Tag Archives: Tsentr-2011

Exercise Casualties

Russia’s fall exercises took a toll on some conscripts participating in them.  Three were killed in Union Shield-2011 at Ashuluk, and two more may have died during Tsentr-2011.

Life.ru reports a conscript died on September 26 from injuries sustained in a fall from a railroad platform while loading equipment during Union Shield-2011.

According to IA Regnum, at Ashuluk on September 24, an automated command and control system operator, a draftee, was found dead in a KamAZ.  An officer and two conscripts had to wait for help overnight when their vehicle broke down.  One of the conscripts apparently died during the night. 

On September 20, a Russian attack aircraft fired an errant air-to-surface rocket that flew several kilometers from its intended target before exploding, killing one soldier and injuring a second.  IA Rosbalt also noted Ashuluk was the scene of an August 23 ordnance accident that killed eight soldiers.

News outlets and military spokesmen are publicly disputing whether two tank crewmen died of carbon monoxide poisoning while President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov reviewed the concluding phase of Tsentr-2011 at Chebarkul on September 27. 

According to Novyy region, a Chelyabinsk rights activist says two conscripts died and the military is trying to cover up the accident.  Another source says the two men are hospitalized in critical and serious condition respectively.  The army says the men were poisoned by powder gases during training before Tsentr, and will soon be discharged from the hospital.  The Central MD’s press-service says the exercise was conducted without incidents, accidents, or equipment failures.

Military prosecutors are investigating at least some of these incidents.

Tsentr-2011

Tsentr-2011

Yesterday Russia and allied military forces in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO or ODKB) began a series of exercise events which will run until the beginning of October.

Operational-strategic exercise Tsentr-2011 will involve Russian forces and Belorussian, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, and Armenian sub-units in different training scenarios focused on ensuring security on the Central Asian axis, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta.

Twelve thousand personnel, 50 aircraft, 1,000 vehicles and other equipment, and ten combat and support ships will participate under the direction of Russian General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov, according to Mil.ru.  Russian forces will include one army brigade as well as operational groups from other militarized agencies — the MVD, FSB, FSO, and MChS.    

Mil.ru said the exercise theme is “Preparation and Employment of Inter-Service Troop (Force) Groupings in the Stabilization of a Situation and Conduct of Military Actions on the Central Asian Strategic Axis.”

NG cites Makarov who said the exercise will focus on “localizing internal as well as external conflicts.” Extrapolating from his earlier comments about North Africa and the Middle East, the paper claims he wants the army to be ready to perform internal police functions like the Syrian Army.

Mil.ru puts it more technically saying the exercise will improve command and staff skills in controlling troops in the transition to wartime, in planning special operations, and in organizing long-distance troop regroupings.  Exercise phases will include special operations to localize an armed conflict in a crisis region, and joint actions by ground and naval force groupings, according to the Defense Ministry website.

The exercise will consist of different evolutions, with different partners, in various locations:

  • The Ground Troops, MVD, and FSB Spetsnaz, writes NG, will practice liberating a town from terrorists and rebels on the Chebarkul training range. 
  • At Gorokhovets, Russia’s 20th Army and Belorussian forces are playing a series of tactical actions against enemy airborne assaults, specops, and “illegal armed formations” in their rear areas [under a separate exercise called Union Shield-2011 or Shchit Soyuza-2011]. 
  • Russian forces are training with Kazakhs on the Caspian, and at Kazakhstan’s Oymasha range.
  • A command-staff exercise of the ODKB’s Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (KSOR) will be conducted at the Lyaur range in Tajikistan.
  • In Kyrgyzstan, the ODKB’s Central Asian Region Collective Rapid Deployment Forces (KSBR TsAR) will conduct a tactical exercise against “illegal armed formations.”

NG sums Tsentr-2011 up with a quote from Vladimir Popov:

“The Russian leadership, although late, has come to the conclusion that the successful resolution of military security issues, including the internal security of allied countries, is possible only through the creation and use of coalition troop groupings in the post-Soviet space.   This is correct, and there’s no need to fear this.”

Developing some collective military intervention capability doesn’t answer questions about real-world conditions where it might be employed.  The questions proceed mainly (but not entirely) from Kyrgyzstan’s experience.  First, will a threatened regime ask for ODKB assistance and under what circumstances?  Second, will the alliance or any allies answer a member-state’s call?  Training and exercises are good, but ultimately not much use unless such political issues are resolved.

Makarov’s Press-Conference (Part III)

Army General Makarov (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskiy)

Still plumbing General Staff Chief Makarov’s Monday press-conference . . .

Makarov indicated Russia’s Israeli-made UAVs will be used in the Tsentr-2011 exercise.  According to Krasnaya zvezda, he once again worked Vega over for wasting years and money without meeting the military’s requirements, forcing it to turn to Israel to obtain unmanned aircraft.

According to Interfaks, the General Staff Chief asserted Russia won’t buy anything but PGMs for its combat aircraft:

“The purchase of conventional [unguided] means has stopped.  We are buying only highly-accurate means.”

“Western countries conduct military operations almost without ground forces.  Aircraft operate outside the air defense zone and sustain minimal losses.”

Izvestiya noted, however, replacing Russia’s dumb bombs with smart weapons won’t be cheap.  Tens of thousands of rubles versus millions.  But one of the paper’s interlocutors concluded:

“The Defense Ministry believes there’s money for buying them, contracts for the first deliveries of new munitions have already been concluded.”

He estimates they will comprise perhaps half of Russia’s aviation weapons inventory by 2020.

Izvestiya quoted Ruslan Pukhov to the effect that guided ASMs made up only 1 percent of Russia’s stockpile in the five-day war with Georgia, and Russian aircraft had to brave Georgia’s air defenses on most missions, losing four Su-25, two Su-24, and a Tu-22M3.  He added, however, that a Su-34 employed an anti-radar Kh-31P to destroy a radar in Gori.

Lenta.ru recalled General-Lieutenant Igor Sadofyev’s late 2010 comments about plans for a radical increase in PGMs and UAVs in the Air Forces by 2020.  You can refresh your memory here.

Some military commentators and news outlets managed to tie together Makarov’s comments on Arab revolutions, Central Asian exercises, snipers, and sniper rifles in interesting, but not always accurate, ways.

KZ summarized Makarov pretty simply as saying the armed conflicts in Arab countries were difficult to predict, and similar events can’t be ruled out in Central Asia.  In its replay of his remarks, he said:

“. . . we should be ready for everything, therefore we are working on this in the exercises.”

So, Moscow’s pretty obviously looking at the possible repetition of a Libyan or Syrian scenario somewhere in Central Asia . . . no surprise there . . . makes sense.

Komsomolskaya pravda said:

“Our military isn’t hiding the fact that current exercises are directly linked to the probable export of military aggression from Afghanistan into the Central Asian republics after NATO troops withdraw from there.”

It cites Makarov:

“[The exercises] envision developing variants for localizing armed conflicts on the territory of these countries.”

That doesn’t really sound Libyan or Syrian, does it?  It’s not internal.  It’s good old external spillover.  Oh well, as long as it’s “localized” on someone else’s territory, and doesn’t cross Russia’s borders.

ITAR-TASS’s version of Makarov got people more spun up:

“The world situation is complex, quickly changing, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East.  It was difficult to forecast what happened in a number of countries of this region, events developed with great speed.  Now no one can say what will happen next.  But this is a signal for all states.  We military men need to be prepared for the worst scenarios.”

This led a few outlets to take the next step on their own, i.e. a repeat of the Arab scenario inside Russia.

You can read likely exaggerations of what Makarov really said in Gazeta.ru or Rbcdaily.ru.  In its version, the latter claimed Makarov didn’t exclude internal unrest following the Arab example in Russia, and the army has to be ready for the worst case scenario of political developments inside the country.

Pouring gas on the fire it lit, Rbcdaily introduced the sniper issue here.

Of course, snipers are great for urban warfare or urban unrest.  Rbcdaily’s Defense Ministry source says Makarov plans to put independent sniper platoons in every brigade.  They’ll be armed with British rifles, of course.  And the snipers themselves will have to be long-term professionals – contractees, so that’ll have to wait until the middle of next year.

Igor Korotchenko tells Rbcdaily:

“A sniper is a piece of work, he can’t be trained in a year, therefore they must absolutely be professional contractees.  We can’t count on conscript soldiers here, like in the old days when there were enough gifted guys who learned to fire the SVD well among the conscripts.”

KZ didn’t mention Makarov talking about snipers.

Just to finish this off, Makarov’s Syrian comments weren’t construed or misconstrued as much.  KZ said simply that he said Russia is not planning a military presence in Syria, nor the introduction of extra security measures at its material-technical support base in Tartus.

ITAR-TASS put it this way:

“This base remains in our hands.  Besides it, our advisors work in Syria.  That’s enough.  We don’t intend to adopt any preventative measures.  . . . we have to watch closely those forces opposing the government.  There are legal demands, and there are opposition demands which, in our view, need to be ignored because they are illegal.”

Makarov’s Press-Conference (Part I)

General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov apparently held a lengthy press-conference today covering many topics.  He’s still advocating buying weapons abroad (when necessary), despite Prime Minister Putin’s strong support of the domestic OPK against the military’s demands.

ITAR-TASS quotes Makarov on the pending Navy headquarters move to Piter:

“Concerning a decision by the Supreme CINC [President Medvedev] to revoke the transfer of the Navy Main Staff to St. Petersburg, there has been no such decision.  We are now working on this issue.”

The General Staff Chief seemed to say there won’t be any diminution of the role or place occupied by service Glavkomaty, according to the news service.  He said the Main Commands of the services of the Armed Forces are part of the military branch of command and control which he heads.

ITAR-TASS quotes Makarov on buying arms and equipment abroad:

“We will need to buy something that isn’t produced with the quality we require.”

He compared domestic Msta-S and longer-range French Caesar howitzers:

“In France, we were shown the work of an artillery battalion which was ready to fire 30 seconds after a march.  Our analogous norm is 15 minutes.  The difference between one minute and 15 minutes is huge.”

“Therefore, we have to acquire something in order not to lag behind, but on the condition of arranging joint production in Russia.”

Interfaks quoted him on buying armor abroad:

“Some technologies certainly have to be bought in the West.”

The Defense Ministry, he says, has no desire to buy arms and equipment abroad if Russia has analogs or more modern models.  But Russia will find it hard to compete with Western firms that are cooperating with each other.  Makarov cited Renault’s APC which uses a Volvo engine.  “Our producers need to make a revolutionary leap,” Makarov concluded.

The General Staff Chief was ambivalent about the T-90 tank, according to ITAR-TASS:

“I visited the Nizhniy Tagil exhibition and got familiar with our T-90 tank.  The tank they showed us, particularly its turret, calls for serious respect.  But we have questions remaining about many drawbacks.”

“. . . the experimental-design work the factory is conducting will allow them to realize those requirements the Russian military is placing on this new product.”

ITAR-TASS also picked up Makarov’s remarks on the Tsentr-2011 exercises:

“We want to work out common approaches to employing armed forces within the ODKB [CSTO] framework.”

“Besides militaries, all other power structures, which are understood as part of the state’s military organization, in the ODKB countries will participate in these exercises.  As far as Russia goes, we want to check the country’s military organization fully by conducting a series of mobilization measures, including also industry.”

“Starting today, we’ve started into mobilization deployment of a number of formations and units according to independent plans.”

Kachalkin on VTA Prospects

General-Lieutenant Viktor Kachalkin

This week marked Military-Transport Aviation’s 80th anniversary, and VTA (or ВТА) Commander, General-Lieutenant Viktor Kachalkin made a variety of comments regarding the branch’s future.

Now relatively little’s been said about this subject.  VVS CINC, General-Colonel Zelin insists VTA’s a priority, but hasn’t ventured numbers or dates for new aircraft.  His deputy, General-Lieutenant Sadofyev’s alluded vaguely to modernization of existing aircraft and acquisition of 50 percent new aircraft.  But nothing more specific.  If VTA is the red-haired stepchild of the Air Forces, at least the VDV loves VTA – loves to hate it, that is.  General-Lieutenant Shamanov and other VDV officers never tire of saying that shortfalls and shortcomings in air transport are turning their branch into no more than elite ground troops.

At any rate, on to what Kachalkin said . . . he hopes new An-70 and deeply modernized Il-76MD90A transport aircraft will enter the VTA inventory starting in 2014.  The latter is an updated Il-76MD with new PS-90A-76 engines.  It also goes by the name Il-476.  In the more distant future, VTA looks toward buying a new An-124-300 variant.  The VTA commander believes all this will translate into “dozens” of new aircraft by 2020.

Kachalkin also plans on the “deep modernization” of existing transports into Il-76MDM and An-124-100 variants.

In a Krasnaya zvezda interview, he sums it up this way:

“If the volumes of new aircraft and deep modernization of the existing aircraft inventory announced in the program [GPV-2020] are assessed, then the growth in VTA capabilities is obvious.”

Later he adds:

“Despite the fact that the service life of the greater part of the current VTA aviation inventory is figured at 2020-2030s, the percentage share of new aircraft will grow steadily.  In this context, the mobility of the Armed Forces will increase overall.”

In his KZ interview, Kachalkin mentioned the impact of the “new profile” on his base structure.  VTA now has only one first rank air base at Tver, which is home to multiple aviation groups using basing locations at Pskov, Orenburg, and Taganrog.  As recently as late 2009, the VTA commander spoke of first rank bases at Tver and Orenburg, and second rank ones at Pskov and Taganrog.

Kachalkin indicated an aviation group of not less than 15-20 VTA aircraft will take part in the upcoming Tsentr-2011 operational-strategic exercise.

A couple contradictory points worth noting were also made this week . . .

Deputy Air Forces CINC, General-Major Viktor Bondarev predicted An-70 purchases in 2012-2013, according to RIA Novosti.  The wire service also reminded readers that Defense Minister Serdyukov has said not before 2015-2016.  One guesses Kachalkin split the difference with 2014.

Makarov Talks to Duma Defense Committee

Nikolay Makarov (photo: Rossiyskaya gazeta)

Last Thursday, General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov spoke to a closed session of the Duma’s Defense Committee about the situation in the armed forces.  A few committee members were kind enough to inform the press about some of the discussion.

Rossiyskaya gazeta said it’s no secret the Defense Ministry wants more money in its 2011 budget.  And the generals’ arguments are well-known — the army needs to reequip, relocate, and raise officer pay.  Additional financial means are needed for this.  Makarov didn’t avoid this issue, and he had a lot of supporters.  Deputy committee chairman Yuriy Savenko had this to say on the issue of budget and rearmament:

“Today there isn’t just not enough money for this.  We have to recognize that our military industry has sagged a lot over the last two decades.”

Makarov apparently commented on Bulava, seeing the recent successful launch as opening the way for its quickest acceptance into the Navy arsenal.  But he said first it has to complete three [not two] more tests.  The next won’t come earlier than November, and the first from Yuriy Dolgorukiy possibly before year’s end.

The General Staff Chief talked about the country’s new military-administrative divisions, claiming the reduction to 4 MDs isn’t causing major troop relocations, but rather allowing the army to stand-up additional combined arms, reconnaissance, and airborne brigades on its strategic axes.

He apparently mentioned the introduction of information management systems into the troops is a priority.

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Viktor Litovkin reports Makarov said Russia will hold just one operational-strategic exercise, Tsentr-2011, next year, and, after it, the focus will be on tactical platoon and company exercises.  Litovkin says the issue isn’t money, but the time it takes to train units from platoon to brigade in what they need to demonstrate in a big exercise.  And training time is too short with one-year soldiers.  He reports the army’s decided to put all officers from new lieutenants to generals through tactical retraining and improvement courses.

KPRF Deputy, Vladimir Komoyedov — former Black Sea Fleet commander — commented a little on what he heard.  He said Makarov mainly touted what’s been achieved the last two years.  Komoyedov said he heard about conventional forces, but not much about strategic ones, and when he asked specifically about naval strategic forces, Makarov’s answer didn’t satisfy him.  Komoyedov spoke to Tverskaya, 13, but he quickly spun off into his own commentary, rather than Makarov’s.

Perhaps the most press went to Makarov’s announcement that the Defense Ministry will go forward with military police units in the armed forces after all.  They’ll reportedly number about 20,000 personnel.  MP sub-units will be present from brigade to military district, and they could be manned by servicemen dismissed in the course of Serdyukov’s reforms.

Finally, Komsomolskaya pravda says Makarov has told it about various changes in the army coming in the next five years.  Some are not all together surprising, but there are new twists on others:

  1. A two-pipe Defense Ministry — military and civilian, with the latter handling money, personnel, and support.
  2. Hired cleaners, maintenance people, and security guards for the barracks.
  3. Military pay via bank cards to make it more difficult for older soldiers to extort money from new conscripts.
  4. Contractees will get 30-35 thousand rubles per month.
  5. Conscription will stay at one year (there are 156,000 men with deferments and 130,000 evaders).
  6. Specialty training time for soldiers needs to be cut from 6 to 2-3 months.
  7. Tsentr-2011 will occur, but other exercises will focus on the company-level and lower.
  8. There will be 8 aviation centers [bases?], but 4 would be ideal.  Air defense aviation will have 2 months on duty, and 2 months at home.
  9. Glavkomaty of services and branches will be cut from 1,000 personnel to about 150 or 200.  Generals’ duties will go out to the new MDs.  All the ‘glavki’ will relocate into the Ground Troop headquarters on the Frunzenskaya embankment.
  10. The Genshtab will keep its hands on strategic submarines, bombers, and the RVSN.
  11. The VDV will not be cut, and will continue to report through the Genshtab.  They are likely to be reinforced with new brigades.
  12. The Navy will get 1-2 nuclear-powered submarines each year.  New aircraft carriers are in development.  The fleet gets 23% of the defense budget, the RVSN 25%.