Tag Archives: UAVs

State of Play on Mistral

Let’s review recent play in Russia’s possible purchase of French Mistral amphibious ships.

In yesterday’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Viktor Litovkin said, despite reports Russian-French negotiations are going well, Russia’s announcement of an international tender for construction of large amphibious ships disrupted their exclusive talks.  But Litovkin thinks Russia will ultimately buy Mistral because (he believes) President Medvedev has promised French President Sarkozy.  So, the tender is really only about where to build two Russian-made ships (units 3 and 4), and the answer is Kaliningrad’s Yantar shipyard, according to Litovkin. 

To Litovkin, the remaining issues are the electronic fit on Mistral, and the final price of the deal.  He goes back to General Staff Chief Makarov’s comment that the Russian ships will be exactly like the French ones, down to their comms systems.  The only exception being Russian ones won’t have codes linking French ships into NATO’s command and control network.

On 9 September, Nezavisimaya gazeta picked up on a Le Figaro article concluding that Russia’s tender, coming after six months of negotiations with France, signified trouble.  It wrote that there is more than a little question whether they will remain exclusive talks, even if they continue. 

Technology transfer in the Mistral deal is Moscow’s sine qua non, but this issue may not be resolved on the French side.  Le Figaro believes the U.S. may be able to restrict the export of American-made electronic equipment on Mistral.

Also on 9 September, Rossiyskaya gazeta wrote that cost is the main unresolved issue in Moscow’s negotiations with Paris.  The paper also focused on the Defense Ministry’s insistence on receiving technologies, not just weapons systems and platforms from abroad.

ITAR-TASS reported Defense Minister Serdyukov’s 8 September statement that French cooperation on Mistral might open the way for more bilateral military-technical cooperation, possibly on UAVs.  At the conclusion of his visit to Paris, Serdyukov announced:

“The French side has expressed a desire to work in this area.  We proposed to do this in the form of joint ventures on the basis of our repair plants.  If we succeed on Mistral and we build on such experience, then in the future everything will go in other directions, including in unmanned aerial vehicles.  We have such a proposal from them.”

Also from 8 September, Newsru.com reported Serdyukov saying “we are now waiting on a price” from the French.  He apparently said the French offer would be evaluated with the help of both Russian and foreign experts.

After Serdyukov’s tender announcement, Sarkozy dispatched his military adviser, and former DRM chief, Benoit Puga to meet with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin on 26 August.  Of course, Sechin is Chairman of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation and point man in dealing with the French on Mistral.  They met at Yantar in Kaliningrad.  Puga reportedly told Sechin that ‘2+2’ was acceptable; the first Mistral would be built in a French shipyard in 36 months, the second following 12 months after.  And the third and fourth would be built in a Russian yard.

The French have stayed fairly confident in public about winning the contract.  And most Russian defense commentators still see Mistral as the favorite even if there is competitive bidding for the work.

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More Popovkin on GPV 2011-2020

Does the GPV really mean anything?

One has to recall Popovkin’s announced 20 trillion rubles is just a plan until the Duma allocates the money every year.  Then there’s a big question of whether allocated money is used effectively.

Mikhail Rastopshin and others have written about how every GPV in memory (GPV 1996-2005, GPV 2001-2010, GPV 2007-2015) was revised shortly after it began.  Now we have GPV 2011-2020 being formulated only four years into the previous one.  This overlapping and cascading makes it difficult to see (even for those involved) what’s actually been procured with the funding provided.

Five trillion for GPV 2007-2015 (about 550 million rubles per year) seemed like a pretty good amount in the mid-2000s, but, as Vladimir Yevseyev and others have been kind enough to point out, it didn’t buy that much.  Yevseyev said Russia’s rate of rearmament would only provide for modern weapons and equipment over the course of 30-50 years, if then.  A Defense Ministry official responsible for the GPV and GOZ, Vasiliy Burenok, recently said Russia’s rearmament rate is only 2 percent, and it should be 9-11 percent per annum.

Finally, Popovkin’s deputy, General-Lieutenant Frolov stated flatly, and rather shockingly, that the government’s first offer of 13 trillion for GPV 2011-2020 was barely one-third of what’s needed to rearm Russia’s Armed Forces.  Now, according to Popovkin, and probably after some intense lobbying, the government comes back with a counteroffer of about 20 trillion.  This insight into the current dynamic of civil-military relations is perhaps more significant than the GPV itself.  What will the ultimate figure be?  Does it matter?  No, because GPV 2011-2020 will be superseded and rewritten well before 2015.

It’s possible to assert plainly that no GPV will ever get done if GPV 2007-2015 — coming at the peak of  oil prices and Russia’s economic boom — didn’t lead to very much.

Back to other things Popovkin announced yesterday . . .

He reaffirmed Russia’s intention to build its own UAVs:

“We’ll build our own.  It’s possible that, based on the results of this air show [Farnborough], requirements for Russian UAVs will be refined.”

Popovkin said the world’s UAV makers are now modernizing existing systems rather than investing in developing new ones. 

He also announced that the Defense Ministry will soon select the Russian enterprise and location where Israeli UAVs will be manufactured.

On Russia’s new ICBM, Popovkin told the media:

“We’ve accepted the RS-24 ‘Yars’ and placed it on combat duty.  The first battalion is standing up.”

He said Russia plans to acquire 20 An-124 ‘Ruslan’ transports, while modernizing its existing fleet of them by 2015-2016, and buy 60 An-70 transports as well.  He also said Moscow will procure 1,000 helicopters by 2020, calling them “one of the priorities for us now.”  Special attention will be given to heavy transport helicopters.

Pulling Back on Buying Abroad?

Is the Defense Ministry pulling back the reins on efforts to purchase foreign-made weapons and other military equipment?

Late last month, armaments chief Vladimir Popovkin said that Moscow would put German armor on its combat vehicles, perhaps laying to rest rumors that Russia might buy entire vehicles abroad.

Last Thursday, Popovkin and others seemed to put limits on buying more UAVs from Israel, calling the process more of a learning experience to improve Russia’s domestic models.

Then Friday, the press says OSK may have started a formal antimonopoly complaint against Defense Ministry efforts to buy the French Mistral helicopter carrier.  But OSK Board Chairman, Deputy Prime Minister, and Putin confidant Igor Sechin is in charge of negotiating Mistral’s purchase from Paris.

It certainly seems that the reins have been pulled back on foreign procurement somewhat.  But there’s a lot to these threads and not enough time to run them down.

Testing Army Reforms in Vostok-2010

Readers seem eager for anything they can get on Vostok-2010.  Here’s something. 

Russia’s largest maneuvers of the year, Vostok-2010, began June 29, and continue until July 8.  This broad-scale operational-strategic exercise (OSU or ОСУ) encompasses the Siberian and Far East MDs, as well as the Pacific Fleet—in other words, what will reportedly become the new Far East MD or operational-strategic command (OSK or ОСК) before the end of 2010.  

General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov talked to RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS at length about Vostok-2010 recently.  He said the Far East was chosen for its broad expanses, limited infrastructure, and difficult weather and climate.  Eleven combined arms, 3 air forces, and 4 naval training ranges will be used.  Makarov noted up to 20,000 soldiers, 2,500 weapons systems and pieces of equipment, 70 aircraft, and 30 ships will take part in the exercise. 

Makarov said Vostok-2010 will be a logical continuation of last year’s large training events.  Beyond Defense Ministry forces, operational groups and sub-units from the MVD, FSB, FSO, MChS, and FSIN will participate.

As is customary, Makarov said the maneuvers:

“. . . are not directed against any real country or military-political bloc.  They have an exclusively defensive orientation for ensuring the security and defense of the state’s interests on the Far East border against a notional enemy.”

And the exercise’s theme is:

“. . . preparation and employment of formations [military units] in a new TO&E structure to fulfill missions in isolated sectors to ensure the Russian Federation’s military security.”

Makarov said the maneuvers will:

  • Check the effectiveness of the newly-created three-level system of troop command and control;
  • Evaluate the readiness of new TO&E formations and military units to  conduct combat actions in isolated sectors in a constantly changing situation, as well as their mobility and combat possibilities;
  • Resolve training and command and control issues at the operational-strategic and operational level while conducting combat actions;       
  • Organize coordination of military command and control organs with the troops and military formations of other federal ministries and departments, and also local organs of executive authority in resolving joint missions; and
  • Investigate the capabilities of a unified system of material-technical support (MTO) which was created during the structural reformation of the army and fleet.

The exercise will include special operations, air defense and ship combat firings, and air and amphibious assaults.  Makarov said the RVSN will join the exercise play, but no ICBM training launches will occur.  Military transports will bring independent sub-units from the Moscow and Volga-Ural MDs to join the exercise, but they will draw their weapons and equipment from Siberian and Far East storage bases.

Makarov noted the participation of an unidentified number of Su-24M and Su-34 aircraft arriving from Central Russia during a direct flight with aerial refueling.   Black Sea Fleet flagship Slava-class CG Moskva and Northern Fleet Kirov-class CGN Petr Velikiy also completed long-range cruises to participate.

Makarov said new operational and operational-strategic level command and control posts will be used in the exercise, as will ‘fifth generation’ radio communications gear and future soldier systems under development at Sozvezdiye.  Iskander operational-tactical missiles and Russian-made UAVs will also be employed.

Siberian MD Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Chirkin told Krasnaya zvezda the exercise will focus on defensive operations, but also special operations to localize and destroy irregular armed formations in several RF regions.  He said there will be more than a little new given that new combat regulations will be used.  He added:

“We’re moving away from linear tactics, from large-scale front operations.  As the experience of local wars and armed conflicts in recent years shows, there’s no need to utilize a massive quantity of forces and means to conduct front and army operations.”

In Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vladimir Mukhin focused on the logistics of Vostok-2010.  He noted Rear Services Chief, General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov’s expectation that President Medvedev will soon issue a decree combining the jobs of Chief of Armaments and Chief of Rear Services.  And leaving First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin’s old job vacant could be a hint of this.  After Vostok-2010, Mukhin expects a new deputy defense minister for material-technical support (MTO), presumably Bulgakov, to be appointed.

A lot of the activity before Vostok-2010 has apparently involved trying out new combat service and support arrangements.  A special logistics exercise tested the new MTO system.  And this year, according to Mukhin’s information, ten MTO brigades will be formed, one for each combined arms army.  The Railroad Troops will reportedly be downgraded to a directorate and each MD (OSK) will absorb the Railroad Troops units on their territory.

Krasnaya zvezda described these exercises.  Rear Services troops used 4,000 men, 30 units of different sizes, and 1,000 pieces of equipment in a pipeline-building exercise, training to repair damaged bridges over the Aga River, and refueling a brigade before its Onon River crossing.

General-Colonel Bulgakov talked about the new MTO regiments and the exercises.  He said they are permanent combat readiness units which have all necessary troops support structures and sub-units.  This was the first test of the new TO&E structure for logistics.  Based on the results, Bulgakov thinks this year the army can move from material support regiments (PMO) to material support brigades.  In every district (OSK), there will be a minimum of two, according to him.  Unlike regiments, material support brigades (BMOs?) will have repair and maintenance battalions.  Brigades were chosen to conform as much as possible to the prevailing three link ‘district-army-brigade’ command scheme.

Trud’s Mikhail Lukanin put Vostok-2010’s most difficult missions this way:

  • Moving troops great distances, including Siberian river crossings;
  • Supplying fuel, ammunition, and food to the area of combat actions;
  • Conducting an amphibious assault under enemy fire.

Prominent commentators view Vostok-2010 as a test of the success of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s army reforms.  Trud talked to independent defense analyst Aleksandr Khramchikhin who said:

“Military reform has gone on already for more than a year and a half, but there’s still no answer to the main question:  what have we gotten from it?  That is, after radical cuts in the officer ranks, the reorganization of military command and control organs, turning former divisions into combined arms brigades, are the Armed Forces capable of conducting modern combat actions.”

Anatoliy Tsyganok believes the army made a hash of Zapad-2009, with only 30 percent  of Russia’s maneuver brigades receiving good evaluations, most only satisfactory, and a handful unsatisfactory.  Presumably, he doesn’t expect to be more impressed by Vostok-2010.

Moscow Considering Italian Light Armored Vehicles?

Russkiy Newsweek yesterday said a source close to the Defense Ministry claims Moscow is considering buying Italian IVECO M65 vehicles, also known  as the LMV (Light Multirole Vehicle).  The source said negotiations are in the final stage, and LMVs are reportedly being tested in Russia, but opinions on their suitability for Russian conditions are varied.

Another problem–the LMV is basically an analogue of Russia’s Tigr, produced by Arzamas Machinebuilding Plant, a company belonging ultimately to Oleg Deripaska.  The LMV is 1.5 or 2 times more expensive than Tigr and carries fewer personnel.  But it is considered more explosion resistant.  Deripaska’s people dispute this, however, saying it depends on how close the vehicles are to the explosion.

Russkiy Newsweek says the LMV was shown to Putin last year, and Medvedev this year.  It adds LMV to a list of proposed or actual Russian arms buys abroad, including British sniper rifles, Israeli UAVs, and French Mistral helicopter carriers.  The possibility that United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK or ОСК) chairman and Deputy PM Igor Sechin (a long-time Kremlin insider and Putin crony) could still derail the Mistral deal is raised, but somehow this seems unlikely now for many reasons.  Why wreck a lucrative deal when you can get a piece of it instead?

The article concludes noting that this is the logical continuation of a new Russian military-technical policy–Russia can no longer be considered a closed market and soon Russian companies will have to compete with foreign producers for this internal market, according to CAST’s Ruslan Pukhov.

But there’s more to this story than that . . . some foreign samples are always good if you can get them, some palms might get greased in the process too.  It’s not a bad idea to scare the domestic defense industries, but are they really in a condition to compete with foreign producers?  Rather than stimulate them to get better and more efficient, they could just collapse in the face of a real competition for sales.  And it really goes against everything Russian to rely on foreigners, especially when they’re part of an allegedly hostile NATO.  But mucking about in NATO’s Old European rear area isn’t bad for stirring a little alliance discord.  Just weeks ago too the Russian press had stories featuring President Medvedev with the Tigr and the VDV seems pretty committed to the vehicle.  Let’s just say many factors are in play, which will be the critical ones?

Chief of Staff’s and Shamanov’s VDV Year Enders

General-Lieutenant Nikolay Ignatov

In an interview today, the VDV’s Chief of Staff summarized 2009 and plans for 2010 in Russia’s airborne forces.  

General-Lieutenant Ignatov said 90 percent of the VDV was outfitted with individual soldier radios based on the Akveduk system in 2009, and the remainder will get it in 2010.  The Akveduk-5UNE is the basic UHF transceiver, and Akveduk-5UNVE and Akveduk-50UNVE are the individual radios.  

The VDV also took delivery of 100 modernized BMD-2, 18 Nona self-propelled artillery systems, and 600 KamAZ vehicles.  It got communications vehicles including 14 R-149 KShM and 23 radio stations mounted on KamAZ high mobility vehicles.  

Ignatov said 80 percent of the VDV’s fall 2009 conscripts have already completed their first jump.  In all, 10,000 conscripts are joining the VDV ranks from the fall draft.  Another VDV spokesman said the airborne made 189,000 jumps in 2009, 29,000 more than the year before.  

Stepping back a bit, in mid-December, VDV commander Shamanov told NVO that the airborne received 150 combat vehicles in 2009, including modernized BMD-2 and BMD-3.  He hopes to get more BMD-4M vehicles for field testing in 2010.  He wants 200 of them eventually.  Unlike the VVS, he emphasized that he likes domestically produced UAVs, thermal sights, and sniper rifles.  Shamanov noted that 15-20 percent of the VDV’s armored vehicles might be wheeled in the future, and he plans to obtain some GAZ-2330 Tigr vehicles for recce and Spetsnaz subunits.   

Shamanov essentially said the VDV intends to lobby for control of helicopter units, presumably from the VVS where they’ve been since 2002, to transport and support its air assault elements.  Specifically, he’s talking about the Mi-28N, Ka-52, Mi-8MTV, and Mi-26.  The Ground Troops would also like to get army aviation back; perhaps both are ganging up on VVS. 

On 10 December, Shamanov called for a simple, functional approach to equipping the VDV.  Unhappy with defense industries, he said he won’t buy anything that doesn’t suit the VDV.  He wants better stuff than he already has in his stockpiles.  As an example, he wondered when he’ll get a mine detector that works on rocky terrain.  So, to some degree, Shamanov has joined the list of military leaders lambasting defense industries for poor products.