Monthly Archives: July 2011

Naval Aviation Chief Interviewed

Hero of Russia, General-Major Igor Kozhin

On Sunday, RIA Novosti interviewed Naval Aviation Chief, General-Major Igor Kozhin on his branch’s 95th anniversary.

The news agency’s recap reminded that Naval Aviation lost its strike assets to the Air Forces on 1 April.  And, by year’s end, all remaining Su-27, MiG-31, Tu-22 and part of its transport aircraft will move to the VVS.  Only land-based ASW and carrier aviation will remain.

Asked about training, General-Major Kozhin focused on cost and retention.  He claimed training a pilot costs a rather exorbitant $1.5 to 2 million annually.  He indicated the need to keep older, experienced personnel — even in a civilian capacity — to train his younger pilots.

On upcoming training, Kozhin said his one regiment of 20 carrier-qualified pilots will conduct 100 takeoffs and landings from the Fleet Admiral of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov in August and September.

Kozhin said Kuznetsov is currently preparing for sea, and there’s no plan for capital repairs even though a replacement isn’t foreseen at this time.

He gave no hint of any impending carrier deployment as rumored earlier this year. 

RIA Novosti asked about renting the NITKA carrier trainer in Ukraine.  Kozhin answered by updating the construction of a similar facility at Yeysk, in Krasnodar Kray.  He said toward fall the takeoff and landing strip will be complete, then landing systems will be installed, and the ground-based carrier simulator will be functional in 2013.  He said the entire Naval Aviation training complex will be finished in 2015.

Finally, on new aircraft, Kozhin said the first four MiG-29K for Naval Aviation could apppear in 2012, but the Defense Ministry will have to sign the contract before mid-August.  Otherwise, the first delivery will be in 2013.  In all, a Navy buy of 20 is planned, but the factory is busy now filling India’s order for fighters for the ex-Gorshkov being renovated at Sevmash.

Out With Central Apparatus Generals?

This morning’s Rossiyskaya gazeta repeated a lot of what’s known about the retiring generals’ troyka.  More interesting, however, are other statements and language it used to describe what’s going on in the Defense Ministry.

The article is subtitled, “Cadre Purge Begun in the Defense Ministry.”  An odd choice of words for something that’s been going on for some time, and is supposed to be routine and unsensational.

About Friday’s latest Armed Forces cadre ukaz, RG reports:

“In the Defense Ministry, they don’t conceal the fact that these aren’t the last cadre decisions which will affect highly-placed military leaders, particularly from the military department’s central apparatus.”

The paper repeats the rumor about possible uniformed opponents of Serdyukov’s (or Makarov’s) military reforms being shown the door as well as the contrary points and official denials.  Again, no sensation; all this was hashed over a week ago.

RG ends this way:

“Meanwhile, in the Defense Ministry they don’t exclude new dismissals.  The thing is right now in the Russian Army certification [аттестация] of all command personnel is going on, and, according to its decision, they will propose that a number of military leaders, who’ve served in Moscow more than five years, serve in more distant military districts.”

“As a source in the military department told RG’s correspondent, the majority of dismissal reports appear at once when they suggest a man change his duty in the capital for an equivalent one somewhere in Russia’s sticks.”

Yes, we know generals often prefer to retire in Moscow, get valuable permanent apartments in the capital, and enable their well-connected wives to keep lucrative employment rather than spend a few extra years serving in a possibly terminal post in Khabarovsk, etc. 

What we’re getting at here (again) is either (a) there really is something to Moskovskiy komsomolets’ report about drastically cutting uniformed officers in the central apparatus, or (b) RG was being lazy and reran a worn-out story using some loosely chosen verbiage.

Second S-400 Regiment Delayed

The second S-400 regiment, or “regimental set,” hasn’t commenced combat duty at Dmitrov after all. 

This was supposed to happen on May 15, but didn’t.  According to RIA Novosti, a VVS spokesman said the official commencement of combat duty was postponed [again] from July 17 until the last ten days of this month.

The news agency says the ceremony will take place on Peremilovskaya Height, outside Dmitrov.  

Newly-minted VVS Main Staff Chief and First Deputy CINC, General-Major Viktor Bondarev said in June that a third S-400 regiment will become operational this fall.

Cadre Changes

In decrees published today, President Medvedev accepted the retirement of EW Directorate Chief, General-Major Oleg Ivanov.  Part of the “troyka” of retiring generals, he reportedly requested retirement for health reasons.  No official documents yet on the other two (Andrey Tretyak and Sergey Skokov). 

The press covered the news on General-Major Ivanov, but didn’t note the promotion of General-Major Bondarev to be Chief of the Main Staff, First Deputy CINC of the VVS.  

Bondarev was the Main Staff’s investigating officer in the case of Senior Lieutenant Sulim and the Lipetsk premium pay kickbacks.  The VVS and Defense Ministry must not be unhappy with his work, which consisted mainly of berating and pressuring the officers forced to pay tribute to their superiors.

In any event, the decrees . . .

Appoint:

  • General-Major Vladimir Aleksandrovich Filatov, Deputy Commander, 2nd Army.
  • General-Major Sergey Vasilyevich Chvarkov, Chief, Main Directorate for Personnel Work, RF Armed Forces, relieved as Deputy Chief, Military Art Department, Military Academy of the General Staff, RF Armed Forces.

Relieve and dismiss from service:

  • General-Major Oleg Anatolyevich Ivanov, Chief, Radioelectronic Warfare Troops, RF Armed Forces.
  • General-Major Aleksey Ivanovich Nesterov, Chief, 3rd Directorate, Main Organization-Mobilization Directorate, General Staff, RF Armed Forces.
  • General-Major Anatoliy Grigoryevich Predius, Chief of Military-Space Academy named for A. F. Mozhayskiy Branch (Cherepovets, Vologda Oblast).

Dismiss from service:

  • General-Major Yuriy Yuryevich Perminov.

* * *

Appoint:

  • General-Major Viktor Nikolayevich Bondarev, Chief of Main Staff, First Deputy CINC, Air Forces, relieved as Deputy CINC, Air Forces.
  • Colonel Vladislav Yevgenyevich Kharchenko, Chief, Radioelectronic Warfare Service, Eastern MD.

Dismiss from service:

  • General-Major of Justice Sergey Vladimirovich Devyatov
  • General-Major Vladimir Slavich Kostyuchenko.

Severodvinsk Trials and GOZ Tribulations

Severodvinsk (photo: RIA Novosti / Vladimir Rodionov)

Your typical good news, bad news story . . . happily for the Russian Navy, the Severodvinsk is nearing its first at-sea testing, but the new submarine has also been held up as a prime example of outrageous price increases in this year’s state defense order.  Final delivery of this SSN, as well as the first two Borey-class SSBNs, represents a big part of troubled GOZ-2011.

RIA Novosti reports new fourth generation Yasen-class (proyekt 885) SSN Severodvinsk will soon head into the White Sea for two months of underway testing, according to Malakhit Design Bureau General Director Vladimir Pyalov.  He added that, after this at-sea period, the final phase of state testing will take place.  

A very precise Mr. Pyalov says Severodvinsk is currently 98.9 percent complete.  He thinks the Navy will accept the new boat before year’s end and, in all, six of these multipurpose submarines will be built.  The second proyekt 885 Kazan is slated for delivery in 2015. 

RIA Novosti says proyekt 885 is a double-hulled, single-shaft boat with a reduced acoustic signature.  The conning tower has a streamlined, oval shape.  The boat is divided into ten compartments. 

For the first time, according to RIA Novosti, Russian designers put the submarine’s torpedo tubes amidships to allow for a new bow-mounted sonar system.  Proyekt 885 has eight vertical launch tubes for supersonic cruise missiles.  It has new communications and navigation systems as well as a fundamentally new nuclear power plant, according to the news agency’s report.  The new submarine is said to be first in noise reduction and stealth among attack submarines worldwide.

But the Severodvinsk couldn’t evade detection in the furor over breakdowns in the state defense order.

Earlier this month, RIA Novosti reported on disputes between the United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK), submarine-builder Sevmash, and the Defense Ministry over naval construction in this year’s GOZ.  In particular, the military accuses the builder of doubling its prices for proyekt 955 Yuriy Dolgorukiy and proyekt 885 Severodvinsk.

An OSK spokesman defended Sevmash saying the cost of its work on Severodvinsk is only 30 percent of the total price, with the balance being the cost of armaments and components supplied by several dozen enterprises.  He blamed inflation in the industrial sector and the economy more generally.

Summarizing his discussion of submarines with OSK, RIA Novosti reports, Defense Minister Serdyukov said:

“They are giving us an increase in prices on new orders, and, naturally, we don’t agree with this.”

But, he added he’s convinced the Defense Ministry will persuade the producer to lower its prices.

Izvestiya mentioned that Severodvinsk was originally intended for a production run of 30 submarines, now reduced to six more than 20 years later.  As recently as March, the Navy still publicly hoped for ten.

Serdyukov told the paper:

“. . . it’s incomprehensible what the price of the ship [sic] consists of, if the cost of the lead boat was 47 billion rubles ($1.7 billion), but the next, exactly the same is now 112 billion ($4 billion).”

“Of course, the price will grow if, in the cost of one ship [sic], they include all accompanying expenditures on other enterprise projects in no way connected with it, like maintaining kindergartens, infrastructure, etc.”

“We’re prepared to pay, but on the condition that the price formation process will be transparent.  As practice shows, if all articles in the contracts are “decoded,” then it seems it’s possible with confidence to deduct up to 30% from the final cost of a finished product.”

These must be bitter words for an enterprise that went many, many years without completing its trademark product — a nuclear-powered submarine.

A Sevmash source says the cost of submarine construction is directly related to higher prices for materials, energy, and integration:

“The entire range of equipment for a submarine is supplied by monopolistic companies trying to dictate their prices.”

More on the Retiring General Troyka

In yesterday’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Sergey Konovalov followed up the story of the retiring generals — Andrey Tretyak, Sergey Skokov, and Oleg Ivanov.

Konovalov held to the main line of his earlier report.  He maintains the retirement of these Defense Ministry central apparatus officers has been “frozen.”  Without addressing the various explanations and denials in the media, he asks why three promising generals would want out early.  Finally, he repeats his earlier contention that the resignations could be a sign of “military opposition” to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reforms.

Konovalov cites a highly-placed Defense Ministry source saying:

“Soon representatives of the Presidential Administration’s cadre organs will talk with the generals who requested discharge to find out the real reasons why young, promising leaders are retiring from the army.”

A law enforcement source tells NG that the Main Military Prosecutor has long questioned the Defense Ministry’s cadre policy:

“Competent officers are dismissed, meanwhile every kind of lawbreaker who’s had a run-in with military justice gets moved up to higher duties.” 

One general told NG that General-Lieutenant Sergey Surovikin — slated to head Russia’s new military police force — got one year of probation for trying to sell a pistol while attending the Frunze Military Academy.  The paper then lists some other, less prominent, cases of officers with shady or criminal backgrounds who’ve advanced through the ranks to higher posts.
 
NG’s sources claim the Defense Ministry’s cadre policy will soon undergo an analysis and evaluation by the PA’s cadre department.

The Defense Ministry’s PR blitz (as well as independent reporting) in the wake of the resignations blunted Konovalov’s assertion that the generals were quitting over disagreements with military reforms.  This article answered his question from earlier — his sources say the PA will investigate recent Defense Ministry personnel moves.  But one wonders how much time and attention President Medvedev’s people can devote to this with an agenda already full of political and domestic policy issues.

Personnel Notes and Rumors

According to his revised Mil.ru bio, Deputy Defense Minister Mikhail Mokretsov will supervise the Armed Forces’ finances after all.

Last week Komsomolskaya pravda quoted Defense Minister Serdyukov saying General-Lieutenant Sergey Surovikin, Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander of the Central MD, will head Russia’s new military police force this year.

Kommersant gave details on Surovikin’s background.  As a captain in August 1991, he was acting commander of the Taman division motorized rifle battalion responsible for the death of three Yeltsin supporters.  He was arrested and investigated for seven months before charges against him were lifted. 

As noted on these pages, he commanded the 34th MRD when one his colonels blew his brains out in front of the entire staff after an upbraiding from the commander.  And Surovikin had a very short tenure as Chief of the GOU. 

He seems an odd choice to be responsible for the army’s new enforcers of law and order.  To be in charge of those charged with preventing dedovshchina and other barracks violence.

Also last week, Vedomosti reported that Serdyukov has forwarded the name of Aleksandr Sukhorukov, Director of Rosoboronzakaz, to take over Vladimir Popovkin’s old armaments portfolio.  A little harder to believe, two other Vedomosti sources say Navy CINC, Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy might take the armaments job.

Not Decembrists

Returning to the three generals’ resignations . . . the Defense Ministry press-service came out quickly denying any “scandalous” general officer discharges. 

The press-service said General-Lieutenant Andrey Tretyak, General-Lieutenant Sergey Skokov, and General-Major Oleg Ivanov requested discharges for health reasons at different times.  But it also indicated the Central Attestation Commission (TsAK, or ЦАК) is reassigning generals to duties in the military districts under Defense Minister Serdyukov’s policy of rotating officers through different posts, and away from Moscow in particular.

A Defense Ministry source told ITAR-TASS the generals’ discharges are not part of any mass dismissal of officers from the Defense Ministry’s central apparatus.

The press was skeptical about three young and vigorous generals suddenly seeking a medical discharge, and it focused on their intent to avoid undesirable reassignments.  Newsru.com and Moskovskiy komsomolets reported in this vein. 

A Defense Ministry source told news agencies one in three requests for early retirement involves officers who are being reassigned from Moscow to a military district post.  The source claimed these cases are usually incorrectly characterized as opposition to military reforms.  Tretyak himself told Interfaks his resignation is not connected with Armed Forces reforms or disagreements with the leadership.

Then Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov talked to Rossiyskaya gazeta, giving a version of events varying from the press-service’s initial report of  discharges for health reasons.

Pankov told the paper Skokov and Ivanov were offered several good options including troop command duties or General Staff Academy positions, but chose retirement.  In Tretyak’s case, health was the issue, according to Pankov.  And Pankov called any thought of them leaving over dissatisfaction with army reform “farfetched,” or dissatisfaction with General Staff Chief Makarov “utter stupidity.”

What did military commentators say?

In IA Regnum and Gazeta.ru, Anatoliy Tsyganok said the generals’ resignations show things aren’t quite right in the Defense Ministry, but also called reports of problems with Makarov a falsehood.  He said the incident shows it’s not just military retirees who bring attention to poorly thought out reforms.  At the same time, he doesn’t get the focus on Makarov when he just implements Serdyukov’s plans.

Also in Gazeta.ru, Aleksandr Khramchikhin asks where this ‘opposition’ to reform has been:

“But where were they earlier?  Reform’s already been going on for three years.”

Svpressa.ru wrote that no Decembrists remain in the army.  It quoted Konstantin Sivkov:

“The thing is in the Defense Ministry and Genshtab generally there are no longer any people capable of standing up for their opinion, if it diverges from the leadership’s viewpoint.  They still existed several years ago.  Recall General Rodionov, Ivashov.  They slowly disposed of them.  The only ones remaining are those who loyally hang on the words of the minister and Genshtab chief.  A negative selection has occurred.  And what remains . . .  Only those that agree with everything.”

Viktor Baranets told Vesti FM:

“The Genshtab chief proposed to all three figures that they leave Moscow, smell the powder a little, become greater practitioners.  My sources don’t deny that all of the generals’ troyka requesting retirement had relations with Makarov that weren’t very simple.  But all issues were decided behind closed doors, without cursing and throwing down reports [retirement requests] on the table.”

Cadre Changes

Network connection problems have made for a jumbled start to a new month . . . a couple decrees from President Medvedev today.

Current Defense Ministry Apparatus Chief, Deputy Defense Minister Mikhail Mokretsov is relieved of this duty and becomes simply Deputy Defense Minister. 

This is a promotion since the Apparatus Chief has typically been kind of a quasi-deputy minister post.  Sometimes the Defense Minister’s head gatekeeper and paper-pusher has just been regarded as being in “the status of a deputy minister.” 

Mokretsov’s portfolio, however, isn’t clear.  Vladimir Popovkin’s armaments job, Vera Chistova’s finance duties, and Grigoriy Naginskiy’s construction post are all available.  And each could use an economist like Mokretsov.

The other decree.

Appoint:

  • General-Major Grigoriy Rostislavovich Tyurin, Commander, 35th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade, relieved as Commander, 205th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade.
  • General-Major Andrey Sergeyevich Ivanayev, Commander, 205th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade, relieved as Commander, 5th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade.
  • General-Major Artur Ionosovich Shemaytis, Commander, 74th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade, relieved of duty as Commander, 34th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (Mountain).

Relieve:

  • Colonel Oleg Gennadyevich Maltsev, Chief, Automotive Service, Southern MD.
  • Colonel Aleksandr Semenovich Sanchik, Commander, 136th Guards Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade.

Making Soldiers in the Southern MD

Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye’s Oleg Vladykin participated in a press-tour of the Southern MD (OSK South), and last Friday he published his take on what he saw.

Deputy District Commander, General-Lieutenant Igor Turchenyuk set the scene, telling assembled journalists about establishing the YuVO last year:

“A substantial — more than two times — growth in the combat potential of the grouping of troops and forces deployed on YuVO territory is the result of the transformations which have been carried out.”

Turchenyuk said the YuVO conducted more than 200 command-staff and tactical exercises, including jointly with air and naval forces, during the winter training period.  This was reportedly seven times greater than comparable training in the old North Caucasus MD.  

Turchenyuk claims the intensity of everyday combat training has increased noticeably, doubling fuel and ammunition expenditure.  Outsourcing food and laundry services and arms and equipment maintenance made this possible.  By eliminating extraneous duties, a more intense 40-hour week has added more than 300 hours of training time to the year.   

Turchenyuk’s main point:

“As a result, we got the chance to prepare a real professional serviceman-specialist even under the conditions of a one-year training cycle.”

And Vladykin’s:

“Of course, it’s hard to argue with figures.  Therefore, I really wanted to confirm with my own eyes how conscript servicemen are being turned into real professionals.”

Vladykin and the others were taken first to the 34th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (Mountain), built from scratch on President Putin’s order.  The 34th was established as an elite, model formation as good as any “show” unit elsewhere in the Armed Forces.

But, says Vladykin, not everything turned out as imagined, especially with the formation’s manning. 

The brigade found 5,000 contractees to train as professional mountain infantry, but today, with the cut in contractees, more than half the brigade’s manpower are conscripts.  After seeing some training, Vladykin concludes:

“I won’t say that all soldiers looked like high-class mountain infantry.  But since I know most participants in the exercises have served a little over half a year, I’m ready to acknowledge: they’re not badly trained.”

Next up was the 22nd Independent Brigade of Special Designation (Spetsnaz).  Its professionalism needs to be even higher, but this brigade is currently 60 percent draftee.  Vladykin wonders out loud whether they will be able to carry out the brigade’s missions, and whether it’s possible to grow a real soldier from a conscript.

Lastly, in the 19th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade, practically all soldiers and junior commanders (NCOs) are conscripts.  Here, says Vladykin, they learned the difference between draftees and contractees in battles in two Chechen campaigns and in South Ossetia.

Its officers reserve judgement about the efficacy of outsourcing rear service functions.  Conscript drivers learn vehicle maintenance from contracted civilian mechanics who won’t be with them in combat.

The brigade’s chief of staff describes how a reinforced company tactical group meets the formation’s permanent (one-hour) readiness requirement in the volatile North Caucasus.  Another officer says duty officers have returned to the barracks to keep order at night.  The officers here don’t fully trust their conscript soldiers and sergeants.

Vladykin doesn’t provide a larger bottom line.  It seems to be that the YuVO may be turning draftees into soldiers, but not true professionals.  For all the figures about the district’s higher training tempo, Vladykin doesn’t seem too impressed.