Category Archives: RVSN

Strategic Fireworks

Warhead Impact Crater (photo: Novaya gazeta)

Being practically the eve of Victory Day, news is hard to come by.  

Novaya gazeta, however, was nice enough to print an interesting article about Russia’s strategic shooting gallery — Kamchatka’s Kura test range.

The author says, from the air, this 13,206 square kilometer patch of taiga looks like an unattractive golf course with a great quantity of holes.  In Kura’s 55-year history, more than 5,500 “items” have landed here.

Kura was called Kama at the time of its establishment in 1955, and two years later, the first missile, an R-7 (SS-6 / Sapwood) — the world’s first ICBM, landed here.

Why this site?  An old hand at the Independent Scientific-Testing Station of Space Forces explains:

“There are several reasons for this.  Firstly, this is one of the most remote regions, that is it’s possible to test missiles here not only for firing accuracy, but for range.  Secondly, the trajectory of all flights was conducted only over the USSR’s territory.  Thirdly, the range was laid out at a great distance from populated points and airline routes.”

So, the military’s calculations were correct.  No aircraft or people ever suffered from a stray missile, but not every “item” landed as intended.  They cut into mountains, or splashed in the ocean.  In the early 1980s, one caused casualties in a Koryak reindeer herd.

Kura Test Range

“Items” land here less frequently now, not more than 20 per year.  In the past, there were up to 250 per year.  The old hand continues:

“In the Soviet years, warheads poured from the sky like off a conveyor belt.  Not just military here, but scientific life was also cooking here.  Groups from scientific-research institutes who were creating the Soviet ‘star’ program as a counterweight to the American SDI constantly came here.  But after perestroyka, most scientific research was rolled up.”

He says the range’s helicopter pilots are marvelous fliers, but it’s often the bears who first find what’s fallen from the heavens.  All the oxidized metal is bad for the environment, of course.

The local garrison is just tens of kilometers from the Klyuchevskaya Sopka volcano, and its ash and sulfuric acid takes a toll on equipment.

The author says the locals say the warhead flights are spectacular.  At first, there’s a bright star in the night sky, rapidly approaching the ground.  Then a flash so powerful the street’s lit like daytime, but doomsday lasts not more than a second.  In an instant, the big star separates into several smaller ones.  Up to 10 warheads separate from the platform and fly at their own targets.  Cooler than any fireworks.

V / ch 25522 has 200 conscripts, about the same number of contractees, and 500 officers.  Life in the garrison town is generally good.  Soldiers preferred the old “Afghan” uniforms to the new ones from Yudashkin.  The barracks are warm, and there’s been no violence or hazing in recent years, but there’s not much free time (or much to do) either.  Soldiers can use their cell phones on days off.

For Space Troops officers, service here is considered prestigious, and the pay is almost three times that in units in Central Russia.  A year of service here counts double for hardship.  The stores are significantly better stocked here than on the “mainland,” but the prices are also 2-3 times higher.

Like everywhere, officers are being retired or put in civilian billets.  Engineer pay at the range, with supplements and coefficients, is 25-30 thousand rubles a month.  A lieutenant colonel gets 50-60 thousand.

Winter is seven months, and earthquakes a daily occurrence.  The volcanic ash isn’t good for people, but it isn’t deadly, they say.

Many officers have served at Kura since the early or mid-1990s, and they don’t complain.  The work is interesting, and the surroundings beautiful.  Things are better than 10 years ago when personnel didn’t get paid, and pilots had to buy their own spares for their helicopters.  Now equipment gets repaired, and the pay’s on time.

RVSN’s Fourth Generation ASBU Being Introduced

The press this morning says a fourth generation automated command and control system for Russia’s land-based strategic missiles is being fielded.  It describes a more net-centric, skip-echelon capability with a central commander able to communicate directly with launchers in the field.

It’s not clear, however, how much in the fourth generation system is different from its immediate predecessor.

RIA Novosti writes . . .

MOSCOW, 27 Apr — RIA Novosti.  The fourth generation automated combat command and control system (ASBU) has started introduction into Russia’s Missile Troops of Strategic Designation (RVSN), official RVSN representative Vadim Koval told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.”

“‘In the RVSN and jointly in cooperation with industry, work continues on improving the system of combat troop command and control.  In particular, presently, development is complete and introduction of the fourth generation ASBU into troop echelons has begun,’ Colonel Koval said.”

“The new system supports automated exchange of employment plans and operational retargeting of missiles, along with the resolution of traditional missions of transmitting orders, gathering reports and monitoring the combat readiness of launchers.”

“‘And the transmission of combat command and control orders directly to launchers, without intermediate echelons, is supported, including under nuclear effects and radioelectronic suppression,’ Koval noted.”

“He noted that each of the system’s stations, which are made using a new domestic component base, is provided with triple reserve communications and data transmission systems and malfunction scanning which precisely identifies the individual element needing replacement.”

“Further improvement of the ASBU is connected, first and foremost, with improving the RF Armed Forces command and control system as a whole, and also with the command and control requirements of new generation nuclear missile weaponry.”

“From 2010, rearmament with the new missile system ‘Yars’ has been conducted in the RVSN.  Rearming of the Tatishchevo division with the silo-based ‘Topol-M’ missile system is also occurring.”

To RIA Novosti’s account, ITAR-TASS adds only that:

“The system’s paths for transmitting orders and gathering reports are established by land-line, radio, and satellite communications channels and possess the required survivability and jam-resistance.”

“Earlier orders issued by one of the central command posts came to launchers through army, division, regiment (battalion for mobile launchers) command posts.”

The new ASBU’s capabilities aren’t described much beyond what former RVSN Commander Solovtsov outlined in 2009.  See also RIA Novosti.

However, in late 2007, Solovtsov told Rossiyskoye voyennoye obozreniye (p. 21) that the RVSN was completing introduction of the third generation ASBU, and he described capabilities that sound much like what’s being advertised as fourth generation today.

So the issue may be, is this really something new, or the continuation of an earlier upgrade presented like major progress on an important modernization front?

VVS Taking VMF’s Land-Based Fighters and Bombers

Vesti.ru has rebroadcast Interfaks information from a Main Navy Staff source who says, on 1 April, Naval Aviation (VMA) will begin transferring its land-based fighter and bomber aircraft to the Air Forces (VVS).

By year’s end, the VVS will get the Navy’s remaining Su-27 fighters, MiG-31 fighter-interceptors, long-range Tu-22 [sic] supersonic bombers, and also part of the VMA’s transport aircraft.

Russian Naval Aviation Tu-22M3

The Interfaks report will probably get garbled into all aircraft, or all land-based aircraft, going to VVS, which is not the case, as it makes its way into other Russian and English language news stories.

VMA will retain control of its Il-38, Tu-142, and Be-12 ASW aircraft, and its deck-based aircraft, the Su-33 fighter and Ka-27 helicopters, according to the Interfaks source. 

According to the Vesti.ru article, missile-carrying naval aviation has deteriorated since the Soviet collapse, and only the Northern and Pacific Fleets have long-range ASW aircraft which, it claims, amount to only 25 Il-38 and 15 Tu-142.  It says the Baltic Fleet has no ASW aircraft, and the Black Sea Fleet only four old Be-12 likely to be completely worn out by 2015.

The article notes that the Su-33, Su-25UTG trainer, multipurpose Ka-27 and Ka-29 combat-transport helicopters will remain in the air wing of heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser Fleet Admiral of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov.  There are reported plans to procure 26 MiG-29K fighters for Kuznetsov.

Here’s a nicely done, data-filled Russian language Wiki article on Russian Naval Aviation.

VMA lost something else recently.  A BMW-X5 used by VMA Chief, General-Colonel Igor Khozhin was stolen in Moscow on Friday, according to Interfaks.

ITAR-TASS also reported Friday that more than 80 RVSN aircraft — An-72, An-26, and Mi-8 helicopters — will also be going over to the VVS starting on 1 April.

Solomonov on Need for Increased Missile Production

MIT General Designer Yuriy Solomonov told Interfaks yesterday Russia needs to increase intercontinental ballistic missile production in the coming years to preserve its strategic nuclear forces (SYaS or СЯС).  See a more complete version of his remarks at Arms-expo.ru.  He said:

“We have two years at our disposition to be in a condition, proceeding from implementation of the production preparation program, to get all cooperation ready for the possibility of manufacturing a large quantity of products.  Many times more than have been made previously.”

He said Russia has produced 6-10 missiles per year over the last ten years.  And he acknowledged that plans for increased production volume may not be fulfilled:

“All this rests, with respect to corporate enterprises, on resolving the task of allocating them investment.  And the regulatory-technical base — the way officials interpret it — doesn’t allow for resolving this task.  If it isn’t resolved, it’s possible to say unequivocally that the task of significantly increasing the volume of products delivered by 2013 won’t be fulfilled either.”

So he’s saying the reluctant state will need to invest in Votkinsk and its component suppliers?

Solomonov notes that the Votkinsk plant, manufacturer of the Topol-M and RS-24 ICBMs, produced up to 120 Pioner (SS-20) medium-range missiles a year between 1980 and 1987.  He says:

“It follows from this that the production capabilities of the factory undoubtedly allow it to realize, proceeding from this potential, production of a substantially larger quantity of missiles than in the preceding ten years.”

Khaki-Colored Narcomania

FSKN Chief Viktor Ivanov and Russia's Narco-Apocalypse

On 2 December, Rossiyskaya gazeta covered a “coordinating conference” of the Federal Narcotics Control Service (FSKN) held the previous day in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Oblast.  At the meeting, FSKN Director Viktor Ivanov reported:

“The preliminary results of our investigation attest to the apocalyptic scale of the country’s narco-tragedy.  More than 100,000 of those dying [from illegal narcotics use] every year in Russia are young people from 15 to 30.”

Newsru.com said the FSKN previously acknowledged only 30,000 deaths annually from narcotics in this age group.  The media outlet also noted that the FSKN said Russia currently has 2.5 million heroin addicts, and 3 million other illegal drug users.  Russia alone represents the world’s second leading region for heroin consumption, according to a recent U.N. study.  It consumes 21 percent of the world’s supply, while Europe is number one at 26 percent.

Main Military Prosecutor Fridinskiy

Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy participated in the FSKN meeting.  He said:

“Growth in the number of narcotics crimes among servicemen is notable in the course of the last five years.  In 2009, the number of serious and very serious crimes connected with narcotics almost doubled.”  

Izvestiya indicated Fridinskiy said 1.7 times, to be exact.

According to Krasnaya zvezda, Fridinskiy said all drug-related crime increased by four times.

The “most complex” situation with illegal narcotics in the army, according to Fridinskiy, is found in the Southern and Eastern MDs.  In the first nine months of this year, 345 crimes involving narcotics trafficking were registered in the armed forces.  Fridinskiy also said more than two-thirds of narcotics trafficking crimes are committed by contract servicemen, and one-fifth by officers.

But he said narcotics crimes represent only three percent of all army crime, according to Krasnaya zvezda.  Still, he noted that the relatively small number of narcotics crimes in the army and medical statistics do not reflect “how much this problem has grown.”

The Defense Ministry daily quoted him:

“Despite the fact that these figures aren’t so large, the problem of narcotics distribution in the troops is significantly broader.  It’s essential to develop coordinated measures to provide warning of illegal narcotics trafficking in the troops and military formations.  If we don’t take any action now, the situation will only worsen in the future.”

Fridinskiy also said the danger of narcotics use is greater in the military than in the civilian world, given the availability of vehicles, combat equipment, and weapons.

ITAR-TASS reported Fridinskiy’s statement that 3,000 young man are declared unfit for army service each year due to narcotics use. 

Krasnaya zvezda provided more Fridinskiy remarks:

“The facts of the discovery of the use of narcotics in training institutions [VVUZy] and, unfortunately, in elite units and sub-units are a graphic example.”

In such places, “even a group of several people using narcotics is quite a serious problem.”

Komsomolskaya pravda focused on this first-time admission of narcotics use and narcotics crimes among Spetsnaz troops, in the special designation sub-units of the “power” ministries [i.e. not just the Defense Ministry].  It also repeated ITAR-TASS saying, “in some Defense Ministry units officers even organized ‘shooting galleries’ where narcotics are prepared and used, including by conscript soldiers.”

The FSKN and Fridinskiy information appeared a week after ITAR-TASS reported that the RVSN will start drug screening for its personnel in 2011.  The RVSN said it would use testing systems that can detect the presence or traces of narcotics even a year after the fact.  It said “security sub-units” would be checked twice a year, and all others once.  Testing might be extended to cover the RVSN’s civilian workers as well.

News items on drug busts in the Russian military are not really frequent or rare.  There are occasional stories.  Just a casual look shows investigators broke up two drug rings in the Moscow MD in August.  They reported investigating 60 drug trafficking cases in 2009.  There were drug busts in both Baltic and Pacific Fleets back in March of this year.

And it’s worth noting that surveys of conscripts typically show that 10 percent or less of new draftees fall into the undesirable category of “drug and alcohol abusers or those who have a police record.”  Drug users are some portion of that 10 percent, and that seems to track roughly with what Fridinskiy says about the fairly low profile of narcotics in the army.  But, as said above, he’s concerned that it’s growing.

New, Younger Face of the RVSN

The RVSN’s spokesman told ITAR-TASS today that his branch is entering 2011 with a completely new high command, and he gave some figures on a general youth movement in the RVSN:

“In 2010, the RVSN commander, all his deputies, missile army and division commanders were replaced.”

“The tendency toward rejuvenating command cadres was appropriate for the RVSN.  In the last three years, the average age of division commanders fell from 46 to 44 years, and regiment commanders from 40 to 38.  Over this period, 92 percent of regiment commanders were newly appointed.  Promising officers, who’ve gone through essential training and have the corresponding education, knowledge, and experience in leading military collectives, were appointed to leadership posts.”

“Officers of 61 nationalities serve in regiments and divisions, 98 percent of them have higher education and are professionals in their business.  The average age of officer personnel is less than 33, and 45 percent of officers are less than 30.”

This report basically sums the result of several years of winnowing the officer corps under Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov.  Recall that he directed the officer corps to be transformed from a top-heavy, “bloated egg” into a pyramid with many fewer generals, colonels, lieutenant colonels, and majors.  Essentially all officers, including those in the RVSN, had to undergo a re-qualification [аттестация] process in which their service records were reviewed to see if they were fit to continue serving.  Serdyukov has also shown a tendency to send more officers into retirement immediately upon reaching the stipulated legal age limit.

Yes, we are in the throes of Russia’s holiday season and news is hard to come by.

It’s Not Corruption

In a very unusual step yesterday, Mil.ru published an explicit denial that recent cadre changes have any connection to corruption.  The possibility of a link between high-ranking personnel dismissals and corruption cases has been the subject of some speculation.

The press release says the Defense Ministry is devoting great attention to anticorruption efforts, and talking openly about cases like Gaydukov’s.  But it denies that any other [read Verkhovtsev’s] recent dismissal is connected to this.

It maintains high-ranking officers are being dismissed for the usual reasons — age, health, and their own request.  It adds that they have many years of worthy service behind them.

As far as other moves go, it says “organizational-personnel measures” [i.e. orgshtat or TO&E changes] have caused some officers to be relieved of their duties or be assigned to new ones.

The Defense Ministry “doth protest too much” perhaps.  It might not want Congress asking questions about where U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction money has gone.  At any rate, it’s uncommon for the Defense Ministry to take offense, and react so immediately to media speculation.

Corruption in 12th GUMO?

Is corruption the cause for the recent spate of decrees on military personnel?

In today’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vladimir Mukhin reports a Defense Ministry source says the recent dismissals of high-ranking military men are connected to corruption by them or their subordinates.  He puts the sudden retirement of 12th GUMO Chief Vladimir Verkhovtsev in this category.  He reminds that the 12th GUMO is responsible for the safety, security, storage, testing, and reliability of Russian nuclear weapons, and is also primary recipient of years of U.S. taxpayer funding through the Nunn-Lugar Act.

Though he’s headed the 12th GUMO for the last five years, General-Colonel Verkhovtsev’s a relatively young 55, and could still serve 5 years under the law.

Mukhin says Defense Ministry sources say Verkhovtsev’s going down for corruption and theft by General-Major Viktor Gaydukov, commander of a nuclear weapons storage site, who together with his wife managed to steal 20 million rubles worth of U.S. aid intended for engineering work for “improving the secure storage and accountability of nuclear weapons.”

Gaydukov was the first to fall for failing to report his income and assets accurately under the provisions of the latest government anti-corruption campaign.  However, the authorities’ discovery of his theft of money intended for nuclear security was purely incidental.

Mukhin cites Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s persistent proponent, Igor Korotchenko:

“To the Defense Minister’s credit, he didn’t hide these facts and continues to sign dismissal paperwork for all officers and generals discovered mixed up in corruption.  That’s why there are so many retirements of military chiefs figuring in the president’s decrees.”

An anonymous 12th GUMO officer says:

“In Russia and the U.S., there are few ordinary people who know that, almost 20 years after the USSR’s collapse, Washington gives unreimbursed aid to the RF for the defense and support of its nuclear-technical facilities.  Why aren’t such activities promoted – it wouldn’t do to talk about them.  In Russia, they’re afraid that so-called patriots [Tea Party types?], the opposition, U.S. taxpayers wouldn’t like it.”

Mukhin says Moscow has spent much less on these facilities than the U.S. ($11 billion over two decades), but no one knows how much for sure because that budget article is still secret.  He says the Russian government may soon have to say whether the money’s been used as planned and effectively.

Viktor Litovkin called Verkhovtsev and asked him to react to claims his dismissal is linked to misuse of Nunn-Lugar funding.  He responded:

“My retirement has no relationship to this issue.  And to link it to the Nunn-Lugar program would be incompetent.  This is some kind of gibberish.  I personally made the decision to retire.  I wrote a request addressed to the Defense Minister at the beginning of November.  And I also recommended a man for my post.  He is a very good specialist whom I know well through joint work and service.  I’m sure that he’ll manage very well.”

Sounds like he’s pretty sure he won’t be facing any prosecutor. 

One should also observe that it might also be very convenient for a Defense Minister to label as corrupt anyone who opposes his policies and actions.  To complete the picture of possibilities, it’s also possible some are both corrupt and oppose Serdyukov on principle.

A short post-script . . . it’s a pity Mukhin didn’t also explore General-Major Fedorov’s move from one nuclear facility to another . . . Korotchenko credits Serdyukov for not hiding information about corrupt generals, but if he isn’t hiding it, where are the details of their crimes?

I’m Good Until 2026

Happy 51st RVSN Day . . . Commander General-Lieutenant Sergey Karakayev indicated that service life extension can keep Voyevoda, Stiletto, and Topol in the strategic missile inventory until 2026.  The RVSN is working on ICBM modernization, and has RDT&E in the GPV to deal with new challenges and threats to its missile force.

According to ITAR-TASS, Karakayev said:

“Nevertheless, the service life of the RS-18 ICBM (U.S. and NATO classification Stiletto) has already reached 33 years.  For the RS-20V missile (Voyevoda) and RS-12M (Topol), this term is 23 and 24 years respectively.  And the initial warranty period was defined as 10-15 years.  Practice has shown that the service life of the systems considerably exceeds the established warranty term of use.  It is quite difficult now to determine definitely what kind of safety margin there is.  A series of experimental-design work is being conducted with this goal.”

“The economic expedience of such work is obvious.  For example, extending the service life of the RS-20V (Voyevoda) missile system will allow us to keep the world’s most powerful missiles in the RVSN force until 2026.  Such possibilities also exist for RS-18 and RS-12M missiles.”

“Replacing them with new missiles would require financial outlays far exceeding expenditures on this work.  At present, there are no unresolved technical problems to the further extension of the service lives of the missile systems.”

“Together with the general designers from a whole row of domestic industrial enterprises and organizations, the missile troops are conducting work not only to support the condition and the improvement of existing missile armament, but also their significant modernization, with a constant goal:  under any conditions, to provide a guaranteed resolution of the missions of nuclear deterrence.  Everything is subordinate to this, including measures to modernize the combat equipment of missile systems, which are fully adequate for both the emerging and forecasted military-strategic environment.”

“The scientific-technical and design pool of domestic military missile building will allow us to react flexibly to rising challenges and threats to Russia’s security.  The RDT&E laid out in the State Program of Armaments for 2011-2020 is directed at this.”

Early Bidding on VKO

2011 should be interesting on the Aerospace Defense (VKO or ВКО) front. 

The President’s poslaniye has been turned into orders, including Medvedev’s directive to unify missile defense (PRO), air defense (PVO), missile attack warning (PRN), and space monitoring systems under the command and control of a single strategic command before next December.

This issue will likely take more than a year to come to any kind of resolution.  Moreover, it’s likely to be a bruising bureaucratic battle royale over control and organization that does nothing to improve Russia’s military capabilities, certainly in the near-term and possibly longer. 

Both Deynekin and Svpressa.ru below make the point that there are real live officers who’ll get jerked around (again) by major moves in aerospace-related branches.  Konovalov wonders whether the Kremlin won’t spend too much effort against the wrong threat.

According to RIA Novosti, a Defense Ministry source says the issue of establishing this command by taking PVO from the Air Forces (VVS) and giving it to the Space Troops (KV) is being worked.  And he doesn’t rule out that “significant organizational and structural changes” could occur in the KV.  But, of course, the final decision on this strategic command lies with the Supreme CINC.

RIA Novosti interviewed former VVS CINC, Army General Petr Deynekin, who said:

“. . . the new structure [VKO] shouldn’t be subordinate to some new command.  It should go under the Air Forces, since they are the most modern service of the armed forces.”

He also warned the Defense Ministry against a reorganization which creates more tension in the officer corps.

Olga Bozhyeva in Moskovskiy komsomolets reviews the past history of transformations involving PVO and Missile-Space Defense (RKO), and concludes the VVS and KV will both end up subordinate to a new command under the General Staff.

Interviewed for Novyy region, Leonid Ivashov sees nothing new in Medvedev’s order on a unitary VKO command.  But it will be an uphill task.  He says Russia currently has practically no missile defense system.  The PVO system’s been reduced to point defense, and it doesn’t cover much of Russia’s territory.  More than anything, he sees it as a defense-industrial issue – can the OPK provide the military with new air and space defense systems?

Svpressa.ru concludes there’s no doubt aerospace attack is Russia’s biggest threat, but over the last two decades armed forces reformers have just played their favorite game of putting services and branches together and taking them apart again, and:

“No one considers the money and material resources expended, or even the fates of thousands of officers who’ve fallen under the chariot wheel of organizational-personnel measures.”

Svpressa.ru describes how RKO and the Military-Space Forces (VKS) went to the RVSN under Defense Minister Sergeyev in 1997, then PVO went to the VVS, and they had to create the KV as a home for elements the RVSN no longer wanted in 2001.  The article concludes that this kept VKO divided in half.  Now VVS and KV generals are already hotly debating how Medvedev’s new order on VKO will be implemented.

Svpressa.ru asked Aleksandr Konovalov what he thinks.  Konovalov says VKO is being created against the U.S., when Russia faces more immediate threats from countries without any space capabilities.

In terms of how a unitary strategic command of VKO might be established, Konovalov concludes:

“It’s still impossible to judge this.  I think Serdyukov doesn’t know the answer to this question yet.  Another thing worries me more.  Here we’ve created four operational-strategic [sic] commands – ‘East,’ ‘Center,’ ‘South,’ and ‘West’ – in the Armed Forces in the event of war.  And in peacetime on these borders four military districts remain.  I can’t understand how they will interact.  And it’s all right if I don’t understand.  It’s worse if the Defense Ministry itself is also ignorant.  Judging by everything, it’s impossible to rule this out.  And there are much more real enemies than the U.S. against these newly-minted operational-strategic [sic] commands and districts.  That’s something to think about.  But VKO . . .  If there’s extra money, VKO could also be created.  It could be useful some time.”