Monthly Archives: December 2011

Perspective on the Military Vote

Carrying the Ballot Box

A little context for Kommersant’s report on Defense Minister Serdyukov informing the once-and-future president that 97 percent of servicemen voted in the December 4 Duma election, and United Russia garnered 80 percent of those votes.

The Defense Minister allegedly told Prime Minister Vladimir Putin 80 percent of servicemen and their family members picked United Russia (against 67 percent in 2007).  Some remote units reportedly even delivered 99 percent for Putin’s party. 

For the official opposition, the LDPR got 8.6, KPRF 6.3, and Just Russia 3.4 percent.  Their shares dropped from four years ago.

The TsIK says it doesn’t know how the Defense Ministry comes by such figures since most officers and soldiers vote in normal precincts.  And the military department hasn’t commented on any voting report by Serdyukov.

If this is accurate, we can conclude that Serdyukov delivered the military vote. 

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Vladimir Mukhin wrote that United Russia had very similar results in the 2007 Duma election.

In 2003, NG’s Mukhin said the Defense Ministry put the “military electorate” at 5-6 million voters.  It’s probably less today.

United Russia reportedly got only 52 percent of the military vote in 2003, and Rodina 12, LDPR 11, and KPRF 6 percent each.

In 1999, UR’s precursor Unity (or Medved) took 48 percent, KPRF 18, the Zhirinovskiy (LDPR) bloc 14, and Fatherland-All Russia 7 percent.

What are we to conclude?  The process of nailing down the military vote has gotten smoother over time, coinciding with Putin’s and United Russia’s dominance of Russian politics.  It looks like the army has a habit of supporting whoever’s in power.  But now it looks just a little out of step with society — voting 80 percent for the party of power versus 49 percent countrywide.  But how the army votes and what it thinks may also be two different things.

Dyachkov’s Interview

Andrey Dyachkov (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Safronov)

As General Director of both Sevmash and TsKB MT Rubin, Andrey Dyachkov’s a pretty significant individual when it comes to submarines.  What follows are highlights from his RIA Novosti interview last Friday.

Some blurbs have been published, but one frankly hasn’t had time to see if they captured the importance of what Dyachkov said.  Hence this summary.  It has less elegance (or perhaps fluff) than you may be accustomed to reading on these pages.

Dyachkov said the following:

  • Sevmash and the Defense Ministry signed a contract for the modernized Yasen, or Yasen-M this year.  It will be five units; Severodvinsk plus five.  Severodvinsk will be delivered next year; there were problems with some components obtained from suppliers and the Kalibr missile system needs to complete state testing.  About six months are needed for all this.
  • This year’s huge contract problems were a result of a changed Defense Ministry approach toward price formation Sevmash wasn’t ready for.  But times have changed, and Sevmash recognizes money has to be used more effectively, and ways have to be found to cut production expenditures.
  • Rubin has a contract to design the modernized proyekt 955, Borey, the Borey-A.  The contract should be signed by early 2012.  The lay-down of the first improved Borey will happen next year, and Saint Nikolay is still the working name for the first unit.  No word from the Sevmash chief on the final number of boats until after the contract is signed.  They’ve started laying down Saint Nikolay, but the official ceremony’s still to come.
  • Seventy percent of sub costs are reportedly to pay suppliers.  The main thing is getting them to reduce the cost of their products.  The Defense Ministry might even consider foreign component suppliers for some SSBN components.
  • Sevmash will take on construction of two diesel-electric proyekt 636 from Admiralty Wharves.  This will lighten the workload of the latter, and use excess capacity at the former.
  • Severnoye PKB has a contract to figure out how to modernize Kirov-class CGN Admiral Nakhimov (proyekt 1164, Orlan).  First and foremost, it needs new missiles (Kalibr and Oniks) to replace its Granit.  They are talking only about Nakhimov at this point.
  • Sevmash won’t be repairing CV Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012.  The shipyard is prepared to build a future carrier.
  • Modified Typhoon-class SSBN Dmitriy Donskoy will be kept active at the White Sea Naval Base for sub-on-sub trials of new boats.  Northern Fleet subs won’t be diverted for this task.
  • KB Malakhit has developed repair and modernization plans for the Akula-class (Proyekt 971, Bars).  Money’s been allocated and Zvezdochka will do the work. 
  • Russia may offer up the Amur-1650 diesel sub in next year’s Indian tender.  It could have air-independent propulsion, but Russia doesn’t seem really high on the idea.
  • They want to test Proyekt 677 Lada and its sonar in deeper waters next year.

Perhaps the Borey and Yasen mods reflect the problems of restarting construction that had been dormant (or at least very slow) for a long time and of using newly-made components rather than older ones.

Where’s the Logic? (Addendum)

S-400 Launcher (photo: ITAR-TASS)

One shouldn’t ignore what doesn’t make sense . . . last week the Russian press reported again that the Baltic Fleet’s PVO units (Kaliningrad’s 3rd Aerospace Defense Brigade?) will receive their first S-400 launchers before year’s end.  The first report came in August.  ITAR-TASS cited a source this time – Baltic Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov.

Chirkov didn’t say how many the fleet will get, but he said the S-400 will replace old S-200 (SA-5 / Gammon) surface-to-air missiles.  He says his crews are currently conducting “acceptance-handover” launches, presumably at Ashuluk.

It doesn’t seem logical.  SAM brigades around Moscow can’t get S-400s on time and Chirkov is talking about putting them in Kaliningrad.  And his assertion he’ll get them this month seems odd given the loose schedules and passed deadlines associated with the program.

President Medvedev just finished saying one measure against European missile defense would be deploying the S-400 to protect SYaS.  But SYaS aren’t based in the Russian exclave.  It seems Medvedev would’ve announced it if the military intended to put the new SAMs in Kaliningrad.  Are S-400s going to intercept    SM-3s launched from Poland?  Are they going to protect Iskanders in Kaliningrad?

We’re left waiting to see the logic (and truth) in these reports.  Of course, there doesn’t necessarily have to be a logic compelling or sensible to outsiders.

“New Profile” Brigades

Representative "New Profile" Brigade

Not long ago someone asked what Russia’s “new profile” brigades look like.  There’s a good bit available on this. 

General Staff Chief Makarov signed off on the TO&E (org-shtat) as far back as three years ago, just a couple months after Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reforms were launched. 

The org chart for a typical motorized rifle brigade shown above is inelegant.  Some elements aren’t represented due to your author’s lack of graphic skills.  Among important missing items are the artillery command recce battery and air defense radar platoon.

The sniper platoon has been part of the new TO&E, but its existence was only emphasized by the media of late.

And this post doesn’t delve into precisely how postulated Russian light, medium, and heavy brigades might differ.

The manpower looks to be under 4,400 officers and men, 327 officers and 4,066 soldiers (including 1,005 sergeants) to be exact.  Russia’s officer corps bloat doesn’t seem to apply to serving out here “in the troops,” as they say.  Officers are only 8 percent of the brigade’s personnel. 

However, this representative brigade is (or was) commanded by a general-major (O-7), and had 5 full colonels, and 29 O-5s.  There are almost as many majors (43) as captains (68), and a fairly low number of senior lieutenants (181).

In terms of equipment, battalions remain battalions — 40 tanks or armored vehicles per.  The SP howitzers are 152mm 2S19 Msta-S or 2S3M Akatsiya and/or 122mm 2S1 Gvozdika.  MRLs are the venerable BM-21 Grad, in a battalion of three batteries with six launchers per.  Antitank artillery is towed and ATGMs are Konkurs (AT-5 / Spandrel) and Shturm-S (AT-6A / Spiral).  Air defense isn’t particularly modern consisting of batteries of 2S6 Tunguska (SA-19 / Grison), Strela-10 (SA-13 / Gopher), and Osa (SA-8B / Gecko). 

Other English-language observers have looked at the same data.  This one shows the organization and manpower distribution for a brigade’s sub-units (battalion-level and lower).  This one does much the same with some guessing at tactical organization and equipment.

P.S.  One forgotten thing here is how logistics and maintenance may, or may not, have changed at the brigade level with Serdyukov’s outsourcing, Oboronservis, and taking soldiers off noncore (i.e. non-combat) duties.  But the supply and repair battalions still appear on the org charts.

Military Apartments Becoming an Issue

First Deputy Prime Minister Shuvalov

Wednesday First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov criticized a Primorskiy Kray deputy governor for the low quality of new housing for military men in Vladivostok’s Snegovaya Pad microrayon.  Shuvalov said the housing is cold, damp, and moldy.  According to RIA Novosti, Shuvalov heard complaints from a worker at Dalpribor, and rerouted his visit to inspect his building.

Shuvalov said:

“The builders have performed badly — cold air blows from the window frames and receptacles, from the registers of the radiator mountings.  The plastic windows throughout the apartment constantly “cry,” the wall in one of the rooms was quickly covered with mold.  The temperature in the apartment didn’t rise above 9ºC  degrees (48ºF).”

The press agency added that the walls of the apartment block’s service floor are cracked.

Shuvalov said the worker’s complaints are fully justified.  The kray’s deputy governor promised, of course, to sort out the situation.  But Shuvalov concluded the quality of completed construction needs a serious look, and added it’s impermissible that residents of new housing should have to make repairs.

Unusually frank comments from an unexpected source.  But it’s interesting Shuvalov didn’t hear other serious complaints about “Snegpa” . . . the files are full of 34 press articles about the microrayon’s problems in the past three years, though there hasn’t been time to write on them.  Most articles describe how this military housing was erected on Defense Ministry property, a former naval arms depot which exploded in 1992, without properly clearing and cleaning up old munitions and hazardous substances.

Newsru.com pointed this out.  Snegpa, it says, is a densely populated area of 50,000 retired and active servicemen and family members that has only one daycare (детсад) facility and one secondary school.  NVO (Sergey Konovalov) has written that Snegpa is one place where servicemen are refusing proferred apartments.

NVO doesn’t think anyone will be held responsible for the military housing mess.  Interesting that Shuvalov was willing to blame a regional official, but not fellow Team Putin member Defense Minister Serdyukov and his deputies. 

NVO also cited General Staff Chief Makarov at the OP on housing numbers.  He said, by the end of 2011, the military will have obtained 134,700 apartments for the military since 2009, but there were still 63,800 in line on October 1.

Colonel Sergey Zavarzin, writing for KP, counted a Defense Ministry claim of 175,600 obtained, or due to be, between 2009 and the end of 2012.  That number would be enough to close out the permanent apartment problem, if the military’s other numbers are accurate.  And only if ex-military men are actually willing to move their families into them.

According to ITAR-TASS, President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin addressed military apartments at last weekend’s United Russia conclave.  The former reiterated his refusal to put servicemen out of the army without presenting them with permanent housing, if they are entitled to it (an easy call since it remains illegal to do so, and the military can also just warehouse them outside the org-shtadt)

Putin said the military housing program has to be seen through to the end:

“But, to this time, there are still many violations and much callousness, and these problems have to be brought to zero, to be fully eradicated.”

Pardon if these words have appeared previously, but the Russian approach toward military housing has been and is still a Soviet one — numerical targets, “storming,” poor quality, no life cycle or support planning, etc.