Tag Archives: Vladimir Yevseyev

Bulava Postponed?

A Bulava Test

Interfaks reports an expected salvo launch of two Bulava SLBMs has been put off until next year, as Defense Minister Serdyukov said it might.  The press agency cites a well-placed Navy Main Staff source.  RIA Novosti, however, citing its own Navy Main Staff source, says the test was delayed by weather, but will occur today or tomorrow.  For its part, ITAR-TASS cites an OPK source who says the Bulava test firings are off until June because of White Sea ice.

The last Bulava test, a success, took place on October 28.  The Bulava / Yuriy Dolgorukiy weapons system might have been accepted into the inventory before year’s end following a successful salvo launch of two missiles.

BFM.ru talked recently to Aleksandr Golts and Vladimir Yevseyev about Bulava.  It notes the last planned launch of 2010 was also put off for ice.

Golts believes there’s a political motive for postponement.  He thinks the Defense Ministry can’t allow another failure and blow to its reputation and the image of Russian weapons.  And, by the time of the next test, the elections will be over, and Serdyukov may no longer be at the Defense Ministry.

Golts attributes Bulava’s problems to problems in the component base and the collapse of the Soviet sub-contractor chain.  The lack of serial production has made it impossible to guarantee quality component manufacturing.  Hence, something different seemed to go wrong in every test failure.

Golts doesn’t rule out the possibility that there simply aren’t enough missiles for testing (or for picking ones to test) because of the GOZ-2011 contracting dispute between the Defense Ministry and Bulava’s producer.

Yevseyev is a suspicious about postponing a shot for weather.  He calls the situation around Bulava ambiguous and unclear.  He says defects in the missiles might have been identified, and poor weather could be an excuse.

Like Golts, Yevseyev sees Bulava’s problems as symptomatic of larger defense industrial ones, and he doesn’t exclude a political motive:

“There’s a sharp decline in the quality of production, a partial loss of specific producers, technologies.  There’s aging of the machinery itself, the lack of qualified specialists who can work on it.  When the OPK’s been collapsing for so much time, it’s strange to hope it can produce such a complex technological product like a missile system.”

“It’s possible there’s a danger that, if there are unsuccessful tests in the period when we’re beginning Duma and presidential election campaigns, they’ll spoil the scene.  This is one of the possible reasons for the postponement.”

It seems understandable risk tolerance would be pretty low at this point given the history of the Bulava program, the bad publicity and angst generated by recent high-profile space failures, and the political season.  Perhaps it’s a case of better late, but better.

TsOPI Critiques Serdyukov’s Reforms

In last week’s Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, IMEMO’s Vladimir Yevseyev presented the results of a recent round table on reform in the RF Armed Forces. The Center for Social-Political Initiatives (TsOPI or ЦОПИ), with support from Germany’s Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, sponsored the event.

Yevseyev described early reform as cutting personnel without changing the army’s structures during a time of political paralysis in the 1990s.  In the Putin era, he says there were still failures and the army’s equipment levels dropped, but the army began to believe it could still fight.

At this time, former Defense Minister Ivanov more than once declared the end of army reform, the troops started to get limited quantities of new weapons, and there was an unsuccessful attempt to move to professional enlisted force.  Yevseyev tries unconvincingly to point out successes in the Putin-Ivanov period.  His leading examples are especially dubious:

“— the elimination of cadre units and formations and forming of permanent readiness units numbering nearly 200 thousand servicemen on a contract basis.”

“— partial fulfillment of the federal targeted program of transition to manning with servicemen conducting military service on contract in a number of formations and military units in 2004-2007 that as a whole with a corresponding change in legislation in 2008 allowed a reduction in the conscripted service term to one year.”

The hollow unit problem wasn’t tackled until late in 2008, and Yevseyev has already labeled contract service a failure.  Moreover, the contract service program probably didn’t attract more than 80,000 soldiers.

And contract service didn’t have anything to do with one-year conscript service.  That change was made to try to encourage more young Russian men to serve rather than avoid serving.  Professional enlisted service, had it worked, would have allowed Moscow to continue drafting only 260,000 men per year for two years, rather than 540,000 per year to serve for a year as it is now.

But Yevseyev comes to the right conclusion:

“. . . radical change in the reform of the Armed Forces did not happen.  The main reason for this was that the Russian leadership could not take the fundamentally important decision on bringing the size of the Armed Forces into correspondence with the economic possibilities we have and with observable (future) external threats.”

Yevseyev writes that the most acute phase of military reform came with Defense Minister Serdyukov, and the war with Georgia, which revealed the army’s shortcomings.
But, says Yevseyev, Serdyukov’s initiatives like reducing officers and cutting warrants ran into difficulties.  Forty thousand officers placed outside the TO&E couldn’t be retired because they still lack permanent housing.  And many would-be officer graduates in 2009 and 2010 were forced into sergeant’s duties.

Yevseyev says Serdyukov’s reform is bringing an increased flow of negative consequences as shown in the results of TsOPI’s polling. It surveyed more than 2,500 people, including nearly 1,700 servicemen, in nine major cities.  According to 61 percent of respondents, reform has degraded the entire military command and control system.  Sixty-four percent said the army’s ‘new profile’ has seriously reduced their social status.  Thirty-two percent are not sure their housing, pension, and pay rights will be observed during Serdyukov’s reform.  Twenty-three percent are worried about their outplacement rights, and 8 percent about their medical benefits.

Yevseyev and his colleagues discussed three major problems for the Armed Forces:  rearmament, infrastructure, and manning.

They say 40 percent of Soviet arms and equipment were modern at the end of the 1980s, with the percentage declining to only 10-12 percent by 2005, and 5 percent at present.  They give a useful rundown of what’s been produced over recent years.

In 2004-2008:

  • 36 ‘Topol-M’ ICBMs;
  • 2 battalions of Iskander SSMs;
  • 2 battalions of S-400 SAMs;
  • 150 T-90 tanks;
  • 700 armored combat vehicles;
  • 20 self-propelled artillery systems;
  • 1 Tu-160 strategic bomber;
  • 3 Su-34 bombers;
  • 30 helicopters;
  • 1 diesel submarine;
  • 2 corvettes; and
  • 13 smaller ships and auxiliaries.

In 2009:

  • 49 new or modernized aircraft;
  • 31 helicopters;
  • 304 armored combat vehicles; and
  • 20 artillery systems.

Yevseyev and company conclude:

“It would seem that the situation with equipping the country’s Armed Forces is beginning to be corrected.  But in reality such rates of military equipment supply allow full rearmament across 30-50 years, which significantly exceeds the length of its service life.”

So this will make it difficult to increase the share of new weapons and equipment to 30 percent by 2015, even for permanent readiness units and formations.

They point next to the massive lingering Russian military structure.  Four years ago there were 26,000 military organizations of one type or another, and now only 6,000.  And that will be reduced to 2,500.  But they say, instead of consolidating and realizing cost savings, some of this process was fake, and some organizations were just named as subsidiaries [filialy] of larger ones.  As an example, they cite the shift from regiments to brigades and 1,000 reported TO&E changes, of which only 30 actually involved a physical unit relocation.

Finally, Yevseyev and the round table participants point to a potential unit leadership void when officers and professional enlisted are being cut (or not recruited) at the same time.  They say, given the training time they need, conscripts shouldn’t comprise more than 30 percent of a permanent readiness unit.

Yevseyev sums up:

“. . . the process of implementing military reform in the Russian Armed Forces now prompts the most serious misgivings.  In essence, the military personnel training system is being destroyed, the decline in the Armed Forces’ equipping continues, their system of manning and command and control is being broken.  All this leads to the weakening of the country’s defense capability and requires taking immediate measures to eliminate the negative consequences we are already experiencing.”

Incredible Disappearing Fleet

Kara-class CG Kerch (713)

The Black Sea Fleet’s predicament is hardly a news story.  The press in recent months has featured stories claiming that the BSF will receive new ships to replace its aging order-of-battle.

But Gzt.ru maintains the BSF is just about rusted through, and its ships will be unable to go to sea by 2015.  A Navy Main Staff source says the average age of BSF ships exceeds 30 years—the practical limit for naval vessels.  He claims the fleet’s sailors keep their ships in good condition, but, since metal has its limits, their hulls are reaching a point where “no one will risk going to sea in such ships.”

The source says the oldest BSF ships—whose service lives have expired and don’t warrant further investment—will be written off.  They include the Kara-class CG Ochakov (707), Tango-class SS Saint Prince Georgiy (B-380), probably Kara-class CG Kerch (713), and various transport and auxiliary ships.  Ochakov is 37 years old, and spent the past 18 years in the repair yard.  The disappearance of the Ochakov and Kerch will leave the BSF with only two major surface combatants—Slava-class CG Moskva (121) and Kashin-class DDG Smetlivyy (810).  And there is apparently a rumor that the Moskva will remain in the Pacific after participating in Vostok-2010 this summer.  The BSF will also be down to a lone submarine, Kilo-class Alrosa (B-871), which reportedly awaits repair after an engineering casualty during a recent training cruise. 

The final decision to write off some ships is driven by a 30 percent cut in the fleet’s maintenance budget [recall Defense Minister Serdyukov saying the repair budget has been cut by 28-30 percent, supposedly in favor of new procurement].  Since February, personnel at the 13th and 91st ship repair plants have been reduced by 2 times, according to Newsru.com.  And the repair plants have practically no work this year.

So they’re not fixing old ships, but neither are new ones in sight . . . the press noted that the BSF didn’t get new units in the 2000s, will get no new ships this year, and the introduction of new ones isn’t planned.

A BSF staff representative told Gzt.ru that several new corvettes of the Steregushchiy type (proyekt 20380) would restore the BSF’s combat potential. The Steregushchiy is in the Baltic Fleet, and a second unit of the class was just launched on 31 March.  This seems too slow to help the BSF, even if any of these ships were destined for Sevastopol.

 A source tells Gzt.ru the basic problem is the lack of production capacity:

“All shipbuilding plants are overflowing with foreign orders for several years ahead, and even if there is money it’s very complicated to arrange additional production for the Russian Navy’s needs since there isn’t the right quantity of milling machinists, lathe operators, and welders.  There’s great productive potential in Ukraine, and we consider that the warming in Russian-Ukrainian relations could lead to realizing a number of projects on Ukrainian building ways, which never worked for the USSR’s Black Sea Fleet.”

Gazeta.ru provided the opinion of Vladimir Yevseyev, who believes, until the BSF gets a new main base, it won’t get any new ships.  He says all the fleet’s problems are connected with its basing.  Most Ukrainian politicians oppose extending Russia’s presence in Sevastopol beyond 2017.  And Moscow has allocated a billion rubles to build a new base at Novorossiysk, but billions of dollars are required to create modern infrastructure there.  Yevseyev doesn’t like Novorossiysk, or Ochamchira:

“But we need to choose, otherwise the fleet could simply be liquidated.  Russia is just simply marking time.”

Svpressa.ru seconds this line of thought, concluding that malicious people say the fleet’s fate has been decided, and Russia’s Crimean base is folding up, and, in order to avoid a furor, its order-of-battle will be liquidated by taking units out of service.