Tag Archives: An-124

Parlous State of VTA

Oleg Falichev wrote recently for Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer on the parlous state of Russia’s VTA — Military-Transport Aviation. The one-time Krasnaya zvezda correspondent laid out a less-than-convincing “infomercial” supporting renewed production of the Soviet-era An-124 heavy transport by Ilyushin.

An Endangered Species the An-124

Endangered species?

That said, Falichev made points worthy of attention. Still some of his numbers are irreconcilable. But the thrust of his report is significant and grim for the VTA.

The current condition of the VTA inventory isn’t up to its missions, according to Falichev. Those missions include transferring troops between theaters, delivering large-diameter equipment, medical evacuation, other logistical support, and, most importantly, carrying the VDV to the battlefield.

VTA workhorses — the An-124 and Il-76 — are in dire need of replacement and/or modernization. The issue, Falichev says, is what needs to be done to keep them flying.

The majority of Russian transport aircraft were made in Soviet times or the 1990s, and the service life of most is expiring. Falichev reports that Moscow has only four An-124, 46 Il-76, and one An-22 heavy transports in a combat ready state. He says Russia has 26 An-124, but only four in a serviceable, flyable condition.

Other sources report a nominal (not necessarily operational) inventory of nine An-124, 89 Il-76, and five An-22 aircraft.

In NVO recently, Aleksandr Khramchikhin concluded VTA has about 15 An-124 and An-22 and about 90 Il-76 transports along with some 160 medium transports (mainly An-12 and An-26).

DIA’s recent Russian Military Power pub said virtually nothing about VTA as a power projection resource (probably wise), but it wrote that Russia has “122 heavy transports” which pushes the outer limit of reality.

The USAF has 45 C-5, 222 C-17, and probably 350 C-130 transports in various configurations.

Khramchikhin puts this in context:

“The enormous size of American transport aviation is explained by the global missions standing before the U.S. Armed Forces, especially since all these missions have to be carried out beyond North America. We have no such scope although, as events in Syria show, it fully well may appear sooner or later. But the scale of our own country in conjunction with the configuration of Russian territory (strongly stretched in a latitudinal direction in distinction from the almost square U.S.) and the difficulty of accessing most of it requires a very large VTA. We can have 6-7 thousand km between point A and point B inside our own country and point B can be in such a place where literally ‘it’s only possible to go by plane.’ So 250 transport planes (of which the larger half are medium and light) is little for us since the majority of them (all An-12 and An-22, a signficant part of Il-76 and An-26) have gotten very outdated. In addition, our VTA is very strangely deployed on the country’s territory — in gigantic Siberia and the Far East, which are almost entirely inaccessible regions, there is only the 257th Transport Regiment with 12 aged An-12 and 5 An-26 medium planes located in the very extreme south-east ‘corner’ of this super-region! The largest VDV in the world also require a much larger quantity of more modern transport aircraft.”

But back to Falichev . . . .

Falichev concludes that even optimal production of the Il-76MD-90A (Il-476) won’t replace the existing Il-76 inventory in the new future. There is, he claims, a replacement for the An-124 contained in GPV 2018-2027. Nevertheless, there remains a “real risk of a sharp decline” in the numbers of Russian VTA aircraft. And in combat readiness also. Syria and other contingencies, he continues, demonstrate the is high demand for the capabilities of a transport like the An-124.

News photo purportedly showing offload of S-300P TEL from An-124 in Syria

News photo purportedly showing offload of S-300P TEL from An-124 in Syria

With due respect to Messrs. Falichev and Khramchikhin, Moscow might live without new VTA aircraft. It’s not able to acquire everything to modernize its armed forces. Trade-offs are inevitable. VTA might be one. Russia’s rail network provides good internal lines-of-communication. Russia is more likely to fight regional conflicts along its periphery than far-flung wars. That its military could operate without new VTA is a debatable proposition, but one that should be, and likely is being, debated in Moscow.

Supposedly the PAK TA will be able to transport Russia’s new generation armor — Armata, Kurganets-25, etc. It might be ready for series production in 2027 in an optimistic scenario. In a realistic one, there are lots of obstacles.

Former Deputy Defense Minister and arms tsar, now Deputy PM and arms tsar, Yuriy Borisov has not only rained on renewed An-124 production, but also said R&D for PAK TA wont even begin until 2025. Its PD-35 engines won’t be ready before 2027. He has said modernized An-124s could fly until almost 2040.

So Falichev and others are left largely in the same place — modernizing the existing inventory of transports.

Here are some of his more squirrelly figures. He says the VTA maintains the fitness of the inventory at 56 percent — more than 131 of 200 aircraft are serviceable, 41 percent of Il-76s, 36 percent of An-124s, 17 percent of An-22s. None of these numbers track with the foregoing. Suffice it to say that readiness, serviceability, and OOB figures are notoriously spongy. It’s hard to say who’s counting and what they’re counting.

Falichev writes that Russian transports are simply being overworked. In 2016, the Il-76 force reached its annual flight hours target of about 24,000 in June and went on to get 150 percent of the goal for the year. This tracks with lots of past reports indicating that VTA pilots have no problem getting their flight hours.

VTA isn’t getting nearly enough maintenance money in the state defense order. In 2016, it paid for only 9 percent of the necessary parts and components. Less than that was actually received, according to Falichev. That amount was reduced in 2017 when there were plans to refurbish only nine transports.

The production and repair of D-30KP-2 engines for Il-76s is insufficient. Falichev says the annual requirement is 120 of them. He claims there’s a plan to acquire more than 500 of them by 2024.

Falichev claims Russia’s An-124s get only two percent of the financing needed to service them. Their D-18T engines are a problem since they’re now a foreign product (Motor Sich in Ukraine). And AO UZGA in Yekaterinburg hasn’t mastered their repair. Perhaps because they aren’t getting paid to do it? Obviously an import-substitute is needed here.

So he sums it up:

“As we see, the problems are serious enough that they can’t be solved with a wave of the hand. It’s no wonder in Rus they say: the peasant doesn’t cross himself until it thunders.”

In other words, Moscow may have put off action on VTA until it’s too late.

To remedy VTA’s woes, Falichev calls for GOZ financing sufficient to maintain transport aircraft, their engines, and components at an acceptable level. He advocates funding to repair 12 D-18T, 8 NK-12MA (for An-22), and 112 D-30KP-2 engines. He says the quality of Il-76 maintenance at Novgorod’s AO 123 ARZ needs to improve. His entire “to-do” list is longer.

Falichev concludes:

“These are only the most essential measures. The state needs a long-term, systematic aviation development program, not just for military but also civilian aviation. Without it, Russia will stop calling itself an aviation power and will continue flying in ‘Boeings’ and ‘Airbuses.'”

And this is really the crux. Moscow doesn’t seem to have a priority on fixing VTA, but it won’t give up on it either because that would imply giving up on its larger aviation industry to some degree.

The State of VTA

News on the Il-76MD-90A program provides an opportunity to look at the state of Russia’s VTA, or Military-Transport Aviation.

il-76md-90a-prototype-prepares-for-takeoff

Il-76MD-90A prototype prepares for takeoff

The Il-76MD-90A is a new aircraft, an updated version of the venerable Il-76 transport produced by the Soviets in large numbers during the 1970s and 1980s.

According to most sources, the VTA is supposed to acquire 39 Il-76MD-90A transports by 2020 [or 2021?].  This may have been slashed to 30, others say.  Manufacturer Aviastar-SP reports it has ten of the aircraft in various stages of assembly.

The new transport was at TsAGI in Moscow recently for static structural testing. Prior to that, it conducted flight tests from the Aviastar-SP production facility at Ulyanovsk-Vostochnyy.

Besides new PS-90 engines, the Il-76MD-90A has an all-glass digital cockpit, new flight controls, navigation, and communication systems.  The airframe and landing gear have been reinforced.  It lifts 60 tons while reportedly consuming less fuel.

The original Il-76 had slightly greater cargo capacity than the U.S. C-141.  It’s critical to the mobility of Russia’s Airborne Troops (VDV) and their air-droppable equipment.  Civilian versions of the Il-76 remain in use worldwide.

At present, VTA may operate about 100 Il-76M or Il-76MD, and perhaps ten An-124 transports.  But the number of operational aircraft could be as low as 60 Il-76 variants and a handful of An-124. 

At the outset of the current GPV in 2011, the air forces hoped to procure 100 or more new and updated heavy transport aircraft.  The current inventory needs complete replacement in the 2020s and early 2030s.  But they have relatively little to show well into 2017.

Together with 39 (or 30?) Il-76MD-90A transports, VTA plans to acquire 30 Il-76MDM aircraft.  It’s a renovated Il-76MD with its original engines but the glass cockpit and other updates from the Il-76MD-90A.

Cooperation with the Antonov design bureau and its production facilities is off the table now that military-industrial ties with Ukraine have been severed. Observers once looked for Russia’s VTA to buy 30-50 An-70 transports and the same number of Il-76MD variants and updates.

They also anticipated that Moscow would buy 20 new An-124 aircraft and modernize quite a few existing ones.  No alternative for replacing the super-heavy transport has been proffered.

The PAK TA (future aircraft system — transport aviation) remains a mirage. Moscow could mobilize Aviastar-SP to renew production of the An-124, but it would require a lot of resources and time, plus the facility will already have its hands full with the Il-76MD-90A, etc.

There is also the question of VTA’s smaller transports which are ancient and in dire need of replacement.  The MOD has settled on procurement of 48 turboprop Il-112V aircraft in GPV 2018-2025 to replace some of its aged An-26 fleet.  This decision came after it abandoned efforts to get Antonov’s An-140.  The Russians reportedly will continue to develop the turbojet Il-214 medium transport despite India’s decision to bow out of the once joint effort.  But there’s little tangible in this program to date.

Not Enough Men or Transports

Il-76 Transport Landing (photo: Kommersant / Anatoliy Zhdanov)

Il-76 Transport Landing (photo: Kommersant / Anatoliy Zhdanov)

Another large-scale Russian military “surprise inspection” has concluded, and military commentator Ilya Kramnik has placed it, and other exercises, into perspective for Lenta.ru.

Interpreted as a prologue to war in Europe by some, the Kremlin-directed “surprise inspections” are the logical continuation of a process in recent years.  It is the process of developing strategic mobility through deployment exercises, according to Kramnik.

The latest six-day “surprise inspection” focused on deploying and redeploying forces in Russia’s Arctic regions, but President Vladimir Putin expanded it into a nation-wide exercise.

Kramnik focuses his analysis first on the Kaliningrad exclave.  Russia has practiced its defense of this region since the mid-2000s on an expanding scale. But the first large-scale drill in Kaliningrad, Kramnik says, was Zapad-2009.

Kaliningrad is where the pattern of special attention to troop mobility developed. In “surprise inspections,” military units from almost every armed service and branch were delivered by ground, rail, sea, or air transport to unfamiliar ranges in that region to conduct training missions.

The pattern has repeated in each of Russia’s “strategic directions.” Although Kramnik doesn’t describe it as such, it is, in effect, the establishment of expeditionary forces within the Russian military intended for internal transfer and use on any of Russia’s borders (or beyond them).  

If mobility questions play a key role in Kaliningrad, Kramnik continues, they are dominant when it comes to the Arctic.  All Arctic deployments depend on Navy and Air Forces transport capabilities.  Then he writes:

“It relies first and foremost on reestablishment of infrastructure which supports, if necessary, the redeployment [переброска] of troops by sea and by air and not requiring large numbers of personnel for daily service and security.  13 airfields, radar stations, repaired ports and other facilities allow forces to return quickly ‘in a threatening period.’  And to control the surrounding sea and air space a rather sufficiently compact grouping based here on a permanent basis.”

Kramnik concludes that Russia is confronting its weakness — armed forces not large enough to garrison its immense territory.  This increased attention to strategic maneuver is a means to compensate for an insufficient number of troops.  He takes a comment from Viktor Murakhovskiy:

“Today we don’t have a single self-sufficient grouping on any of our [strategic] directions.  This is the main reason for the great attention the Armed Forces leadership allocates to the potential for redeploying forces.”

Mobility, guaranteed by a developed railroad network, and in distant and isolated TVDs by the world’s second largest inventory of military-transport aviation, should support the potential for Russia, if necessary, to “swing the pendulum” — effectively maneuvering forces between different TVDs, Kramnik writes.  The capacity provided by the civilian airlines and fleet can also add to this.

But besides men, Russia also lacks enough transport aircraft.  

Kramnik writes that while attention has gone to constructing and reconstructing airfields and finding personnel to service them, the VTA’s order-of-battle is in critical condition, especially in terms of light and medium transports.  The average age of the An-26 inventory is nearly 35 years; the An-12 more than 45 years.

Events of the last year in Ukraine ended what were already difficult talks with Kyiv about building the An-70 and restarting production of the An-124.  Meanwhile, much of the Antonov Design Bureau’s competence has degraded, according to CAST Deputy Director Konstantin Makiyenko.

So today, Kramnik says, Russia has at its disposal only one serial VTA aircraft — the modernized Il-76, developed 40 years ago with serious limits on the weight and dimensions of military equipment it can deliver.  It will be supplemented by the Il-112 (light) and Il-214 (medium) transports, and by a “future aviation system transport aviation” or PAK TA.

The very same reported PAK TA that generated hysterical press here, then here, and here by promising to land an entire armored division of new Russian T-14 / Armata tanks overnight, anywhere in the world.  From an aircraft industry at pains to duplicate large but old designs like Antonov’s?  Obviously, a sudden outbreak of irrational Soviet-style giantism.

In the end, Kramnik concludes that VTA needs a high priority or Russia will have trouble moving combat capable groupings to the Arctic and Far East.  New aerial tankers are needed as well.

Air Forces Prospects

With MAKS-2011 underway, this is something of a moving target.  Before getting to the main topic, a little news from Zhukovskiy . . . some of today’s headlines. 

OAK President Mikhail Pogosyan told the press two more T-50 prototypes will join the development and testing program this year.  He expects more than 100 military transport aircraft to be bought under GPV 2011-2020.  Il-112, Il-476, and Il-76MD will come first, then ten An-124 in 2014-2015, and later a larger number of An-70s.  Pogosyan said, starting from 2011, OAK will deliver more than 20 combat aircraft each year.

VVS CINC, General-Colonel Zelin told the media he foresees five squadrons of Su-34 (possibly as many as 120 aircraft).  The VVS will have six by the end of 2011 and will get 12 next year under the current contract for 32 aircraft.

For Air Forces Day, RIA Novosti had military commentator Konstantin Bogdanov describe how he sees things developing for this armed service.  How he puts the Air Forces’ future picture together is worth a look.

Bogdanov says he sees, for the first time since the Soviet collapse, movement, a turnaround in procurement financing, and real deliveries of aircraft in 2011. 

Interestingly, he begins with the Su-35S.  Forty-eight of these “transitional” 4++ generation fighters will be procured, but there could be more if there is any delay in the 5th generation T-50.  Bogdanov suggests, even without a  delay, the pragmatic Defense Ministry leadership could decide to blend 4th and 5th generation technology and equipment in one aircraft.

Bogdanov maintains one Su-34 flew missions in the 5-day war with Georgia [has anyone seen this elsewhere?], then got its serial production go-ahead, and contract for 32 aircraft in fall 2008.  Modernizing the aged Su-24 is a backup plan for the Su-34.  Bogdanov claims VVS CINC Zelin has hinted that ALCM-armed Su-34s could go to LRA.

Some old Su-27s have been updated to Su-27SM, and even a few new Su-27SM3 — unsold to China — have been obtained.

RSK MiG’s future, according to Bogdanov, looks less certain.  Russia had to buy the defective Algerian MiG-29SMTs.  It’s unclear if the Defense Ministry will have any requirement for the MiG-35.  And this leaves MiG with the possibility of providing MiG-29Ks to replace the Navy’s Su-33 fighters on the Kuznetsov’s deck.

Bogdanov then mentions how Irkut has parleyed its export success into more domestic sales.  He says the firm has redeveloped its Indian Su-30MKI into the Su-30SM, and it may sell as many as 40 to the Defense Ministry.  Twelve might go to replace Naval Aviation’s Su-24s at Gvardeyskoye in the Black Sea Fleet [apparently these aircraft weren’t swept up by the VVS earlier this year].  Similarly, says Bogdanov, KnAAPO last fall sold the VVS four Su-30M2s, domestic versions of its Su-30MK2 export.

Turning to rotary-wing aircraft, Bogdanov sees stable order books for Russian helicopter makers.  The order books are balanced in terms of military and civilian, and internal and external buyers, and all sales sectors are growing.

He says by 2010 the military’s contract for Mi-28N helicopters reached 100 units and serial production of its main competitor, the Ka-52, continued.  Mi-8s have been bought by the dozens.  And the hangars and flight decks of Mistral helicopter carriers will have to be filled in the future.

Bogdanov concludes more than 100 helicopters of all types may be procured before the end of 2011.  He repeats the familiar goal of 1,000 new helicopters by 2020, and says the near-term future for this sector looks good.

Bogdanov sees more clouds in military transport development and production.  Il-476 production at Ulyanovsk still needs to stand up, and Zelin’s already announced that a new A-100 AWACS will be based on it.  Restarting An-124 production and buying the An-70 from Ukraine are possibilities with details to be worked out.

Focused on platforms, Bogdanov gives short shrift to organizational and human aspects of VVS development.  He notes the Air Forces are completing the change from mission-oriented air armies and divisions to territorial composite or mixed formations (air bases), and he briefly mentions scandals over the handling of “order 400” premium pay.  But he concludes:

“In coming years we’ll see more than a few painful symptoms in the VVS, both strictly aviation-related and internal, and those connected to the general background of difficult transformations of the country’s armed forces.  Let there be pains, but let them be growing pains.”

VDV Day

Today was the 81st anniversary of VDV’s establishment . . .

VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov is looking for 20 new An-124 transport aircraft to support his troops by the end of GPV-2020, according to ITAR-TASS

Shamanov told Rossiyskaya gazeta he plans to return to jumping next year, despite injuries received when his vehicle was hit by a truck last fall.

He’s  disappointed the BMD-4M hasn’t completed its evaluation; armor testing remains.  And Shamanov admitted:

“There’s still no firm agreement on the schedules for testing and supplying this equipment to the troops.”

Shamanov’s first deputy and chief of staff, General-Lieutenant Nikolay Ignatov also told Ekho Moskvy a final decision on the BMD-4M’s readiness for combat employment will come after upcoming tests at Kubinka.

Ignatov talked to Ekho about the VDV’s plans for professional sergeants.  He said the VDV will start getting contractees from professional NCO training next fall, and will have only professional sergeants by 2016.  They will be “high class” specialists, and platoon and deputy platoon commanders to compensate for officer reductions.  The chief of staff said base [rank] contract pay will be 15-25,000 rubles per month, supplemented by a range of duty-related bonuses. Contractees will sign up initially for three years, and their units and divisions will decide if they’re offered a second contract.

Ignatov spoke disparagingly of the 2004-2007 contract service experiment, in which the 76th DShD served as test bed.  He said low pay and the lack of service housing for married soldiers bedeviled the program, and the government should have taken responsibility for pay and benefits rather than leaving them to the division.

About conscription, Ignatov said flatly:

“. . . today’s conscript servicemen simply won’t have a chance, he won’t be capable of mastering this equipment [new armaments] fully in all its characteristics.”

Ignatov also spoke at length about a new VDV automated C2 system called Andromeda-D, developed by the Scientific-Research Institute of Communications and Command and Control Systems (NIISSU or НИИССУ).

He describes Andromeda-D as a division-to-soldier system, with stationary points for commanders down to battalion, and vehicle-mounted systems for tactical units.  Andromeda-D has passed troop testing, has been deployed in the 76th DShD, and is in the GOZ to buy it for the 7th DShD, 98th VDD, and 31st DShBr, according to Ignatov. 

He told Krasnaya zvezda the existing Polet-K system will be integrated into the new Andromeda-D system.

He also says the VDV plans to deploy GLONASS receivers in its vehicles as part of its C2 system.

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?”

What Will GPV 2011-2020 Buy?

Russian military procurement policy is an obvious focus of what you read here, and there’s lots to write about on this score lately – the GPV, defense budget, OPK modernization and innovation, etc.  It’s not possible to capture it all at once.  Here’s a start, and hopefully it will lead to broader insights later.

Writing for his latest project – the Center for the Analysis of the World Arms Trade (TsAMTO or ЦАМТО), Igor Korotchenko addressed what the new GPV might buy.  His article was picked up by VPK.name, and then a somewhat truncated version ran in Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye.  He uses the 22 trillion ruble figure rather than the 19 trillion for the armed forces specifically.  Not that it matters since it’s a wag at best anyway.

In his first broad swipe, Korotchenko forecasts that Russia will buy 500 new aircraft, 1,000 helicopters, and 200 air defense systems among other arms and equipment over the 2011-2020 period.  He admits, even with a fairly generous procurement budget [if approved and fully disbursed every year], it will be impossible to buy everything each service and branch will need after 20 years of very small-scale procurement.

And this is exactly, of course, the point that Popovkin’s deputy, General-Lieutenant Oleg Frolov was making when he argued for 36 trillion . . . .

So, they can’t have everything and will have to prioritize.  Korotchenko gives it a whack, maybe not satisfactory, but it’s a start:

  • Strategic nuclear forces;
  • Precision-guided weapons;
  • Automated command and control systems (ASU);
  • Aircraft;
  • Air and missile defense (PVO / PRO).

Korotchenko doesn’t talk specifics about his first two priorities. On the third, he calls for a unitary military C2 system to enable Russian netcentric warfare.  On aircraft, he somewhat surprisingly emphasizes transport aircraft to move Russia’s million-man army between strategic axes as needed.  And Korotchenko lists PVO / PRO without further commentary.

He supports efforts to overcome Russia’s lag in UAVs, ships, individual protective equipment and soldier systems, and armored vehicles through cooperation with Israel, France, Germany, and Italy.

Then Korotchenko turns back to aircraft, saying they are the thing that will indicate what kind of armed forces Russia will have in 2020.  Based on what’s been said publicly, he counts:

  • An-124 Ruslan — 20
  • An-70 — 50
  • Il-476 — 50
  • Il-112B — ??
  • Su-35S — 48  
  • Su-27SM — 12
  • Su-30MK2 — 4
  • PAK FA — 60
  • Su-34 — 32, possibly 60-80 more
  • Su-25UBM / Su-25TM — 10, possibly 20 more
  • MiG-35 — 30
  • MiG-29SMT / MiG-29UB — 20-30
  • MiG-29K / MiG-29KUB –26, possibly 22 more
  • Yak-130UBS — 120
  • New airborne early warning aircraft — 2-3
  • Be-200PS — 8-10

In all, he summarizes, about 500-600 aircraft by 2020.

Korotchenko doesn’t talk money, so we’ll have to think about what this would cost.  In terms of what’s covered, he’s only talked only about RVSN and Air Forces’ requirements.  You can be sure the Ground Troops, Navy, VDV, and Space Troops have their own lists.  Maybe Korotchenko will address them.

Beyond what they say they need, there are two issues.  Can they buy it all, or at least how much of it?  And, second, can the OPK produce it?  Korotchenko doesn’t get us too far into any of this.

No One, Except Us!

VDV Day Revelry

No service (or branch), except the VDV, generates this kind of media attention for its anniversary.

On 2 August, the VDV will celebrate its 80th birthday, and to mark this nice round number, the holiday will actually be a three-day fiesta running from 31 July.

Also marking the occasion, a new documentary film entitled ‘Landmarks of History, 80 Years of the VDV’ has been released, but, surprisingly, it wasn’t picked up by theaters or television. 

According to Rossiyskaya gazeta, the Moscow city government paid for its production.

VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov stars in the documentary, providing lots of the commentary, noting that the VDV are already ‘new profile’ since they are permanently ready, mobile, and physically fit.  Including its generals.  Shamanov told press conference he just recently made two jumps.

A VDV press-service representative told Nezavisimaya gazeta:

“Unfortunately, the VDV anniversary film will hardly be shown to a broad central TV audience at present.  For some reason, the central television channels have no particular desire to reflect this day comprehensively, but of course they will show people in striped tee shirts swimming in fountains.”

Ah, yes, the fountains . . . General-Lieutenant Shamanov told the press mobile groups of VDV and Moscow OMON troops would work together to keep airborne guys from bathing in the capital’s fountains on the branch’s birthday.  Interestingly, he had to admit to ITAR-TASS that he was perplexed by an announcement that the police have permitted dips in fountains for several years, having found that trying to prevent them only led to conflicts.  Police also said they would be on-hand to make sure nothing happens to bathers, according to Nakanune.ru.

While sounding reasonable and accommodating, the Moscow OMON Commander also noted that OMON, the GUVD’s 2nd Operational Regiment, and VV troops were ready to “respond to events.”  He expects 5,000 VDV revelers.  About 1,700 police, including 350 OMON (of whom 109 are former VDV themselves), will be on duty, according to Svpressa.ru.  It claimed former and current VDV officers would also help in keeping order.  The OMON Commander told Vesti.ru, “In recent years we’ve come to mutual understanding largely thanks to VDV veterans who now serve in the Moscow police.”

Of course, it doesn’t do for the regime to have two elite silovik forces square off in the capital.

Beyond announcing that the VDV is already fully subscribed when it comes to the ‘new profile,’ Shamanov also made his obligatory statement / promise that the VDV preserves its independence and  role as the reserve of the VGK to reinforce strategic directions.

He commented to ITAR-TASS on the VDV’s capacity for air drops:

“In realizing the measures in the State Program of Armaments – 2020, the VDV will be capable of landing by parachute an airborne or air assault division.  Now the question hinges on the degree of readiness of the existing fleet of Il-76 military-transport aircraft, but also on how these possibilities will be after the realization of the State Program of Armaments, calculated out to 2020.  A month ago we agreed on the draft GPV.  The modernization of the existing fleet of Il-76 aircraft and an increase in their number is in there.  It also provides for the purchase of Russian-Ukrainian An-70 aircraft, refurbishment of existing An-124 aircraft and the construction of 20 new aircraft of this type.”

He continued:

“. . . we also need to use the American experience in using civil aviation aircraft in the interests of the military.  All this would allow us by 2017 to establish the possibility of landing a full airborne or air assault division.”

“. . . it’s possible to solve it even more quickly by a combination, when the first echelon is approximately 30 percent airborne – landing by parachute, the rest by runway.  We could accomplish this task in three months after receiving the order.”

Answering a question about helicopters and air mobility for the VDV, Shamanov said:

“With the General Staff, we’ve defined a concept for establishing an army aviation brigade in the VDV in the future.”

And on army aviation’s transfer to the Air Forces in 2002:

“It would be the right decision to return army aviation to the Ground Troops, as it’s done throughout the world.”

Shamanov also told RIA Novosti 120 men from 104th Parachute Regiment of the 76th Airborne Division will stay in Kyrgyzstan until parliamentary elections are held.

More Popovkin on GPV 2011-2020

Does the GPV really mean anything?

One has to recall Popovkin’s announced 20 trillion rubles is just a plan until the Duma allocates the money every year.  Then there’s a big question of whether allocated money is used effectively.

Mikhail Rastopshin and others have written about how every GPV in memory (GPV 1996-2005, GPV 2001-2010, GPV 2007-2015) was revised shortly after it began.  Now we have GPV 2011-2020 being formulated only four years into the previous one.  This overlapping and cascading makes it difficult to see (even for those involved) what’s actually been procured with the funding provided.

Five trillion for GPV 2007-2015 (about 550 million rubles per year) seemed like a pretty good amount in the mid-2000s, but, as Vladimir Yevseyev and others have been kind enough to point out, it didn’t buy that much.  Yevseyev said Russia’s rate of rearmament would only provide for modern weapons and equipment over the course of 30-50 years, if then.  A Defense Ministry official responsible for the GPV and GOZ, Vasiliy Burenok, recently said Russia’s rearmament rate is only 2 percent, and it should be 9-11 percent per annum.

Finally, Popovkin’s deputy, General-Lieutenant Frolov stated flatly, and rather shockingly, that the government’s first offer of 13 trillion for GPV 2011-2020 was barely one-third of what’s needed to rearm Russia’s Armed Forces.  Now, according to Popovkin, and probably after some intense lobbying, the government comes back with a counteroffer of about 20 trillion.  This insight into the current dynamic of civil-military relations is perhaps more significant than the GPV itself.  What will the ultimate figure be?  Does it matter?  No, because GPV 2011-2020 will be superseded and rewritten well before 2015.

It’s possible to assert plainly that no GPV will ever get done if GPV 2007-2015 — coming at the peak of  oil prices and Russia’s economic boom — didn’t lead to very much.

Back to other things Popovkin announced yesterday . . .

He reaffirmed Russia’s intention to build its own UAVs:

“We’ll build our own.  It’s possible that, based on the results of this air show [Farnborough], requirements for Russian UAVs will be refined.”

Popovkin said the world’s UAV makers are now modernizing existing systems rather than investing in developing new ones. 

He also announced that the Defense Ministry will soon select the Russian enterprise and location where Israeli UAVs will be manufactured.

On Russia’s new ICBM, Popovkin told the media:

“We’ve accepted the RS-24 ‘Yars’ and placed it on combat duty.  The first battalion is standing up.”

He said Russia plans to acquire 20 An-124 ‘Ruslan’ transports, while modernizing its existing fleet of them by 2015-2016, and buy 60 An-70 transports as well.  He also said Moscow will procure 1,000 helicopters by 2020, calling them “one of the priorities for us now.”  Special attention will be given to heavy transport helicopters.

Shamanov’s Press Conference

General-Lieutenant Shamanov

Ever-loquacious VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov held a wide-ranging press conference on Wednesday.  The Defense Ministry web site covered it hereITAR-TASS also published a number of short items on it. 

Shamanov detailed the work of five immediate deployment VDV battalions, lobbied again for a helicopter regiment, and discussed training issues and his procurement desires.  He joined the dogpile on top of the Russian OPK although he once seemed to defend it, and he credited Putin alone for the initiative to modernize the military’s arms and equipment.

He described his forces as combat ready, and manned and equipped at 100 percent.

Relative to combat readiness, Shamanov announced that the VDV has dedicated five battalions for immediate deployment which, if necessary, will be its first units sent into combat.  He said:

“By agreement with the General Staff, in the VDV we’ve dedicated five battalions for immediate deployment.  The uniqueness of service in these battalions is such that personnel from each of the battalions goes on leave for 45 days as a complete unit.  Therefore, at a minimum four battalions are always ready for combat deployment.  Today one of the sub-units of such a battalion from the 31st Airborne-Assault Brigade (Ulyanovsk) is fulfilling missions in Kyrgyzia [sic].”

Shamanov also gave voice to his desire, more modestly expressed than in April, for some aviation assets for VDV.  Speaking about the VDV’s future development, he said his troops must become airmobile.  To this end, he’s “given the Genshtab’s Main Operations Directorate [GOU] a request on the issue of forming a helicopter regiment in one of the three airborne-assault divisions [DShD or ДШД].”

Shamanov discussed VDV training at great length.  He started, of course, by speaking about jump training.  The parachute jump training plan was 70 percent fulfilled during the winter training period.  He blamed poor weather, saying troops often jumped in minus 30 degrees Celsius—the lowest acceptable temperature.  The plan for jumps from An-2 aircraft was fulfilled, but only 70 percent fulfilled from Il-76 aircraft.  He noted the VDV conducted its first-ever drop of a BMD-2 with its crew on-board, and said this hasn’t been done in 7 years, and then it was a BMD-1.  Use of the BMD-2 was significant, he said, because the BMD-2 represents 80 percent of VDV’s combat vehicle inventory.

Shamanov talked about large Spetsnaz assault group jump training in guided parachutes.  He said the use of guided parachutes allows reconnaissance troops to complete a horizontal flight of 20 kilometers, and:

“Our goal is to get so that such movements reach 40 kilometers, as they do in the Israeli Army.”

The VDV Commander noted that the multi-component Polet-K command and control system was tested for the first time in winter training.  He said: 

“It still isn’t the full suite envisioned in the future.  We are one-third through its introduction into the forces.  This process won’t happen in a year.”

Also for the first time, an artillery sub-unit of the 98th Airborne-Assault Division used Russian-made ‘Eleron’ UAVs for target designation on the Luga training grounds.  Shamanov said five ‘Eleron’ UAVs were employed in the training, and they conducted supplemental reconnaissance to a range of 10 kilometers in advance of fire missions.  This summer, 12 VDV crews will train on Israeli-made UAVs in Moscow Oblast.  Shamanov said:

“Unfortunately, our representatives did not go to Israel where they produce the ‘Hermes’ UAV which has been bought by Russia.”

Shamanov noted more attention to air defense training in the VDV this winter.  There were 40 firings of manportable ‘Strela-10’ and ‘Igla’ SAMs.

For the summer training period, Shamanov noted the VDV has 9,300 conscripts to get through three jumps in the course of 1.5 months.  The VDV will participate in ‘Vostok-2010’ and the CSTO’s ‘Cooperation-2010.’  There will be a VDV-level CSX (КШУ), as well as a CSX involving the 98th VDD (or ВДД).

Following the lessons of the Georgian war, the VDV is periodically training on the Navy’s large assault ships (BDK or БДК).  Shamanov says:

“In the winter training period we transported the 108th Regiment on large assault ships three times.  The exercises ended with a naval assault landing by a reinforced assault-landing battalion (ДШБ).

Last but not least, Shamanov commented on VDV procurement, and transport aircraft in particular:

“Work on the State Armaments Program for 2011-2020 is being completed.  According to our requests, in it there is the modernization of Il-76 aircraft, renewal of production and modernization of An-124 aircraft, the purchase of 30-40 An-70 aircraft.”

An-70

But the VDV Commander stressed these were his requests, and the final say isn’t his.  Utro.ru quoted him:

“In the development of the state [armaments] program, we gave our proposals, whether they’ll be realized in the confirmed version of the state program, I can’t say yet.”

Gzt.ru and Lenta.ru covered the An-70 and An-124 story in detail.

Shamanov said troop testing of the ‘Shakhin’ thermal sight for infantry weapons is complete.  He said:

“There has to be one approach for weapons—they have to be all-weather.  Not long ago the thermal sight ‘Shakhin’ went through troop testing.  After the testing we returned it to the designers for reworking.  We’ve given the task that our weapons work according to the aviation principle—turn your head and firing systems turn after it.”

He commented on air-dropping the BMD-4M, and added that, “The BMD-4M has every chance in the future, owing to its qualities, to be the forces’ main infantry combat vehicle.”

Although he seemed more like a supporter of Russian-made weapons six months ago, Shamanov now applauds Prime Minister Putin [not President Medvedev?] for searching for good weapons and equipment abroad.  Shamanov said the prospect of foreign competitors has forced “the domestic OPK to move,” as reported by Utro.ru.  He continued:

“Last year when industry was told that we’d look for alternatives abroad, they began to move.  In particular, the atmosphere around Mistral is creating a significant context for the domestic OPK.  When people declare that they’re ready to produce 21st century weapons but their equipment is from the 30s and 40s [of the 20th century], how can you talk about the 21st century?  Therefore, every official supports Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s initiative on the requirement to renew our armaments.  As long as this doesn’t happen, we’ll being shifting in place, and this won’t be just a lament of Yaroslav’s daughter [reference to the Prince Igor’s wife in the Lay of the Host of Igor after his defeat by the Turkic Polovtsy in 1185].”

At the same time, Shamanov concluded that GAZ and Izhevsk vehicles perform better for the VDV in the snow that equivalent Italian and Canadian ones.

Shamanov also said it’s essential to decide what to buy without any kind of lobbying, and for his part, he bases his decisions on saving soldiers’ lives and fulfilling missions.