Tag Archives: SAMs

S-500 in 2016?

Predictions of the imminent appearance of the new anti-air, anti-missile S-500 system come with regularity.  Last week’s press reports aren’t novel in this respect.

Deputy Aerospace Forces (VKS) CINC and Chief of Air and Missile Defense General-Lieutenant Viktor Gumennyy [Goo-MYO-knee] says Almaz-Antey is completing development work on the S-500, and the VKS will receive it “soon.” Hard to argue. We know it’s in development, and he doesn’t say what “soon” means.

TASS and RIA Novosti covered Gumennyy’s comments on Rossiya 24 television.

The prevailing forecast is that the S-500 will complete development, and appear with operational units on an “experimental” basis in 2017.

As recently as early 2015, Deputy Defense Minister and procurement chief Yuriy Borisov predicted the S-500 wouldn’t complete development until 2017.

However, TASS reminds that VKS CINC General-Colonel Viktor Bondarev has said deliveries will start in 2016.  He’s an inveterate optimist; in 2012, he said 2013.

In any event, it’s a chance to review what’s claimed to date about the S-500.

The typical advertisement for the S-500 calls it a new generation, long-range surface-to-air missile with increased capability for high altitude (200 km) intercepts against ballistic missiles and RVs.  It can reportedly engage ten ballistic missiles simultaneously at a range of 600 km.  The S-500 is supposed to be superior to both the S-400 Triumf and U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3).

The system is supposed have 40N6M (possibly a longer-range mod of the S-400’s 400-km missile?) missiles as well as hypersonic 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 missile interceptors.  TASS reported that these anti-missile missiles were successfully tested in mid-2014.

According to Interfaks, GPV 2011-2020 calls for procurement of ten battalions (or five “regimental sets”) of the S-500.  Almaz-Antey’s original contract called for initial deliveries in 2015.

Noted by the regime or not, this is “GOZ breaking.” Some producers get in trouble for it; important ones sometimes don’t.

General-Lieutenant Gumennyy also reported that testing of the S-350 Vityaz SAM continues, and initial launches confirmed the system’s performance.  The S-350 will replace older Russian S-300PS SAMs.

Gumennyy said the share of “modern” SAMs and radars in Russia’s inventory is 45 percent.  Last December, the MOD indicated that 52 percent of all VKS weapons and equipment was “modern.”

P.S. President Vladimir Putin’s assistant for military-technical cooperation confirmed for Izvestiya today that Russia is negotiating sales of the S-400 system to China and India.

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Lobby for PVO Strany

Military reorganizations never stop, they just continue at a barely perceptible pace.

Organizational changes start with a campaign for a realignment.  The campaign to form Aerospace Defense Troops (VVKO) started five or six years before they officially stood up on 1 December 2011.

A new campaign is beginning.  Some are arguing VVKO didn’t get everything they need.

Four KPRF Duma deputies who are members of the legislature’s Defense Committee propose upgrading the VVKO from a branch (род) to a service (вид).  That’s symbolic, but not most significant.

More importantly, they say VVKO should control all ground-based air defense assets currently operated by the Air Forces and commanders of Russia’s four military districts (MDs).

Izvestiya reported the story.

Changes the KPRF deputies envisage would almost turn today’s VVKO into a new Soviet PVO Strany — National Air Defense (sans interceptor aircraft) as it existed between 1954 and the 1980s.  Troop PVO (Ground Troops) and Navy PVO would remain separate.

The KPRF deputies argue the vast majority of PVO assets need to be under a unified command to provide effective air defense for Russia.

Vyacheslav Tetekin, former conscript SA-5 operator and Africa expert, said:

“In military affairs the most dangerous thing is when there is no responsibility:  there is no one to make decisions, and no one to bear responsibility.  Until the time when all PVO and VKO resources are transferred into an independent command, we can’t be sure our country is defended against strikes from space and from the air.”

His colleague Aleksandr Tarnayev, former communications officer and KGB military counterintelligence operative, suggested, rather absurdly, that none of this means big changes, just resubordinating units, and replacing emblems on gates.  Units don’t even have to move, unless they need to redeploy to main strike threat axes.

But it is certainly a big change for air defense units that have reported to MDs for the last couple years, or to the Air Forces for an even longer time.

Taking strategic- and operational-level air defense from MD commanders would reduce their capabilities as unified, combined arms warfighters in regional and local conflicts.

Military expert Viktor Murakhovskiy told Izvestiya the idea of VVKO as a service has been discussed before, and the change would cost trillions of rubles:

“This is the idea of creating a unified air defense system for the country like in Soviet times.  For this we would need to combine all VKO brigades and SAM brigades under a single command.  But we would need to understand that to create a seamless defensive field over the country’s entire territory requires a huge amount of money, and the question arises, are these outlays so necessary or is it better to direct them in a different course.”

Murakhovskiy begs a couple good questions.  Is there an existential national air defense threat that justifies taking funds from other pressing military needs?  Is a U.S. (and NATO?) strategic air operation against Russia possible or probable?

VPK editor-in-chief Mikhail Khodarenok told the paper he believes VVKO needs interceptors and there’s not enough money now to create such a full-fledged service:

“In the Soviet system of PVO, for interceptors alone there were 70 regiments — almost 3 thousand aircraft.  But if we divide current aircraft between the Air Forces and PVO, we get two absurd services.  In the future such a division is justified because the Air Forces’ mission is supporting troops, and PVO’s mission is protecting the country’s important administrative and industrial centers from air strikes.  But this is the future in 20-30 years.”

A Duma hearing on VVKO scheduled for 6 November won’t have much affect on the military’s structure.  But this is how major reorganizations have started in the past.  Just don’t look for results soon.

Where’s the Logic? (Addendum)

S-400 Launcher (photo: ITAR-TASS)

One shouldn’t ignore what doesn’t make sense . . . last week the Russian press reported again that the Baltic Fleet’s PVO units (Kaliningrad’s 3rd Aerospace Defense Brigade?) will receive their first S-400 launchers before year’s end.  The first report came in August.  ITAR-TASS cited a source this time – Baltic Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov.

Chirkov didn’t say how many the fleet will get, but he said the S-400 will replace old S-200 (SA-5 / Gammon) surface-to-air missiles.  He says his crews are currently conducting “acceptance-handover” launches, presumably at Ashuluk.

It doesn’t seem logical.  SAM brigades around Moscow can’t get S-400s on time and Chirkov is talking about putting them in Kaliningrad.  And his assertion he’ll get them this month seems odd given the loose schedules and passed deadlines associated with the program.

President Medvedev just finished saying one measure against European missile defense would be deploying the S-400 to protect SYaS.  But SYaS aren’t based in the Russian exclave.  It seems Medvedev would’ve announced it if the military intended to put the new SAMs in Kaliningrad.  Are S-400s going to intercept    SM-3s launched from Poland?  Are they going to protect Iskanders in Kaliningrad?

We’re left waiting to see the logic (and truth) in these reports.  Of course, there doesn’t necessarily have to be a logic compelling or sensible to outsiders.

Team VKO Taking Shape

Team VKO is taking shape according to Kommersant.  Last fall, President Medvedev, of course, ordered the establishment of a unified VKO.  Since then, it’s become clear that Space Troops (KV) Commander, General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko would head it.

And KV will be the base for the new service [vid or вид].  According to the Genshtab plan, VKO will unite all PVO and PRO systems.  And it will control the current KV, Moscow-based OSK VKO, and PVO units from the Air Forces.

The paper’s Defense Ministry source says VKO’s top officers have been identified, and paperwork was sent for Medvedev’s signature last month.  So expect a decree soon.

General-Lieutenant Valeriy Ivanov will be in charge of PVO and PRO for VKO.  He’s a 50-year-old career SAM officer, who commanded PVO divisions or corps in the Far East, Volga, and Moscow MDs.  From 2007-10, he commanded the Far East’s 11th AVVSPVO.  He became commander of the OSK VKO about this time last year.

General-Major Oleg Maydanovich is a 47-year-old KV missile engineer who will head VKO’s space monitoring.  He has long service at Plesetsk and Baykonur, and has been chief of both.  He’s now chief of Russia’s space systems testing and control center.

Colonel Andrey Ilin will be chief of the VKO’s command and control post at Krasnoznamensk.  He served many years at the space tracking post in Shchelkovo.  He’s been chief of staff at Plesetsk since last year.

Ashurbeyli Interviewed (Part I)

Igor Ashurbeyli (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatakov)

Former Almaz-Antey General Director Igor Ashurbeyli gave RIA Novosti a long interview published on Monday.  Ashurbeyli was replaced at Almaz-Antey in early 2011, and he’s now a co-chair of the “Extradepartmental Expert Council on Aerospace Defense.”

He’s an accessible figure, having had extended sessions with the media in 2010 and 2009.  And his view of things has been pretty consistent.

This most recent Ashurbeyli interview spawned a number of sound bites saying that the former lead designer (among other things): 

  • called for establishing an overarching VKO industrial concern; 
  • offered the S-500 for European missile defense; and
  • said S-300 production has ended.

He actually had a lot more to say that might be worth a look.

Asked about Moscow’s anti-missile defense, Ashurbeyli replied that the service life of some Russian strategic interceptor missiles expired, while others [53T6 or Gazelle missiles] had their nuclear warheads removed per the decision of former President Yeltsin. 

Then Ashurbeyli gets to his point — the need for a new anti-missile defense (PRO) led to work on the mobile S-500 system.  Under the contract, it’s supposed to be accepted into the arsenal in 2015.  A schematic draft is complete, and technical design is being conducted.

On air defense, he says the S-300 and S-400 cover Moscow, but the service life of S-300PS systems will expire in the next year or two, and the new Vityaz system won’t be ready to take its place in the PVO network.

Ashurbeyli adds that Vityaz is expected in 2014-2015, but delays are possible due to problems with the new missile.

But, insists the former Almaz-Antey chief, there have never been any technical problem with the long-range missile for the S-400.  He says the problems have involved financing, preparing prototypes, and targets.  More targets and an updated target complex were needed.  And he foresees possibly the same problems with Vityaz testing.

Ashurbeyli tells his interviewer Vityaz, unlike the S-400, has just one base missile.  It will cover the same missions as the S-300PS and S-300PM.  The latter were last manufactured in 1994, and several dozen of the “freshest” will still have life for the next 7-10 years.  Most were updated to the Favorit (S-300PMU2) level but they aren’t new.  So, Ashurbeyli concludes, Russia needs to produce enough Vityaz to replace fully its S-300PS and S-300PM inventory.

The interviewer says relatively less has been written about Morfey.  Ashurbeyli obliges.  Morfey, he says, is a super short-range system and part of Russia’s echeloned defense.  While Vityaz is a medium-range system, and Pantsir and Tor are short-range weapons, Morfey is super short-range.  If developed as envisioned, Morfey will be unique.  It will have an omnidirectional cupola-type radar instead of a rotating one.

In sum, Ashurbeyli believes Morfey, Vityaz, S-400, and S-500 will be sufficient for the ground-based component of VKO for 20-25 years.  The tasks for Morfey and Vityaz were set in 2007 when the VPK decided to develop a single fifth generation surface-to-air PVO-PRO system.  The more complex S-500, he notes, will be longer in development.

More later.

Zelin’s Press Availability

Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin made a variety of remarks to the media this morning.  It’s not clear where yet, but it might have been a press-conference at ITAR-TASS.  It’s the season for such things with Air Forces Day and MAKS-2011 just ahead.

At any rate, Zelin had a lot of information on the status of different VVS programs and plans:

  • Army aviation will expand by more than 1,000 helicopters by 2020.  The number of army aviation bases will grow from 8 to 14 during that time.  He mentioned reestablishing production of Mi-26 transports in a POL supply variant.  Zelin doesn’t sound like he’s willing to surrender the VVS’ hold on army aviation.
  • Zelin mentioned getting 8 or 6 new Su-34 this year.  ITAR-TASS gave both numbers, but we’ve seen six elsewhere.
  • The VVS CINC criticized work on the Su-35, saying it has a number of problems.  PAK FA / T-50 is going on schedule, but he wouldn’t say when he expects it to enter the inventory.
  • On UAVs, some drones will go to the Ground Troops per a Genshtab decision, but Zelin says operational-tactical unmanned aircraft will stay at air bases under the control of military district commanders.
  • Without mentioning S-500 development, Zelin talked about new Morfey and Vityaz SAMs.  Morfey is a short-range system mentioned before as part of S-500.  Zelin described Vityaz in greater detail, calling it an improvement on the S-300 with greater capabilities and 16 missiles per launcher.  See ITAR-TASS for this.
  • Zelin said there will be four S-400 regiments by the end of 2011.  He said the second one, the 210th Air Defense Regiment, went on combat duty with it last week, so two more are expected.  The CINC said the manufacturer’s had problems with the system’s long-range missile, but there is an understanding on how to resolve them.  The Air Forces, he says, still want Almaz-Antey to build another production plant.  Interfaks posted on this.
  • The next 6 Pantsir-S gun-missile air defense systems will go to the OSK VKO around Moscow.  Zelin said the first 4 went to the 4th Air Forces and Air Defense Command at Novorossiysk.
  • Another flight demonstration group will be formed using Yak-130 trainers.
  • Zelin expects to get a new A-100 AWACS aircraft, based on the Il-476, by 2016.  He says it will have both air and ground surveillance missions.  The plan has Genshtab and financial support, according to Zelin.

Shamanov’s Press Conference

General-Lieutenant Shamanov

Ever-loquacious VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov held a wide-ranging press conference on Wednesday.  The Defense Ministry web site covered it hereITAR-TASS also published a number of short items on it. 

Shamanov detailed the work of five immediate deployment VDV battalions, lobbied again for a helicopter regiment, and discussed training issues and his procurement desires.  He joined the dogpile on top of the Russian OPK although he once seemed to defend it, and he credited Putin alone for the initiative to modernize the military’s arms and equipment.

He described his forces as combat ready, and manned and equipped at 100 percent.

Relative to combat readiness, Shamanov announced that the VDV has dedicated five battalions for immediate deployment which, if necessary, will be its first units sent into combat.  He said:

“By agreement with the General Staff, in the VDV we’ve dedicated five battalions for immediate deployment.  The uniqueness of service in these battalions is such that personnel from each of the battalions goes on leave for 45 days as a complete unit.  Therefore, at a minimum four battalions are always ready for combat deployment.  Today one of the sub-units of such a battalion from the 31st Airborne-Assault Brigade (Ulyanovsk) is fulfilling missions in Kyrgyzia [sic].”

Shamanov also gave voice to his desire, more modestly expressed than in April, for some aviation assets for VDV.  Speaking about the VDV’s future development, he said his troops must become airmobile.  To this end, he’s “given the Genshtab’s Main Operations Directorate [GOU] a request on the issue of forming a helicopter regiment in one of the three airborne-assault divisions [DShD or ДШД].”

Shamanov discussed VDV training at great length.  He started, of course, by speaking about jump training.  The parachute jump training plan was 70 percent fulfilled during the winter training period.  He blamed poor weather, saying troops often jumped in minus 30 degrees Celsius—the lowest acceptable temperature.  The plan for jumps from An-2 aircraft was fulfilled, but only 70 percent fulfilled from Il-76 aircraft.  He noted the VDV conducted its first-ever drop of a BMD-2 with its crew on-board, and said this hasn’t been done in 7 years, and then it was a BMD-1.  Use of the BMD-2 was significant, he said, because the BMD-2 represents 80 percent of VDV’s combat vehicle inventory.

Shamanov talked about large Spetsnaz assault group jump training in guided parachutes.  He said the use of guided parachutes allows reconnaissance troops to complete a horizontal flight of 20 kilometers, and:

“Our goal is to get so that such movements reach 40 kilometers, as they do in the Israeli Army.”

The VDV Commander noted that the multi-component Polet-K command and control system was tested for the first time in winter training.  He said: 

“It still isn’t the full suite envisioned in the future.  We are one-third through its introduction into the forces.  This process won’t happen in a year.”

Also for the first time, an artillery sub-unit of the 98th Airborne-Assault Division used Russian-made ‘Eleron’ UAVs for target designation on the Luga training grounds.  Shamanov said five ‘Eleron’ UAVs were employed in the training, and they conducted supplemental reconnaissance to a range of 10 kilometers in advance of fire missions.  This summer, 12 VDV crews will train on Israeli-made UAVs in Moscow Oblast.  Shamanov said:

“Unfortunately, our representatives did not go to Israel where they produce the ‘Hermes’ UAV which has been bought by Russia.”

Shamanov noted more attention to air defense training in the VDV this winter.  There were 40 firings of manportable ‘Strela-10’ and ‘Igla’ SAMs.

For the summer training period, Shamanov noted the VDV has 9,300 conscripts to get through three jumps in the course of 1.5 months.  The VDV will participate in ‘Vostok-2010’ and the CSTO’s ‘Cooperation-2010.’  There will be a VDV-level CSX (КШУ), as well as a CSX involving the 98th VDD (or ВДД).

Following the lessons of the Georgian war, the VDV is periodically training on the Navy’s large assault ships (BDK or БДК).  Shamanov says:

“In the winter training period we transported the 108th Regiment on large assault ships three times.  The exercises ended with a naval assault landing by a reinforced assault-landing battalion (ДШБ).

Last but not least, Shamanov commented on VDV procurement, and transport aircraft in particular:

“Work on the State Armaments Program for 2011-2020 is being completed.  According to our requests, in it there is the modernization of Il-76 aircraft, renewal of production and modernization of An-124 aircraft, the purchase of 30-40 An-70 aircraft.”

An-70

But the VDV Commander stressed these were his requests, and the final say isn’t his.  Utro.ru quoted him:

“In the development of the state [armaments] program, we gave our proposals, whether they’ll be realized in the confirmed version of the state program, I can’t say yet.”

Gzt.ru and Lenta.ru covered the An-70 and An-124 story in detail.

Shamanov said troop testing of the ‘Shakhin’ thermal sight for infantry weapons is complete.  He said:

“There has to be one approach for weapons—they have to be all-weather.  Not long ago the thermal sight ‘Shakhin’ went through troop testing.  After the testing we returned it to the designers for reworking.  We’ve given the task that our weapons work according to the aviation principle—turn your head and firing systems turn after it.”

He commented on air-dropping the BMD-4M, and added that, “The BMD-4M has every chance in the future, owing to its qualities, to be the forces’ main infantry combat vehicle.”

Although he seemed more like a supporter of Russian-made weapons six months ago, Shamanov now applauds Prime Minister Putin [not President Medvedev?] for searching for good weapons and equipment abroad.  Shamanov said the prospect of foreign competitors has forced “the domestic OPK to move,” as reported by Utro.ru.  He continued:

“Last year when industry was told that we’d look for alternatives abroad, they began to move.  In particular, the atmosphere around Mistral is creating a significant context for the domestic OPK.  When people declare that they’re ready to produce 21st century weapons but their equipment is from the 30s and 40s [of the 20th century], how can you talk about the 21st century?  Therefore, every official supports Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s initiative on the requirement to renew our armaments.  As long as this doesn’t happen, we’ll being shifting in place, and this won’t be just a lament of Yaroslav’s daughter [reference to the Prince Igor’s wife in the Lay of the Host of Igor after his defeat by the Turkic Polovtsy in 1185].”

At the same time, Shamanov concluded that GAZ and Izhevsk vehicles perform better for the VDV in the snow that equivalent Italian and Canadian ones.

Shamanov also said it’s essential to decide what to buy without any kind of lobbying, and for his part, he bases his decisions on saving soldiers’ lives and fulfilling missions.