Monthly Archives: November 2011

First Get Some Rockets

Iskander

How do you rattle your rockets?  First get some rockets. 

President Dmitriy Medvedev’s address last week underscored the extent to which Russian foreign and defense policies are hampered by the condition of the OPK and its shortage of production capacity.

Medvedev’s description of Russian steps in response to U.S. and NATO missile defense in Europe certainly didn’t surprise anyone, though it may have forced them to conclude the U.S.-Russian “reset” is wearing thin.

To refresh the memory, the first four were (1) put the Kaliningrad BMEW radar into service; (2) reinforce the defense of SYaS with VVKO; (3) equip strategic ballistic missile warheads with capabilities to overcome MD; and (4) develop measures to disrupt MD command and control.

Then fifth, repeating several previous assertions to this effect, Medvedev said:

“If the enumerated measures are insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy in the country’s west and south modern strike weapons systems which guarantee the destruction of MD’s European component.  One such step will be deployment of the ‘Iskander’ missile system in the Kaliningrad special region.”

And, ultimately, of course, Medvedev also noted the dispute over MD could lead Russia to withdraw from new START.

Russianforces.org was first to write that Medvedev’s enumerated steps represented nothing more militarily than what Moscow already intends to do, with or without U.S. missile defense in Europe.

Kommersant recalled the difficulty of making threats with the Iskanders:

“The problem is by virtue of its limited range (several hundred kilometers) ‘Iskander’ missiles can only threaten [Russia’s] neighboring states, but in no way the U.S. MD system as a whole, and on this plane, they have little influence on the strategic balance as such.  Moreover, the Russian military has promised to begin deploying ‘Iskanders’ massively since 2007, but since then the deadlines for their delivery to the army has been postponed more than once.  The army now has a single brigade of ‘Iskanders’ – the 26th Neman [Brigade], which is deployed near Luga.  This is 12 launchers.  There is also a 630th Independent Battalion in the Southern Military District.  In GPV-2020, ten brigades more are promised.”

So, Iskander deployments, including probably in Kaliningrad, will happen anyway, regardless of MD, when Moscow is able to produce the missiles.

Interfaks-AVN quoted Ruslan Pukhov on the missile production capacity issue.  If Russia wants to deploy Iskander in Kaliningrad or Belarus or Krasnodar Kray as a response to European MD, then:

“. . . it’s essential to build a new factory to produce these missiles since the factory in Votkinsk can’t handle an extra mission.”

“Productivity suffers because of the great ‘heterogeneity’ of missiles [Iskander, Bulava, Topol-M, Yars].  Therefore, if we want our response to MD on our borders to be done expeditiously, and not delayed, we need a new factory.”

Vesti FM also covered his remarks:

“’Iskander’ is produced at the Votkinsk plant.  The ‘Bulava,’ and ‘Topol-M,’ and multi-headed ‘Yars,’ are also produced there.  Therefore, such heterogeneity in missiles leads to the fact that they are produced at an extremely low tempo.”

The 500-km Iskander (SS-26 / STONE), always advertised with significant capabilities to defeat MD, was accepted in 2006.  But the Russian Army didn’t  complete formation of the Western MD Iskander brigade or Southern MD battalion until the middle of last month, according to ITAR-TASS.  The army expects to get a full brigade of 12 launchers each year until 2020. 

But Iskanders still aren’t rolling off the line like sausages.  This spring Prime Minister Putin promised to double missile output, including from Votkinsk, starting in 2013, and pledged billions of rubles to support producers.  In early 2010, Kommersant wrote about Votkinsk overloaded with orders, trying to modernize shops to produce Iskander.

Votkinsk and Iskander are, by the way, not the only defense-industrial problem relative to countering MD.  Nezavisimaya gazeta pointed out VVKO will need lots of new S-400 and S-500 systems (and factories to produce them) to protect Russia’s SYaS.  But we digress . . . .

What do defense commentators think about Medvedev’s statement and Iskanders? 

Vladimir Dvorkin calls them a far-fetched threat:

“There are no scenarios in which they could be used.  If Russia used them in an initial preventative strike, then this would signify the beginning of a war with NATO on which Russia would never embark.”

Aleksey Arbatov says relatively short-range missiles don’t scare the Americans, but could spoil relations with Poland and Romania.

Aleksandr Golts says the slow pace of Iskander production makes it not a very serious threat.  He notes Putin’s restraint on threats over MD:

“Being a rational man, he perfectly understands that an attempt to create such a threat will get an immediate response, which, considering the West’s potential, will create a much bigger problem for Russia.  That is, there’ll be a repetition on another scale of the history with the deployment of Soviet medium-range missiles in Europe.”

One supposes rather than driving a wedge between the U.S. and MD-host countries, Russian threats might reaffirm the wisdom of having a tangible U.S. presence on their territory.

Lastly, Leonid Ivashov reacts to Medvedev’s reminder that Russia could withdraw from new START:

“When President Medvedev says that we will withdraw from SNV [START], the Americans just smile.  They know perfectly well the state of our defense-industrial complex.”

Bulava Postponed?

A Bulava Test

Interfaks reports an expected salvo launch of two Bulava SLBMs has been put off until next year, as Defense Minister Serdyukov said it might.  The press agency cites a well-placed Navy Main Staff source.  RIA Novosti, however, citing its own Navy Main Staff source, says the test was delayed by weather, but will occur today or tomorrow.  For its part, ITAR-TASS cites an OPK source who says the Bulava test firings are off until June because of White Sea ice.

The last Bulava test, a success, took place on October 28.  The Bulava / Yuriy Dolgorukiy weapons system might have been accepted into the inventory before year’s end following a successful salvo launch of two missiles.

BFM.ru talked recently to Aleksandr Golts and Vladimir Yevseyev about Bulava.  It notes the last planned launch of 2010 was also put off for ice.

Golts believes there’s a political motive for postponement.  He thinks the Defense Ministry can’t allow another failure and blow to its reputation and the image of Russian weapons.  And, by the time of the next test, the elections will be over, and Serdyukov may no longer be at the Defense Ministry.

Golts attributes Bulava’s problems to problems in the component base and the collapse of the Soviet sub-contractor chain.  The lack of serial production has made it impossible to guarantee quality component manufacturing.  Hence, something different seemed to go wrong in every test failure.

Golts doesn’t rule out the possibility that there simply aren’t enough missiles for testing (or for picking ones to test) because of the GOZ-2011 contracting dispute between the Defense Ministry and Bulava’s producer.

Yevseyev is a suspicious about postponing a shot for weather.  He calls the situation around Bulava ambiguous and unclear.  He says defects in the missiles might have been identified, and poor weather could be an excuse.

Like Golts, Yevseyev sees Bulava’s problems as symptomatic of larger defense industrial ones, and he doesn’t exclude a political motive:

“There’s a sharp decline in the quality of production, a partial loss of specific producers, technologies.  There’s aging of the machinery itself, the lack of qualified specialists who can work on it.  When the OPK’s been collapsing for so much time, it’s strange to hope it can produce such a complex technological product like a missile system.”

“It’s possible there’s a danger that, if there are unsuccessful tests in the period when we’re beginning Duma and presidential election campaigns, they’ll spoil the scene.  This is one of the possible reasons for the postponement.”

It seems understandable risk tolerance would be pretty low at this point given the history of the Bulava program, the bad publicity and angst generated by recent high-profile space failures, and the political season.  Perhaps it’s a case of better late, but better.

Innovation Locomotive or Brake?

Maksim Blant

Newsru.com economics commentator Maksim Blant wrote on an interesting subject this week:  is spending on the OPK an engine or drag for Russia’s innovation economy?

Blant has two primary arguments against military Keynesianism in Russia’s context.  First, more money for the OPK will further tighten an already taut market for certain labor.  Second, OPK spending’s multiplier effect will benefit raw materials producers more than consumers.

His article appears against a backdrop of questions about Russia’s ability to meet increasing pension obligations over the next 2-3 years without raising taxes, and former Finance Minister Kudrin’s contention that it could, but for the 20 trillion rubles going to the military’s rearmament program.

The problem, Blant concludes, is not that President Medvedev intends to rearm by depriving pensioners of their last bread crusts.  No, Medvedev defends rearmament as a means of stimulating growth in manufacturing, and turning the defense sector into an innovation development “locomotive.”

Blant allows that a majority of experts are inclined to agree that increased military spending can stimulate economic growth, and large defense industry orders can have a multiplier effect causing expansion in other sectors.  The argument is familiar.  State orders lead to job creation and greater consumer demand.  Defense enterprise orders to suppliers spur the process in other sectors.  The jolt causes the economy to turn around.

Blant says there are cases where military spending has brought an economy out of crisis, but asks will it work in Russia? 

He doubts creating jobs in the defense sector will increase consumer demand.  Even discounting how much procurement money will be stolen in the military or OPK, he says relatively little of the trillions will go for wages.  It would be easier to increase consumer demand by raising pensions.

Blant says this job creation effort will occur in the midst of a demographic crisis — not an excess, but rather a relative shortage of labor.  With state orders in hand, defense enterprises will compete against private businesses for engineers and skilled workers.  Faced with this, civilian producers can either raise wages and lose competitiveness, or “escape” to countries where the labor market isn’t so tight.  This, concludes Blant, makes the OPK not a “locomotive” of innovation development but rather its gravedigger.

Blant turns to the multiplier effect in adjacent sectors.  Yes, OPK money supports them, but raw materials suppliers and processors most of all.  Together the two sectors form a “closed loop,” only weakly connected to other industries.  In the end, he foresees a repeat of the 1980s, where the USSR’s defense sector, heavy machinebuilding, and raw materials producers sucked up the lion’s share of labor and other resources, leaving nothing for the consumer sector.

Thirteen VKO Brigades

Thirteen VKO Brigades

A little additional on that westward-leaning VVKO . . . the 13 VKO brigades are only a part of VVKO, but here’s how they’re laid out. 

They’re numbered 1-12 and 14. Six are in the Western MD. One in the Southern. Three in the Central. And three in the Far East MD.
 
  • 1st Aerospace Defense Brigade, Severomorsk, Western MD.
  • 2nd Aerospace Defense Brigade, Khvoynyy, Western MD.
  • 3rd Aerospace Defense Brigade, Kaliningrad, Western MD.
  • 4th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Dolgoprudnyy, Western MD.
  • 5th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Petrovskoye, Western MD.
  • 6th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Rzhev, Western MD.
  • 7th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Rostov-na-Donu, Southern MD.
  • 8th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Samara, Central MD.
  • 9th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Ob, Central MD.
  • 10th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Chita, Central MD.
  • 11th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Komsomolsk-na-Amure, Far East MD.
  • 12th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Vladivostok, Far East MD.
  • 14th Aerospace Defense Brigade, Yelizovo, Far East MD.

Defense Ministry Collegium

Serdyukov Flanked by Makarov and Pankov

November’s the time for year-end evaluations in the Russian military, and the Defense Ministry had its collegium yesterday.  Mil.ru printed Defense Minister Serdyukov’s introductory remarks.

First on his mind was complete fulfillment of the State Defense Order next year, and signing all GOZ-2012 contracts next month.  He said all responsibility for ordering will be transferred to a “Federal Procurement Agency.”

Some media sources assumed this means Rosoboronpostavka.  This author thinks it could be something new.  It’s important, so here’s exactly what Mil.ru says he said:

“Next year the functions of the ordering organ are being fully transferred to the Federal Procurement Agency.”

If that means Rosoboronpostavka, why not just say Rosoboronpostavka?  ITAR-TASS actually replaced Serdyukov’s words “Federal Procurement Agency” with Rosoboronpostavka.  At the very least, not everyone’s working from the same sheet of music.  But continuing with Serdyukov’s remarks . . .

Unlike large-scale strategic exercises of recent years, the coming year will stress tactical-level training.  But Southern MD exercises will test the new Armed Forces command and control system.

He noted establishment of VVKO by December 1, and said it will “intercept any targets right up to hypersonic speeds, both in the air and in space.”

Military police will start working in the troops in 2012, according to Serdyukov.  They are still occupied at present with selecting personnel, writing regs, etc.  Serdyukov earlier said they’d be functioning in 2011.

The Defense Minister indicated all service functions in the Armed Forces will be outsourced next year.

Without much fanfare, he said the new system of enlisted contract service will start in 2012.

Serdyukov said stimulus pay for officers will continue alongside their newly-approved higher pay.

First Deputy Defense Minister, Chief of the General Staff Nikolay Makarov delivered the collegium’s main report, but the press wasn’t invited to stay.

Meanwhile, today NG sources “don’t exclude” that Anatoliy Serdyukov could soon leave the Defense Ministry to become Finance Minister.  There’s talk Russia’s NATO Permrep Dmitriy Rogozin could succeed him as Defense Minister [because he toured the 58th Army with Medvedev this week].

There are always rumors like these.  Recently it was said Makarov would be “sacrificed” as an electoral offering to military men who don’t like him.  Sometimes the rumors bear out, sometimes not.  More important are the reasons behind any personnel changes. 

Is Putin or Medvedev likely to find a more effective steward of the military than Serdyukov?  Probably not.  The fiery politician Rogozin would be a dramatic change from the retiring technocrat Serdyukov.  The former would inspire and appeal to the troops more than the latter, but not do a better job.  Of course, we shouldn’t assume capability is the leadership’s most important criterion in picking a Defense Minister.

PAK FA Update

PAK FA

Sukhoy announced that its third PAK FA prototype conducted its first test flight today.  Operating from KnAAPO’s factory runway, the aircraft flew for more than an hour.

To run back a few milestones, the first PAK FA flew on January 29, 2010.  A second prototype joined it in March of this year.  PAK FA’s first public flight was August 17 at MAKS-2011.  And Sukhoy says the PAK FA has completed more than 100 test flights to date.  The hundredth flight apparently occurred early this month or in late October.

On November 11, ARMS-TASS reported that the third prototype will test the onboard phased array radar (AFAR)  system designed by the Tikhomirov NII of Instrument-building (NIIP).  Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye published the same news, citing a Sukhoy spokesman.

VVKO Faces West

How Will They Represent VKO on the Space Troops Flag?

VVKO faces west.  And north . . . ok, northwest.  Makes sense, that’s the direction those hypersonic missiles are coming from, right?  Maybe, maybe not.

Mil.ru, as is its wont, printed a little item on military preparations for the December 4 Duma election.

It indicates 80 percent of 53,000 servicemen and civilian personnel of the new Troops of Aerospace Defense (VVKO) will vote [i.e. are based] in the Western MD (ZVO). 

The press-release says more than 150 of 171 polling places (88 percent) for VVKO bases, garrisons, and military towns are located in the ZVO.

Space Troops weren’t very big, and they’ve gotten much bigger by swallowing as-yet unclear parts of the OSK VKO (the former KSpN or Moscow PVO District) and other Air Forces’ PVO units into the new VVKO.  OSK VKO, in particular, was a large, westward-leaning formation.

Still it’s surprising VVKO’s center of gravity has shifted so drastically to the west.  One would have thought there’d be a substantial chunk of VVKO-controlled PVO in the Far East, or northeast, too.

More on the Unwanted Apartments

Microrayon for Ex-Servicemen (photo: Podolsk.ru)

A Defense Ministry source tells Interfaks nearly 800 former officers and generals who served in the military’s central command and control organs are suing the department over its failure to allocate them housing in Moscow.

The news agency’s source says these men have a right to apartments in Moscow and are refusing the Defense Ministry’s offer of housing in the capital’s suburbs.  He says new buildings in Moscow Oblast lack infrastructure, schools, and medical services, and it’s difficult to find work. 

In particular, he notes more than 21,000 apartments are being finished in the close-in suburbs of Podolsk and Balashikha.  But many remain unoccupied.  The military department decided to build housing there in 2008 because the cost per square meter was 35,000 rubles — less than half the prevailing cost in Moscow.

The agency’s interlocutor says, in Podolsk, the military is building an entire microrayon with more than 14,000 apartments, and Balashikha will have more than 7,000.

President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov Toured Podolsk Military Housing in January

Interfaks added that Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova, who holds the housing portfolio, acknowledged in September that there are 8,000 officers awaiting housing in Moscow, and indicated apartment blocks might be erected on Defense Ministry property in the city.  At the time, she also suggested that many of those who wanted apartments sooner were accepting ones in the nearby suburbs. 

Exactly a year ago, Defense Minister Serdyukov said the military could not afford to, and would not provide servicemen permanent apartments in Moscow, according to RIA NovostiMoskovskiy komsomolets at the time noted that the Defense Minister’s order clearly contradicted the Law “On the Status of Servicemen.”  As this NVO editorial indicates, Shevtsova’s September statements on Moscow housing came in the context of the flap over 160 generals and colonels who retired, probably in the hope of privatizing a service apartment, rather than obey orders to rotate to duties outside the capital. 

Guns and Money (Part II)

Returning to KP, Baranets, and Pukhov on Russia’s defense budget . . . Pukhov continues trying to put Moscow’s spending in perspective.

The journalist says readers want to know how it is that the U.S. spends $600-700 billion a year on its army and Russia spends only $40-50 billion.

Pukhov says look at spending per soldier.  The figures work out neatly and they are dramatic.  Per soldier, the U.S. defense budget is $400,000.  Per soldier, Russia’s is $40,000 [probably much, much less in reality].  Pukhov concludes:

 “And it’s completely clear that it’s necessary to reduce this gap to a less dramatic magnitude.  Otherwise our Armed Forces will remain the poor army of a poor country.”

Pukhov tells Baranets and his audience that Russia occupies fifth place in world military expenditures after the U.S., China, U.K., and Japan.  But, Pukhov says Russia isn’t the U.K. or Japan:

“The problem is the defense missions facing Russia are much larger scale . . . .”

He points to Russia’s size and a nuclear arsenal comparable only to the United States.  So, according to him, it’s obvious Moscow’s military spending is insufficient and its army underfinanced.  

Baranets asks, are the condition of Russia’s economy and its defense expenditures properly correlated?  Or has it gone overboard with money for the army?  Pukhov responds:

“Russia’s current military expenditures and plans for increasing them in the next 10 years, including the State Program of Armaments to 2020 (GPV-2020) aren’t excessive, on the other hand, they represent the most essential minimum.  I recall that, according to the Defense Ministry’s own calculations, a minimum of 36 trillion rubles were needed for an optimal technical reequipping of the troops by 2020.  But the adopted GPV-2020 promises a sum smaller by almost half.  This really allows us to patch only the most obvious holes in the army’s technical equipping.”

Baranets finishes up asking if European MD is affecting the military budget.  Pukhov replies that development of Russian strat forces is already in the budget and GPV-2020, and MD doesn’t present a threat to them until after 2020.

Less argument with the end of Pukhov’s interview.  Just a couple points.  Look back here to see what General-Lieutenant Frolov said 36 trillion would do.  “Optimal” must mean complete rearmament.  But others claim they can’t do it for even that amount.  Still, Putin, Medvedev, Serdyukov, and Makarov are consistently saying they are buying 70 percent rearmament by 2020 for 19 trillion.

Its Own Duma Election

A site dedicated to all things Russian Navy called Flot.com has an interesting Internet poll.

The site asks visitors to vote for the party they feel will provide the greatest assistance in developing the Russian Navy.  Click the image below to see the results as of today.

Looking for the Pro-Navy Party

Pardon one for concluding this is pretty compelling.
 
Sixty percent of those responding say the KPRF will be most supportive of the Navy’s development.
 
Bucking Russia’s electoral law, Flot.com still permits an “against all” option.  So 18 percent say no party will provide the greatest assistance in the development of the VMF.
 
United Russia comes in third at about 10 percent.
 
And to think the “party of power” organized a GPV in which the largest portion will go to the Navy.
 
A pretty damning indictment.
 
Yes, it’s an Internet poll, and it’s influenced by its clientele.
 
No offense to a good site is intended, but Flot.com’s visitors could be older, and still more Soviet than Russian.  Who knows?  But they’re also knowledgable and interested in their subject.  Hence, they represent an elite, tough, and skeptical audience. 
 
The GPV notwithstanding, the yedinorossy have failed to convince them they’ll fix the Navy’s problems.