Tag Archives: SPRN

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.”

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Early Bidding on VKO

2011 should be interesting on the Aerospace Defense (VKO or ВКО) front. 

The President’s poslaniye has been turned into orders, including Medvedev’s directive to unify missile defense (PRO), air defense (PVO), missile attack warning (PRN), and space monitoring systems under the command and control of a single strategic command before next December.

This issue will likely take more than a year to come to any kind of resolution.  Moreover, it’s likely to be a bruising bureaucratic battle royale over control and organization that does nothing to improve Russia’s military capabilities, certainly in the near-term and possibly longer. 

Both Deynekin and Svpressa.ru below make the point that there are real live officers who’ll get jerked around (again) by major moves in aerospace-related branches.  Konovalov wonders whether the Kremlin won’t spend too much effort against the wrong threat.

According to RIA Novosti, a Defense Ministry source says the issue of establishing this command by taking PVO from the Air Forces (VVS) and giving it to the Space Troops (KV) is being worked.  And he doesn’t rule out that “significant organizational and structural changes” could occur in the KV.  But, of course, the final decision on this strategic command lies with the Supreme CINC.

RIA Novosti interviewed former VVS CINC, Army General Petr Deynekin, who said:

“. . . the new structure [VKO] shouldn’t be subordinate to some new command.  It should go under the Air Forces, since they are the most modern service of the armed forces.”

He also warned the Defense Ministry against a reorganization which creates more tension in the officer corps.

Olga Bozhyeva in Moskovskiy komsomolets reviews the past history of transformations involving PVO and Missile-Space Defense (RKO), and concludes the VVS and KV will both end up subordinate to a new command under the General Staff.

Interviewed for Novyy region, Leonid Ivashov sees nothing new in Medvedev’s order on a unitary VKO command.  But it will be an uphill task.  He says Russia currently has practically no missile defense system.  The PVO system’s been reduced to point defense, and it doesn’t cover much of Russia’s territory.  More than anything, he sees it as a defense-industrial issue – can the OPK provide the military with new air and space defense systems?

Svpressa.ru concludes there’s no doubt aerospace attack is Russia’s biggest threat, but over the last two decades armed forces reformers have just played their favorite game of putting services and branches together and taking them apart again, and:

“No one considers the money and material resources expended, or even the fates of thousands of officers who’ve fallen under the chariot wheel of organizational-personnel measures.”

Svpressa.ru describes how RKO and the Military-Space Forces (VKS) went to the RVSN under Defense Minister Sergeyev in 1997, then PVO went to the VVS, and they had to create the KV as a home for elements the RVSN no longer wanted in 2001.  The article concludes that this kept VKO divided in half.  Now VVS and KV generals are already hotly debating how Medvedev’s new order on VKO will be implemented.

Svpressa.ru asked Aleksandr Konovalov what he thinks.  Konovalov says VKO is being created against the U.S., when Russia faces more immediate threats from countries without any space capabilities.

In terms of how a unitary strategic command of VKO might be established, Konovalov concludes:

“It’s still impossible to judge this.  I think Serdyukov doesn’t know the answer to this question yet.  Another thing worries me more.  Here we’ve created four operational-strategic [sic] commands – ‘East,’ ‘Center,’ ‘South,’ and ‘West’ – in the Armed Forces in the event of war.  And in peacetime on these borders four military districts remain.  I can’t understand how they will interact.  And it’s all right if I don’t understand.  It’s worse if the Defense Ministry itself is also ignorant.  Judging by everything, it’s impossible to rule this out.  And there are much more real enemies than the U.S. against these newly-minted operational-strategic [sic] commands and districts.  That’s something to think about.  But VKO . . .  If there’s extra money, VKO could also be created.  It could be useful some time.”

Medvedev Inspects Strategic Forces

In Friday’s Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, Viktor Litovkin claimed, the day before, President Dmitriy Medvedev visited the inner sanctum of Russia’s Aerospace Defense (VKO or ВКО) – the Central Command Post (ЦКП) of the 3rd Independent Air Defense (Missile Warning) Army in Solnechnogorsk.  Now Litovkin admits VKO doesn’t technically exist yet.  But preparations are underway, and he suggests, besides PVO, SPRN, PRO, space monitoring, etc., it will even include the RVSN.  Litovkin maintains tests of this system are ongoing, and Medvedev came to inspect it.  He watched troops track all three of Thursday’s SLBM and ICBM launches, and saw the missiles’ warheads land on their respective targets.  And, according to Litovkin, the point was to demonstrate the reliability of Russia’s nuclear missile capability to Medvedev as new SNV treaty limits loom.

Could the shrinking RVSN be subsumed under VKO as a new service or branch?  Could this explain the fairly rapid command shifts from Solovtsov to Shvaychenko to Karakayev?

Litovkin on What the GPV Will Buy

Viktor Litovkin (photo: RIA Novosti)

Returning to procurement and the GPV . . . in this week’s Delovoy vtornik, NVO’s Viktor Litovkin also asks what will 19 trillion rubles be spent on. 

He says the answer isn’t simple.  During the last 20 years of ‘starvation rations,’ the armed forces got handfuls of essential combat equipment, and, meanwhile, a dangerous imbalance between strike and combat support systems was created.  And this was obvious against Georgia in 2008. 

Litovkin says this imbalance has to be corrected, meanwhile priorities like strategic nuclear forces can’t be forgotten – not just the offensive triad, but also the missile attack early warning system (SPRN), missile defense (PRO), and aerospace defense (VKO). 

Like Viktor Yesin of late, Litovkin asks how Russia will replace its aging strategic offensive arms to stay up to the limits of the Prague / New START agreement.  Half the Russian force is SS-18, SS-19, and SS-25 ICBMs which will be retired in 7-10 years.  Moscow needs to build 400 strategic systems to replace them.  He doesn’t even mention Delta III and IV SSBNs and their aging SLBMS.  And Russia has only the SS-27, RS-24 Yars, Sineva, and Bulava to replace them. 

Litovkin expects a very large amount of money to be spent not just on replacing strategic systems, but also reequipping the enterprises that produce them. 

He turns to his second priority – also demonstrated by the Georgian war – precision-guided weapons, which in turn depend on reconnaissance-information support and equipment in space, on long-range surveillance aircraft [AWACS], and UAVs. 

Priority three – automated command and control systems (ASU).  He cites Popovkin on linking all service C2 systems into one system over 2-3 years. 

Litovkin says you can’t forget about the Navy, but he mentions just the Borey-class SSBNs, and the need for a wide range of surface ships.  And he makes the point [made by many] that Mistral is all well and good, but it’ll have to have multipurpose combatants operating in its battle group.  They need to be built, and they won’t cost a small amount of money. 

One can’t forget aviation either.  Litovkin cites a $100 million per copy cost for 60 fifth generation fighters [that’s a significant 180-billion-ruble bite out of the GPV].  He notes Vega is working on an updated Russian AWACS (A-100).  And, like Korotchenko, he mentions transport aircraft, but also combat and support helicopters. 

And so, says Litovkin, the question arises – isn’t the country putting out a lot of money to rearm its army? 

Viktor Litovkin (photo: Ekho Moskvy)

Being bold, he says, not really.  He actually uses that accursed 22 trillion figure, which is procurement for all power ministries.  If he used 19 trillion, it would be 1.9 trillion or $63 billion per year for Russia against $636 billion for the U.S., $78 billion for China, $58 billion for the U.K., and $51 billion for Japan.  But he doesn’t say this is annual procurement, the GPV, against the total annual defense budget for these other countries.  A bit of comparing one piece of pie to a whole pie.  Nevertheless, he concludes this makes Russia far from champion when it comes to military expenditures. 

Litovkin’s last word is Russia will remain one of the G8 with a powerful, combat capable, and effective army, but without it, only a raw materials appendage of either the West or East. 

But one wonders, hasn’t Russia long been in the G8 without that kind of armed forces?  Doesn’t breaking away from the raw materials supplier role have more to do with developing an open, attractive, innovative, value-added, and competitive economy (and a political system and society to match) than with military power?