobilization bases and immediately go into combat.”

This certainly sounds like a military establishment not fully embracing an idea, at least right away.

According to Krasnaya zvezda, a BTG from the 28th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade flew 6,000 kilometers from Koltsovo, outside Yekaterinburg, to Vozdvizhenka, north of Ussuriysk, on a 10-hour flight with a refueling stop at Belaya near Irkutsk.  The 28th was built on the base of a regiment of the old 34th MRD.

Krasnaya zvezda said the battalion moved via truck to an armaments and equipment storage base [БХРВТ] at Sibirtsevo for outfitting with heavy equipment.  The 247th BKhRVT was established last year with the remnants of the former 121st MRD.  After removing equipment from storage and some training, they were slated to join tactical combat firing at Sergeyevka.

Acting PUrVO Commander General-Lieutenant Sergey Surovikin saw off the battalion; he commanded the brigade’s forerunner—the 34th MRD in 2004.  The brigade’s commander, Colonel Anatoliy Sinelnikov, was Surovikin’s deputy division commander in 2004 when it first sent a BTG to the Far East.

Krasnaya zvezda asked Surovikin to compare the current redeployment with the earlier one six years ago in Mobilnost-2004:

“Then a sub-unit with all of its TO&E equipment was sent into action.  And it fulfilled its assigned mission.  The current exercise is being conducted according to the General Staff’s decision which specifies checking the expedience of means of redeploying troops on various strategic axes.  In this instance, the exercise is being conducted only with personnel – without transporting combat equipment and heavy weapons to the Far East.  But it allows us to check the possibility of redeploying troops in other strategic directions.  And to conduct such a redeployment in a very short period.  And using for these purposes Military-Transport Aviation aircraft as well as civilian airlines.”

“In this exercise, means of regrouping troops in short time periods are being tried.  By comparison:  if in OSU Mobilnost-2004 we could send a battalion of the 276th Motorized Rifle Regiment of our division by air to the Far East together with its combat equipment and vehicles in 8 days, then this time such a battalion will get there in significantly less time.  And the quantity of aircraft take-offs to transport the very same sub-unit to another theater of military operations was reduced more than ten times.  High strategic mobility is achieved with much lower expenditure of forces and budget resources.”

While not exactly a Russian Reforger, this redeployment exercise looks like working smarter, not harder.  So it represents some payoff from the effort to turn understrength, excess units into mobilization bases.  Of course, one has to believe there’s still some element of the set piece in all this.  The battalion being moved was probably one of the best, and the BKhRVT was probably well-prepared to hand out the necessary weapons and combat vehicles.