Category Archives: Ground Troops

No Answer for HIMARS

Russia’s war on Ukraine has been paralyzing.

It’s paralyzing because Russian media outlets covering the Russian Federation Armed Forces have spent 166 days doing two things. Either spewing Kremlin propaganda about the “special military operation.” Or not saying or writing anything true about the Russian military for fear of prosecution, fines, and prison time for disseminating “fake” information or “discrediting” the armed forces.

Needless to say, it’s crimped the “bread and butter” of these posts.

Be that as it may, Oleg Falichev wrote last week for NVO about Russia’s faltering war on Ukraine. Falichev’s a former KZ correspondent. But not really notable.

Without meaning to, Falichev shows how deflated Kremin loyalists are. His summation of the war indicates how large, perhaps insurmountable, are the difficulties Russia faces in its war on Ukraine. He attests that Ukraine’s artillery and missiles — Western-supplied or otherwise — are taking a toll on Russian forces. Falichev seems to have lost whatever optimism he once had for Putin’s adventure in Ukraine.

Falichev alleges that Ukraine’s foreign-made UAVs attacked a “humanitarian convoy” near Enerhodar on July 30. He describes Ukraine’s HIMARS strikes on the railroad in Zaporizhzhia oblast a day earlier. And he claims Ukraine destroyed a grain depot in Kamianka-Dniprovska. And Falichev notes the July 31 UAV strike on Russia’s BSF headquarters in Sevastopol.

He then repeats the lie about Ukraine using HIMARS to kill its own Azov battalion POWs held by the Russians in Donetsk. He also claims Ukraine may blow up the Bakhmut dam to flood the town of 35,000 and blame Russia.

Falichev notes some Russian “successes” in Ukraine. He claims Russian strikes seriously damaged Ukraine’s 30th Mechanized and 57th Motorized Rifle Brigades in Kyiv and Chernihiv oblasts, as well as the missile-artillery depot of the 81th Air-Mobile Brigade in Kostiantynivka in Donetsk.

Without providing a source, Falichev asserts Russia has destroyed 260 aircraft, 145 helicopters, and 1,631 UAVs since February 24.

But, he said, to warn of “heinous provocations and terrorist attacks on the civilian population,” Russia needs its own “eyes and ears” in space, electronic reconnaissance to intercept enemy long-range weapons and support counterbattery fire.

“We need drones of the most varied dimensions and designations. Not just strike, but reconnaissance drones with automatic and instantaneous systems for transmitting target coordinates.”

“This means we immediately need to correct not only the State Armaments Program (GPV), which was developed for us to 2030, but also the State Defense Order (GOZ-2022). They are now obviously obsolete.”

“If we don’t find answers to these questions, the provocations will continue.”

“But we still don’t have the strength to prevent such provocations. We haven’t even quickly upped the output of UAVs. Much depends on microchips, optics, engines for drones. But also on the work of various subcontractors, inertia of the bureaucratic apparatus, State Duma adoption of laws on additional GPV and GOZ financing.”

“We also don’t have reconnaissance means. We understand the Ukrainian crisis will drag out, there won’t be any lightning-fast resolution of problems. This means we have to work out long-term programs for reequipping the army, our space grouping, the Ground Troops.”

Just a reminder that “provocations” is Falichev’s term for claimed Ukrainian attacks on civilians, or perhaps for any Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s invasion.

Falichev concludes Russia needs what it currently lacks — fast and certain strikes on enemy artillery and missile systems using radar and space systems to geolocate launches by MLRS, long-range M777 howitzers, and HIMARS. Victory on the ground, he says, is connected to successful space missions, but it’s unclear how this will work out for Russia.

A Falichev interlocutor, a veteran of Air Defense Troops and BMEWS, says Russia needs medium- and long-range air defense missiles, modified to receive data from drones, to attack Ukraine’s artillery and missile launchers. Falichev says it seems a bit absurd but it’s up to “specialists to decide.”

It seems Falichev’s trying to say one very simple thing: The Russian military wishes it had GPS and GPS-enabled weapons systems.

But the fact that the “special operation” is creating problems is no longer in doubt, according to Falichev. The country’s management system and especially it OPK has to be reworked. Maybe not full mobilization but not business as usual either.

So while offering lots of doubtful assertions, Falichev makes the valid point that Moscow needs a quick answer to Western UAVs, M777, and HIMARS operated by Ukraine. But his recommendations are weak. Revamp the GPV, GOZ, and OPK? They don’t have time. Western militaries — certainly the U.S. military — adapt on the fly because they value and listen to their troops. With money tight, sanctions blocking access to Western supply chains, and other wartime exigencies, the OPK will find it virtually impossible to adapt and reequip the Russian military midstream.

Army of Marauders

A Telegram post about Bucha from London-based political scientist and scholar Vladimir Pastukhov.

The marauding of the Russian Army in Ukraine is shifting from the periphery of public attention to the center. This was powerfully facilitated by pictures of Bucha liberated from its liberators, which forced many people outside Russia (where they don’t show any pictures except happy ones) to ponder how Russian troops in Ukraine are really carrying out a very special operation.

An international investigative commission will deal with the humanitarian-legal aspects of this operation without any doubt, and I don’t intend to prejudge its conclusions. But besides the humanitarian and legal aspects of this problem, there are purely military ones, more precisely military-political aspects. An army of marauders, stealing and raping the civilian population, cannot fight effectively.

What’s happening in occupied Ukrainian territory no longer resembles war as much as a pirate boarding or a wild Polovetsian (Pecheneg) raid sunken in Putin’s soul. Those who are fighting aren’t a regular army but a rabble. Even in the Soviet and Nazi armies they fought against marauding as best they could, albeit not always successfully. In the Russian Army, they’ve put it on an assembly line and view it, apparently, as a means of extra motivation for personnel.

Bastrykin is so carried away searching for straw in Bandera’s eye that he can’t get the log out of Shoygu’s eye.1 There’s not a single report that Bastrykin’s glorious eagles, if only just to divert evil eyes, if only just to refute, have attempted to investigate the military crimes of his own army on the territory of Ukraine. In this regard, the generally correct thesis about the ideological character of this war against Western liberal values and for the Russian messianic idea needs substantial correction. This is a war for the idea of bandits and with bandit methods. It exudes not so much Orthodoxy or even communism, the banners of which are raised over Russian regiments, as it does the Petersburg alley.2

Such an army by definition can’t long be combat capable and will fall apart in the course of a war, which places in question the achievement of not just the strategic, but even the tactical goals of the Kremlin in this criminal adventure. Everything the thieving ministers of defense reported to their Supreme Commander-in-Chief about the reform of the Russian Army on inspection turns out to be a lie and bluff — not just from the point of view of armaments, but even the most important question of military discipline and training. There are no real contractees, that is professional military men. There is a mix of “wild geese” (professional mercenaries) and untrained, deceived serfs on whom a contract was foisted as a quarterly bonus. This is an explosive mixture which turns the army into a nomadic hellhole.

Generally, there’s nothing surprising in this. Marauding is the essence of the Putin regime, but the army, as real professional military general Denikin wrote, is the core of statehood. What kind of state has such an army?

1Bastrykin heads the SK RF — Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, with statutory authority to investigate crimes by police, local, and federal officials. “Searching for straw” comes from a Russian proverb — one is so busy looking for faults in another that he cannot see them in himself. Bandera was the controversial Ukrainian nationalist leader used here to mean today’s Ukrainian leadership. Shoygu is the RF Minister of Defense.

2Banners refer to the honorific flags carried by regiments marching in the May 9 Victory Day parade on Red Square. They trace back to the Great Patriotic War. “Petersburg alley” refers to Putin’s claims that he learned to hit first when fighting in the streets and courtyards of Leningrad. It also rings of more modern thugs and gangsters in St. Petersburg.

For What It’s Worth

Read and consider a long thread posted yesterday by @igorsushko about the planning and conduct of Putin’s war on Ukraine.

It’s based reportedly on the insights of an FSB analyst who was involved at some level in preparing for the Russian Army’s invasion of Ukraine.

Obviously, many say this account isn’t genuine, it’s a fabrication, etc. Who can know? It’s the fog of war. Everyone has to decide whether they believe it’s authentic.

From this observer’s perspective, it rings true.

What follows are the best parts edited and consolidated.

Putin’s plan to invade Ukraine was kept secret from everyone.

The FSB’s analysis seemed to be a check-the-box exercise and it had to come out favorably for Russia. It contained no clue as to the depth and effect of Western sanctions.

The Russian Army’s KIA might be 2,000 but it’s probably closer to 10,000. It’s lost contact with two entire divisions. Of 20 paratroop “groups” deployed, only one had even provisional success.

Russia has proven utterly incapable of supporting its invasion force with supplies. Its roads can’t accommodate logistical convoys. With the Turkish straits closed to Russia, it can’t supply its force in Syria. For Russia, airlifts are akin to “heating up the oven with cash.”

It cannot possibly occupy Ukraine; it would need a force of 500,000. Moscow can’t find a Quisling to run the country on its behalf. And Putin can’t declare a general mobilization. It would cause an economic, political, and social explosion in Russia. There could be a political battle along anti-war and pro-war lines. The only way for Putin to keep control is to “tighten the screws” on his own people.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian resistance grows stronger. Ukrainians now hate Russians as much as the Chechens did in two wars. Though Putin is wantonly destroying major Ukrainian cities, they will be kept alive by humanitarian convoys arriving from the West.

Putin thought war against Ukraine would be a 100-meter dash; it turned out to be a marathon.

Putin doesn’t have an “off ramp” and has no options for victory. He faces the prospect of more losses. It’s like the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 when Tsarist Russia thought it would easily defeat the Japanese. But the Russian Army found itself in a state of calamity.

In economic terms, Putin’s deadline is June, by then there will nothing left of Russia’s economy. Finance Ministry efforts are like plugging holes in a ship with your fingers.

If Putin threatens war unless sanctions are lifted or rattles his nuclear weapons, it’s just a tactic to scare the West.

The SVR is sowing the media with false allegations that Ukraine is building its own nuclear weapons.

Somewhere in the chain of command, someone will refuse Putin’s order to go nuclear. Putin might not even give the order because self-preservation is his main goal.

The Winner Is . . . .

Russian military men born in the 1950s have just about disappeared from active service. A couple who remain are General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov and Ground Troops CINC Oleg Salyukov. But they aren’t likely to stay much longer.

The recent announcement that 65-year-old Army General Gerasimov has been elected president of the quasi-governmental Academy of Military Sciences makes his retirement seem imminent. Also 65, Salyukov’s circumstances can’t be much different.

Some thinking about changing faces and generations is in order.

The men of the ’60s — generals between the ages of 50 and 60 — are now firmly ensconced in most top Russian military posts except a couple of the most important ones — those Gerasimov and Salyukov still occupy.

Who will be the next General Staff Chief and Ground Troops CINC?

No special insight here. High-level military personnel decisions are made by Putin, his closest advisers, and Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and are closely held until made public.

It is possible, however, to identify several generals who are conceivable candidates. One critical factor could be their perceived willingness to use military force against Putin’s opponents or at least keep the army on the sidelines in a political showdown.

Army General Aleksandr Dvornikov…Commander of the Southern MD. Soon to be 60, Dvornikov is the oldest of the likely candidates.

He’s served more than four years in the key Southern MD. He commanded Russian forces in Syria and has long experience as deputy commander of the Central and Eastern MDs.

Dvornikov commanded combat troops during the First and Second Chechen Wars.

He lacks General Staff experience and his age might be against him.

He could be a suitable Ground Troops CINC. That would free up the Southern MD for a young, fast-burner.

General-Colonel Andrey Kartapolov…Deputy Defense Minister and Chief, Main Military-Political Directorate.

Turning 58 this year, Kartapolov also commanded troops in Syria.

He served briefly as Commander of the Western MD, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Chief of the Main Operations Directorate (GOU), and deputy commander of the Southern MD.

His appointment to the resurrected GlavPUR seemed to sidetrack a career already deficient in some respects. Unlike the other contenders, he doesn’t have a Hero of the Russian Federation medal.

But Kartapolov can’t be entirely dismissed. Putin and Shoygu have reemphasized political indoctrination in recent years. He might fit the job of Ground Troops CINC, if not General Staff Chief.

General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev (zhu-rav-LYOV)…Commander of the Western MD.

Zhuravlev turns 56 in December.

Twice he commanded Russian forces in Syria.

He served very briefly as Commander of the Eastern MD.

Zhuravlev also had short stints as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Southern MD, and Deputy Commander of the Central MD.


General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin…CINC of Aerospace Forces. Currently 54, Surovikin has an interesting array of experience.

In an unprecedented move, Putin appointed this career army officer to head Russia’s air and space forces in 2017.

He commanded Russian troops in Syria.

Surovikin commanded the Eastern MD for four years. He was Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Central MD and served almost two years as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Chief of the GOU.

He commanded the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division during the Second Chechen War.

Controversies have dogged Surovikin throughout his career but haven’t stopped his advancement so far.

If Surovikin were to become General Staff Chief (or Ground Troops CINC), a new CINC of Aerospace Forces would be needed. It’s unclear whether the MOD would return to a career air forces officer.

No one outside the Kremlin can say who will get these jobs when they become available. But these are clearly top candidates.

A senior officer probably can’t become General Staff Chief without command in Syria, command in one or two MDs, and some time in the General Staff at a minimum. Combat experience in the Chechen wars might help.

For Ground Troops CINC, there could be other candidates. One is Airborne Troops Commander General-Colonel Andrey Serdyukov. Nearly 59, Serdyukov had command in Syria and was Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Southern MD. He participated in Russia’s “dash to Pristina” as well as the Chechen wars.

Does it matter who’s Russia’s General Staff Chief?

In the case of Gerasimov, he’s served in a professional, low-key manner. He managed the armed forces smoothly in a period of intensive rearmament, increased training, and significant real-world operations. Although events make us feel otherwise, he’s likely been the source of dispassionate military advice. He surely influenced and advanced the careers of like-minded younger officers. And Gerasimov served Putin and Shoygu without appearing overly close to them.

Another man of the ’50s below the radar is Deputy Defense Minister, Chief of Rear Services Army General Dmitriy Bulgakov. He’ll be 67 (!!) this year. Logistics boss since 2008, he’ll have to be replaced soon.

Similarly, Deputy General Staff Chief, Chief of the GOU General-Colonel Sergey Rudskoy turns 61 this year. His replacement can’t be more than a year or two off.

Peacekeepers Deployed

On November 20, Interfaks-AVN reported 250 VTA flights have deployed 1,960 troops of the Samara-based 15th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade (Peacekeeping) to Nagorno-Karabakh. Citing Defense Minister Shoygu, the news agency said 552 equipment items were also delivered.

Russian peacekeepers checking for roadside mines

Shoygu indicated Russian peacekeepers occupy 23 observation posts to oversee the ceasefire. Russian troops are divided into two zones — north and south.

Interesting what it takes to airlift a brigade, even a light one.

The Latest Arsenal Fire

Russia’s latest military arsenal tragedy is a new chapter in an unfinished book. What follows isn’t so much news as context you haven’t seen.

According to Interfaks-AVN, a woman died on October 10 from severe injuries received from the fire and explosions which began October 7 in Ryazan oblast. Another 15 victims are reportedly stable with serious burns, injuries, or chronic conditions aggravated by smoke inhalation.

A grass fire was inexplicably allowed to reach the ammo dumps at military unit 55443 near Zheltukhino in Skopinskiy region, and it ignited munitions in open storage. It’s unclear whether the Russian MOD’s Main Missile and Artillery Directorate (GRAU) or the Western MD is responsible for the unit at present. Neither wants to be for certain.

Interfaks-AVN indicated the arsenal (once maybe the GRAU’s 97th Arsenal) consists (or consisted) of 113 warehouses and bunkers with 75,000 tons of missiles, rockets, and artillery shells (a “large portion” of which were 152-mm high-explosive fragmentation).

Munitions from other Russian Army ammo dumps were being collected at Zheltukhino, according to Komsomolskaya pravda.

More than 2,300 people living near the depot were evacuated.

Four VTA Il-76 aircraft, and one Mi-26 and one Mi-8 helicopter were used against the fire as water tankers, TVZvezda reported. Izvestiya said five helos. In 36 fixed and 763 rotary-wing flights, they dropped 4,700 tons of water on the flames.

Izvestiya added that 650 servicemen and nearly 200 pieces of equipment — including 120 EOD personnel and 32 special vehicles (likely Uran-6 and Uran-14 robotic mine clearance vehicles) — were used to battle the fire.

Russian media reported the fire was localized on the evening of October 8 and controlled on October 10.

Kommersant reported the fire and explosions damaged 430 structures, public facilities, apartment buildings, and private homes. If not completely burned down, they have broken windows, partially collapsed roofs, and damaged walls. More than 500 families received 10,000 rubles in immediate emergency funds from the RF government.

Izvestiya relayed some (but not all) of the history of Russia’s recent arsenal fires.

A major fire and explosions rocked the 31st Arsenal and the city of Ulyanovsk in 2009.

A fire and explosions at Pugachevo, Udmurtia in 2011 caused the evacuation of 30,000 people and damaged 3,000 buildings. But Pugachevo (GRAU’s 102nd Arsenal) proved a persistent problem; new fires and explosions occurred there in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2018.

There were other disasters in 2011 — at the 99th Arsenal in Bashkiria and in Ashuluk where six troops died and 12 were hurt. In 2012, there were two fires with explosions in Orenburg and one in Primorye.

Then soon-to-be ex-minister of defense Serdyukov exerted some serious control over Russian munitions storage and dismantlement. But this came too late and, along with his other problems, made him expendable to the Kremlin.

In early 2012, Deputy Defense Minister Dmitriy Bulgakov said the military planned to complete 35 modern arsenals, outfitted with hundreds of bunkers, before 2015 for 90 billion rubles. It also began explosive destruction of a large quantity of outdated munitions. Work on new ammo storage continued through 2018.

But the MOD hasn’t been able to catch up with the problem. It hasn’t offered a comprehensive assessment of the construction effort. So it’s safe to conclude it’s taking longer and accomplishing less than what’s needed.

A couple cases in point. On August 5, 2019, the ammo depot in Achinsk, Krasnoyarsk territory burned. About 16,000 people living within a 20-km radius had to be evacuated. One person died and 40 were injured.

On May 9, 2020, a grass fire ignited small caliber ammo at Pugachevo. The fire covered 15 hectares, but was put out without a disaster like previous incidents there.

Demobbing [Corrigenda]

Here’s a mulligan after fouling the current authorized strength of the Russian Armed Forces on the first cut….

On May 26, Mil.ru noted the Russian Baltic Fleet’s 11th Army Corps is demobbing about 2,000 servicemen after a year of conscript service. It’s not often the MOD site gives figures on troops going into the reserves.

Troops living well in stylish Kaliningrad barracks

Troops living well in stylish Kaliningrad barracks

If 2,000 are demobbing, a roughly equal number should remain to finish the last six months of their draft terms. So the 11th Army Corps has about 4,000 conscripts. 

The 11th Army Corps is one of four large ground formations established in Russia’s four fleet areas in the mid- to late 2010s.

By way of maneuver elements, the 11th is composed of a motorized rifle brigade, MR regiment, and tank regiment. It was rumored the MR regiment would become another brigade but it hasn’t happened yet.

The 11th is supported by tactical missile and artillery brigades, a SAM regiment, and recce battalion.

Here are a couple manning scenarios for the corps:

Possible 11th Army Corps Manning

The lower level is what Russian units looked like in the 2010s. The higher represents a more standard Soviet-era organization, similar to a division numerically.

What do 4,000 conscripts mean in the grander scheme of things?

If Russia’s Armed Forces are manned at 95 percent of the authorized number of 1,130,000 1,013,628, they have 1,075,000 962,950.¹ In last year’s conscription campaigns, 267,000 men were drafted. That’s 25 percent of 1,075,000 28 percent of 962,950.

Are conscripts 25 28 percent of the 11th Army Corps’ manpower?

At the lower postulated level — about 8,800 — 4,000 draftees would be 45 percent. At the higher — about 12,600 — they would be 32 percent.

If those 4,000 are 25 28 percent, how many personnel are in the 11th Army Corps? 16,000 Roughly 14,300. Certainly conceivable and this number sounds more like a corps even if the organization doesn’t look like one.

But if undermanning persists, perhaps 80-90 percent, conscripts are a more substantial share of 11th Army Corps manpower. In a corps of 12,600 on paper, manned at 85 percent of strength (10,700), 4,000 conscripts are over 40 percent of the force. In one of 16,000 manned at 80 percent (12,800), draftees are a third.

Full insight here is lacking, but if forced to make a judgement, it seems very possible the actual manpower of the Baltic Fleet’s 11th Army Corps is lower and the percentage of conscripts in it higher than the Russian MOD would be willing to admit.


¹ President Putin’s ukaz of March 28, 2017 ticked the Russian MOD’s uniformed personnel upward from 1,000,000 to 1,013,628. Just nine months before, by ukaz, he dropped the number of MOD servicemen to 1,000,000 from 1,134,800 — where it had been since early 2008. 

Demobbing

On May 26, Mil.ru noted the Russian Baltic Fleet’s 11th Army Corps is demobbing about 2,000 servicemen after a year of conscript service. It’s not often the MOD site gives figures on troops going into the reserves.

Troops living well in stylish Kaliningrad barracks

Troops living well in stylish Kaliningrad barracks

If 2,000 are demobbing, a roughly equal number should remain to finish the last six months of their draft terms. So the 11th Army Corps has about 4,000 conscripts. 

The 11th Army Corps is one of four large ground formations established in Russia’s four fleet areas in the mid- to late 2010s.

By way of maneuver elements, the 11th is composed of a motorized rifle brigade, MR regiment, and tank regiment. It was rumored the MR regiment would become another brigade but it hasn’t happened yet.

The 11th is supported by tactical missile and artillery brigades, a SAM regiment, and recce battalion.

Here are a couple manning scenarios for the corps:

Possible 11th Army Corps Manning

The lower level is what Russian units looked like in the 2010s. The higher represents a more standard Soviet-era organization, similar to a division numerically.

What do 4,000 conscripts mean in the grander scheme of things?

If Russia’s Armed Forces are manned at 95 percent of the authorized number of 1,130,000, they have 1,075,000. In last year’s conscription campaigns, 267,000 men were drafted. That’s 25 percent of 1,075,000.

Are conscripts 25 percent of the 11th Army Corps’ manpower?

At the lower postulated level — about 8,800 — 4,000 draftees would be 45 percent. At the higher — about 12,600 — they would be 32 percent.

If those 4,000 are 25 percent, how many personnel are in the 11th Army Corps? 16,000. Certainly conceivable and this number sounds more like a corps even if the organization doesn’t look like one.

But if undermanning persists, perhaps 80-90 percent, conscripts are a more substantial share of 11th Army Corps manpower. In a corps of 12,600 on paper, manned at 85 percent of strength (10,700), 4,000 conscripts are over 40 percent of the force. In one of 16,000 manned at 80 percent (12,800), draftees are a third.

Full insight here is lacking, but if forced to make a judgement, it seems very possible the actual manpower of the Baltic Fleet’s 11th Army Corps is lower and the percentage of conscripts in it higher than the Russian MOD would be willing to admit.

Army-Level Spetsnaz Training

Mil.ru often highlights counter-sabotage training by Russian forces, particularly RVSN mobile missile regiments on combat patrol. It frequently relates how “anti-terrorist sub-units” prevented a notional act of sabotage by hostile elements or naval base personnel foiled an attack by “submarine sabotage forces and means.”

But on May 29, the MOD site posted doubly rare news — a brief mention of a tactical sabotage exercise by a Spetsnaz group subordinate to the 20th CAA

Here’s what Mil.ru wrote:

Spetsnaz of Western MD combined arms army sabotaged riverine base facilities of notional enemy in the course of training in Tambov oblast

For the first time the special designation group of Western military district (WMD) combined arms army sabotaged riverine base facilities of the notional enemy in the course of a tactical-special exercise in Tambov oblast.

According to the design of the activities, servicemen conducted a covert landing on the shore, eliminated sentries, and also mined the territory and energy facilities of the notional enemy. In the framework of the exercises spetsnaz also practiced landing on the shore in boats without SCUBA, and airdrops with the D-10 parachute system.

More than 100 special designation servicemen of the WMD combined arms army participated in the exercise.

The earlier announcement that Spetsnaz are now part of a WMD army (the 20th) indicated the contingent is about 100 men, i.e. a Spetsnaz company or group. It also said the sub-unit would train with the 16th Spetsnaz Brigade in Tambov.

An airdrop with D-10 parachutes

An airdrop with D-10 parachutes

The scenario of sabotaging an enemy riverine base is fairly elementary, especially because it was likely a daylight evolution. Had it been conducted at night, Mil.ru would have said so.

More challenging future training scenarios for the independent Spetsnaz company will probably feature long-range reconnaissance and the destruction of enemy tactical nuclear weapons, precision strike systems, C3, and logistics in support of 20th CAA objectives.

Situation Normal, Pretty Much

Shoygu addresses the Collegium

At the MOD Collegium on March 20, Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu pretty much acted like there’s not reason for concern.

With pandemic set to sweep across Russia (everywhere else too), Mr. Shoygu outlined the MOD plan to manage coronavirus. Most of his publicized remarks still focused on the country’s military security and the “increased presence” of U.S. forces, ships, and planes on Russia’s borders.

Shoygu claimed no COVID-19 cases in the Russian Army. The MOD has stopped sending “military delegations” abroad and it won’t host foreign officers. He mentioned vague plans to keep Russian troops close to their garrisons.

Russia’s spring draft won’t be postponed. It will begin as normal on April 1 and end July 15. Conscripts will be tested for coronavirus before they go to their units, and “isolated” during their first two weeks there.

How about testing young men before they answer the summons at the military commissariat? The draft is good news for men being demobbed. Not so good for their replacements.

Recall the Russian Army is a place where barracks and units have been decimated by illness in the recent past. Sixty percent of disease there is respiratory (as is COVID-19). The MOD’s medical establishment is often corrupt and probably just average on its best day.

So much for health security . . . . The Collegium turned to the 2020 plan of activity for the Southern and Eastern Military Districts. After describing U.S. efforts to dominate Russia’s “south-west strategic direction” and the Black Sea, Shoygu said the Southern MD got 1,200 new and modernized weapons and equipment in 2019, and will get nearly three times that many in 2020.

The Defense Minister said the Southern MD will stand up a motorized rifle division and two “missile troops and artillery” brigades. Perhaps the Russians will upgrade one of the Stavropol-based 49th CAA brigades to division status. 

“Missile troops and artillery” is the formal name for the artillery branch of the Ground Troops. It seems likely one artillery brigade will be established at the district level and another for the 8th CAA. 

After detailing U.S. striving to control the Asia-Pacific region as well as Russia’s Sakhalin and Primorye “operational directions,” Shoygu indicated the Eastern MD got 1,300 major items of equipment in 2019, and will get 1,350 including 502 new ones (so 848 modernized) this year.

He said the Eastern MD will get motorized rifle and tank regiments (probably just one of each) in Primorye. They will likely round out the 5th CAA’s 127th MRD, created recently out of the 59th MRB.

127th MRD at Sergeyevka

127th MRD at Sergeyevka

Shoygu also said the Eastern MD will participate in nine international training events in 2020. The MOD also remains adamant that the 75th Victory Day celebration will go on no matter what. Not sure how that squares with health security. Sounds like mixed messaging by the MOD.