Tag Archives: VTA

A Thoroughly Modern CINC

You have to like Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin. 

He’s open and candid about what Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s ‘new profile’ reforms mean for him and his service.  He’s talked earlier, more often, and longer about it than his Ground Troops or Navy counterparts.  He’s matter of fact and accepting of the entire process. 

Serdyukov’s changes turned General-Colonel into a trainer and force provider, and he nonchalantly admits as much. 

At 57, Zelin understands he can be replaced at any time, or allowed to serve three more years or even longer. 

If he were a tad younger, he would have been the right kind of general to command one of the new military districts / unified strategic commands (OSK / ОСК), say the Western or Central.  An air or air defense officer would have been just the right choice for a potential future war on those axes.  Instead, the Kremlin has three Ground Troops generals and one admiral (a step in the right direction).  It’s hard to argue against Ground Troops leadership in Russia’s restive south.  But Air Forces (VVS or ВВС) would have been a really good choice in the Western or Central Military Districts . . . a missed opportunity for now.

But back to Zelin.  On Tuesday, he addressed a foreign military attaché audience (and the Russian media) about the future of the VVS.

According to Gzt.ru, Zelin said the VVS will be reduced by a third and spread among the four new  OSKs.  And its Main Command (Glavkomat) will be responsible only for combat training.  The OSKs are in charge of employing the VVS in their theaters.

The VVS now consist of the Glavkomat, 7 operational commands, 7 first-rank air bases, 8 second-rank air bases, and 13 aerospace defense (VKO) brigades.  Before the ‘new profile,’ the Air Forces consisted of 72 regiments, 14 air bases, and 12 independent squadrons and detachments, with a third more aircraft than the VVS now have.

Four of today’s 7 operational commands are subordinate to the new OSKs.  Army Aviation also falls under them.

According to Zelin, in the future, the VVS Main Command (Glavkomat or Главкомат) could become a “branch department” of the General Staff responsible for the combat training of the Air Forces and Air Defense, while the OSKs employ the trained forces.

Zelin says VVS personnel will number 170,000 with 40,000 officers, nearly 30,000 sergeants, and the balance conscripts or civilian specialists.  He says today’s personnel training system doesn’t satisfy him, and so he’ll probably change the system of flight schools.  Only four remain today.  Voronezh will be the main training center.  Flight training will also be conducted in Krasnodar and Lipetsk.  Yaroslavl will remain home to air defense officer training.

According to the CINC, the VVS airfield network won’t change.  Base airfields will be first priority for reconstruction and modernization.  Zelin says civilian airfields could be used for operational purposes in the future.

He noted the VVS plans to go to a fully automated command and control system in the future, and, of course, develop its VKO forces.

Lenta.ua quoted Zelin’s remarks to Interfaks.  Zelin said the VVS will renew 30 percent of its inventory by 2015, and 100 percent new in some areas and 80 percent new overall by 2020.  He doesn’t say where the VVS are today in this regard, but recall Defense Minister Serdyukov has said only 10 percent of equipment in the Armed Forces is modern.

Zelin said the VVS will get new aircraft, air defense, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare systems, but modernization of some existing systems is still part of the plan.  Although the State Armaments Program 2011-2020 and its 19 or 20 trillion rubles have to be finalized, Zelin repeated that 10 T-50 (PAK FA) will be acquired in 2013-2015, and 60 more from 2016.  He mentioned Military-Transport Aviation (VTA or ВТА) is a priority – including the An-124 Ruslan, Il-112, Il-476, Il-76M, and An-70 – but he doesn’t venture any numbers or dates for new production.  Zelin does give a target of 400 new and modernized helicopters in the inventory by 2015.

Who knows what was or wasn’t covered in these media contacts, but it seems odd there’s still no mention of more S-400 deliveries.  Zelin was still talking about getting 5-6 more battalions in 2010 earlier this year.  But no sign of them.  It’ll be a big deal when or if they appear.  Also, no mention of S-500 development.

Frontal, Army Aviation to OSK Commanders

Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin had many announcements yesterday on the eve of his service’s holiday, but none more interesting than the not-completely-surprising news that frontal and army aviation will transfer from the Air Forces to be directly subordinate to Russia’s four new ‘operational-strategic commands.’

Zelin said:

“The Air Forces will remain a service of the Armed Forces, its Main Command [Glavkomat or Главкомат] will continue functioning, the transfer of four Air Forces and Air Defense commands [i.e. armies] to the commanders of the new military districts — Western, Southern, Central and Eastern is planned.”

“Frontal and army aviation is transferring to the commanders of these districts and, accordingly, to the unified strategic commands.  As regards the aviation component of the RF strategic nuclear triad — Long-Range Aviation, it, like Military-Transport Aviation and the Operational-Strategic Command of Aerospace Defense [ОСК ВКО] will remain immediately subordinate to the Air Forces CINC.”

So what’s happened?

After years of lobbying, army aviation is leaving the Air Forces, but not exactly returning to the Ground Troops.  It is, however, returning to a Ground Troops-dominated environment in the OSKs.

The OSKs look more and more like U.S.-style unified, combatant commands, and the RF armed services like force providers.  

One supposes that the Air Forces, like the Navy, will have to continue playing a very large role in developing doctrine, tactics, acquisition, training, and operations and maintenance of frontal aviation at least, and probably army aviation as well. 

Zelin had more fragmentary comments on this subject.  The Air Forces CINC will retain:

“. . . immediate authority to direct combat training of all aviation and air defense forces, development of all directive documents, and also material-technical support.”

“This entire system is arranged just to optimize command and control and concentrate the main forces and means in the troops [i.e. OSKs].”

He added that these measures must:

“. . . prevent theft and waste of material and financial means and guarantee their strict centralization.”

One wonders how aspects of this ‘material-technical support’ (MTO) role for the Air Forces CINC will track with General-Colonel Bulgakov’s new MTO empire in the increasingly civilian Defense Ministry.

Battalion Travels Lighter in Mobilnost Redux

Krasnaya zvezda covered the opening phases of Vostok-2010 for those willing to plod through or skim the article.  Motorized rifle brigades are taking turns practicing defeating bandit groups, the VVS are providing air support to MVD Internal Troops units, and PVO battalions are conducting night firing exercises with new C2 systems.

RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS reported that nearly 600 Volga-Ural Military District (PUrVO) troops were flown to the Far East on Tuesday (29 June) to participate in summer’s marquee training event.  Four Military-Transport Aviation (VTA or ВТА) Il-76MD transports delivered a battalion tactical group (BTG) with only light weapons to join in the operational-strategic exercise (OSU or ОСУ). 

According to ITAR-TASS, General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov said that in the course of Vostok-2010:

“. . . issues are being broadly worked out about the expedience of redeploying at a great distance trained personnel which have to take military equipment held at mobilization bases and immediately go into combat.”

This certainly sounds like a military establishment not fully embracing an idea, at least right away.

According to Krasnaya zvezda, a BTG from the 28th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade flew 6,000 kilometers from Koltsovo, outside Yekaterinburg, to Vozdvizhenka, north of Ussuriysk, on a 10-hour flight with a refueling stop at Belaya near Irkutsk.  The 28th was built on the base of a regiment of the old 34th MRD.

Krasnaya zvezda said the battalion moved via truck to an armaments and equipment storage base [БХРВТ] at Sibirtsevo for outfitting with heavy equipment.  The 247th BKhRVT was established last year with the remnants of the former 121st MRD.  After removing equipment from storage and some training, they were slated to join tactical combat firing at Sergeyevka.

Acting PUrVO Commander General-Lieutenant Sergey Surovikin saw off the battalion; he commanded the brigade’s forerunner—the 34th MRD in 2004.  The brigade’s commander, Colonel Anatoliy Sinelnikov, was Surovikin’s deputy division commander in 2004 when it first sent a BTG to the Far East.

Krasnaya zvezda asked Surovikin to compare the current redeployment with the earlier one six years ago in Mobilnost-2004:

“Then a sub-unit with all of its TO&E equipment was sent into action.  And it fulfilled its assigned mission.  The current exercise is being conducted according to the General Staff’s decision which specifies checking the expedience of means of redeploying troops on various strategic axes.  In this instance, the exercise is being conducted only with personnel – without transporting combat equipment and heavy weapons to the Far East.  But it allows us to check the possibility of redeploying troops in other strategic directions.  And to conduct such a redeployment in a very short period.  And using for these purposes Military-Transport Aviation aircraft as well as civilian airlines.”

“In this exercise, means of regrouping troops in short time periods are being tried.  By comparison:  if in OSU Mobilnost-2004 we could send a battalion of the 276th Motorized Rifle Regiment of our division by air to the Far East together with its combat equipment and vehicles in 8 days, then this time such a battalion will get there in significantly less time.  And the quantity of aircraft take-offs to transport the very same sub-unit to another theater of military operations was reduced more than ten times.  High strategic mobility is achieved with much lower expenditure of forces and budget resources.”

While not exactly a Russian Reforger, this redeployment exercise looks like working smarter, not harder.  So it represents some payoff from the effort to turn understrength, excess units into mobilization bases.  Of course, one has to believe there’s still some element of the set piece in all this.  The battalion being moved was probably one of the best, and the BKhRVT was probably well-prepared to hand out the necessary weapons and combat vehicles.