Monthly Archives: August 2010

State Tests of Su-35 Pending

Su-35

Krasnaya zvezda on 13 August ran a brief item updating Su-35 developments.

Sukhoy is completing its preliminary testing of the Su-35 multirole fighter, and plans to present it for state testing this fall.  Sukhoy chief designer Igor Demin [Dyomin or Дёмин] told Interfaks-AVN to expect this in September or October.  He said there are two Su-35 prototypes currently in flight testing, and this number will increase to 6 for state testing.  The third Su-35 will reportedly fly at some point in the fourth quarter of this year.

Demin says the Su-35 is receiving lots of testing because it has many new systems and components.  Preliminary testing substantiated its advertised characteristics — low and high altitude maximum speeds of 1,400 and 2,500 kph respectively, and a ceiling of 19,000 meters.

Sukhoy has a mid-2009 state order for 48 Su-35 for delivery by 2015, and serial production of the fighter has been arranged at Sukhoy’s KnAAPO.  The first aircraft might be delivered in late 2010, and serial production will start next year.  Export deliveries are planned for 2012, according to this report.

The Su-35’s designers say this fighter will allow for a partial rearmament of the Air Forces, and facilitate assimilation of ‘new generation equipment.’  They describe the Su-35 as a deeply modernized, highly-maneuverable ‘4++’ generation aircraft, which already uses some 5th generation technologies.

According to this article, the Su-35 sports digital avionics and instrumentation, a new phased array radar capable of long-range target detection and tracking and engaging more targets simultaneously, and new engines with greater thrust and variable thrust vectoring.  Its radar signature has been reduced several times over 4th generation aircraft by using an electroconductive coverings for cabin lighting,  radar-absorbent materials, and a reduced number of antennas.

The Su-35 is reportedly designed for a service life of 6,000 flying hours, and its controllable-nozzle engines 4,000 hours.

According to ITAR-TASS, Sukhoy reported in July that Air Forces pilots were beginning to prepare to fly the Su-35S [supposedly the nomenclature for the domestic version] in state trials.

Infomercials aside, the Su-35 is intended to be a gap-filler for PAK FA, but no one can say how long the gap will be.  Long in development and repeated modernizations, it will likely be a solid aircraft, evolved as it is from pretty good stock.  There’s foreign interest, but, of course, no firm purchases yet.

Story of a Noncombat Loss

Albert Kiyamov (photo: Chita.ru)

A recent case illustrates why most Russians don’t want their sons – especially talented, well-educated ones – to serve in the army.  It’s a tale of senseless violence and abuse going beyond dedovshchina , bullying, or hazing.  And it highlights how contract service makes sadistic riff-raff into unprofessional NCOs, and tormentors of the conscripts they’re intended to lead.  

For their part, more VUZ graduates are ending up in the army given the military’s need for higher numbers of draftees and its tighter enforcement of conscription rules.  The army believes more educated conscripts will make service safer, but it may just make them the victims of violence in the ranks. 

The investigation into the May death of a conscript named Albert Kiyamov in Transbaykal Kray recently ended with the filing of criminal charges against company sergeant Sergey Lugovets. 

Kiyamov was a promising graduate with a degree in nuclear physics, who’d been picked for a job in the Scientific-Research Institute of Nuclear Reactors.  But he got called-up in April.  According to Newsru.com, his family thinks his poor vision should have made him unfit to serve. 

Lugovets enlisted in the army despite a suspended sentence for theft in Volgograd Oblast, and became a sergeant in the headquarters company of the 36th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade in Borzya (v/ch 06705).  According to Utro.ru, he quickly established ‘his order’ in the company.  And he picked Kiyamov to be his main victim. 

Kiyamov endured days of beatings and humiliation from Lugovets before jumping to his death from a fourth-story barracks window on May 14. 

According to Newsru.com, the command told Kiyamov’s family it was a simple suicide, but they refused to accept this, believing – based on the number of bruises and abrasions on his body – he’d been beaten, then thrown from the window.  The SibVO military prosecutor at first denied observing evidence of prior beatings on Kiyamov’s body.  But an investigation ensued. 

Sergeant Lugovets didn’t deny his guilt, but claimed he was trying to ‘teach’ Kiyamov how to conduct himself around his ‘seniors.’  He faces a possible 10-year sentence for “violating regulation rules of relations between servicemen, entailing serious consequences.” 

The unit’s officers were attending an exercise at the time of this incident, and military investigators gave them a warning to eliminate the kinds of violations that led to Lugovets’ abuse of Kiyamov.  

Vitaliy Cherkasov, Director of the Transbaykal Legal Defense Center, told Newsru.com about a similar incident in Borzya more recently, but, in this case, the soldier sustained serious injuries, and survived to be discharged from the army.  A legal defense group told Utro.ru the Kiyamov tragedy was possible because the Defense Ministry allows men with criminal records to sign up for contract service [of course, it drafts some with criminal records too]. 

Units in Borzya, and the Transbaykal generally, have a substantial history of problems with violence and abuse in the ranks.  On the positive side, investigators are getting to the truth in some cases, but too late for kids like Albert Kiyamov.

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.

The Navy Main Staff and the Petersburg Move

Yesterday’s Gazeta.ru recapped a brief Interfaks item saying the much-discussed Navy Main Staff move from Moscow to St. Petersburg will be delayed for an undetermined period of time.  A Main Staff source told Interfaks:

“The transfer of the Navy Main Staff to Petersburg is put off to an undetermined time.  Now the main efforts are concentrated on a radical optimization of its structure, which must be finished before year’s end.”

“At present the process of forming a compact command and control structure, which, being located in Petersburg, will be as close to the fleet as possible, is ongoing.”

The source says the group of staff officers who moved to Petersburg at the beginning of 2010 will stay in Admiralty and act as a Glavkomat representative.  Navy CINC Admiral Vysotskiy has an office there, and he routinely visits St. Petersburg.

So maybe the ‘radical optimization’ [i.e. cut] in the Navy Main Staff is not going as smoothly as hoped back in the winter.  Recall there were unofficial hopes and reports that the staff would be cut by mid-summer allowing the move to start at that time.

Winners and Losers in Organizing New MDs and Armies

Today a Ground Troops spokesman told ITAR-TASS three current Leningrad Military District (MD) brigades will form a 6th Combined Arms Army (CAA) in the new Western MD.  The 200th, 138th, and 25th Motorized Rifle Brigades will comprise the new army, and its headquarters will probably be Agalatovo, just north of St. Petersburg.  The spokesman also said a surface-to-air missile brigade and independent engineering brigade will be added to the Western MD.

These comments came in conjunction with a visit by Ground Troops CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov to the region to check on the formation of the new MD.  The spokesman said Postnikov may be working on peacetime coordination between the district’s Ground Troops, the Northern and Baltic Fleets, and Air Forces units.  He said, in wartime, “everything’s clear – [the district’s] commander directly commands everything deployed within the district’s boundaries.  But there’s still no experience of coordination in peacetime and we need to get it.”

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Vladimir Mukhin also wrote today that the third new CAA will be based in Maykop, Southern MD.  Mukhin says that staffs, commands, formations, and military units in the Far East, Siberian, and Moscow MDs are being liquidated in the shift to four new MDs / OSKs, and, as a result, several thousand officers will be placed outside the TO&E beginning 1 September.  He thinks many of them won’t find vacant posts, and will be discharged from the army.

Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry will also be putting some soon-to-be-vacant properties up for sale, e.g. Moscow MD headquarters (Polina Osipenko Street, Moscow), Far East MD headquarters (Seryshev Street, Khabarovsk).  The initial asking prices for these buildings and land will be several billion U.S. dollars.  As long planned, proceeds from these sales, along with the sale of the Navy Main Staff, military educational institutions, and other military establishments in Moscow, are supposed to fund construction of housing for servicemen as well as military garrison infrastructure in new army deployment locations.

Mukhin talked to General-Lieutenant Yuriy Netkachev about Maykop.  Netkachev says Moscow is resurrecting the army headquarters located there until 1993.  He believes Maykop was chosen to reinforce against threats from Georgia as well as threats to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

In the Central MD, Mukhin says the 67th Spetsnaz Brigade will move yet again, from IVVAIU in Irkutsk to Chita or Transbaykal Kray.  The IVVAIU building will be sold.

Mukhin sees Moscow’s demilitarization and moving forces closer to their likely operational theaters as the right policy, but asks if it’s underpinned with resources.  It has serious impact on servicemen and their families, and they’ve been forgotten in this process.

Mukhin quotes servicemen’s union chief Oleg Shvedkov:

“Continuing steps to transition the troops into a new profile supposes not only a significant cut in professional servicemen, but also their relocation to a new place of service.  And this means new everyday life problems are possible:  transfers, absence of housing, work for spouses, education for children, and the like.  The Defense Ministry is trying to resolve these issues on its own, but it would be more correct for the government to work on them through a special federal program.”

Vice-Admiral Chirkov and the Pacific Fleet

Vice-Admiral Chirkov

Baltic Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov is apparently being tapped to replace Vice-Admiral Konstantin Sidenko in the Pacific Fleet, according to Russian press agencies and a Kommersant source in the Navy Main Staff.  

Sidenko will command the new Eastern Military District and Combined Strategic Command (OSK) East.  Chirkov will be replaced in the Baltic Fleet by his chief of staff, Rear-Admiral Sergey Farkov.  Kommersant’s source calls these changes a ‘normal rotation.’ 

Gzt.ru’s source says the Pacific Fleet is expecting the Chirkov announcement ‘any minute,’ but drawing up the papers, including the President’s decree on the appointment, is ongoing. 

Viktor Viktorovich Chirkov is a surface warfare officer with Pacific Fleet roots.  He was born on 8 September 1959 in Alma-Ata, capital of the former Kazakh SSR.  In 1982, he graduated from the Vladivostok Higher Naval School and became head of the mine-torpedo department on old Riga-class corvette Lun in the Pacific Fleet.  He served as assistant commander of a corvette, then executive officer of Kotlin-class destroyer Vozbuzhdennyy.  

In 1986-1987, Chirkov completed Higher Special Officers’ Classes in Leningrad, and became commander of the infamous Krivak-class frigate Storozhevoy.  Under a mutinous crew, this Soviet Baltic Fleet unit tried, unsuccessfully, to defect in 1975.  Later it transferred to the Pacific Fleet. 

From 1990 to 1993, Chirkov commanded Udaloy-class destroyer Admiral Spirodonov.  He was deputy chief of staff for an ASW ship division, deputy division commander, and commander of an ASW ship division during 1993-1998.  In 1997, he completed the Kuznetsov Naval Academy as a correspondence student.  

After graduating from the Military Academy of the General Staff in 2000, Chirkov served for five years as chief of staff, first deputy commander of Troops and Forces in the North-East on Kamchatka.  In the first years of this assignment, he served under Vice-Admiral Sidenko.  

In 2005-2007, he commanded the Primorskiy Mixed Forces Flotilla.  For the next two years, he was chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Baltic Fleet, and became its commander in September 2009. 

Chirkov is married with two sons. 

A Pacific Fleet staff source told Gzt.ru Chirkov is happily anticipated since he’s an old friend and ‘not an outsider.’  Another calls him a wise and honorable officer who knows his business. 

Vitaliy Shlykov talked to Gzt.ru about the Pacific Fleet’s growing importance: 

“In the Baltic there’s nothing to do, everyone’s friends, allies.  But the Pacific Ocean is the future, it’s necessary to turn all attention there.  And we don’t have enemies there, so there’s time to strengthen this fleet before there’s a confrontation between the U.S. and China.” 

“Of course, given this state of affairs, the significance of the fleet is growing sharply in comparison with Russia’s other fleets.” 

NVO’s Viktor Litovkin notes that Chirkin will be first to command the Pacific Fleet in its new condition of subordination to OSK East.  He thinks the new commander has multiple problems to solve, including obtaining new ships, dismantling old nuclear submarines, and building housing for servicemen.  Chirkin will also have to grapple with getting contract sailors, rather than conscripts, to man his afloat forces for long deployments.

Possible Bulava Test By Mid-September

Bulava (photo: Newsru.com)

An OPK source has told ITAR-TASS the next Bulava SLBM test is expected in the first half of September.  The source said the state commission investigating the last Bulava failure is scheduled to meet 6 September, and the launch window for the next test opens on 9 September.

A missile industry source told Interfaks the commission will meet in the 5-7 September timeframe, and it could fix a launch date sometime at the end of the first ten days of September.

Newsru.com recalled that three tests are planned for 2010:  two from Dmitriy Donskoy and one from Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy.  The website’s Defense Ministry source unofficially repeated claims that, if all three firings are successful, the Bulava will be accepted into the armaments inventory next year.

ITAR-TASS also reported today that Dolgorukiy successfully completed its latest phase of factory underway trials, and is preparing to go sea again next month.  Sevmash reports the new SSBN completed its cruise program, showing “good performance characteristics and reliable working of all onboard systems.”