Tag Archives: Viktor Yesin

“Dead Hand” Alive and Modernized?

From Friday’s news . . . .

“Russia could shift to preemptive nuclear strike doctrine — ex-chief of RVSN”

“Retaliatory nuclear strike command and control system ‘Perimeter’ has been modernized”

“Moscow. 9 November. INTERFAKS-AVN – Russia could renounce its retaliatory strike doctrine in favor of a preemptive nuclear attack on a potential aggressor, if the U.S. deploys missiles on the territory of European states, said General-Colonel Viktor Yesin, who led the Main Staff of the Missile Troops of Strategic Designation in 1994-1996.”

“‘If the Americans start deploying their missiles in Europe, we have no choice but to abandon a retaliatory strike doctrine and move to a preemptive strike doctrine,’ V. Yesin said in an interview published in the weekly ‘Zvezda.'”

“He also said the Soviet-created ‘command’ missile system ‘Perimeter’ capable of transmitting launch commands to intercontinental missiles after an enemy nuclear strike on Russia has been modernized.”

“‘The ‘Perimeter’ system is functioning, and it is even improved,’ said V. Yesin.”

“Answering the question if the ‘Perimeter’ system can guarantee a retaliatory strike in the case of an enemy preemptive attack, the general said: ‘When it is working, we will already have few means remaining – we can launch only the missiles which survive after the aggressor’s first strike.'”

“The expert also stated that ‘we still don’t have an effective response to American medium-range missiles in Europe.'”

“‘Perimeter’ (in English Dead Hand) is an automated command and control system for a massive nuclear retaliatory strike developed in the USSR. According to open information, the ‘Perimeter’ system was created as a component part of the Airborne Command Post (VKP) system under the codename ‘Link’ developed in the Soviet Union.”

“The airborne command and control post on the Il-86VKP aircraft, airborne radio relay on the Il-76RT, silo-based command missile (KR) ‘Perimeter’ and mobile KR ‘Gorn’¹ were part of ‘Link.'”

“In a crisis period three Il-86VKP would have had the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Minister of Defense and Chief of the General Staff on board.”

“‘The aircraft didn’t have passenger windows so those on-board wouldn’t be blinded by the flash of nuclear blasts. Computers and communications were located in the nose. Two electrical power generators were hung under the wings. They guaranteed long operation of all aircraft systems,’ it says in a book from the series ‘World of Russian Weapons’ published in 2016.”

“At the determined moment the Il-86VKP would launch an 8 km long antenna which not even impulses from nuclear explosions could affect. Using this antenna the aircraft would transmit commands to launch all the country’s intercontinental missiles even in the event that all underground KP [trans. command posts] were destroyed by the aggressor’s nuclear strike.”

“The radio relay aircraft Il-76RT would transmit commands to launch missiles in distant regions, including those deployed on submarines in the Northern and Pacific Fleets.”

“‘Perimeter’ and ‘Gorn’ missiles could have transmitted missile launch commands when the aggressor had already delivered a surprise first strike and destroyed communications systems. The KR, having launched into space, where no satellite or enemy nuclear explosions could reach them, would transmit radio signals from there. The missiles ‘awakened’ by them would take off and strike the aggressor.”

“The ‘Perimeter’ missiles were reliably protected on the ground by concrete silos. ‘Gorns’ deployed on missile transporters permanently on the move.”

“According to expert assessments, the ‘Link’ system, including space KR, was one of the most important factors deterring the U.S. from a nuclear attack on the USSR.”

An interesting piece bringing Perimeter back into the news. Yesin calls the system Dead Hand. But he doesn’t describe how the system is engaged, any atmospheric, seismic, and radiation sensors, or ground-based command, control, and communications link monitors that some claim allowed it to function autonomously. Others assert these elements, though considered, were never incorporated into Perimeter.

Russian military commentator Viktor Murakhovskiy has pointed out that, even if the U.S. quits the INF Treaty, Washington is a long way from deploying new intermediate- or shorter-range nuclear missiles in Europe. So Yesin’s recommendation for a change in Moscow’s declaratory nuclear doctrine is premature.

¹ Command missile Gorn [trans. bugle, trumpet, etc.] had GRAU index 15Zh53 and deployed with Soviet SS-20 IRBMs.

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Dizzy with Bulava’s Success?

Iosif Vissarionovich might have accused Bulava’s proponents of dizziness after the SLBM’s test firing on October 7.  There’s no mistaking it was a clear boost to a troubled program.  Success always trumps failure.  It may even turn out that all of Bulava’s design, production, and assembly problems are resolved.  But one would think the history and current state of the Bulava would call for more cautious, guarded optimism.  This successful test was necessary, but far from even close to sufficient to complete the program.

The biggest news story after this successful test was the report that, as a result, the Bulava SLBM and Borey-class SSBN weapons system might be accepted into the arms inventory as early as mid-2011.

A highly-placed Navy Main Staff source told Interfaks:

“Before the end of the year, another two test launches of the missile are planned, if they are as successful as today’s launch, then it’s legitimate to consider the issue of the quickest completion of tests of this strategic system.  I’m proposing that the acceptance of Bulava into the arms inventory could happen in the middle of next year.”

He follows adding that serial production of the SLBM and its deployment in proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBNs will ensue.

The Navy Main Staff source doesn’t go into exactly what ‘quickest completion’ entails, but others do.  Presumably, this means another test from Dmitriy Donskoy before the end of October and, if that’s a success, the first launch from Borey-class Yuriy Dolgorukiy before year’s end.

Vesti.ru conjectures that ‘quickest completion’ might mean a second, ‘insurance’ shot from Yuriy Dolgorukiy in early 2011, then a volley firing of two missiles in spring or early summer.  After this, if every test is a success, the weapons system would be accepted, serial production would begin, and Bulava would be deployed on Yuriy Dolgorukiy.  That’s if everything goes right.

An irrationally exuberant Defense Ministry source even told RIA Novosti:

“The successful launch of the missile gives a basis to suppose that the entire system ‘submarine plus missile’ will be accepted into the Russian Navy’s arms inventory by the end of the year or at the beginning of next.”

Former Armaments Chief Anatoliy Sitnov was pretty confident, telling Interfaks and ARMS-TASS that no specialists are expressing doubts about Bulava, and ‘broken links’ in its production process have been overcome.

Old RVSN general Viktor Yesin told Interfaks he agrees it’s possible to plan for completing Bulava testing by mid-2011.  But he retains some caution:

“The tests conducted instill hope that the two flight tests of the Bulava ballistic missile coming before the end of this year will be successful.  If this happens, it’ll be possible to confirm that the designers and producers overcame a period of failures in the creation of the new submarine-launched missile system.”

Yesin also notes that only the telemetry can say if all the Bulava’s systems were working normally.

Forum.msk’s Anatoliy Baranov is skeptical about making Bulava part of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces even if the next two tests are successful, and make the tally 8 successes in 15 attempts.  He says having a missile you want to produce doesn’t mean you can produce it quickly in the necessary quantity:

“Incidentally, no one has answered for the strategic decision which left the country practically without a naval component of strategic nuclear forces [SYaS].  Don’t believe that the resignation of MIT director Solomonov is a sufficient measure of responsibility considering the possible consequences of such a mistake, and the fact that today our naval strategic nuclear forces [MSYaS] already lag the strategic enemy by a factor of 5.  But even given the most successful confluence of circumstances, we will have a gap between old missiles and submarines going out of service and new ones coming into service because the possibilities of domestic industry in serial production of solid-fuel missiles are very limited.  The Votkinsk factory produces 5-6 solid-fuel ‘Topol-M1’ missiles, there aren’t other producers.  This means the production of new missiles of the ‘Bulava’ type puts an extra load on production which already can’t cope with the creation of new land-based missiles — see, straining the RVSN rearmament program even worse.  In the best case, the necessary complement of armaments for the 3 new ‘Borey’ class SSBNs will be produced in nearly 15 years.  This is a catastrophe.”

Andrey Ionin doesn’t agree with Sitnov above.  He told Gazeta.ru that the Defense Ministry shouldn’t be impatient:

“A state commission report on successful testing and a formal decision on accepting the system for regular use doesn’t change the fact that the problem of low quality in joint production has not been eliminated.”

Carnegie Center Moscow associate Petr Topychkanov says:

“Three successful tests in a row is not a reason to put a type into serial production.”

But, unlike Baranov, he points out that the production run for Bulava doesn’t have to be too big since there are, and will be, relatively few tubes to fill.

Pavel Felgengauer in Novaya gazeta is skeptical about how close the Bulava RVs came to their intended targets, but, more important for this discussion, he calls saying that Bulava is almost ready for deployment after this successful test a “dangerous adventure.”  He adds:

“And here is a ‘raw’ missile, not completely ready and the not tested ‘Yuriy Dolgorukiy,’ a crew which clearly hasn’t mastered its submarine — and missile launches right away.  Very bold to put it mildly.”

Viktor Baranets sums it up:

“A successful launch instills some optimism.  But it’s still a long time before accepting the missile into the arms inventory.  And of 13 launches only 6 (including yesterday’s) [October 7]  were recognized as successful.  Or ‘partially successful.’  But this is not cause to launch the missile into a serial run.  Higher ‘positive indicators’ are needed.  Our specialists and foreign ones believe the quantity of successful launches should be steadily above 90%.”

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? 

Three Identical Missiles

The Defense Ministry’s inter-departmental commission didn’t make any announcement about its work or the causes of Bulava SLBM test failures as had been anticipated on 20 May.  If this commission has clues about the missile’s problems, it didn’t reveal them.  But Kommersant concludes that the Defense Ministry hasn’t reliably determined the causes of previous failed launches.

However, on 21 May, Defense Minister Serdyukov announced a new approach to Bulava testing.  The Russians will make three identical missiles and launch them in hopes of pinpointing the same problem in each.  It’s a gamble, but it could work.

RIA Novosti quoted Serdyukov:

“The problem of the unsuccessful ‘Bulava’ missile launches lies in the assembly process.  We do not see any other violations there.  The whole matter is missile assembly quality.  Each unsuccessful launch has its own causes.  They are all different.”

“Now we are working on making three absolutely identical missiles.  We believe that this will allow us to precisely locate the mistake, if there is one, since it must be repeated in all three missiles.  Now we are working on how to control the assembly process in order to know that all the missiles are identical.  Toward November, I think, we can begin launching the missiles.  After this we will be able to identify the cause precisely.”

Earlier reports had said the next Bulava test would occur in June, but Serdyukov now says November at the earliest.  Over six years, only 5 of 12 Bulava launches have been successful or ‘partially successful.’  The missile launched on 9 December 2009 self-destructed after a third stage engine problem.  Grani.ru recalled that other recent problems included steering system and stage separation malfunctions.  Moscow had intended to put the Bulava on its new Borey, or Proyekt 955, SSBNs starting in 2007.

Gzt.ru describes the new three missile approach as an expensive “hit or miss” method.  The Defense Ministry hopes launching identical missiles will point to the same problem in each, if there is one.  But if they still manifest different problems, Moscow will be no closer to pinning them down.  The risk is another year without getting any closer to a new SLBM.

Gzt.ru concludes:

“Serdyukov didn’t specify what will happen if in the November series of launches of ‘Bulava’ each time a different component of the missile fails.  Apparently, this possibility isn’t being considered.”

Also in Gzt.ru, Defense Ministry critic Konstantin Sivkov describes the three missile plan as absurd and expensive.  With each missile costing 300 million rubles, it’s a 1 billion ruble effort and there’s no guarantee the bug, or bugs, will be identified.  He believes the designers will have to conduct stand tests where all components can be checked under controlled conditions.  He blames defective parts allowed into the system due to inadequate production controls.

Gazeta.ru cited one Andrey Ionin, a missile designer, who agrees the problem lies in the absence of technological discipline in the enterprises of the Russian OPK.  He says:

“Cooperation by several hundred enterprises, working under different forms of ownership, in different parts of the country, without observing all rules of technological discipline is pointless.” 

Nevertheless, simultaneous assembly of three missiles could be a way of searching for mistakes in Bulava.

MIT missile designer Yuriy Solomonov has said repeatedly it’s defective materials, production process breakdowns, and the lack of quality control, but neither he nor military men are saying which materials or processes they suspect.  He’s also said Russia lacks 50 materials needed for solid-fuel missile production.

In Kommersant, former RVSN general Viktor Yesin claims the Defense Ministry’s inter-departmental commission investigating Bulava has determined that enterprises didn’t cooperate and provided poor quality parts for the missile.  Still he sees no alternative to Bulava and believes its design is workable.