Tag Archives: SYaS

Nuclear Subs Starving the Fleet (Part I)

Kazan in the launching dock in 2017

Kazan in the launching dock in 2017

What follows is a translation of Maksim Klimov’s October 22 article in VPK. He writes frequently on naval issues.

“What Do You Ask of an ‘Ash’: Nuclear Submarines Keep the Fleet on Starvation Rations”

“On 25 September the lead nuclear-powered submarine of project 885M ‘Kazan’ went to sea for factory underway trials. This event didn’t go unnoticed in foreign media or ours. Taking into account the fact that the lion’s share of resources allocated to the Navy go to the nuclear submarine fleet, there’s sense in sorting out the real effectiveness of the expenditures.”

“The ‘Borey’ —  ‘Bulava’ program is the megaproject of recent history. A lot of copy about its utility has been ripped up. According to the facts we have, six years after completing state testing of the lead boat and three years after transferring the first series vessel to the Pacific Fleet not a single firing of a ‘Bulava’ SLBM from the Pacific Ocean from ‘Aleksandr Nevskiy’ or ‘Vladimir Monomakh’ has taken place. According to media information, the lead SSBN ‘Yuriy Dolgorukiy’ doesn’t carry a combat load and, evidently, is being used as a floating stand for developing and tweaking ‘Bulava’.”

“Deterrence Deterred”

“We have to bow here to TsKB ‘Rubin’ General Director Sergey Kovalev for preserving the SSBN grouping of projects 667BDRM and BDR, which are today actually carrying out strategic nuclear deterrence missions.”

“In the current state of affairs questions arise as to the utility for Russia of having a naval component of SYaS [trans. Strategic Nuclear Forces]. The problem is all means of the ‘triad’ have their shortcomings and virtues, and the reliability of deterrence is guaranteed by covering the minuses of one with the pluses of the others. In the scope of all deterrence systems it’s sufficient for us to have just one, guaranteed untrackable SSBN. But this, undoubtedly, requires a certain number of them in the fleet’s composition. Because the foundation of strategic deterrence is not range of flight or the quantity of warheads on missiles, but inevitability of a retaliatory strike, the basis of which is the combat stability of naval SYaS.”

“There is an analogous problem with non-nuclear means of deterrence, cruise missiles and their carriers.”

“Taking into account the failure of modernization of third-generation boats a bet has been placed on the grouping of new project 885(M) nuclear subs. It would seem logical since the missile salvo of project 885 exceeds the American ‘Virginias’ and even the Western media is crying about a ‘new Russian threat’. The problem is only that there aren’t enough missiles on project 885 boats for effective deterrence, and the carrier itself is too expensive and low-volume. If we call a spade a spade, creating an effective system of non-nuclear deterrence on the basis of project 885M nuclear subs is far beyond the bounds of the state’s economic capabilities. Moreover, we still have to go to the volley point. This is precisely where the main problems begin.”

“Won’t Hold Up in Battle”

“Traditionally they say quietness is the main quality of a submarine. What does this actually mean? The foreign comparative graphic [trans. link added] of the reduction of noise in USSR (RF) and U.S. submarines is well-known. Comparing this graphic with data on the noise of subs of the first-fourth generations it’s obvious that the given levels for our fourth-generation lag U.S. Navy multipurpose nuclear submarines by not less than 10 decibels.”

“Project 885 ‘Yasen’ is the only modern multipurpose submarine which retains the propeller screw, all remaining ones have gone to water pumpjets. The reason is requirements for significant increases in low-noise speed, up to 20 knots. But as research shows, at the same noise level, the speed of ‘Severodvinsk’ and ‘Kazan’ is, obviously, much lower than that of the American ‘Virginia’ and ‘Seawolf’ [trans. SSN-774 and SSN-21 classes respectively]. And this is an extremely serious tactical flaw, the consequences of which are not fully understood by us.”

“Meanwhile now our ‘partners’ [trans. the U.S.] are developing new ways of detecting submarines. Submarine officers in Severomorsk laid down the flight track of an American ‘Orion’ reconnaissance aircraft on a map of the disposition of our nuclear submarines in the course of exercises. And all ten turning points of its route precisely followed the disposition of our submarines. In fact it didn’t even search, but went to the exact point. The ‘Orion’ went precisely to our nuclear submarine without any tacking, dropped a buoy and went to the next one.”

“The scope of threats from enemy aircraft aren’t recognized by us because domestic anti-submarine aviation is catastrophically behind the foreign level. The concept of even the newest Russian airborne search-targeting systems are from the 1970s. ‘Novella’ (‘Leninets’), as was officially announced, guarantees ‘an increase in the effectiveness of the Il-38 by four times.’ The problem is the Il-38’s capability against low-noise submarines was close to zero.”

“Evading Testing”

“Even in 2010 Rear-Admiral Anatoliy Lutskiy  wrote that it was proposed to equip ‘Yasen’ and ‘Borey’ submarines with torpedo defense systems which had technical tasks for development put together back in the 1980s. Moreover, the results of research into the effectiveness of these means against modern torpedoes attest to the entirely low probability that an evading submarine could escape destruction.”

“Since then two generations of torpedo weapons have been replaced, and there’s obviously no need to talk today about the possibility of effectively employing drifting systems of the ‘Vist’ type or the extremely expensive ‘Udar’ for anti-torpedo defense. The situation has only one solution — conducting objective testing together with new torpedo types. However, the consequences for the pair of them are obviously devastating, so simply no one will allow the testing.”

“What Is To Be Done”

“We aren’t simply investing huge amounts of money in combat systems of dubious effectiveness, but also tearing them away from education, science, and rearmament of the ground forces where there is still a difficult situation with combat equipment. In the Navy betting on submarines keeps surface ship construction on a starvation diet. It has led to the stagnation of naval aviation.”

“During development of proposals for ‘Basic Directions for Development of VVST [trans. Armaments, Military and Special Equipment] to 2030’ the author raised the question of conducting proactive R&D into weapons and countermeasures for fifth-generation submarines. This is acutely important since there are a number of fundamental points regarding the appearance of a weapon which directly influence the construction of submarines. To do it ‘the old way’ is to lay down a growing lag in our submarine fleet.”

“To resolve the critical problems of the Navy’s submarine forces it’s essential firstly to conduct special testing and research exercises. Until they are completed the construction of nuclear-powered subs could be significantly reduced for the redistribution of limited financial resources to higher priority and more critical directions of defense organizational development — surface ships and aviation.”

There’s a lot to think about here. Watch for Part II.

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Putin on Nuclear Forces and Aerospace Defense

Today’s meeting on implementing GPV-2020 (the third thus far) was devoted to nuclear forces and aerospace defense.  However, President Vladimir Putin had little specific to say, at least in his published remarks.

He obligatorily noted how VVKO and especially SYaS bear “special responsibility” for Russia’s security, territorial integrity, and global and regional parity and stability.

VKO, the president said, must not only be in permanent combat readiness to defend military and state command and control facilities against a potential enemy’s attack, but also “provide clear and effective coordination with other services and troop branches.”

In other words, lots of air and aerospace defense assets don’t belong to VVKO, and their job is to integrate them into a network.

On the nuclear side, Putin said Russia isn’t looking for an arms race but rather to ensure “the reliability and effectiveness of our nuclear potential.”

To reequip SYaS and VKO, the Supreme Glavk indicated Russia intends to allocate a “significant part” of the total resources for GPV-2020, but, again, nothing more specific.  By 2020, SYaS is supposed to have 75-80 percent modern weapons systems, and VVKO not less than 70 percent.

And that’s all we learn about the meeting.  Or almost all.

Kremlin.ru provided a participant list that’s a bit interesting.  Many officials and industry leaders you’d expect attended.  But some were noticeably absent — missile designers from MIT, missile builders from Votkinsk, and the RVSN Commander.  Surprisingly, the general director of the Makeyev design bureau was present.

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.

First Get Some Rockets

Iskander

How do you rattle your rockets?  First get some rockets. 

President Dmitriy Medvedev’s address last week underscored the extent to which Russian foreign and defense policies are hampered by the condition of the OPK and its shortage of production capacity.

Medvedev’s description of Russian steps in response to U.S. and NATO missile defense in Europe certainly didn’t surprise anyone, though it may have forced them to conclude the U.S.-Russian “reset” is wearing thin.

To refresh the memory, the first four were (1) put the Kaliningrad BMEW radar into service; (2) reinforce the defense of SYaS with VVKO; (3) equip strategic ballistic missile warheads with capabilities to overcome MD; and (4) develop measures to disrupt MD command and control.

Then fifth, repeating several previous assertions to this effect, Medvedev said:

“If the enumerated measures are insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy in the country’s west and south modern strike weapons systems which guarantee the destruction of MD’s European component.  One such step will be deployment of the ‘Iskander’ missile system in the Kaliningrad special region.”

And, ultimately, of course, Medvedev also noted the dispute over MD could lead Russia to withdraw from new START.

Russianforces.org was first to write that Medvedev’s enumerated steps represented nothing more militarily than what Moscow already intends to do, with or without U.S. missile defense in Europe.

Kommersant recalled the difficulty of making threats with the Iskanders:

“The problem is by virtue of its limited range (several hundred kilometers) ‘Iskander’ missiles can only threaten [Russia’s] neighboring states, but in no way the U.S. MD system as a whole, and on this plane, they have little influence on the strategic balance as such.  Moreover, the Russian military has promised to begin deploying ‘Iskanders’ massively since 2007, but since then the deadlines for their delivery to the army has been postponed more than once.  The army now has a single brigade of ‘Iskanders’ – the 26th Neman [Brigade], which is deployed near Luga.  This is 12 launchers.  There is also a 630th Independent Battalion in the Southern Military District.  In GPV-2020, ten brigades more are promised.”

So, Iskander deployments, including probably in Kaliningrad, will happen anyway, regardless of MD, when Moscow is able to produce the missiles.

Interfaks-AVN quoted Ruslan Pukhov on the missile production capacity issue.  If Russia wants to deploy Iskander in Kaliningrad or Belarus or Krasnodar Kray as a response to European MD, then:

“. . . it’s essential to build a new factory to produce these missiles since the factory in Votkinsk can’t handle an extra mission.”

“Productivity suffers because of the great ‘heterogeneity’ of missiles [Iskander, Bulava, Topol-M, Yars].  Therefore, if we want our response to MD on our borders to be done expeditiously, and not delayed, we need a new factory.”

Vesti FM also covered his remarks:

“’Iskander’ is produced at the Votkinsk plant.  The ‘Bulava,’ and ‘Topol-M,’ and multi-headed ‘Yars,’ are also produced there.  Therefore, such heterogeneity in missiles leads to the fact that they are produced at an extremely low tempo.”

The 500-km Iskander (SS-26 / STONE), always advertised with significant capabilities to defeat MD, was accepted in 2006.  But the Russian Army didn’t  complete formation of the Western MD Iskander brigade or Southern MD battalion until the middle of last month, according to ITAR-TASS.  The army expects to get a full brigade of 12 launchers each year until 2020. 

But Iskanders still aren’t rolling off the line like sausages.  This spring Prime Minister Putin promised to double missile output, including from Votkinsk, starting in 2013, and pledged billions of rubles to support producers.  In early 2010, Kommersant wrote about Votkinsk overloaded with orders, trying to modernize shops to produce Iskander.

Votkinsk and Iskander are, by the way, not the only defense-industrial problem relative to countering MD.  Nezavisimaya gazeta pointed out VVKO will need lots of new S-400 and S-500 systems (and factories to produce them) to protect Russia’s SYaS.  But we digress . . . .

What do defense commentators think about Medvedev’s statement and Iskanders? 

Vladimir Dvorkin calls them a far-fetched threat:

“There are no scenarios in which they could be used.  If Russia used them in an initial preventative strike, then this would signify the beginning of a war with NATO on which Russia would never embark.”

Aleksey Arbatov says relatively short-range missiles don’t scare the Americans, but could spoil relations with Poland and Romania.

Aleksandr Golts says the slow pace of Iskander production makes it not a very serious threat.  He notes Putin’s restraint on threats over MD:

“Being a rational man, he perfectly understands that an attempt to create such a threat will get an immediate response, which, considering the West’s potential, will create a much bigger problem for Russia.  That is, there’ll be a repetition on another scale of the history with the deployment of Soviet medium-range missiles in Europe.”

One supposes rather than driving a wedge between the U.S. and MD-host countries, Russian threats might reaffirm the wisdom of having a tangible U.S. presence on their territory.

Lastly, Leonid Ivashov reacts to Medvedev’s reminder that Russia could withdraw from new START:

“When President Medvedev says that we will withdraw from SNV [START], the Americans just smile.  They know perfectly well the state of our defense-industrial complex.”

Solomonov on Need for Increased Missile Production

MIT General Designer Yuriy Solomonov told Interfaks yesterday Russia needs to increase intercontinental ballistic missile production in the coming years to preserve its strategic nuclear forces (SYaS or СЯС).  See a more complete version of his remarks at Arms-expo.ru.  He said:

“We have two years at our disposition to be in a condition, proceeding from implementation of the production preparation program, to get all cooperation ready for the possibility of manufacturing a large quantity of products.  Many times more than have been made previously.”

He said Russia has produced 6-10 missiles per year over the last ten years.  And he acknowledged that plans for increased production volume may not be fulfilled:

“All this rests, with respect to corporate enterprises, on resolving the task of allocating them investment.  And the regulatory-technical base — the way officials interpret it — doesn’t allow for resolving this task.  If it isn’t resolved, it’s possible to say unequivocally that the task of significantly increasing the volume of products delivered by 2013 won’t be fulfilled either.”

So he’s saying the reluctant state will need to invest in Votkinsk and its component suppliers?

Solomonov notes that the Votkinsk plant, manufacturer of the Topol-M and RS-24 ICBMs, produced up to 120 Pioner (SS-20) medium-range missiles a year between 1980 and 1987.  He says:

“It follows from this that the production capabilities of the factory undoubtedly allow it to realize, proceeding from this potential, production of a substantially larger quantity of missiles than in the preceding ten years.”

New Year’s Peep Show (Part II)

On with Krasnaya zvezda’s peep into the Defense Ministry’s organizational and force development document . . .

What about strategic nuclear forces in the future:

“Their further development will support a guaranteed counter to forecast changes in the strategic balance of forces, connected in the first place with the deployment of a U.S. global anti-missile system, but also the growing potential of U.S. and NATO highly accurate weapons.”

The three-component structure of the SYaS (land, sea, and air) will be preserved.  And the plan repeats earlier assurances that the SYaS will be 70 percent modern by 2015, and 100 percent by 2020, as a result of the GPV.

Does the composition of the armed forces meet today’s threats?

The document says, despite everything, the threat of aggression against Russia has receded, and there’s no need to maintain a multimillion-man army.  But it sounds like they’re still trying to convince people.  Then there’s this.

Russia can still mobilize.  The document offers reassurance that, in wartime, storage bases can outfit a significant number of new formations and units.  The districts have preserved a mobilization base, and mobilization deployment plans.  This comes after the Defense Ministry has spent a good bit of time and effort denigrating the old system of hollow cadre-level units.  Who is manning storage bases and cadre units after recent downsizing, cuts, and consolidations?

The document re-runs the rationale for four MDs / OSKs.  It calls the MD an inter-service strategic territorial large formation [объединение].  The old MD system didn’t correspond to existing military threats.  To repulse aggression, a large formation of the troops and forces of several districts and fleets is needed.  On strategic axes, there were no organs to unite ground, air, and naval forces.  In a crisis, temporary, uncoordinated inter-service command and control organs were established.  The army lacked commanders capable of planning and conducting operations in TVDs.  Old MDs didn’t correspond to air defense boundaries.  New MD / OSK commanders are personally responsible for security in their regions, and uniting forces under them has shortened their response times and increased their striking power.

What about command and control?  There’s an emerging two-pipe system — the military plans for the use and development of the armed forces on the one hand, and civilians plan for their support on the other.  The new three-level command system works like this — main commands of services, armies, and brigades answer for tactical issues, and the General Staff, OSKs, and armies answer for operational issues.  The army-level command looks like an important hinge in this scheme.  In days past, their staffs were never very large.  The General Staff has lost duplicative functions and become a full-fledged strategic planning organ.

Where is the line drawn between the main commands of the services and the OSKs:

“The main commands of the services concentrate their efforts on the organizational development of the services, the organization of combat training, junior specialist [i.e. conscript] training, planning of peacekeeping activity and support in special aspects.”

“The unified strategic command of the military district is becoming the inter-service command and control organ, dedicated to planning and controlling all armies, brigades and military units in the inter-service troop grouping on the strategic axis, with the exception of those in the composition of strategic nuclear forces.”

Now any MD / OSK commander worth his salt will want to train and exercise the forces he’ll fight with.  He may impinge on the diminished role of the main commands to the extent that he does it.

KZ’s review of the document finishes up talking about combat possibilities and combat potential.  It claims that, far from just cutting, the TO&E of formations and units has been optimized and their combat possibilities increased.  The example given is the new Western MD vs. the old Leningrad MD.  It says the combat potential of the former is 13 times greater than the latter.  Not exactly tough since the latter didn’t have a single combined arms army.  Finally, it says resources reclaimed by cutting units give a “chance for real rearming of the army and fleet, and not endless modernization and repair of obsolete and worn-out armaments and military equipment.”

New Year’s Peep Show (Part I)

Yes, the season of little or no news continues . . . but there’s always something to write. 

On 29 December, Krasnaya zvezda provided a little holiday treat — a year-ending issue filled with official views on a variety of topics:

  • Priorities of Armed Forces Organizational Development.
  • Armed Forces Manning.
  • State Program of Armaments.
  • Global Political-Military Situation.
  • Improving the Military VUZ System.
  • State of Military Discipline.
  • Transition to a Unitary System of Armed Forces Material-Technical Support.
  • Provision of Housing to Servicemen.

A cornucopia of data for discerning and careful readers.

Caught up in the joy of the holidays, many probably overlooked these articles.

Let’s have a look at the first one — Priorities of Armed Forces Organizational Development.

What’s interesting is we’re given a little peep show into a much more interesting, detailed, and lengthy document — “The Concept of Organizational and Force Development of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the Period to 2020” — approved by President Dmitriy Medvedev on 19 April 2010, with absolutely no fanfare.

What we don’t know is how this little peek inside the document was edited.  We don’t know what was emphasized, or left out, and why.

A couple preliminaries.  First, the title in the vernacular is “строительства и развития Вооружённых Сил.”  We really don’t want to say “Construction and Development” or “Building and Development” or something like that.  We’re not talking a suburban Moscow water park here.  By the same token, “Organizational Development and Development” sounds dumb. 

What we’re really talking here is force structure planning and force development.  The emergence of this planning document isn’t surprising given that they got a new national security concept in 2009, and a new military doctrine in early 2010.  This article also makes the point that, besides this ten-year military organizational development plan, there are also five- and one-year plans.

We’re going to move quickly today.  So pay attention.

The priorities are:  strategic deterrence (SYaS and VKO); building inter-service groupings on strategic axes (as in OSKs); building a new command and control system; reequipping in line with GPV-2020; a new education and training system for officers and sergeants; and resolving ever-present issues of social defense [i.e. pay and benefits] of servicemen.

What does it mean for each service?

  • For the Ground Troops, get organized on the axes and prepare to be mobile. 
  • For the Air Forces, emphasize supporting the Ground Troops and Navy.  Improve VTA and airfields for strategic mobility.
  • For Navy, support personnel and combat readiness of naval SYaS.  Series construction of multipurpose nuclear submarines and surface ships.
  • For RVSN, preserve the structure of ground SYaS.  Complete rearmament with fifth generation missiles.
  • For Space Troops, deploy formations with future missile attack warning and space monitoring systems.  Complete the full orbital grouping with future satellite systems.
  • For VDV, improve training, especially inter-service training.  Reequip with armaments, military equipment, and specialized equipment.

Sounds like Ground Troops have to make do with the weapons and equipment they have.

Stay tuned for Part II.