Category Archives: Space Troops

Aerospace Defense Troops

Svpressa.ru’s Sergey Ishchenko published an interesting piece on VKO late last Friday.  He wrote that Space Troops Commander, General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko recently reported to the Federation Council on the creation of VKO, making it clear that Ostapenko’s branch, as reported earlier and elsewhere, will be the basis of Russia’s unified VKO due to stand up by 1 December.

Ishchenko makes these additional points:

  • The long-range missile for the S-400 is still in testing.
  • He doubts the S-500 will be delivered in 2015.
  • His interviewee believes the new Aerospace Defense Troops will get all or some of Russia’s SAM force from the VVS.
  • The interviewee thinks the S-500 is on schedule.

Ishchenko says the debate over the lead for VKO didn’t necessarily center on what’s best to protect Russia’s security, but rather on who would receive new resources and general officer billets.

The Air Forces argued they were best suited to lead it, but the Space Troops apparently argued persuasively that they were better prepared to handle Russia’s future transatmospheric threats.

Now, a quick editorial aside from Ishchenko’s narrative . . . this decision is probably a good thing for the Air Forces, which already have their hands full and don’t need more missions.  They stand to lose only some part of the surface-to-air missile business (which hasn’t always been a core mission for them anyway).  And the VVS will benefit by concentrating on their most important tasks.

But back to Ishchenko . . . he provides a fine review of the USSR’s space weapons and space defense efforts, which, arguably, met or exceeded those of the United States.  He notes President Yeltsin’s 1993 decree on creating VKO, for which no one moved so much as a finger, at least partially because of the country’s economic and budgetary predicament at that time. 

Then Ishchenko gets more interesting.  He details the danger posed to Russia by U.S. “noncontact” wars in Iraq (sic), Yugoslavia, and Libya.  These, however, are really wars of the past rather than the future, he says.  Ishchenko moves on to the threat of Prompt Global Strike.

He talks about a hypersonic bomber cruising at Mach 5-7 speeds and altitudes up to 30,000 meters, beyond the reach of Russia’s current SAMs.  Of course, IOC isn’t before 2025, but Moscow needs to start thinking today about how to counter it.  Meanwhile, the state-of-the-art Russian SAM, the S-400, is barely fielded and its extended range missile is still being tested.  Its successor, the S-500, is supposed to be ready in 2015, but Ishchenko is skeptical.

The end of Ishchenko’s article is a brief interview with the chief editor of the journal Vozdushno-kosmicheskaya oborona, Mikhail Khodarenok.  Khodarenok’s a retired colonel, professional air defender, graduate of the General Staff Academy, and former staffer of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate (GOU).  In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was an outstanding military journalist for Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, but by 2003 or 2004, he left for VKO and Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer, both wholly owned by air defense system designer Almaz-Antey.

Ishchenko asks what Khodarenok knows about the process of creating the Aerospace Defense Troops.  The latter hems about not having access to secret directives and documents before concluding:

“But I can say that much has already been determined.  In particular, it’s decided that Space Troops will be the basis of VKO.  Although there were other proposals.  The Air Forces, in particular, proposed taking their service as the basis.”

Asked about this tug-of-war for VKO within the Defense Ministry, he says:

“And this is a beloved Russian pasttime.  In our Armed Forces, they are constantly getting rid of something or resubordinating.  What happened, for example, with army aviation.  In my memory, five times it was given to the Air Forces, then returned to the Ground Troops.  Usually then five years of complete confusion.  Billions lost.  And it all begins again.”

Asked what will be in VKO:

“The basis is the Space Troops.  Evidently, the surface-to-air missile troops (ZRV) will be transferred to them from the VVS.  Fully or partially.  This isn’t determined yet.”

Finally, asked whether Almaz-Antey General Director Igor Ashurbeyli was replaced because of problems with the S-400’s long-range missile or issues in the S-500’s development, Khodarenok says:

“Ashurbeyli’s resignation was not connected with engineering problems in any way.  Neither with difficulties on the S-500, nor on the S-400.”

“I have my suppositions on this score.  But I don’t want to share them.  I repeat:  the most important thing is that the S-500’s development is on schedule.  And this system really will very much help the country’s aerospace defense.”

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.

Popovkin to Roskosmos?

Vladimir Popovkin (photo: Sobakidendy-news.ru)

Friday Marker.ru reported rumors from its sources saying First Deputy Defense Minister, and GPV 2011-2020 architect, Vladimir Popovkin will relieve Anatoliy Perminov as Director of Roskosmos.  This is interesting because it supposedly features a little tandem tension between President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin.

Marker.ru’s Ivan Cheberko writes that Perminov will resign at “his own request,” and become a presidential adviser for space issues.  For his part, Popovkin had hoped to replace Sergey Ivanov as Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for the defense-industrial sector.  But Medvedev and Putin couldn’t agree on Ivanov’s fate, according to Cheberko’s report, and they proposed that Popovkin should head Roskosmos.

A source close to Perminov told Cheberko the Popovkin decision was made last week:

“The president and prime minister couldn’t determine Ivanov’s future, and they proposed Popovkin to head Roskosmos.  The Defense Minister has already signed the corresponding paperwork.”

Cheberko’s two independent missile-space sector sources say there have been three candidates for the Roskosmos job — Popovkin, Popovkin ally and deputy General-Lieutenant Oleg Frolov, and Roskosmos Deputy Director Vitaliy Davydov.  Frolov reportedly would have gotten the job if Popovkin took Ivanov’s spot.  Roskosmos rank-and-file lobbied for Davydov in hopes of avoiding changes Popovkin would make.  His views diverge from those of the agency’s current leadership, and he’s expected to make many personnel and organizational changes.  Among other things, Cheberko highlights Popovkin’s strong support for a new liquid-fueled heavy ICBM versus missile designer Yuriy Solomonov’s vocal public opposition to such a plan.

Unfortunately, Mr. Cheberko only dug so deep.  There’s a bit more to this story.

On the eve of the 18 March expanded collegium, Sergey Ivanov told the Federation Council the Defense Ministry was to blame for late placement of the State Defense Order (Гособоронзаказ, ГОЗ, or GOZ) this year.  Even prior, he had lots of sharp public criticism for Perminov, Roskosmos, and their failures.  Of course, Ivanov himself has long suffered at Putin’s hands over GLONASS, so he’s just letting stuff roll downhill, so to speak.

In his collegium speech, President Medvedev railed about problems with the GOZ last year, and demanded a “post-flight debriefing” to identify which industry and state officials are to blame.

Prime Minister Putin followed the collegium with a March 21 government session on the defense order at the Votkinsk missile plant.  Ivanov and Perminov were there, and probably Popovkin too.  The latter was very much on the defensive afterwards, asserting that GOZ-2010 was fulfilled “on the whole.”  And he blamed last summer’s heat wave and forest fires for disrupting defense production.

So where’s it leave us?

As Marker.ru implies, it appears Popovkin’s position isn’t too strong, and he could be headed out of the Defense Ministry after only 8 months on the job.  This would take away one of the louder proponents of buying arms and equipment abroad if necessary.  It begs the question who replaces Popovkin, and what does it mean.  Possibly someone closer to Serdyukov.  Never known for his skill as a political infighter, Sergey Ivanov actually comes out of this looking like a semi-adept bureaucratic warrior.  It’s interesting to imagine Medvedev and Putin discussing Ivanov’s fate when he was once thought the frontrunner in Operation Successor 2008.

VKO Game On

Yes, it’s game on in the fight for control over Russia’s future unified aerospace (air-space) defense or VKO.

General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov’s recent statements sound like he’s hard over on putting VKO under the General Staff’s immediate control.  But the Space Troops (KV) definitely aren’t out of the game, and even the Air Forces (VVS) – running third right now – are still in the competition to own VKO.

Say VKO falls under the General Staff, is it up to the job of running what will amount to a service or major command?  This at a time when it’s been cut back, and refocused on strategic planning?  And, entirely aside from organizing or reorganizing for VKO, there’s an issue how much a unified VKO will actually improve current Russian capabilities.  Acquiring new capabilities is a different problem altogether.

But let’s recall how we reached this point.  In late 2010, President Dmitriy Medvedev set the task of unifying the command and control of VKO under a single strategic command by 1 December 2011.  He cited this as his third major task for the military in his 18 March speech before the expanded Defense Ministry collegium:

“This year a unitary air-space defense system must be established.  It is necessary to unite existing anti-air and anti-missile defense, missile attack warning, and space monitoring systems under common command and control.  Moreover, this needs to be done not in the abstract, on paper or in electronic form, but in the context of the current situation, including the decision of the issue of our participation or nonparticipation in the system of European anti-missile defense which is being established.  It is necessary to form several large air bases, taking into account the deployment of units.  This will increase the mobility of sub-units, and allow for the establishment of military infrastructure echeloned along main strategic axes.”

Medvedev sounds like he’s saying he won’t be fooled by bureaucratic paper lash-ups or procedures.  He wants blood drawn — forces and systems taken from one command and given to the new VKO command, whatever its shape or subordination.  The real sticking point, of course, is anti-air defense assets now under the VVS.

Friday’s Rossiyskaya gazeta reported Army General Makarov and Defense Ministry Serdyukov are currently studying proposals on VKO.  But they’re keeping them within a small circle, and don’t intend to create public debate on the issue.  And the paper thinks the form and control of VKO will be revealed in the next months, if not weeks.

Let’s turn for a moment to what Makarov’s been saying.

Interfaks reported Saturday that the General Staff Chief said flatly:

“Air-space defense will be created in the General Staff, under the General Staff’s leadership, and the General Staff will command and control it.”

Vesti.ru said he dismissed the idea of the KV running VKO:

“The Space Troops are only one element of all the components of this air-space defense.”

Well, you can say that, but they also appear to have three of VKO’s four cited components.

At any rate, Makarov continued, saying VKO:

“. . . has to be multilayered, by altitude and by range, and has to integrate all forces and means that exist, but are very few of now.  We are counting on production taking off, beginning literally next year.”

He also noted:

“No one will take back those means which are now transferring to the districts [MD / OSKs].  This [VKO] will be implemented in Troop PVO.”

The chief of Ground Troops’ Air Defense (ПВО СВ) also said as much in late December.

None of this is very different from what Makarov’s said all along.

Rossiyskaya gazeta summed Makarov up this way on 15 December:

“The thing is various military structures are involved in securing the skies at present.  The Space Troops answer for orbital reconnaissance and the work of missile attack warning stations.  The Air and Air Defense Armies with the aid of radar companies and border posts inform staffs about approaching enemy aircraft.  The Special Designation Command covers the Moscow Air Defense Zone.  Air defense troops and fighter aviation cover other important facilities.”

“The system is built on the service [видовой] principle and is therefore uncoordinated.  We need to make it integrated and place it under the Genshtab’s command.”

Despite Makarov’s strong words, Rossiyskaya gazeta has been told that the leadership is still studying putting VKO under the KV’s control.  Especially since, as noted, it already has 3 of 4 of its components – PRO, SPRN, and KKP.  But, the paper thinks, no one is talking about putting SAMs (ZRK) or Air Defense Aviation (APVO) under the KV.  However, the KV might get independent radar brigades and some SAM units equipped with the S-300, S-400, and the future S-500.

On 24 March, the KV’s spokesman repeated earlier statements from its commander, General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko, saying basic documents setting out the establishment of VKO on the basis of KV have been prepared and presented to the Defense Ministry and General Staff.

On 27 January, Ostapenko told RIA Novosti:

“There’s already a decision that the system of VKO will be built on the base of the Space Troops.”

It might also be worth noting Vedomosti’s Defense Ministry sources were, at least at one point, reporting that KV had the upper hand in the VKO sweepstakes.

Lastly, the VVS remains a possible home for VKO.  The Air Forces might not have much to recommend them over the Genshtab or KV, but they operate the existing VKO prototype in the Moscow region’s Special Designation Command (KSpN).

Symbol of How Things Work (or Don’t)

Is Perminov About to Surrender This Chair?

Your author couldn’t be accused of following military space issues and news too closely.  However, this piece from Ogonek [Огонёк] is pretty compelling stuff,  examining whether Anatoliy Perminov has been, or is about to be, “knocked out of orbit” as Chief of Roskosmos.

Ogonek is part of Kommersant, and has the same standards of quality and independence.  Much of what the article highlights is interesting and significant beyond the confines of space.  It is more widely illustrative of the way things work, or don’t, in Russia generally.  It makes Perminov sound somewhat symbolic of this.

Author Vladimir Tikhomirov begins by concluding the loss of four satellites recently isn’t the only reason for retiring Perminov, but Tikhomirov wants to look at the man and why he causes such controversy in the upper echelons of power.

As recently as 11 March, Perminov said his bosses will let him know when his time is up, but presumably they haven’t yet.  RIA Novosti also apparently published word from a “Kremlin source” who said Perminov’s contract won’t be renewed in April.  It’s said the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight on 12 April might be celebrated with someone else heading Russia’s space agency.

Tikhomirov explores who Perminov is . . . a missile-general trained early to keep his mouth shut . . . to keep the dirt inside the RVSN or military izba . . . he doesn’t talk about extraneous or personal matters.  Born in Kirov Oblast in 1945, his father died early and he worked on a collective farm.  He was excited by Gagarin’s flight and practically his entire class went to military schools . . . he went to the Perm Higher Military Command-Engineering School.  He went from missile unit to missile unit with his wife and son.  The Soviet collapse found him finishing up at the General Staff Academy, and he became Chief of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.  When Sergey Ivanov created Space Troops in 2001, Perminov became their first commander.  President Putin put him in charge of the entire space sector in 2004.

Then Tikhomirov talks about Roskosmos and Perminov’s predecessor.  In 1992, President Yeltsin civilianized a lot of the space industry, and he put Yuriy Koptev — a missile and rocket builder — in charge.  Koptev held his seat for 12 years until Putin became dissatisfied that Russia hadn’t built a single new satellite in 10 years (1994-2004).  Putin was upset when Roskosmos couldn’t support ground operations in Chechnya, and also when plans for the Angara rocket (that was supposed to free Russia from depending on Baykonur) didn’t pan out.

Perminov studied Koptev’s failures, and he pushed through a Federal Targeted Program (FTsP) on Space, 2006-2015.  A steady military hand was supposed to right things messed by civilians like Koptev, and others like RKK Energiya Director Nikolay Sevastyanov who reportedly dreamed of space shuttles, moon bases, and “air launching” rockets from An-124s.  Space research was pushed to the back.  It wasn’t Perminov’s style to risk such things.

Tikhomirov looks at Perminov’s record on fulfilling the Space FTsP.  Eleven of 13 planned fixed comms and broadcasting satellites are in orbit.  Under him, Roskosmos pretty much fulfilled its plan for mobile comms and satellite search-and-rescue, but various scientific launches were pushed off.  Tikhomirov gives him credit for making successful space launch deals for the Europeans and Americans.  Using Soyuz to ferry astronauts to the ISS brought in $753 million.

Then Tikhomirov points out the obvious.  Perminov’s other difficulties and failings are minor compared with GLONASS, which he’s described as Russian cosmonautics’ main achievement over the past 30 years.  Tikhomirov says the constellation has 22 functioning satellites with four in technical reserve and the last 3 launched at the bottom of the Pacific along with the Proton launch vehicle that carried them.  The Proton failure, says Tikhomirov, was especially embarrassing; it broke President Medvedev’s Poslaniye promise to have a fully functioning GLONASS grouping before the end of 2010.  And that’s when the rumors of Perminov’s imminent retirement started.

This wasn’t the first time for this rumor.  There was talk of his retirement in 2006 when there were launch failures and an out-of-order satellite cut central TV broadcasting to the Russian Far East.  These were losses costing billions of dollars.  But the Kremlin cut off the rumors; Perminov was needed.  Today, however, Tikhomirov says the Kremlin is sending different signals.

He says Medvedev’s assistant Sergey Prikhodko basically accused Perminov of failing to appreciate the gravity of the recent space failures.  A Perminov deputy and a chief designer at RKK Energiya were both fired.  Perminov himself got a reprimand.  Medvedev also instructed prosecutors to investigate the state of affairs, and the accounting books, at Roskosmos.

Tikhomirov says Roskosmos blames new products which weren’t tested sufficiently, but some employees say the agency tried to save by using Taiwanese microchips not intended for use in space.

Other interesting things turned up.  As reported elsewhere, Tikhomirov says sons of Roskosmos deputy chiefs are in the business of insuring its satellite launches.  GLONASS’ main designer has sent 40 percent of its state financing to various “pocket” firms.

Tikhomirov says Perminov might have survived all this, but the loss of dual-use Geo-IK-2 may have been the last straw.  And Medvedev recently talked with scientists about their thoughts on outer space research, something Tikhomirov views as a blow to Perminov and the military space priorities he represents.

So who would be the replacement?

Tikhomirov thinks the Kremlin must have a list of candidates . . . some people think First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin, who’s in charge of procuring armaments, he was also Space Troops Commander in his time.  Others say RKK Energiya General Director Vitaliy Lopota.  Still others say none other than Nikolay Sevastyanov — now heading Gazprom Space Systems.  Tikhomirov concludes:

“But all this devolves into one thing:  the new Chief of Roskosmos could be either military or a highly-skilled designer.  But to put the space sector in order, a new Korolev is needed.  Just where can one be gotten?”

More on the Military Personnel Zigzag

Wednesday’s Argumenty nedeli looked briefly at the reversal of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s cuts in the Russian officer corps, as well as plans to increase officer pay.

AN said Serdyukov said 70 thousand officers were needed to establish Air-Space (Aerospace) Defense (VKO), but noted he didn’t say where he would find so many officers for such a complex and specialized military field.

Those thrown out of the service in the course of implementing the “new profile” can’t be brought back, and training new officers will take 10-12 years following the reform of the military education system and the liquidation of the Mozhayskiy Military-Space Academy.

And, says AN, radically increasing pay won’t be so simple.  The budgets for 2011 and 2012 have been approved, so pay raises will have to wait until 2013 and 2014, after a new Duma and president have been elected.  And increasing the number of contractees [also with higher pay] will be another factor in army financing problems.

A General Staff source told AN:

“The approximate manning of VKO in all duty positions, including conscripts, contractees, and officers, will be 20-22 thousand.  This means the majority of duty positions will transfer there from Space Troops (KV), air defense troops and missile defense.  But after the mass cuts there aren’t enough commanders on the level of company, regiment and even brigade commanders.  And in all services and branches of the Armed Forces at that.  Therefore, it’s incorrect to think that all 70 thousand are going into VKO.”

According to him, the establishment of any new service [if it is a service rather than a branch], especially one as high-tech as VKO, requires “decades of work by all staffs.”

AN also cites Aleksandr Khramchikhin:

“It seems to me that constant casting about on the size of the officer corps just says that military reform issues haven’t been worked out in a strategic plan.”

A short item that says a lot . . . just a couple comments:

  • This piece is saying that VKO officers and specialists will be taken from the ranks of those currently serving in KV, PVO, and PRO.
  • The 70,000 additional officers will plug holes in command positions throughout the Armed Forces.
  • It would be difficult to bring back dismissed officers.  But there are lots of serving officers living in limbo outside the shtat (штат), outside the TO&E at the disposition (распоряжение) of their commanders, who could be called back to their units.
  • Military education’s been hammered, but it looks like Mozhayskiy’s still operating.
  • Delivering the promised new higher pay system in 2012 will be difficult under current and projected budgetary constraints.  So it’s another opportunity for the regime to fail.  But the Kremlin and White House don’t really need to worry about military votes anyway.
  • Kramchikhin’s right on.  Serdyukov’s idea to cut the officer corps in half – from more than 30 to 15 percent of Armed Forces personnel – was right.  But he failed to plan properly for it, and he tried to do it too fast.  Without accounting, or compensating, for the myriad historical, economic, and cultural reasons Russia had so many officers in the first place – reliance on conscripts and the lack of a strong NCO corps being first and foremost.  So another correct step is discredited by hubris, lack of foresight, and poor execution.  Serdyukov didn’t need to measure seven times before cutting, but twice would have been nice.
  • Taking “decades” to put VKO in place would certainly be the old-fashioned speed of Russian military reform.  But if it’s to be done quickly and successfully, it has to be done with more care than Serdyukov’s demonstrated over the last four years.

Walking Back Serdyukov’s Personnel Policies (Part I)

And so it’s begun. 

The first of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s major reform planks – cutting the officer corps from 355,000 to 150,000, or no more than 15 percent of the million-man army – has been reversed.

The Armed Forces’ officer manning level was apparently one topic in yesterday’s meeting between President Medvedev and his “power” ministers about plans to raise pay for servicemen in 2012.

Serdyukov told the media about the decision to increase officers in the Armed Forces by 70,000:

“A decision’s been taken to increase officer personnel by 70 thousand.  This is connected with the fact that we’re deploying additional military units, establishing military-space defense, that is, an entire service (of troops), and the increase is happening in connection with this.”

First, this raised some interesting questions about VKO.  Is it really going to become a service (vid or вид).  After all, the Space Troops are only a service branch (род войск) right now.  That’s quite a promotion.  And are we really supposed to believe the expansion of VKO or the Space Troops will require 70,000 additional officers? 

Of course not, it’s a convenient excuse to walk back a large part of the 50 percent cut in army officers Serdyukov announced when he launched his reforms in October 2008.

Most media outlets were pretty confused on what this means for officer numbers.  They assumed the Russian Army’s at 150,000 officers right now, just add 70,000 for a total of 220,000.  But it’s not so simple.

When Serdyukov started cutting officers, there were 305,000 occupied officer billets.  Krasnaya zvezda said the Armed Forces had 181,000 officers at the end of last year.  So a grand total of 124,000 officers were either discharged, placed outside the “org-shtat” at their commander’s “disposition,” or forced to accept an NCO billet between late 2008 and the end of 2010.  Returning 70,000 to the ranks might leave us wondering only about what happened to the other 54,000.  And 181,000 plus 70,000 takes the officer corps basically back to 250,000, or fully one-quarter of the million-man army.

The army officer corps has endured considerable sturm und drang in a little over two years all for the sake of shedding just 55,000 officers.

More on this tomorrow.

Ivanov’s GLONASS Report

Today Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov reported to President Medvedev on the results of the investigation into the loss of 3 GLONASS satellites on 5 December.  As expected, the report points to mistakes in fuel calculations for the DM-3 booster stage. 

The Kremlin.ru account also says Vice-President, Chief Designer for Launch Vehicles, RKK ‘Energiya’ Vyacheslav Filin, and Deputy Director, Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) Viktor Remishevskiy have been relieved of their duties.  Roskosmos Director Anatoliy Perminov received a reprimand.

Additional steps to strengthen administrative discipline at Roskosmos will be taken, at Medvedev’s direction.

GLONASS as Dolgostroy

Viktor Myasnikov authored an interesting piece in the 17 December Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye regarding the loss of three GLONASS-M satellites in the Pacific on 5 December. 

Myasnikov said the ten-year Federal Targeted Program (FTsP or ФЦП) “Global Navigation System” has spent $4.7 billion since 2001, but GLONASS has confirmed its status as a ‘long unfinished work’ [dolgostroy or долгострой] in space.

Myasnikov pointed out Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s long personal interest in the system’s restoration, and Putin’s description of it as a sine qua non for development and deployment of modern precision weapons systems.  Myasnikov noted the government’s intention to invest 48 billion rubles in space and ground infrastructure for GLONASS in 2010-2011.

He said the 3 ill-fated GLONASS-M and now-delayed GLONASS-K, originally intended for launch on 28 December, were supposed to bring GLONASS to a complete constellation of 24 satellites and full global coverage. 

President Dmitriy Medvedev had just promised that the GLONASS grouping would be fully formed before the end of 2010, and its large-scale use would begin in the next two years.

After the 5 December failure, Medvedev ordered an investigation of GLONASS, its financing, and who might be responsible for the 5 December mishap.

Myasnikov also explored the insurance scheme for the 5 December launch.  It turns out insurance was provided by the ‘Sputnik’ Insurance Center, which just happens to be run by the sons of current and former deputy chiefs of Roskosmos.  ‘Sputnik’ has assured everyone that the GLONASS loss was reliably reinsured, but it provided no specifics.  Roskosmos Chief Anatoliy Perminov, however, said the launch was partially insured, and a settlement will be collected but only after a long and drawn-out process.

Myasnikov spends some time discussing possible causes of the 5 December accident which largely boil down to an upper stage improperly fueled with too much liquid oxygen.  He concludes that, while a couple scapegoats might be found at RKK ‘Energiya,’ no one associated with GLONASS at Roskosmos is worried about his job.

And so he recaps where this leaves GLONASS.

By 2008, GLONASS reached 18 satellites and complete coverage of Russia.  A fully deployed GLONASS of 24 spacecraft should have covered the planet by the end of 2009.

Russia counted on a service life of 7 years, but the satellites are only lasting 3-1/2 to 5 years, so the system couldn’t be completed.  The system officially has 20 operational, and another 5 are held as “being studied by the General Designer.”  The oldest satellite is 71.7 months old, one is 60 months, and two are 47.4 months.

So, Myasnikov concludes, even if 6 satellites are orbited, a complete system will likely need 8 over the next two years, leaving GLONASS a ‘long unfinished work.’  GLONASS-K is coming, and it’s supposed to have a 10-year service life.

Then he turns to the global positioning system market.  GLONASS has only a 1 percent share of a $60-70 billion market.  In the future, if Russia captured 15 percent, this would be $9-10 billion annually, more than Russian arms sales.  But it isn’t likely.

In 2014, the European ‘Galileo’ system will begin operations.  This will be a serious competitor for GLONASS.  And the Chinese ‘Compas’ will be fully deployed by 2020.  And GPS is already moving to the next level – 48 satellites and 0.9 meter accuracy.

Myasnikov sums up:

“Russian cosmonautics is living through a serious crisis.  It has turned from high technology, science-intensive sector into simply capital-intensive.  Global scientific projects lead to project-mongering, while plans for real earth and space research are regularly delayed.  Almost nothing new is being created.  To replace some multibillion projects come others which cause even greater enthusiasm among the budget recipients.  The reusable ‘Angara’ has already been in development for ten years, cosmodrome ‘Svobodnyy’ is first closed, then opened.  So GLONASS is just the tip of the crisis iceberg.”

“In four months, the country will proudly note the 50th anniversary of Yuriy Gagarin’s flight.  But what’s being done now that we’ll proudly note after the next 50 years?  Certainly not GLONASS in a halo of lies.”

Makarov’s Year-Ender

On Tuesday, General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov provided his year-end wrap-up on the ‘new profile’ of the Armed Forces in the form of a press-conference featuring a videolink with the four new MD / OSK commanders.

It was pretty much a self-congratulatory celebration of how Makarov and company have turned everything in the Russian military around for the better.  As Moskovskiy komsomolets put it, “Nikolay Makarov told the media how bad it was in the army in the past, and how good it will be in the future.”

Rossiyskaya gazeta paraphrased Makarov’s remarks, giving only a couple direct quotes.  First up was President Medvedev’s call for unified aerospace defense (VKO) before the end of 2011.

RG says Makarov said VKO will be fully operational in 2020 when new reconnaissance and weapons systems have been deployed.  He said its purpose is to defend the state [interestingly the state, not the country] from ballistic and cruise missiles.  It needs to be an umbrella against any kind of threat, including low-altitude ones.

Makarov said different military structures have been occupied with the security of the skies.  Space Troops do orbital reconnaissance and ground-based missile early warning.  The air forces and air defense armies (АВВСиПВО or АВВСПВО) and radar troops monitor air space for approaching hostile aircraft.  The Special Designation Command (КСпН) covers the Moscow air defense zone [didn’t this long ago change its name to the OSK VKO?].  Air defense troops (ЗРВ) and fighter aviation cover other important facilities.  The system was set-up on a service (видовой) basis and that’s why it was uncoordinated.  It needs to be made integrated and put under the command of the General Staff [of course – this sounds like Olga Bozhyeva in MK].  In the Defense Ministry, they understand unification won’t be quick and will require a lot of resources, but there’s simply no other way.

Izvestiya proffered a quotation on this one:

“If we look at how this system was built earlier, then it’s possible to see that it acted separately by services and branches of troops, and also by regions.  So, Space Troops answered for space reconnaissance, the work of missile attack warning stations.  The Ground Troops for the activity of radar units.  Now we are uniting all these separate organizations in a unitary whole.  We need to establish the foundation of this system in 2011.  To finish its formation completely by 2020.”

According to RG, Makarov said a modern army would be useless without a new command and control system for the Armed Forces.  Russia’s move to a unified information environment will cost 300 billion rubles, and will be phased, with the initial phase being the replacement of all analog equipment with digital systems by 2012.  Command and control systems will be developed and produced in Russia, but other weapons will be bought abroad.  This is when he broke the news about Mistral winning the amphibious command ship tender.

RG concludes Makarov called for a fully professional Armed Forces, but the words it quoted aren’t particularly convincing:

“Now we can’t do them like this.  But year by year we’ll increase the selection of contract servicemen with commensurate pay.”

However, Moskovskiy komsomolets quoted the General Staff Chief this way:

“We are aiming for a contract army.  Now we can’t make it so instantly, but year by year the number of contract servicemen, with commensurate pay, will increase.”

Olga Bozhyeva viewed this as a total reversal of Makarov’s earlier rejection of contractees and insistence on conscripts as the backbone of the army.

Makarov also talked about efforts to create ‘human’ service and living conditions.  He referred, as always, to outsourcing and civilianizing mess hall and other housekeeping duties.  He repeated that, starting in 2012, officer pay will increase by several times.  According to Krasnaya zvezda, Makarov said 50 percent of officers now receive higher pay through premiums and incentives.  Officers and their families will be moved from remote garrison towns to oblast centers where their children can get a better education and wives can find work.  About the large cut in military towns, he said:

“We had about 22 thousand of them, approximately 5,500 remain, but in all, we’re taking the number of military towns to 180.”

Of course, he didn’t mention who will take care of large numbers of retirees left behind in that archipelago of abandoned military towns.

KZ gave its own recap of Makarov’s press-conference, and it’s interesting to hear his rehash of why the army needed a ‘new profile.’  His remarks blow up any lingering myth about the 2000s, at least the Putin years, as the time of the Russian military’s rejuvenation.  He said:

“Before 2009, 87 percent of the Armed Forces consisted of formations and military units with abbreviated personnel and cadres, practically not having personnel.  They almost didn’t conduct operational and combat training.  The army didn’t just degrade.  During this time, we grew an entire generation of officers and generals who ceased to understand the very essence of military service, they didn’t have experience in training and educating personnel.”

KZ paraphrases more of Makarov.  The personnel training system caused complaints.  VVUZy were teaching the Great Patriotic War.  Low pay and poor prospects for housing made the officer’s profession a low-prestige one.  In units, personnel weren’t occupied with combat training, but serving themselves, and military discipline fell as a result.  On the whole, the Armed Forces stopped fulfilling the missions for which they are intended, and could scarcely react to threats and challenges beyond the state’s borders and inside the country.

Makarov addressed how the MDs were changed to meet future threats and challenges:

“Planning and troop employment happened with significant difficulties, since each of six military districts had a series of missions where one often contradicted another.  Moreover, four air forces and air defense armies were established, as a result, the zones of responsibility of the military districts and these armies didn’t coincide at all.  This led to confusion in employing air defense forces.  At the same time, experience showed that military actions in recent decades are conducted, as a rule, by unified force groupings and forces under a unitary command.  Each of our districts and each of our four fleets existed independently. Each had its own zone of responsibility, not matching the others.  In order to organize any kind of joint actions, it was necessary to establish temporary commands, temporary structures, which, as a rule, were poorly prepared, didn’t have corresponding experience.  All this led to unsatisfactory results.”

Izvestiya quoted him:

“In the bounds of the ongoing transformations, full-blooded troop groupings have been established on all strategic axes.  Four full-blooded commands have appeared for us which, having in their composition and immediately subordinate to them all forces and means, can react adequately to all challenges and threats to the borders of our districts.  Changes in the Armed Forces command and control structure are a necessary occurrence since the old administrative-territorial division had stopped answering the challenges and threats of the time.”

New MDs (photo: ITAR-TASS)

Then Makarov brought in MD commanders over the video so they could attest to how it’s going.  They remarked on how cutting intermediate, redundant command levels has made their jobs easier.  Western MD Commander, General-Colonel Arkadiy Bakhin said 40 percent of his formations and units have outsourced some support functions. 

KZ says earlier MD commanders answered only for Ground Troops, and when they needed forces from another service or branch, they had to get permission from above.  Southern MD Commander, General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Galkin claims making these requests cost the commander time, but now all forces and means are in one command, the fundamentally new unified strategic command (OSK).  Galkin also says freeing soldiers from support tasks means there are now 20-22 training days per month instead of 15-16.