Tag Archives: Syria

Makarov’s Press-Conference (Part III)

Army General Makarov (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskiy)

Still plumbing General Staff Chief Makarov’s Monday press-conference . . .

Makarov indicated Russia’s Israeli-made UAVs will be used in the Tsentr-2011 exercise.  According to Krasnaya zvezda, he once again worked Vega over for wasting years and money without meeting the military’s requirements, forcing it to turn to Israel to obtain unmanned aircraft.

According to Interfaks, the General Staff Chief asserted Russia won’t buy anything but PGMs for its combat aircraft:

“The purchase of conventional [unguided] means has stopped.  We are buying only highly-accurate means.”

“Western countries conduct military operations almost without ground forces.  Aircraft operate outside the air defense zone and sustain minimal losses.”

Izvestiya noted, however, replacing Russia’s dumb bombs with smart weapons won’t be cheap.  Tens of thousands of rubles versus millions.  But one of the paper’s interlocutors concluded:

“The Defense Ministry believes there’s money for buying them, contracts for the first deliveries of new munitions have already been concluded.”

He estimates they will comprise perhaps half of Russia’s aviation weapons inventory by 2020.

Izvestiya quoted Ruslan Pukhov to the effect that guided ASMs made up only 1 percent of Russia’s stockpile in the five-day war with Georgia, and Russian aircraft had to brave Georgia’s air defenses on most missions, losing four Su-25, two Su-24, and a Tu-22M3.  He added, however, that a Su-34 employed an anti-radar Kh-31P to destroy a radar in Gori.

Lenta.ru recalled General-Lieutenant Igor Sadofyev’s late 2010 comments about plans for a radical increase in PGMs and UAVs in the Air Forces by 2020.  You can refresh your memory here.

Some military commentators and news outlets managed to tie together Makarov’s comments on Arab revolutions, Central Asian exercises, snipers, and sniper rifles in interesting, but not always accurate, ways.

KZ summarized Makarov pretty simply as saying the armed conflicts in Arab countries were difficult to predict, and similar events can’t be ruled out in Central Asia.  In its replay of his remarks, he said:

“. . . we should be ready for everything, therefore we are working on this in the exercises.”

So, Moscow’s pretty obviously looking at the possible repetition of a Libyan or Syrian scenario somewhere in Central Asia . . . no surprise there . . . makes sense.

Komsomolskaya pravda said:

“Our military isn’t hiding the fact that current exercises are directly linked to the probable export of military aggression from Afghanistan into the Central Asian republics after NATO troops withdraw from there.”

It cites Makarov:

“[The exercises] envision developing variants for localizing armed conflicts on the territory of these countries.”

That doesn’t really sound Libyan or Syrian, does it?  It’s not internal.  It’s good old external spillover.  Oh well, as long as it’s “localized” on someone else’s territory, and doesn’t cross Russia’s borders.

ITAR-TASS’s version of Makarov got people more spun up:

“The world situation is complex, quickly changing, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East.  It was difficult to forecast what happened in a number of countries of this region, events developed with great speed.  Now no one can say what will happen next.  But this is a signal for all states.  We military men need to be prepared for the worst scenarios.”

This led a few outlets to take the next step on their own, i.e. a repeat of the Arab scenario inside Russia.

You can read likely exaggerations of what Makarov really said in Gazeta.ru or Rbcdaily.ru.  In its version, the latter claimed Makarov didn’t exclude internal unrest following the Arab example in Russia, and the army has to be ready for the worst case scenario of political developments inside the country.

Pouring gas on the fire it lit, Rbcdaily introduced the sniper issue here.

Of course, snipers are great for urban warfare or urban unrest.  Rbcdaily’s Defense Ministry source says Makarov plans to put independent sniper platoons in every brigade.  They’ll be armed with British rifles, of course.  And the snipers themselves will have to be long-term professionals – contractees, so that’ll have to wait until the middle of next year.

Igor Korotchenko tells Rbcdaily:

“A sniper is a piece of work, he can’t be trained in a year, therefore they must absolutely be professional contractees.  We can’t count on conscript soldiers here, like in the old days when there were enough gifted guys who learned to fire the SVD well among the conscripts.”

KZ didn’t mention Makarov talking about snipers.

Just to finish this off, Makarov’s Syrian comments weren’t construed or misconstrued as much.  KZ said simply that he said Russia is not planning a military presence in Syria, nor the introduction of extra security measures at its material-technical support base in Tartus.

ITAR-TASS put it this way:

“This base remains in our hands.  Besides it, our advisors work in Syria.  That’s enough.  We don’t intend to adopt any preventative measures.  . . . we have to watch closely those forces opposing the government.  There are legal demands, and there are opposition demands which, in our view, need to be ignored because they are illegal.”

Ten Pantsir-S1s for Russia, or for UAE or Syria?

We all miss things, right?

In Friday’s NVO, Viktor Myasnikov published an insightful article on Pantsir-S1.  He hints that maybe the ten Pantsir-S1s ceremoniously delivered to the VVS aren’t actually for Russia’s VVS.  More interestingly, he provides numbers on the quantity really needed to rearm the Russian Armed Forces by 2020—500 for the VVS and 500 for the Ground Troops’ VPVO.

“‘Pantsir’ is one of the most talked about combat vehicles of the last 20 years.  Everything about it’s been heard, many have seen it at exhibitions, but it only began to come to the troops in recent days.  In the long years of design work (which began in 1990), testing, and disrupted contracts, ‘Pantsir’ received the honorary epithet ‘longsuffering.’”

“Now they’re talking about it again in superlative terms.  One could get the impression this is some panacea against all means of aerospace attack.  Actually, this is a close-range—up to 20 km—air defense system.  It exceeds hand-held ‘Igla’ and ‘Strela’ SAMs, but doesn’t approach the level of ‘Tor.’  And ‘Pantsir’s’ place in the order of battle has been designated perfectly concretely—it will replace ‘Tunguska,’ which in its time replaced ‘Shilka.’  True, it will really only replace ‘Tunguska’ when it gets on a tracked chassis.  For now this is a wheeled rear area variant designated to cover important targets—airfields, bases, air defense positions . . .”

“Initially ‘Pantsir’ was planned for tracked transport in as much as it needed to take the place of ‘Tunguska’ in tank columns to cover them against helicopters and other low flying enemy aircraft.  But the concept began to change due to underfinancing.  And a cheaper variant ‘Pantsir’ put on wheels, became positional as the last line of air defense for rear area targets.”

“The uniqueness of ‘Pantsir’ in the arms market is guaranteed by the fact that U.S., NATO, and Israeli armed forces are not threatened by cruise missiles, planned munitions and UAVs of the potential enemy [many would differ with this assertion].  It [Russia?  Arab states?] doesn’t have them in the necessary amount and won’t have them in the coming years.”

“In accordance with the State Program of Armaments to 2015 it’s planned to deliver 20 of such systems to the RF Armed Forces.  10 have already been received.”

“At the same time the Russian Air Forces’ demand is specified as a minimum of 100 systems of this type.  Incidentally, other specialists believe it’s essential to buy 200-250 systems by 2015 and 400-500 by 2020.  Besides that, the Ground Troops could buy 500-600 vehicles by 2020 for replacing ‘Tunguskas.’  They certainly could, of course, they could, but who will provide them?”

“Besides this, there’s no trusting official announcements that all overdue export contracts for the supply of ‘Pantsirs’ to the UAE and Syria have been fulfilled [actually it’s pretty clear supplies are just starting].  Therefore it’s strange that 10 vehicles suddenly turn out to be withdrawn from the export orders.  Suspicions immediately arise that the buyer has refused them or not accepted them due to complaints about quality.  Meanwhile, some anonymous sources from Tula defense industrial enterprises maintain that everything’s normal with the quality, but the vehicles are just taking a pre-sales run on normal asphalt road conditions.  After the [9 May Victory Day] parade the ‘Pantsirs’ will be repainted desert camouflage and handed over to the foreign buyer.  There’s no need to show them to anyone until the next parade.”

“There are suspicions that the ‘KamAZes’ for these ‘Pantsirs’ are not quite serial models.  ‘Cause in their build-out they are too close to the one in which Vladimir Chagin wins ‘Dakar.’  Would it make sense to have imported turbocharged engines on them?  Such capability of automotive equipment for covering stationary S-400 SAMs is a little unnecessary.  But it’s exactly right for the Middle Eastern or North African desert.”

“But there is another side to this.  It’s been announced that these 10 ‘Pantsirs’ will participate in joint exercises of Russia, Belorussia and Kazakhstan.  And also before the handover to the troops at the ‘Shcheglovskiy val’ enterprise an archpriest blessed them.  Such a ritual wouldn’t be arranged for a buyer from a Muslim state.”

Pantsir-S1 and the Priority on Arms Exports

KBP's Pantsir-S1

Recent announcements about deliveries of the Pantsir-S1 highlighted the priority still enjoyed by arms exports over domestic procurement of weapons systems for the Russian Armed Forces.

On 18 March, the Russian Air Forces took delivery of their first 10 Pantsir-S1 antiaircraft missile-gun systems (ZRPK) from the Tula-based Design Bureau of Instrument-building (KBP).  These Pantsir-S1 systems will march on Red Square during the coming 9 May Victory Day parade, before heading to the Elektrostal-based 606th Guards Air Defense Missile Regiment that also has the S-400.  Some of the regiment’s Pantsir-S1s will participate in live-fire exercises at Ashuluk in April.

The Pantsir-S1 will replace the 1970s-era Tunguska-M1 in Russian air defense units.  A short- and medium-range missile-gun system, it provides point defense for civilian or military assets like S-400 SAMs.  VVS Deputy CINC for Air Defense, General-Lieutenant Sergey Razygrayev has said three Pantsir-S1 systems will be deployed around each S-400 launcher.

The Pantsir-S1 has 2 twin-barrel 30-mm 2A38M antiaircraft guns and 12 57E6-E SAMs.  It is reportedly effective against targets with a reflective surface of 2-3 square centimeters and speeds to 1,000 meters per second, at a maximum range of 20 kilometers and altitude of 15 kilometers.

The Pantsir-S1 can be mounted on various vehicles and ships, and General-Lieutenant Razygrayev has said it will become a standard air defense system for each of Russia’s armed services and combat arms in the future.

When the VVS got its 10 Pantsir-S1 systems, the KBP deputy general director announced that the Air Forces will receive more than 20 units in coming years.  An unnamed source told ITAR-TASS, the VVS would get 25 Pantsir-S1 by 2012.

Development of the Pantsir-S1 dates back to the early and mid-1990s.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a contract to buy 50 Pantsir-S1s for $734 million in 2000. Syria also contracted for 36 systems.  Ex-Defense Minister, now Deputy PM for the OPK Sergey Ivanov said in early 2008 that 24 systems would go to customers in 2008, from a total order book of 64 for the Pantsir-S1 (of course, 50 + 36 should be 86, not 64).  But the Pantsir-S1 didn’t finish development and testing until some time in 2008, and entered production later in 2008 or in 2009.

Pantsir-S1 deliveries to the UAE and Syria reportedly began in 2009, and the system is already supposedly operational in the UAE.  An OPK source told Interfaks that the first stage of Pantsir-S1 deliveries to these two countries had been successfully completed.

This month Moscow announced the sale of 38 Pantsir-S1s to Algeria for $500 million.  The systems are supposed to be delivered this year and next.  The Russians are reportedly close to a Pantsir-S1 export deal with Libya, and Saudi Arabia, India, and Belarus have been mentioned as other potential buyers of the system.

So these are pretty lucrative sales for KBP, roughly $13-15 million per unit.

Now back to the Russian Armed Forces which have only 10 newly-received Pantsir-S1 themselves.

In late 2007, the commander of Troop Air Defense for the Russian Ground Troops gave his opinion that Pantsir-S1 needed improvements before it could enter his inventory, specifically he wanted its size reduced and better performance against certain types of targets.  For its part, the VVS had been looking, and waiting, for Pantsir-S1 since at least 2002.  AVN reported in late 2008 that the VVS wants to buy more than 100 of the systems.

Even if the Defense Ministry paid $15 million (unlikely), 100 is still a modest buy of $1.5 billion against annual military procurement of about $40 billion these days.  But one can guess that the military is haggling with KBP over the price it’ll pay for the Pantsir-S1.  And this purchase has to fit with other defense procurement and KBP’s production for its foreign buyers.