Tag Archives: China

Old Weapons Good Enough, or Worn Out?

In Tuesday’s Gzt.ru, Denis Telmanov writes that Vostok-2010 features arms and military equipment that is 20, or sometimes 30 years old.  Neither the Defense Ministry nor independent experts see anything terrible about this, though they worry it could become physically worn out.

Telmanov says the exercise relies on old weapons systems like the Mi-24, Tu-22M3, and the Petr Velikiy.  The latter was laid down in 1986, and didn’t join the fleet until 12 years later.  The overwhelming majority of Pacific Fleet ships in the exercise were also laid down in the 1980s, and are at least 20-plus years old.  Even the vaunted Su-34 first flew in 1990, but didn’t go into operational use until 2007.  The remaining arms and equipment were developed in the 1960s and 1970s, and produced at the end of 1980s and early 1990s.

This state of affairs allows the Defense Ministry to show that the Russian military can fight successfully with the equipment it has.  The military’s press service chief wouldn’t comment for Gzt.ru on the age of systems taking part in Vostok-2010, except to say they’re the same as those on combat duty in formations and units in the rest of the Armed Forces.

The spokesman said:

“Today the army uses the equipment that it has.  And one of the missions of the exercise is to show how effectively established missions can be fulfilled in the new TO&E structure with this equipment.  The effectiveness of military equipment really doesn’t depend so much on its age, as on skill in using it and on how it corresponds to the established missions.  The course of the exercise still shows that the equipment is fully combat ready and allows troops to fulfill these missions put before them completely.  But it’s understood that this in no way diminishes the importance of the planned modernization and introduction of new equipment which will enable troops to act even more effectively.”

He cited EW equipment and the Su-34 as new systems being used in Vostok-2010.

Gzt.ru goes on to remind readers that, for over a year, President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov have taken pains to tell Russians the majority of the country’s armaments are obsolete or worn out.  Serdyukov said the share of modern military equipment in the inventory was only 10 percent.  That’s when he and Medvedev launched the campaign to increase this figure to 30 percent by 2015 and 70 percent by 2020.

CAST Director Ruslan Pukhov says the absence of serious military threats makes the next ten years a good time to do this:

“. . . Russia has a window of opportunity the next 10 years, and it isn’t threatened by war.  It’s necessary to use these 10 years to bring the armed forces into a condition in which they can repulse any threats which arise.”

Pukhov says the Black Sea and Baltic Fleets should be modernized first, Iskanders deployed to deter Georgia, and S-400s in the Far East to counter North Korean missiles [recall General Staff Chief Makarov’s claim last year that S-400s were there?].

Mikhail Barabanov of Moscow Defense Brief says the problem is not age, but physical wear:

“40-year-old ships and 30-year-old tanks are now almost gone.  In reality, the problem of old equipment in our Armed Forces is not so much its age as the amount of equipment wear and tear.  That leads to breakdowns.  For example, in the Vostok-2010 exercise the guided missile cruiser Moskva didn’t succeed in launching its Vulcan [SS-N-27??] anti-ship missiles.  As a result, missile boats with Moskit missiles destroyed the target.”

Nevertheless, Barabanov remains confident that, even with aging weapons, Russia’s military is superior to neighboring armies, including China’s:

“On the whole, the equipment level of Russian units in the Far East is generally adequate to perform defensive missions, although not at the highest level.  It’s another issue that the equipment is badly worn out.”

Barabanov is not against buying new equipment of older designs:

“Even if industry’s existing models can be criticized for deficiencies from the standpoint of modern requirements, the fact remains they will be physically new, with a full service life, and allow for significantly increasing the combat readiness of troops.”

Telmanov ends by reminding readers of President Medvedev’s late 2009 pledge to provide the military 30 land-based  and naval ballistic missiles, 5 Iskander missile systems, nearly 300 pieces of armored equipment, 30 helicopters, 28 aircraft, 3 nuclear submarines, a corvette, and 11 satellite systems in 2010.

Is Alarm About Aerospace Defense Warranted?

In today’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Viktor Litovkin tries to reconcile Kornukov’s and Sitnov’s extremely pessimistic views on the state and future of Russian aerospace defense with the optimistic ones of Colonel Sigalov, whom Ekho Moskvy interviewed on Saturday.  He’s commander of the 5th VKO Brigade based in Moscow Oblast, responsible for defending the capital.

Litovkin notes the retired generals’ roles as defense industry lobbyists, their defense of business interests, and efforts to acquire new orders.  And for his part, the colonel could never imagine or admit a chance that his troops won’t be able to carry out their missions.  What kind of commander would he be?

But the situation in the realm of air defense, and even more in anti-missile defense, is very complicated.  Yes, the troops of Sigalov’s brigade are ready to open fire on air-breathing enemy forces with 10 minutes warning.  But repulsing strikes from space is much more complex.  The troops simply lack the weapons systems to do it.  And this threat doesn’t exist yet.

So is there a contradiction or not?  Litovkin reminds that military men judge not just the current potential of probable enemies, but their ‘technical-technological possibilities’ as well.  And these are alarming.  According to Litovkin, many leading countries are working on ‘the problems of space weapons’ (although he mentions just China’s ASAT capability and the U.S. X-37B orbiter). 

And Russia has no response yet beyond the much talked about S-500 system, which, says Litovkin, lives now on paper only, and two (and maybe six more by some time in 2011) S-400 battalions around Moscow.  Litovkin claims the Defense Ministry will not order more S-400s after that.  Recall Almaz-Antey chief Ashurbeyli complaining on 30 April that the Defense Ministry has not signed contracts for S-400 production in 2012.

Litovkin says this might have caused genuine alarm in the two retired generals.  He speculates there could be more delays in producing missiles for the S-400 as well as for the S-500, which will need to operate against targets in near space.  Finally, he notes that, although the military doctrine contains an understanding of VKO, there’s still no Defense Ministry organization responsible for it.

On balance, it sounds like Litovkin believes Kornukov’s and Sitnov’s concerns are genuine, rather than commercially motivated.

Yuriy Gavrilov, writing in Rossiyskaya gazeta, concludes that recent talk about VKO means that Russia has to take immediate measures, or allow the distance between itself and the U.S. to increase each year.  He gives a little useful history.  Yeltsin’s 1993 decree said to create VKO, but the establishment of OSK VKO and VKO brigades amounted to little beyond changing the names of existing units, without changing their command, control, subordination, or weapons systems. 

Kornukov mentioned VKO relies on S-300s, MiG-29s, and Su-27s, and the few deployed S-400s, which still need work and rely on a single suitable missile.  All of which means, while waiting for the S-500, Russia has no real system for intercepting medium- and short-range ballistic missiles at an altitude up to 200 kilometers, or hypersonic cruise missiles.

Gavrilov quotes Sitnov:

“To develop modern systems that cover air and space, to develop new satellites for reconnaissance, and comms relay, missile attack warning, a super-modern component base, new materials, powders, new developments in the area of command and control are required.”

But that’s not all.  Gavrilov says VKO also needs one master, but aviation and PVO belong to the Air Forces, while anti-missile defense, missile attack warning systems, and control of Russia’s orbital grouping belong to the Space Troops.  Kornukov and Sitnov argue for giving it all to the VVS.

And Gavrilov says time is short.  By 2030, hypersonic and air-space vehicles, sixth generation UAVs, as well as weapons ‘based on new physical principles’ will already be in foreign inventories.

Navy CINC Vysotskiy on Parity, Space, Carriers

Navy CINC Vysotskiy

ITAR-TASS reported Navy CINC Vladimir Vysotskiy’s remarks at a military-historical conference dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the birth of long-time Soviet Navy CINC Sergey Gorshkov.  Vysotskiy said: 

“For the first time in history Russia threw down the gauntlet to old naval powers.  Having achieved nuclear parity with the U.S. Navy, the [Soviet] Navy became a strategic service of the armed forces.  Thanks to this we are developing many of the most serious goals to ensure keeping this parity, and we are correcting all approaches which were laid down in the ‘unforgettable’ 1990s.  Russia is the inheritor of a great state that has to possess an oceanic fleet capable of defending national interests wherever they are.  And they are everywhere in the world’s oceans.” 

In Vysotskiy’s estimation, “putting the fleet into operationally important areas of the world’s oceans allows us to look with certainty into the future, with the support of the Supreme CINC.”

Vysotskiy pointed to Gorshkov’s emphasis on nuclear weapons, submarines, and naval aviation, and noted that, “The memory of Gorshkov allows us to stand not on a crude defense, but to move forward.” 

RIA Novosti’s account quoted Vysotskiy on space and aircraft carriers:

“Without air supremacy it’s impossible to conquer space.  The one who understands this is on the right path.” 

He observed that space and air forces are the main danger even for submarines.  And submarines have to rely on space-based comms.  Vysotskiy said it’s essential for Russia to build ‘aviation-carrying systems’ which are very similar to space systems in their own way. 

“Today it’s necessary to understand the significance of these systems, it’s necessary to do this today, this must be a collective work of the state.” 

In other words, he wants the state to see things the same way and pay for it. 

He said today 9 countries have ‘aviation-carrying fleets,’ and 14 will by 2014. 

“If China intends to have one, this is understood, and if even Thailand intends to have one, then we also need to understand this in Russia today.” 

He also noted that costly investment in [naval] construction is justified even in a time of crisis since 90 percent of the world’s cargo is delivered by ships which need to be protected.  But one wonders how much of Russia’s is.  All in all, a weak justification.