Tag Archives: Gorokhovets



Yesterday Russia and allied military forces in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO or ODKB) began a series of exercise events which will run until the beginning of October.

Operational-strategic exercise Tsentr-2011 will involve Russian forces and Belorussian, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, and Armenian sub-units in different training scenarios focused on ensuring security on the Central Asian axis, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta.

Twelve thousand personnel, 50 aircraft, 1,000 vehicles and other equipment, and ten combat and support ships will participate under the direction of Russian General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov, according to Mil.ru.  Russian forces will include one army brigade as well as operational groups from other militarized agencies — the MVD, FSB, FSO, and MChS.    

Mil.ru said the exercise theme is “Preparation and Employment of Inter-Service Troop (Force) Groupings in the Stabilization of a Situation and Conduct of Military Actions on the Central Asian Strategic Axis.”

NG cites Makarov who said the exercise will focus on “localizing internal as well as external conflicts.” Extrapolating from his earlier comments about North Africa and the Middle East, the paper claims he wants the army to be ready to perform internal police functions like the Syrian Army.

Mil.ru puts it more technically saying the exercise will improve command and staff skills in controlling troops in the transition to wartime, in planning special operations, and in organizing long-distance troop regroupings.  Exercise phases will include special operations to localize an armed conflict in a crisis region, and joint actions by ground and naval force groupings, according to the Defense Ministry website.

The exercise will consist of different evolutions, with different partners, in various locations:

  • The Ground Troops, MVD, and FSB Spetsnaz, writes NG, will practice liberating a town from terrorists and rebels on the Chebarkul training range. 
  • At Gorokhovets, Russia’s 20th Army and Belorussian forces are playing a series of tactical actions against enemy airborne assaults, specops, and “illegal armed formations” in their rear areas [under a separate exercise called Union Shield-2011 or Shchit Soyuza-2011]. 
  • Russian forces are training with Kazakhs on the Caspian, and at Kazakhstan’s Oymasha range.
  • A command-staff exercise of the ODKB’s Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (KSOR) will be conducted at the Lyaur range in Tajikistan.
  • In Kyrgyzstan, the ODKB’s Central Asian Region Collective Rapid Deployment Forces (KSBR TsAR) will conduct a tactical exercise against “illegal armed formations.”

NG sums Tsentr-2011 up with a quote from Vladimir Popov:

“The Russian leadership, although late, has come to the conclusion that the successful resolution of military security issues, including the internal security of allied countries, is possible only through the creation and use of coalition troop groupings in the post-Soviet space.   This is correct, and there’s no need to fear this.”

Developing some collective military intervention capability doesn’t answer questions about real-world conditions where it might be employed.  The questions proceed mainly (but not entirely) from Kyrgyzstan’s experience.  First, will a threatened regime ask for ODKB assistance and under what circumstances?  Second, will the alliance or any allies answer a member-state’s call?  Training and exercises are good, but ultimately not much use unless such political issues are resolved.

Mi-28N Crash

Mi-28N Night Hunter

Russia’s Mi-28N Night Hunter helicopters are grounded pending completion of the investigation into Tuesday’s crash in which the pilot died and his co-pilot was hurt.  The Mi-28N belonged to the Budennovsk-based 487th Helicopter Regiment in the Southern MD.

Unnamed sources tell RIA Novosti investigators attribute the crash to engine failure caused by metal shavings in the engines or gear box.  But one experienced test pilot told Vzglyad.ru that shavings usually don’t cause a sudden loss of control or engine failure.

Over the last year, problems with the Mi-28N’s gear box, flight controls, and tactical performance have been reported in the media. 

In January, Izvestiya’s Dmitriy Litovkin visited the flight training center in Torzhok to look at the Mi-28N.  He discussed the June 2009 crash of an Mi-28N at the Gorokhovets training range with the center’s chief, Colonel Andrey Popov.  Litovkin said people believe that crash occurred when powder gases from a rocket firing got in the helicopter’s engines.  Here’s a video.  Popov acknowledged the Mi-28N’s growing pains, and said the manufacturer is constantly modifying the aircraft.

This certainly sounds like production problems to these nonexpert ears.  There’s still a struggle between those who back the Mi-28N and others who favor the Ka-52 as Russia’s primary attack helicopter.  With stronger state support, the Night Hunter has been winning the battle, but this accident might hurt its case.  Meanwhile, a second Mi-28N squadron is supposed to be established at Budennovsk this year.

Master and Commanders

Major media outlets covered President Dmitriy Medvedev’s dialogue with five commanders (three Ground Troops, two Navy) at Gorokhovets.  But one’s own look at what was said, and how it was said, is sometimes better.

The Supreme CINC took some surprisingly forthright views and questions from his commanders.  He didn’t make specific promises about providing the troops new assault helicopters, better protected combat vehicles, or tanks.  He just kept saying the GPV will be fulfilled.

Medvedev told one commander “we all know well what kind of army we had” before this most recent reform began in late 2008.  This is funny since it’s a slam on Vladimir Putin, who was responsible for the army’s condition for most of this decade.

Much of the dialogue depends on an artificial dichotomy between combat (combat training) and noncombat (housekeeping) officers, and on the need to shed the latter.  It is easy now, of course, to belittle officers in the 1990s, and much of the 2000s, who tried to keep their subordinates paid and housed, and conscripts from beating or killing each other, at a time when there was not enough money, fuel, equipment, or even troops for training.  A lot of officers neglected those housekeeping duties and turned to private schemes, crime, or corruption in those days. 

The two naval officers practically beg Medvedev for contractees because their conscripts can’t learn their jobs in one year.  The Supreme CINC is supportive, but he won’t do it until the concept is fiscally viable (not a bad idea since the most recent contract service effort was spoiled by failure to deliver pay and benefits that would attract professional enlisted).

And, finally, Medvedev revealed he is committed to finding Russia access to naval facilities abroad to support the Navy’s deployments.

But let’s look at exactly what was said . . .

VDV Colonel Igor Timofeyev, commander of the 56th Independent Air-Assault Brigade, told Medvedev his troops would like Army Aviation to have new helicopter types, for landing troops and providing effective fire support, i.e. all-purpose assault helicopters.  He also said his companies depend on UAZ vehicles for transport, which lack sufficient personnel protection, and can’t mount extra firepower.  Then he gets to his point . . . having seen new vehicles at Gorokhovets, he hopes he will have them in his own formation soon.

Medvedev avoids responding directly:

“Of course, the fact is what we have today is undoubtedly better than what we had at the beginning of this decade, but all this is still very, very far from what we are aiming for.  You mentioned ‘UAZy.’  I could also name other vehicles, I simply won’t do this in order not to put anyone in an awkward position.  But, unfortunately, the degree of their protection from very simple types of armaments, including infantry-type armaments, is practically nil.  We haven’t even been working on proper armor plating for a very long time, because we considered it expensive.  The mission now is to ensure that all transportation means, all our light and heavier types of transport means receive an effective defense against infantry weapons and, if possible, against heavier types of weapons.  This is definitely more expensive, but these are the lives of people, the lives of our servicemen, this is ultimately the effectiveness of the employment of the Armed Forces.  Therefore it’s essential for us to work on this, just as we will, of course, work on and fulfill the State Program of Armaments as a whole.”

The Supreme CINC doesn’t address the colonel’s call for better air support, and he admits the VDV’s vehicles are inadequate, but promises only that everyone’s transport means are going to receive more protection.  But nothing specific.

Next it’s the turn of Colonel Yakov Ryazantsev, commander of the 57th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade.  Ryazantsev talks about the difficult process of dismissing officers who forgot about combat readiness and combat training or weren’t prepared to work under ‘modern conditions.’

Medvedev took this opportunity to say this is the reason for much criticism of the military reform process:

“Often in the media and in the statements of independent analysts we read very severe things about how the reforms are being conducted, about the condition of the Armed Forces’ combat capability.  This is normal, undoubtedly, because there should be critical stories, should be investigation of what is being done.  We have an open society, and the Armed Forces cannot appear like a closed corporation in this sense.  Nevertheless, sometimes these judgements bear an exceedingly severe character.  Some of them concern dismissals from the ranks of the Armed Forces.  In this context, I have a question for you:  what number of servicemen in your view in percentage terms were dismissed from your brigade?”

Ryazantsev goes one better and gives precise numbers:  415 officers of 611 in the former 81st Motorized Rifle Division were dismissed.  He says they were officers who focused on ‘everyday problems’ rather than the fulfillment of military service duties.

Meandering a bit, Medvedev returns to the issue of combat training vs. housekeeping, saying:

“And we all know well what kind of army we had.  We were just talking about ‘paper’ divisions and cadre sub-units.  That’s all there was.  And not just, by the way, in latest Russian history, but in the Soviet period it was, since every year the number of cadre units increased and increased.  How did this reflect on our combat capability?  It’s clear how.  And officers, unfortunately, who served in such places, were occupied mainly with housekeeping tasks.”

“But today those who aren’t prepared to serve are not allowed to serve.  So what you just said, once again strengthens my certainty in this.”

Next Colonel Valentin Rogalev, commander of the 74th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade, tells Medvedev he can’t say his arms and equipment are fully adequate, especially when it comes to tanks and BMPs.  Referring to the GPV and plans to modernize 30 percent of equipment by 2015, Rogalev says:

“And we hope, Comrade Supreme CINC, that fundamentally new types of tanks and BMPs with greater firepower and also increased crew protection will enter the arms inventory soon, not as single units, but systematically.  This will significantly raise the brigade’s combat possibilities.”

In his response, Medvedev talks about galvanizing the OPK to produce what the army needs, about the GPV, and about spending money wisely, but he doesn’t promise Colonel Rogalev anything.

Then the Navy took over.  Captain First Rank Sergey Pinchuk described the condition of his Baltic Fleet surface ship brigade:

“In the ship formation I command, 10 years ago there were ships with an average service life of 10-15, but some even with 25 years.  They were mainly technically inoperable, technically unready, insufficiently manned, with minimal supplies, ships generally didn’t go to sea for years.  Today new ships have entered the formation.  They are multipurpose corvette class ships for missions in the near ocean zone.”

“The armaments and military equipment mounted on the new ships allows us to cut personnel on the ship substantially, practically by three times.  And the requirements on this personnel have increased significantly.  Besides officers, these are contract servicemen.  You talked about them today.  In the fleet, large effort on their training, education, creation of favorable service conditions is being conducted.  However, one would like to see that this category of servicemen has also found support at the state level.”

In his response to Pinchuk, Medvedev acknowledges that “we are still just preparing” to support contractees in terms of competitive pay and normal service and living conditions.

One wonders how long it will take to get ready . . . they spent most of the past decade preparing to implement contract service before pulling the plug earlier this year.

Nevertheless, Medvedev insists “I understand this and the Defense Ministry leadership understands,” and we “will return to the issue of supporting contractees in the near future.”

Again, no commitment.

Last up is Captain First Rank Ildar Akhmerov, commander of the 44th ASW Ship Brigade.  Akhmerov describes greatly increased underway time and Horn of Africa antipiracy operations by his four ships, and then concludes the sea time and servicing of complex shipboard equipment and systems are increasing the requirements on the training of all crew members.  The price of a mistake far from Russia is too high.  As formation commander, he says he has to increase the number of contractees on deployed ships by taking them from other ships, because conscripts can’t master complex equipment in their short time.  So in the fleet and the district, they’ve made great efforts in selecting contractees, and providing them housing.  But at present, this issue remains highly important not only at the level of a fleet formation, a district, but even on a state level.

Akhmerov continues saying his ships in the Gulf of Aden need higher quality rear and technical support than other ships.  But Russia has no bases in foreign countries in the Indian or Pacific Ocean where his ships could take on supplies, repair, and get some kind of rest for their crews.  This is presently done by support ships in the detachment of ships, but a shore base would increase the quality of rear and technical support and reduce costs.

Medvedev responds:

“On contractees, I just told your colleague.  We, of course, understand this problem.  And the fact that you have to pull contractees from other ships is not very healthy.  Now we simply have to understand what sum will be sufficient to motivate contractees.  We have discussed this more than once in Sovbez sessions, the Minister and Chief of the General Staff participated in this discussion.  I think here we will need to some degree to proceed from lieutenant’s pay, but for this we need to prepare so that this decision will be financially supported.  But, I repeat yet again, without modern, well-paid, socially motivated contractees in the army, nothing, of course, will occur in the Armed Forces.”

On the issue of foreign bases, he said:

“As you know, bases on the territory of foreign states aren’t created on the order of President of the Russian Federation.  For this, it’s necessary to conduct complex political-diplomatic work . . . .”

“I won’t hide from you that we have some ideas on this issue, but I won’t say them out loud for understandable reasons.  But it’s obvious that when, let’s say, support ships follow ships, this is very expensive and the expenditures are really huge.  And this is very often ineffective when this support train has to drag itself over the territory of the entire world ocean.  In this sense, our current partners have much better conditions, because they have staked out bases in the most varied parts of the world, visit and replenish themselves.  Generally, this is an issue which demands really attentive state interest.”

Medvedev Talks to Brigade Commanders

Medvedev Speaks at Brigade Commanders' Assembly

According to Kremlin.ru, President Dmitriy Medvedev traveled to the Gorokhovets training ground near Nizhniy Novgorod today to observe battalion-level ground and air maneuvers.  It’s a modern twist on an old tradition of presidential speeches before end-of-training-year assemblies in Moscow. 

Medvedev inspected a new field camp, different weapons and equipment, and watched a Tunguska demonstration.

Afterward he met brigade commanders observing the exercise, and addressed them about the process of reforming the armed forces.

Medvedev said for two years Russia has been actively modernizing its armed forces to make them more compact, effective, and better equipped, and completing ‘org-shtat’ measures [i.e. TO&E changes] to achieve a ‘new profile.’  Flanked by Defense Minister Serdyukov and General Staff Chief Makarov, he promised the assembled commanders a defense budget worth 2.8 percent of Russia’s GDP every year until 2020, but he said getting this level of spending will not be easy, and it requires adjustments and cuts elsewhere.

He particularly emphasized establishing the new system of higher pay to replace earlier ad hoc measures like premium pay.  He seemed to say extra money will be squeezed out for this, but people will be watching how it’s spent.  Kremlin.ru posted some of Medvedev’s opening remarks:

“This is creating the conditions to equip the troops with new equipment in accordance with the current edition of the State Program of Armaments and, what is a no less important task and really no less complex, to resolve all social issues which exist for servicemen.  This issues are also well-known.”

 “First and foremost is the indexation of pay which we are already now conducting, and implementation of the housing construction program.  From 2012, the planned reform of the military pay system not according to those fragmentary pieces which exist at present, not according to those selective approaches which exist, but a full reform of pay.”

“In the final accounting, we should get so that base salary, monetary salary of servicemen will be increased practically three times. And in the process to preserve and to extend to all the Armed Forces that which we talked about in the past, that which we did according to groundwork laid in bounds of order 400 and some other Defense Ministry documents.”

“All planned measures, reform measures should be calculated and materially supported in the most rigorous way.  An adjustment in the military budget is being conducted and oversight of the use of resources is being organized for this.  I promise the attention of all Defense Ministry leaders on this:  all these processes need to be completed in coordination with other government structures in order that we should have absolute precision here.”

“A high level of financial support for the Armed Forces allows, I hope, for freeing servicemen from noncore housekeeping functions – that, in fact, was done long ago in the armies of other countries.  The troops need first and foremost to put their attention on operational training, combat exercises, to concentrate exclusively on these issues.  Security duties (firstly, perhaps not even security, but cleaning), everyday support, food preparation should be transferred to civilian organizations.”

Medvedev told the commanders their brigades should be self-sufficient, modern, balanced, and capable of fulfilling missions given them, and he invited their feedback because, as he said, the success of the military’s transformation depends on it.

“It would also be useful for me to know your opinion on the quality of the reform, on the organizational changes, what, in your view, has proven itself useful, and where there are problems.”

Despite soliciting their honest opinions, one doubts the Supreme CINC will hear many complaints from this audience.  They are, after all, winners in the reform process since they managed to continue serving in command positions.