Tag Archives: Vega

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.”

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Israeli and Russian UAVs for Ground Troops

Yesterday Aviaport.ru wrote that Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov, his First Deputies, Vladimir Popovkin and Nikolay Makarov, Air Forces CINC, Aleksandr Zelin, and industry representatives attended a demonstration of Russian and Israeli UAVs at Kubinka on 10 March. 

The systems shown included the Israeli mini Bird Eye 400 and medium-range Searcher MkII, and also an unnamed Russian mini selected in comparative testing last fall. 

Aviaport.ru says Russian systems were only on static display, but Israeli ones were actively demonstrated.  The Searcher MkII performed a six-hour continuous flight in the vicinity of Kubinka at an altitude of  five km, relaying imagery to its ground station in real time.

Israeli drones arrived in Russia last year, and operators and technicians were trained, but they are only just starting to be used.  A Defense Ministry source tells Aviaport.ru these UAVs are already receiving high marks from the military.

UAV.ru’s editor-in-chief Denis Fedutinov thinks new pilotless aircraft will be based at the 924th Combat Training and Personnel Retraining Center.  The Center’s personnel previously used only Russian-made UAVs, the most modern of which was the 1980s-vintage Pchela.  Fedutinov says:

“Compared with them [Pchela], the impression of Israeli systems will be like switching from a Zhiguli to a Mercedes.”

Nevertheless, according to Fedutinov, the “door isn’t closed” for Russian developers.  The tests of the mini-UAV last year showed an increase in quality of Russian systems, and there was a promise to buy several dozen Russian systems for experimental use in the Ground Troops.  

The tactical-class segment still isn’t occupied, and there are two Russian contenders — VEGA’s Tipchak and Kronshtadt’s Dozor-100.  The latter is reportedly preferred given Popovkin’s negative comments about the former.

Fedutinov thinks when it comes to larger systems there’s still a possibility for cooperation with the Israelis, and there is Russian interest in the Heron system.  But decisions on this issue are essentially political.

After meeting his French counterpart in Paris — mainly about the Mistral acquisition, Defense Minister Serdyukov declared his interest in procuring all types of UAVs, from reconnaissance to strike variants, according to ITAR-TASS.  Serdyukov stated:

“At present, we’re studying the line-up of Israeli pilotless aircraft in detail.  As is known, ‘Helicopters of Russia’ has agreed with the Israelis on establishing an SP [joint venture] to produce such systems.”

Serdyukov added that a UAV operator training center will be set up soon:

“Where this center will be located isn’t decided yet.  These systems will be part of the Ground Troops.”

He said the Defense Ministry wants to buy all types, from light to heavy UAVs.  Russia is also interested in the foreign practice of using satellites to control unmanned reconnaissance and strike aircraft, Serdyukov said.

Emblem of Procurement Problems

On Friday, amidst Krasnaya zvezda’s usual fare, there was interesting coverage of a high-level meeting to review the military’s UAV (BPLA or БПЛА) procurement program.

Technically, it was a session of the collegium of the Federal Service for the Defense Order (Rosoboronzakaz or Рособоронзаказ) with the agenda item “Results of Inspecting the Placement and Fulfillment of the State Defense Order (GOZ) in the Area of Development and Supply of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.”

Rosoboronzakaz Director Aleksandr Sukhorukov, a former Serdyukov tax service deputy, conducted the session.  Also participating were newly-minted Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova, also a former Serdyukov tax service deputy, and Director of the Federal Agency for Supplies of Armaments, Military and Special Equipment, and Material Resources (Rosoboronpostavka), Nadezhda Sinikova, another of the Defense Minister’s long-time proteges.

The military paper noted that representatives of the government, ministries, and other federal executive organs, state customers from the Defense Ministry, FSB, FSO, MVD, and MChS, representatives of the Main Military Prosecutor, and OPK officials also attended.

One Yu. Stolyarov gave the main report.  He’s Chief of the Directorate of Oversight of the State Defense Order in the Area of General Armaments and Military Equipment, Aviation Equipment, Aerospace Defense Means and Armaments, Ships, and Naval Armaments and Military Equipment.  Quite a broad portfolio.  Krasnaya zvezda didn’t elaborate on what Mr. Stolyarov said, however.

Ground Troops CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov, VDV Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander, General-Lieutenant Nikolay Ignatov, an OAO Tupolev deputy chief designer, and OAO ‘Vega’ Radiobuilding Concern General Director, V. Verba also spoke at the session.  Their remarks weren’t reported either.

Krasnaya zvezda reported that all presentations were thorough and constructive, and the collegium adopted some draft directive, but we don’t know what it said.  The paper, however, says the main theme of all presentations was the same:

“. . . in their TTKh (ТТХ – tactical-technical characteristics) domestic UAVs must not lag behind foreign ones and it’s essential to do everything to achieve this.  State money has to be spent with maximum effectiveness.  Troops and power structures need to be supplied with those UAVs that will be most effective on the battlefield, and in conducting special operations.”

What should we conclude from this?  Firstly, the meeting highlighted Shevtsova’s new oversight and auditing role in procurement.

Secondly, the Defense Ministry’s leaving the door open for domestic UAV producers, and so this seems to amount to just another warning to them.  It doesn’t seem to be anything like a decision to include Russian firms or exclude foreign ones, or vice versa.

It’s not surprising the Defense Ministry highlighted this particular program review.  Few procurement issues have caused Russia as much angst recently as UAVs. 

Georgia’s Israeli-supplied UAV capabilities, and Russia’s relative lack of them, highlighted this issue in 2008.  Moscow had to risk manned aircraft instead of employing unmanned ones on reconnaissance missions.  What’s worse, two years after the five-day war, there’s still no fix to the UAV problem.  And it will become more acute should unmanned aircraft become the backbone of future air power for the world’s leading militaries.  Russia’s clearly behind on UAVs, and questions remain about whether it should catch up, and whether it can.

The Russian defense establishment has spent months debating buying from foreign manufacturers, purchasing sample quantities abroad, or producing jointly to jumpstart or pressure domestic producers.  In late 2009, Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Zelin flatly stated it would be ‘criminal’ to accept inferior Russian UAVs into the arms inventory.  The FSB reportedly said it would buy Israeli UAVs.  In March, Defense Minister Serdyukov admitted domestic UAVs ‘seriously lag’ behind world standards, and, in April, then Armaments Chief, now First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin reported that Russia had spent 5 billion rubles on UAVs without result.

So UAVs joined the list of other systems – helicopter carriers, soldier systems, light armored vehicles, etc. – that could be bought abroad, but it doesn’t look like Moscow is ready to rely, at least entirely, on foreign producers for any of them.

Electronic Warfare Chief Interviewed

Colonel Oleg Ivanov

 On Radioelectronic Warfare (REB or РЭБ) Specialists’ Day, Krasnaya zvezda interviewed the Chief of REB Troops, Colonel Oleg Anatolyevich Ivanov, about trends and developments in his branch of service.

Ivanov says the growth of information technology for military command and control has given rise to a new kind of confrontation–achieving C2 supremacy and it can exert a decisive influence on a war.  And REB has ‘priority significance’ in this area.  The basic mission of REB is gaining and holding C2 supremacy in combat actions.

Ivanov notes also REB Troops’ role in information protection.  He says they exert control over the military radio transmission network and radio discipline has been pretty good; the number of violations are down.

Ivanov says formations (brigades), units, and sub-units participated in Kavkaz-2009 and Zapad-2009 to create a complex radioelectronic situation for the networks of the exercise participants.  Combined arms units learned to fulfill their missions in conditions of active radioelectronic jamming.  REB units and sub-units worked out their radioelectronic suppression missions against the probable enemy’s targets as well as the radioelectronic defense of their own troops.  REB Troops received positive evaluations.

Asked about defense industry support to the REB Troops, Ivanov says 120 enterprises are involved, and they are largely divided, as in Soviet times, into two practically independent directions–those that work on REB systems and equipment against troop C2 on the one hand, and against weapons C2 on the other.  Sozvezdiye leads the former, and Rostekhnologiya’s ‘Electronic Technologies’ the latter.  He notes that Vega, OSK, and some independent enterprises are players also.

Not surprisingly, Ivanov says to accelerate the development of new EW systems ‘structural integration’ of these OPK enterprises is needed.  And a lead organization to make scientific-technical decisions is needed too.  Coordination of efforts will optimize the use of time and resources for creating new systems and equipment.

But Ivanov doesn’t say who his favorite to be the industry lead is.

Ivanov says Russian EW means are equal to the best foreign counterparts.  They can neutralize and block the most dangerous armaments (particularly, highly-accurate weapons) in real time.  Automated jamming stations from the 1980s and 1990s are serving well with modernization and are meeting current requirements [does this mean there’s been nothing new in the interval?].  But Ivanov says fundamentally new and unique multifunctional systems are being created along with incremental improvements in older systems.  He can’t say more owing to their secret nature.  He thinks it’s possible, however, to say they represent technological breakthroughs.

Ivanov calls EW comparable in effect to the employment of modern highly-accurate weapons, and, by some indicators, even superior to them.

KZ asks Ivanov about personnel issues, particularly one-year conscripts and young officers.

He responds that the issue of training specialists is very acute.  The rapid introduction of new equipment leads to the need for mass retraining of specialists, not just soldiers and sergeants, but officers too.  Officers might get a two-week retraining course, but a soldier takes several months and then only half a year remains for him to serve.

So all personnel are tested in the Inter-Service Training Center to evaluate their capabilities for assimilating the training program, then divided into training groups.  Next, REB Troops are trying to keep trained specialists as contractees.  Lastly, efforts are made to simplify and automate systems to ease demands on personnel.  But practice shows that making a high-class specialist in a year is very difficult, but an acceptable level of skill is possible if servicemen are focused on combat training as prescribed in their programs [i.e. not busy shoveling snow or building the commander’s dacha].

Turning to officers, Ivanov says Russian EW officers have lots of opportunities in the civilian sector, so manning the officer ranks is an ‘issue of special discussion.’  The problem, he says, isn’t as acute as the late 1990s, owing to a rise in status of officers in recent years.  But he doesn’t sound exactly convinced on this score himself.

Summing up the future for REB Troops, Ivanov concludes they have great possibilities, and coming qualitative changes in the development of EW forces and means must support its growth into a specific fundamental type of combat action which in many ways will determine the course and outcome of a battle.