Chernigovka

The last OOB spreadsheet didn’t have much on the Eastern MD’s air forces (i.e. the 11th AVVSiPVO).

The 303rd Composite Aviation Division’s subordinate regiments are now included.

One is the 18th Guards Assault Aviation Red Banner Regiment based at Chernigovka.

Chernigovka last October

Some number (probably not two complete squadrons) of Su-25SM ground attack aircraft are parked along the flight line and on hardstands.

In 2015, Bmpd reposted an item from Alexeyvvo indicating this regiment was second (after Budennovsk — Southern MD) to receive the modernized Su-25SM.

Mil.ru confirmed the presence of an assault aviation regiment at Chernigovka in late 2019.

The helicopters on hardstands belong (ostensibly at least) to the 319th Independent Helicopter Regiment. Russian sources say the regiment has roughly 20 Ka-52 and 20 Mi-8AMTSh — either two large squadrons or maybe four smaller squadrons — two of each type (??).

The regiment has the same v/ch as the old 575th Aviation Base which can be considered replaced. The aviation bases were an innovation from Anatoliy Serdyukov’s tenure intended to save money by operating several aircraft types from the same airfield. It wasn’t popular with the aviators.

But a legacy from this is two different aviation units sharing the base at Chernigovka.

Muddying the waters is Mil.ru from early 2019 indicating there’s an army aviation formation [soyedineniye] at Chernigovka. Or a resurrected (and as yet unidentified) army aviation brigade.

For now let’s call it the 319th Regiment though now it’s probably a u/i brigade. Four smaller helo squadrons would make more sense as a brigade than a regiment.

Supporting the notion that the old 575th has reverted to an army aviation brigade, the old 573rd Aviation Base at Khabarovsk-Tsentralnyy airport is now the 18th Army Aviation Brigade with Ka-52, Mi-8AMTSh, and Mi-26 helos.

Similarly, in 2018, the VKS transformed the Central MD’s aviation bases into an army aviation brigade and an independent helo regiment.

These are largely organizational changes; the equipment has remained pretty much the same. But that’s some of the process of following the OOB. And here is the latest OOB, never finished, always a work in progress.

The Winner Is . . . .

Russian military men born in the 1950s have just about disappeared from active service. A couple who remain are General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov and Ground Troops CINC Oleg Salyukov. But they aren’t likely to stay much longer.

The recent announcement that 65-year-old Army General Gerasimov has been elected president of the quasi-governmental Academy of Military Sciences makes his retirement seem imminent. Also 65, Salyukov’s circumstances can’t be much different.

Some thinking about changing faces and generations is in order.

The men of the ’60s — generals between the ages of 50 and 60 — are now firmly ensconced in most top Russian military posts except a couple of the most important ones — those Gerasimov and Salyukov still occupy.

Who will be the next General Staff Chief and Ground Troops CINC?

No special insight here. High-level military personnel decisions are made by Putin, his closest advisers, and Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and are closely held until made public.

It is possible, however, to identify several generals who are conceivable candidates. One critical factor could be their perceived willingness to use military force against Putin’s opponents or at least keep the army on the sidelines in a political showdown.

Army General Aleksandr Dvornikov…Commander of the Southern MD. Soon to be 60, Dvornikov is the oldest of the likely candidates.

He’s served more than four years in the key Southern MD. He commanded Russian forces in Syria and has long experience as deputy commander of the Central and Eastern MDs.

Dvornikov commanded combat troops during the First and Second Chechen Wars.

He lacks General Staff experience and his age might be against him.

He could be a suitable Ground Troops CINC. That would free up the Southern MD for a young, fast-burner.

General-Colonel Andrey Kartapolov…Deputy Defense Minister and Chief, Main Military-Political Directorate.

Turning 58 this year, Kartapolov also commanded troops in Syria.

He served briefly as Commander of the Western MD, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Chief of the Main Operations Directorate (GOU), and deputy commander of the Southern MD.

His appointment to the resurrected GlavPUR seemed to sidetrack a career already deficient in some respects. Unlike the other contenders, he doesn’t have a Hero of the Russian Federation medal.

But Kartapolov can’t be entirely dismissed. Putin and Shoygu have reemphasized political indoctrination in recent years. He might fit the job of Ground Troops CINC, if not General Staff Chief.

General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev (zhu-rav-LYOV)…Commander of the Western MD.

Zhuravlev turns 56 in December.

Twice he commanded Russian forces in Syria.

He served very briefly as Commander of the Eastern MD.

Zhuravlev also had short stints as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Southern MD, and Deputy Commander of the Central MD.


General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin…CINC of Aerospace Forces. Currently 54, Surovikin has an interesting array of experience.

In an unprecedented move, Putin appointed this career army officer to head Russia’s air and space forces in 2017.

He commanded Russian troops in Syria.

Surovikin commanded the Eastern MD for four years. He was Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Central MD and served almost two years as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Chief of the GOU.

He commanded the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division during the Second Chechen War.

Controversies have dogged Surovikin throughout his career but haven’t stopped his advancement so far.

If Surovikin were to become General Staff Chief (or Ground Troops CINC), a new CINC of Aerospace Forces would be needed. It’s unclear whether the MOD would return to a career air forces officer.

No one outside the Kremlin can say who will get these jobs when they become available. But these are clearly top candidates.

A senior officer probably can’t become General Staff Chief without command in Syria, command in one or two MDs, and some time in the General Staff at a minimum. Combat experience in the Chechen wars might help.

For Ground Troops CINC, there could be other candidates. One is Airborne Troops Commander General-Colonel Andrey Serdyukov. Nearly 59, Serdyukov had command in Syria and was Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Southern MD. He participated in Russia’s “dash to Pristina” as well as the Chechen wars.

Does it matter who’s Russia’s General Staff Chief?

In the case of Gerasimov, he’s served in a professional, low-key manner. He managed the armed forces smoothly in a period of intensive rearmament, increased training, and significant real-world operations. Although events make us feel otherwise, he’s likely been the source of dispassionate military advice. He surely influenced and advanced the careers of like-minded younger officers. And Gerasimov served Putin and Shoygu without appearing overly close to them.

Another man of the ’50s below the radar is Deputy Defense Minister, Chief of Rear Services Army General Dmitriy Bulgakov. He’ll be 67 (!!) this year. Logistics boss since 2008, he’ll have to be replaced soon.

Similarly, Deputy General Staff Chief, Chief of the GOU General-Colonel Sergey Rudskoy turns 61 this year. His replacement can’t be more than a year or two off.

Arctic Interceptors

On January 16, Russia’s Northern Fleet announced the deployment of long-range MiG-31BM fighter-interceptors for “experimental” combat duty on Novaya Zemlya. They will secure the RF state border and expand the protected airspace over the Northern Sea Route.

The Russian fighters will operate from the airfield at Rogachevo (Рогачёво).

MiG-31BM combat radius from Rogachevo

Here’s another handy map.

From Rogachevo, the MiG-31BM’s approximately 1,500-km combat range would allow it to cover an arc from the northern Norwegian Sea, Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, and Severnaya Zemlya to the Taymyr peninsula. In other words, the entirety of the Northern Fleet’s Barents and Kara Sea bastion.

The 1,500-km is something of a WAG; the actual radius depends on variables like exact mission profile, ordnance loading, external fuel tanks, and aerial refueling.

Russia is renovating and maintaining at least two other air bases in the Arctic — Nagurskaya on Franz Josef Land and Temp in the New Siberian Islands.

Airfield at Rogachevo

The MiG-31BM aircraft (likely a three-aircraft flight) are detached from the Monchegorsk-based 174th Guards Fighter Aviation Pechenga Red Banner Regiment named for B. F. Safonov. Part of the 45th AVVSiPVO, the regiment has about 20 MiG-31s. The unit was established only in 2019. Its aircraft flew training missions from Rogachevo in 2020.

The 45th also maintains a SAM regiment — one battalion of 12 S-400 launchers and two battalions of S-300PM SAMs — at Rogachevo.

The MiG-31BM presence may not be entirely for strategic air defense. There are reports that Russian naval air regiments are getting the hypersonic Kh-47M2 Kinzhal system — essentially an air-launched Iskander ballistic missile — for their MiG-31s (MiG-31K).

As “experimental” suggests, the MiG-31BM deployment may or may not be permanent or become a routine part of Russia’s military posture in the Arctic.

As far back as 2013, the RF MOD said it planned to base a group (probably 4-6) of MiG-31s on Novaya Zemlya. Putin ordered the establishment or reconstruction of various Russian military facilities in the Arctic at that time.

Pacific Fleet Naval Aviation reportedly began flying the MiG-31BM from Anadyr in late 2020.

If the climate and weather on Novaya Zemlya doesn’t put you off, the archipelago’s history as one of the USSR’s main nuclear test sites might (although the Russian Navy says serving there is safe, if you believe that).

It also plays a role in the modern GULAG. The MOD sent one of Aleksey Navalnyy’s top supporters to Rogachevo for his conscript service before moving him to an even more remote outpost 200 km north of the airfield.

Northern Fleet Upgrade

Russia’s Military Districts

It’s official. At least it will be on January 1, 2021.

On December 21, RF President Vladimir Putin signed out an ukaz “On the Northern Fleet” recognizing it as “an inter-service strategic territorial large formation [obyedineniye / обьединение]” carrying out the missions of a military district. Russia’s most important fleet will be guided by the Regulation on the Military District (itself confirmed by presidential ukaz in 2017).

This has been done “for purposes of effecting measures to defend the integrity and inviolability of Russian Federation territory,” according to the verbiage.

Break out your map of Russia’s Far North.

Recall the stage was set in June when Putin signed an ukaz “On the Military-Administrative Division of the Russian Federation.” That decree put the Northern Fleet in charge of the Republic of Komi, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk oblasts, and Nenets autonomous district (all previously part of the Western MD).

We have to wonder a couple things.

1) If or when Russia’s Pacific Fleet might also gain the status of a military district. With all the Kremlin’s attention to the northern latitudes, can the Pacific Fleet with Yakutia and Chukotka not merit the same regard? And this even without pointing to the rest of the fleet’s immense AOR.

2) What about Krasnoyarsk kray and Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district currently under the administration of the Central MD? Which Russian military strategic entity should control planning and operations for the Kara Sea and this part of the Arctic? It seems the Northern Fleet does, though not officially its AOR.

This military-administrative reorganization probably isn’t over.

It’s worth reminding that this represents some unwinding of the 2010 reform that reduced the number of MDs to four and put the fleets under the control of those army-dominated MDs.

Promotion List

Here’s the latest promotion list. Roughly 620 general and flag officers from the Russian Federation Armed Forces. Always trying (and failing) to make it up-to-date.

Still color-coding (green, yellow, red, orange) individual officers for likely, uncertain, or unlikely future career progression.

What, you ask, are indicators of probable advancement? One is, ironically and simply, a recent promotion. An officer promoted to one-star rank is in the running for a second star, etc. But also whether an officer is in a line or staff position, his age (where we have it), and his past career progression.

Sometimes generals or admirals are marked yellow or red for lack of another rung to step up. General-Colonel Kim and Admiral Moiseyev are recent examples.

Orange is for those without an identified position or post (probably some are GRU and their names are kept out of the media). Some may be commanding militia forces in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine.

The folder of photos of promoted officers has been updated — 110 pics.

Latest Promotions

Here are the latest RF MOD promotees after confirming their current postings.

General-Colonel (3 stars)

Aleksey Kim…Deputy CINC of Ground Troops for Peacekeeping.

Admiral (3 stars)

Aleksandr Moiseyev…Commander, Northern Fleet.

General-Lieutenant (2 stars)

Roman Berdnikov…Commander, 29th CAA, Eastern MD.

Andrey Burbin…Commander, 27th Missile Army, RVSN.

Dmitriy Krayev…Commander, 14th Army Corps, Northern Fleet.

Sergey Ryzhkov…Commander, 41st CAA, Central MD.

Sergey Chuvakin…Deputy Chief, GOMU, General Staff.

Vice-Admiral (2 stars)

Arkadiy Romanov…Commander, Submarine Forces, Northern Fleet.

Aleksandr Yuldashev…Commander, Troops and Forces in the North-East, Pacific Fleet.

General-Major (1 star)

Aleksey Avdeyev…Commander, 3rd MRD, Western MD.

Aleksandr Anistratenko…Deputy Chief, Main Armaments Directorate, MOD.

Andrey Baranov…12th GUMO officer.

Oleg Botsman…Chief, Military Institute of Physical Eduation.

Vladimir Kutsenko…Commander, 1st Composite Aviation Division, Southern MD.

Sergey Marchuk…Chief, Space Test Center named for Titov.

Vadim Morozov…Commander, 132nd Composite Aviation Division, Baltic Fleet.

Aleksandr Osadchuk…Commander, v/ch 74455, GRU.

Dmitriy Pyatunin…Chief, Material Support Directorate, Central MD.

Oleg Stepanov…Chief, Directorate of Military Representatives, MOD.

Andrey Sukhovetskiy…Commander, 7th Air-Assault Division, Southern MD.

Dmitriy Sukhoruchkin…Commander, 18th Military-Transport Aviation Division.

Yuriy Khort…Chief, Railroad Troops Directorate, Southern MD.

Sergey Chubarykin…Commander, 76th Air-Assault Division, Western MD.

Valeriy Shkilnyuk…Chief, 392nd District Training Center, Eastern MD.

General-Major of Medical Service (1 star)

Aleksandr Sergoventsev…Deputy Chief for Medicine, Central Military Clinical Hospital named for Mandryk.

Four new generals and admirals could not be identified in a position.

* * * * * *

Some notes on the above-mentioned promotees:

New General-Colonel Kim served in Russia’s “reconciliation center” in Syria. He’s a military academic previously posted to MAGS and the Combined Arms Academy. A specialist without command experience, he’s probably achieved terminal rank.

Admiral Moiseyev is likewise unlikely to be promoted again. He’s an experienced operator but he and Navy CINC Admiral Yevmenov are the same age. Moiseyev will probably have to be content in Northern Fleet. But strange things happen….

Kim and Moiseyev defy the wisdom that getting a promotion makes one more likely to be promoted. For that to work, there has to be a logical higher position.

Krayev was commissioned an airborne officer. He’s served his career in naval infantry, demonstrating again that Russia’s VDV aren’t simply airborne — they’re a jumping off point for combat commanders throughout the armed forces.

Chuvakin has no clear biographic details, but his father may have been the two-star General Staff officer who served as secretary of the Defense Council in the last years of the USSR.

Romanov is a former SSBN commander with an impressive service record. He commanded Typhoon-class SSBN Dmitriy Donskoy during testing of Bulava SLBMs.

Baranov has apparently commanded several nuclear weapons storage facilities, including one where conscript Shamsutdinov went on a killing spree in October 2019. Not a good look for Baranov but he got promoted.

Osadchuk commanded the GRU hacking outfit that broke into Democratic National Committee servers and gave the contents to Wikileaks in 2016. He’s wanted by the FBI.

Image

Stepanov’s Military Representatives are the voyenpredy supervising work on MOD state orders in Russia’s defense enterprises.

Promotion Quicklook

Mr. Putin signed out the latest promotion list (for Constitution Day) yesterday.

For the MOD, it’s pretty thick — two three-stars, seven two-stars, and 20 one-stars.

Putin’s National Guard added one three-star, one two-star, and two one-stars.

But back to the MOD . . .

New General-Colonel Aleksey Kim is Deputy CINC of Ground Troops for Peacekeeping.

Admiral Aleksandr Moiseyev commands the Northern Fleet.

New general-lieutenants include commanders of the 29th and 41st CAAs, and the commander of the 18th MGAD.

The chief of the RVSN’s central command post got a second star, as did Deputy GUMO Chief Sergey Chuvakin.

General-Lieutenant Chuvakin

The commander of Russian Troops and Forces in the North-East (Kamchatka) and commander of Belomorsk Naval Base became Vice-Admirals.

Full rundown on the latest promotions after some research.

Peacekeepers Deployed

On November 20, Interfaks-AVN reported 250 VTA flights have deployed 1,960 troops of the Samara-based 15th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade (Peacekeeping) to Nagorno-Karabakh. Citing Defense Minister Shoygu, the news agency said 552 equipment items were also delivered.

Russian peacekeepers checking for roadside mines

Shoygu indicated Russian peacekeepers occupy 23 observation posts to oversee the ceasefire. Russian troops are divided into two zones — north and south.

Interesting what it takes to airlift a brigade, even a light one.

An-124 Program

KZ coverage of yesterday’s MOD leadership videoconference provided a little window into what has apparently become the modest modernization program for Russia’s An-124 Ruslan heavy transport aircraft.

Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu proposed discussion about the modernization and repair of the An-124, saying:

In conditions where the demand for transport of super-heavy and large diameter loads in the Armed Forces is growing, resolution of this problem has taken on special importance. In the conference, we will hear proposals of the directors of Aviation Complex named for S. V. Ilyushin and the Ural Civil Aviation Plant [UZGA] regarding completion of the contract for modernization, restoration, and life extension of two An-124 aircraft, but also for the capital repair and modernization of 12 D-18T aircraft engines.

So that’s modernization of two aircraft and 12 engines (three aircraft?). Shoygu confirmed what was reported for VPK in 2018 by one-time officer and KZ journalist Oleg Falichev.

Falichev called (perhaps shilled?) for work on 12 D-18T engines. He claimed Russia’s An-124s received only two percent of funding required for their maintenance, and indicated UZGA had not “mastered” repair of the D-18T, a Soviet-era product made on the territory of Ukraine.

Recall we see various numbers for An-124s in VTA’s inventory, perhaps four or nine operational aircraft with maybe more than 20 airframes in various states of repair (or disrepair).

It’s been clear for a while that Moscow won’t try to recreate production of An-124s; modernization is supposed to allow them to serve until the 2040s when PAK TA might enter the force.

Shoygu could be right. The demand for super-heavy airlift might be growing, especially given the current state of world disorder and Moscow’s increased activism abroad. This could put a premium on the ability to deliver large amounts of cargo rapidly to great distances.

Then again, if this is the extent of the An-124 modernization program, it doesn’t sound like a high priority. It sounds like a band aid. Always resourceful, the Kremlin will find simpler ways to get the job done.

The Latest Arsenal Fire

Russia’s latest military arsenal tragedy is a new chapter in an unfinished book. What follows isn’t so much news as context you haven’t seen.

According to Interfaks-AVN, a woman died on October 10 from severe injuries received from the fire and explosions which began October 7 in Ryazan oblast. Another 15 victims are reportedly stable with serious burns, injuries, or chronic conditions aggravated by smoke inhalation.

A grass fire was inexplicably allowed to reach the ammo dumps at military unit 55443 near Zheltukhino in Skopinskiy region, and it ignited munitions in open storage. It’s unclear whether the Russian MOD’s Main Missile and Artillery Directorate (GRAU) or the Western MD is responsible for the unit at present. Neither wants to be for certain.

Interfaks-AVN indicated the arsenal (once maybe the GRAU’s 97th Arsenal) consists (or consisted) of 113 warehouses and bunkers with 75,000 tons of missiles, rockets, and artillery shells (a “large portion” of which were 152-mm high-explosive fragmentation).

Munitions from other Russian Army ammo dumps were being collected at Zheltukhino, according to Komsomolskaya pravda.

More than 2,300 people living near the depot were evacuated.

Four VTA Il-76 aircraft, and one Mi-26 and one Mi-8 helicopter were used against the fire as water tankers, TVZvezda reported. Izvestiya said five helos. In 36 fixed and 763 rotary-wing flights, they dropped 4,700 tons of water on the flames.

Izvestiya added that 650 servicemen and nearly 200 pieces of equipment — including 120 EOD personnel and 32 special vehicles (likely Uran-6 and Uran-14 robotic mine clearance vehicles) — were used to battle the fire.

Russian media reported the fire was localized on the evening of October 8 and controlled on October 10.

Kommersant reported the fire and explosions damaged 430 structures, public facilities, apartment buildings, and private homes. If not completely burned down, they have broken windows, partially collapsed roofs, and damaged walls. More than 500 families received 10,000 rubles in immediate emergency funds from the RF government.

Izvestiya relayed some (but not all) of the history of Russia’s recent arsenal fires.

A major fire and explosions rocked the 31st Arsenal and the city of Ulyanovsk in 2009.

A fire and explosions at Pugachevo, Udmurtia in 2011 caused the evacuation of 30,000 people and damaged 3,000 buildings. But Pugachevo (GRAU’s 102nd Arsenal) proved a persistent problem; new fires and explosions occurred there in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2018.

There were other disasters in 2011 — at the 99th Arsenal in Bashkiria and in Ashuluk where six troops died and 12 were hurt. In 2012, there were two fires with explosions in Orenburg and one in Primorye.

Then soon-to-be ex-minister of defense Serdyukov exerted some serious control over Russian munitions storage and dismantlement. But this came too late and, along with his other problems, made him expendable to the Kremlin.

In early 2012, Deputy Defense Minister Dmitriy Bulgakov said the military planned to complete 35 modern arsenals, outfitted with hundreds of bunkers, before 2015 for 90 billion rubles. It also began explosive destruction of a large quantity of outdated munitions. Work on new ammo storage continued through 2018.

But the MOD hasn’t been able to catch up with the problem. It hasn’t offered a comprehensive assessment of the construction effort. So it’s safe to conclude it’s taking longer and accomplishing less than what’s needed.

A couple cases in point. On August 5, 2019, the ammo depot in Achinsk, Krasnoyarsk territory burned. About 16,000 people living within a 20-km radius had to be evacuated. One person died and 40 were injured.

On May 9, 2020, a grass fire ignited small caliber ammo at Pugachevo. The fire covered 15 hectares, but was put out without a disaster like previous incidents there.