Category Archives: Cheap Posts

The Interview

Sorry not Rogen and Franco…Kevin Rothrock (The Russia Guy) asked me to talk a bit on his podcast. He laid out some really good questions and issues.

You might want to follow him and his insightful guests….

Capture

OPK Write-Off

Yesterday Russia’s Deputy PM Yuriy Borisov was in Kazan to inspect Tupolev’s work on strategic bombers and gave the media details on the plan to deal with defense-industrial complex (OPK) debt.

Borisov (right) with Tatar President Rustam Minnikhanov

Borisov (right) with Tatar President Rustam Minnikhanov

The government arms tsar and former deputy defense minister said the plan will restructure 750 billion rubles ($11 billion) in debt. Actually, 300 billion rubles in non-performing loans will be written off. The other 450 will be restructured into 15-year loans at three percent interest.

For Russia’s defense producers, Borisov concluded:

It’s a very serious measure that will allow them to be free of big payments to bankers and free up resources for their own development.

For anything more specific, however, one would have to read President Putin’s secret ukaz on the issue.

This result is somewhat the reverse of what Borisov wanted. More favorable to enterprises than bankers, he sought a 400-450 billion write-off and restructuring of 300-350 billion for 15 years at two percent with a five-year payment holiday to start.

Before that, he sought a complete write-off but Russia’s big banks flatly refused.

Recall this 750 billion rubles represents only Russia’s most troubled defense industry debt. The total burden on the sector is 2.3 trillion rubles ($34 billion).

Kuznetsov Damage Estimate

We’re still waiting to learn (and may never know) how much the December 12 fire aboard the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov will cost the Russian Navy.

According to Interfaks, OSK chief Aleksey Rakhmanov said the bill will exceed 300 million rubles ($4.7 million).

Fire on Admiral Kuznetsov

Rakhmanov told Russian journalists:

. . . there’s no final figure. The commission continues to work. Given that the work of firefighters and law enforcement organs has been gathered up, I think we still require some time to reconcile it. We simply weren’t allowed on-board for a long time.

. . . I don’t want to scare or delight anyone, but there’s definitely no 90 billion [$1.4 billion] there. But I think we won’t get away for 300 million.

Recall the fire took a day to extinguish and two Russian naval personnel — an enlisted contractee and an officer — died, and 14 others were injured.

In the immediate aftermath, Rakhmanov claimed Kuznetsov didn’t sustain critical damage. He rejected a December 19 Kommersant story indicating that the bill for fire repairs could reach 95 billion rubles. The business daily said the estimate came from a Northern Fleet staff officer.

The OSK chief said equipment in the engine room where the blaze occurred was already dismantled. Welding sparks started the fire and it apparently spread to electrical cables.

Completed in the early 1990s, the ill-fated sole Russian carrier is being renovated under an April 2018 contract. The ship was damaged in late October 2018 while floating out of the PD-50 dry dock at Roslyakovo. Kuznetsov was initially set to be finished in 2021, but the date has slipped to 2022.

The carrier reportedly will receive a navalized version of the Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound) gun-missile air defense system, new boilers, pumps, flight control and communications systems, as well as repairs to its turbines.

Airborne Data Point

Collect data points wherever you can. You never know when they’ll become useful, especially if you gather them over the long term.

Parade at the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School named for Army General V. F. Magelov

Parade at the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School named for Army General V. F. Margelov

In early November, Interfaks-AVN reported on a Russian MOD press-release stating that more than 40,000 airborne troops had just gone through a final examination for the 2019 training year.

The MOD statement said:

More than 40,000 servicemen in all formations, military units and sub-units of the VDV deployed in the Western, Central, Southern and Eastern military districts participated in the final examination.

So that’s 40,000 personnel in four divisions, four brigades, units, and sub-units. If we count only those eight formations, that’s certainly no more — probably significantly less — than 5,000 per division or brigade.

If 40,000 is right, then there hasn’t been much expansion of the VDV despite a 2014 report that the elite Russian force could grow by 20,000 troops from a base level somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000.

Krasnoselskaya Brigade

Here’s a look at one Russian motorized rifle brigade, created for another purpose, but perhaps worth sharing. The Kamenka brigade’s appeared on these pages before but mainly because of its order and discipline problems.

The 138th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (v/ch 02511) is based in Kamenka village, Vyborg rayon of Leningrad oblast. Its full honorific name is the 138th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Krasnoselskaya Order of Lenin Red Banner Brigade. 138th IMRB for short.

Krasnoselskaya

The brigade’s lineage goes to the 45th Guards Rifle Division. That formation participated in the liberation of German-occupied Krasnoye Selo in January 1944.

The division’s regiments (now battalions) received the Leningrad honorific for fighting to lift the German blockade of the city.

The 138th IMRB is part of the 6th Combined Arms Army and the Western Military District.

The following units are subordinate to the 138th IMRB:

  • Brigade headquarters
  • 667th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Leningrad Battalion (v/ch 67616)
  • 697th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Leningrad Battalion (v/ch 67636)
  • 708th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Leningrad Red Banner Battalion (v/ch 67661)
  • 133rd Independent Guards Idritsa Red Banner Order of Suvorov Tank Battalion (v/ch 52800)
  • 486th Independent Guards Self-Propelled Howitzer Leningrad Red Banner Battalion (v/ch 67752)
  • 721st Independent Self-Propelled Howitzer Battalion (v/ch 84647)
  • 383rd Independent MLRS Battalion (v/ch 82265)
  • 1525th Independent Anti-Tank Battalion (v/ch 96459)
  • 247th Independent Guards Anti-Aircraft Missile Battalion (v/ch 07727)
  • 49th Independent Guards Engineer-Sapper Battalion (v/ch 18427)
  • 511th Independent EW Company (v/ch 63704)
  • 197th Federal Postal Service Station (v/ch 48768)
  • Signal battalion
  • Material support battalion
  • Maintenance battalion
  • Reconnaissance battalion
  • UAV company
  • Radio-electronic reconnaissance company
  • Radiological, Chemical, Biological Defense company
  • Medical company
  • Commandant company
  • Fire control and artillery reconnaissance battery (chief of artillery)
  • Reconnaissance headquarters platoon (chief of reconnaissance)
  • Fire control and radar reconnaissance platoon (chief of air defense)
  • Sniper platoon
  • Instructor platoon
  • Simulator platoon
  • Training ground
  • Orchestra
  • Radio-television center
Construction of new facilities at Kamenka in 2016

Construction of new facilities at Kamenka in 2016

Today’s IMRB should have nearly 4,000 personnel compared to a nominal 2,500-man motorized rifle regiment (MRR). While the maneuver battalions are similar, the IMRB is heavier in fire support, combat support, and service sub-units [подразделения – battalion or lower]. It has two self-propelled howitzer battalions and an MLRS battalion against the single battalion of towed 122-mm D-30 howitzers in Soviet regiments.

The IMRB’s anti-aircraft and anti-tank capabilities are organized in battalions. They used to be single batteries in old MRRs. Most of today’s combat support and service is provided by battalions compared with companies in Soviet times. The old MRR relied more on support and service from the division level.

The 138th IMRB’s motorized rifle battalions have about 500 personnel with about 100 men in each of three companies operating ten MT-LB light armored vehicles. A battalion probably has 31 MT-LBs. The MT-LB is also the prime mover for other sub-units, so the brigade has a significantly larger total inventory, often put at 159 in all. For example, artillery battalions have eight each and anti-tank gun batteries have six.

The 138th is one of several MR brigades primarily using venerable MT-LBs rather than more modern BTRs or BMPs. The 25th near Pskov is another. Others are in mountainous areas of the North Caucasus or in the Eastern MD. The Russian Army may like the MT-LB’s performance in the marshy terrain of Leningrad oblast. At any rate, it’s a simple, reliable armored vehicle that the MOD still has in large numbers.

For integral fire support, each motorized rifle battalion has a battery of six towed 120-mm 2B16 Nona-K gun-mortars in two firing platoons of three weapons. The battalion has a man-portable 9K115 Metis ATGM battery of three platoons of three launchers. The battalion has an air defense battery organized similarly with three platoons of three hand-held 9K38 Igla SAMs.

The 138th IMRB’s tank battalion is outfitted with 41 T-72B3 tanks, ten tanks in each of four tank companies.

The brigade’s two SP howitzer battalions are organized in traditional fashion – 18 152-mm 2S3 Akatsiya systems in three batteries of two platoons with three guns each. The MLRS battalion with 18 122-mm BM-21 Grad systems is similar with three batteries, two platoons of three vehicles.

The brigade’s anti-tank battalion has two batteries of six towed 100-mm MT-12 Rapira guns and six 9P149 Shturm-S ATGMs. The batteries have two firing platoons with three weapons. The anti-tank guns are towed by MT-LBs, and the ATGMs are mounted on MT-LBs.

The brigade SAM battalion has three launch batteries of four 9K332M Tor-M2 SAMs. It has a battery with two launch platoons of three 9A34 Strela-10 SAMs, and probably a battery (two three-vehicle platoons) of older remaining 2S6 (9K22) Tunguska gun-missile systems.

Overall, the 138th IMRB is a pretty average formation that hasn’t been particularly favored with equipment upgrades or modernization.

Expected in 2019

On June 4, Sergey Shoygu told the Russian Defense Ministry collegium the armed forces will receive 400 new or modernized armored vehicles before the end of this year. T-90M, T-72B3M, and T-80BVM tanks and BMP-1AM infantry fighting vehicles are among the systems to be delivered.

T-90M

T-90M

Interfaks-AVN reported that the T-90M was developed through the Proryv-3 [Breakthrough-3] R&D program — a deep modernization of the T-90 fielded in the mid-1990s. The T-90M has a new turret, 125-mm main gun, remote-controlled 12.7-mm machine gun, and digital fire control.

The Pacific Fleet’s Troops and Forces in the North-East are supposed to get more updated MiG-31BM interceptors, T-80BVM tanks, and BMP-2M IFVs, according to Interfaks-AVN.

Nine Years (A Million Views)

Dear Reader,

Nine years ago I started writing these pages. It’s 936 posts and almost a million views later. Not huge numbers but this is something of a niche. I usually content myself with the quality of readership rather than quantity. At any rate, I thank each of you for visiting and hope you’ve found information and insight here.

My intent has been to track, document, and maybe explain developments in Russia’s armed forces. Or sometimes even anticipate them and provide open source early warning of courses the Kremlin may pursue in military affairs.

Over nine years, Moscow has become less and less a potential partner of the West and more and more a possible adversary again. This has coincided with its military rebuilding efforts which did not begin to bear fruit until 2013 or 2014.

I consider myself neither Russophobe nor Russophile. In a lifetime of “Russia watching,” I’ve found things to love and respect as well as things to loath and abhor. Any attempt to understand the country and its peoples brings one into contact with much of each.

I don’t have the time I’d like for these pages, but I’ll keep writing as I can. It’s both my vocation and avocation.

I’ve endeavored to provide substantial and unique content and avoid items devoid of the same. But on this anniversary, I’ve created a new category for the dreaded “cheap post.” This will be its first entry.

Again, I thank you.