On 7 March, Russkiy Newsweek spent some time on Sozvezdiye [Constellation], aka the Unified Tactical Level Command and Control System (YeSU TZ). The system is sometimes called by the name of its manufacturer–Sozvezdiye. General Staff Chief Makarov in February said the system would be ready by November.
Russkiy Newsweek concludes, if it actually appears, it will be a technological revolution. One Defense Ministry interlocutor said it now takes a day for orders to reach field commands from Moscow, but they will go practically in real time with this system.
The author, Viktor Poltavtsev, says NATO already operates in a netcentric fashion, and Makarov is quoted about how an Iraqi Army superior in tanks and artillery was defeated by smaller coalition forces that could see and forecast events, calculate variants, and receive possible solutions in real time. Poltavtsev says, in the Genshtab, they believe the U.S. Army was 80 times more powerful than its opponent as a result of this information advantage.
But back to Sozvezdiye, Anatoliy Tsyganok thinks this not-yet-fielded system is already obsolete. He says:
“Every Defense Minister picks his toy. Igor Sergeyev–Bulava, Sergey Ivanov–GLONASS. The current minister–the command and control system.”
Despite willingness to entertain possible arms imports in many areas, there is a fear of imports when it comes to command and control systems. Aleksandr Golts notes that Russia lacks a component base–it can’t produce chips or circuit boards, but doesn’t want to buy them abroad either.
The Georgians’ U.S.-made Harris system reportedly performed magnificently in 2008. One Sozvezdiye associate said that, when the smoke of that little war cleared, it was obvious the Russian Army had no communications, old or new, and things began to stir in the Genshtab. But Sozvezdiye’s testing has brought mixed results. YeSU TZ was tested last summer during Kavkaz-2009.
Poltavtsev gives a little explanatory background. Akatsiya, around since the mid-1990s, is a Genshtab-Military District level comms system that was produced by Sistemprom. But it didn’t make too much sense without a tactical system to reach brigades-battalions-companies and individual soldiers.
Enter Sozvezdiye. The Voronezh NII of Communications (aka Sozvezdiye) has worked since 2000 on a tactical level system. Its specialty heretofore had been satellite radio comms.
Sistemprom awaits the completion of Sozvezdiye’s system so it can connect the two, to create a single command and control system. As Poltavtsev describes it, generals will sit at Akatsiya stations and command divisions or brigades that have Akveduk. Brigade commanders will use Akveduk to command their battalions and companies in real time using fast, well-protected channels.
So YeSU TZ is supposed to be the computer network that unites the battlefield–people, equipment, artillery, etc., like a computer game.
Battalion and company commanders are supposed to be able to use digital channels to get reconnaissance photos, video, and other data, to give commands to troops, and to connect to higher staff elements. Today the commander still has to scream into the radio, but tomorrow he might send soldiers orders to their hand-held devices.
But this is still theoretical. Everything will depend on the reliability of the equipment and comms channels. And the system can be blocked if the RF spectrum is suppressed. The system might not work against a modern, well-equipped enemy that can do this.
Poltavtsev says Russian EW (or REC) systems were used against Sozvezdiye during testing in December at Alabino. And mobile phones, Internet, radios, and even some hospital equipment in the area stopped working as a result. A Sozvezdiye rep says their system was jammed on the Taman brigade’s range, but they can get around this by changing transmitters.
The main thing, according to him, is developing algorithms for use in combat that everyone understands. Users say Sozvezdiye is complex and difficult to use, and it will take a while for commanders to sort out its arrows and symbology.
The Defense Ministry has acknowledged that YeSU TZ needs significant reworking, but there’s no other way. General Staff Chief Makarov said everyone built their own C2 systems in the past; there were 16 military C2 systems in Soviet days. Now a common one is being built. However, Poltavtsev asked a PAK FA developer if his system is already integrated into Sozvezdiye, and he asked what it was, he’d never heard of it.
An interesting account of Sozvezdiye . . . it sounds a little like the story of Bulava, i.e. ‘we have to unify our different systems,’ ‘there’s no other way but to make it work,’ etc. These are understandable, even commendable at times, goals and sentiments, but they don’t always lead to development of successful military systems. Sometimes the primary goal has to be a system that works. And sometimes designers and builders even have to start over.