More on the Unified Tactical Level Command and Control System

On 7 March, Russkiy Newsweek spent some time on Sozvezdiye [Constellation], aka the Unified Tactical Level Command and Control System (YeSU TZ).  The system is sometimes called by the name of its manufacturer–Sozvezdiye.  General Staff Chief Makarov in February said the system would be ready by November.

Russkiy Newsweek concludes, if it actually appears, it will be a technological revolution.  One Defense Ministry interlocutor said it now takes a day for orders to reach field commands from Moscow, but they will go practically in real time with this system.

The author, Viktor Poltavtsev, says NATO already operates in a netcentric fashion, and Makarov is quoted about how an Iraqi Army superior in tanks and artillery was defeated by smaller coalition forces that could see and forecast events, calculate variants, and receive possible solutions in real time.  Poltavtsev says, in the Genshtab, they believe the U.S. Army was 80 times more powerful than its opponent as a result of this information advantage.

But back to Sozvezdiye, Anatoliy Tsyganok thinks this not-yet-fielded system is already obsolete.  He says:

“Every Defense Minister picks his toy.  Igor Sergeyev–Bulava, Sergey Ivanov–GLONASS.  The current minister–the command and control system.”

Despite willingness to entertain possible arms imports in many areas, there is a fear of imports when it comes to command and control systems. Aleksandr Golts notes that Russia lacks a component base–it can’t produce chips or circuit boards, but doesn’t want to buy them abroad either.

The Georgians’ U.S.-made Harris system reportedly performed magnificently in 2008.  One Sozvezdiye associate said that, when the smoke of that little war cleared, it was obvious the Russian Army had no communications, old or new, and things began to stir in the Genshtab.  But Sozvezdiye’s testing has brought mixed results.  YeSU TZ was tested last summer during Kavkaz-2009.

Poltavtsev gives a little explanatory background.  Akatsiya, around since the mid-1990s, is a Genshtab-Military District level comms system that was produced by Sistemprom.  But it didn’t make too much sense without a tactical system to reach brigades-battalions-companies and individual soldiers.

Enter Sozvezdiye.  The Voronezh NII of Communications (aka Sozvezdiye) has worked since 2000 on a tactical level system.  Its specialty heretofore had been satellite radio comms.

Sistemprom awaits the completion of Sozvezdiye’s system so it can connect the two, to create a single command and control system.  As Poltavtsev describes it, generals will sit at Akatsiya stations and command divisions or brigades that have Akveduk.  Brigade commanders will use Akveduk to command their battalions and companies in real time using fast, well-protected channels.

So YeSU TZ is supposed to be the computer network that unites the battlefield–people, equipment, artillery, etc., like a computer game.

Battalion and company commanders are supposed to be able to use digital channels to get reconnaissance photos, video, and other data, to give commands to troops, and to connect to higher staff elements.  Today the commander still has to scream into the radio, but tomorrow he might send soldiers orders to their hand-held devices.

But this is still theoretical.  Everything will depend on the reliability of the equipment and comms channels.  And the system can be blocked if the RF spectrum is suppressed.  The system might not work against a modern, well-equipped enemy that can do this.

Poltavtsev says Russian EW (or REC) systems were used against Sozvezdiye during testing in December at Alabino.  And mobile phones, Internet, radios, and even some hospital equipment in the area stopped working as a result.  A Sozvezdiye rep says their system was jammed on the Taman brigade’s range, but they can get around this by changing transmitters.

The main thing, according to him, is developing algorithms for use in combat that everyone understands.  Users say Sozvezdiye is complex and difficult to use, and it will take a while for commanders to sort out its arrows and symbology.

The Defense Ministry has acknowledged that YeSU TZ needs significant reworking, but there’s no other way.  General Staff Chief Makarov said everyone built their own C2 systems in the past; there were 16 military C2 systems in Soviet days.  Now a common one is being built.  However, Poltavtsev asked a PAK FA developer if his system is already integrated into Sozvezdiye, and he asked what it was, he’d never heard of it.

An interesting account of Sozvezdiye . . . it sounds a little like the story of Bulava, i.e. ‘we have to unify our different systems,’ ‘there’s no other way but to make it work,’ etc.  These are understandable, even commendable at times, goals and sentiments, but they don’t always lead to development of successful military systems.  Sometimes the primary goal has to be a system that works.  And sometimes designers and builders even have to start over.

3 responses to “More on the Unified Tactical Level Command and Control System

  1. Is Anatoliy Tsyganok related to Pavel Felgenhaur?
    He is criticising a system that will dramatically change C3 in the Russian military and what is his criticism based on?

    That the system is the focus of the current minister of defence.

    He even lists what the previous ministers focused on, perhaps he is trying to be funny.

    The focus is first on the only thing that actually keeps Russias security… the replacement submarine launched ballistic missile Bulava. Second is the Glonass satellite navigation system. What good would a command and control and communication system be without an operational navigation system you can depend on?
    And now command and control and communications.

    It is not as if the three things listed were trivial, if anyone stepped back and looked at the problems facing the Russian military the first step is to make sure the nuclear deterrent is solid, second you need to have a sound navigation system to base everything else upon.
    Now it is a good command, control, and communications system.

    Makes perfect sense to me.

    [quote]Aleksandr Golts notes that Russia lacks a component base–it can’t produce chips or circuit boards, but doesn’t want to buy them abroad either.[/quote]

    Very few countries on this planet make all their own electronics. Lots of countries import foreign chips and put together their own circuit boards with foreign parts.
    Russia is creating its own silicon valley in the near future and one suspects that that might include creating an electronics base as well.

    Current radio communications can be jammed already, or even intercepted and used for intel for the enemy able to listen in.

    This system will be complex and it will have lots of areas where it might be vulnerable, but it is still better than nothing which is what is in use now.

    If it is jammed then measures can be made to make it harder to jam.
    If some users find it confusing then the designers need to sit down with the users and work with them to make it easier to understand.
    It is not a case of showing them how the designers have made the interfaces, it is a question of talking to the users to determine what needs to be changed and what can stay the same so that it is easy to use.

    The point is that this sort of system is a necessary thing and even a not very good Russian system is much better than no system at all.
    A better system might be offered to Russia but what are the odds that it will suit Russia better than one they have made themselves?

    BTW thanks for the article as I have not found this sort of stuff mentioned anywhere else in English.

  2. In my humble opinion the next focus will be on recon and intel gathering on the battlefield, because after securing your nuclear deterrent, then creating a stable navigation system and then ensuring the C3 of your forces, you then need to locate and identify the enemy.
    There would not be much use in focusing on intel and recon first because without a reliable nav system and without proper C3 how are you going to control your forces to find and destroy any targets you find?

  3. Tsyganok and Felgengauer are critics, but a long, close read will tell you they aren’t the same kind of critic. I don’t think there’s an attempt to be funny; there are, and have been, lots of plans out there. But plans are only plans. Implementation is all together different and it’s where the problems lie. Russia clearly won’t risk putting foreign components into certain systems, i.e. C2 and nuclear weapons. Putin and Medvedev’s siliconskiy valley is a long way off and it might not even be the right thing to do. Some system is absolutely better than none; only Moscow knows how good it will or won’t be.

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