Tag Archives: VVS

Is Alarm About Aerospace Defense Warranted?

In today’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Viktor Litovkin tries to reconcile Kornukov’s and Sitnov’s extremely pessimistic views on the state and future of Russian aerospace defense with the optimistic ones of Colonel Sigalov, whom Ekho Moskvy interviewed on Saturday.  He’s commander of the 5th VKO Brigade based in Moscow Oblast, responsible for defending the capital.

Litovkin notes the retired generals’ roles as defense industry lobbyists, their defense of business interests, and efforts to acquire new orders.  And for his part, the colonel could never imagine or admit a chance that his troops won’t be able to carry out their missions.  What kind of commander would he be?

But the situation in the realm of air defense, and even more in anti-missile defense, is very complicated.  Yes, the troops of Sigalov’s brigade are ready to open fire on air-breathing enemy forces with 10 minutes warning.  But repulsing strikes from space is much more complex.  The troops simply lack the weapons systems to do it.  And this threat doesn’t exist yet.

So is there a contradiction or not?  Litovkin reminds that military men judge not just the current potential of probable enemies, but their ‘technical-technological possibilities’ as well.  And these are alarming.  According to Litovkin, many leading countries are working on ‘the problems of space weapons’ (although he mentions just China’s ASAT capability and the U.S. X-37B orbiter). 

And Russia has no response yet beyond the much talked about S-500 system, which, says Litovkin, lives now on paper only, and two (and maybe six more by some time in 2011) S-400 battalions around Moscow.  Litovkin claims the Defense Ministry will not order more S-400s after that.  Recall Almaz-Antey chief Ashurbeyli complaining on 30 April that the Defense Ministry has not signed contracts for S-400 production in 2012.

Litovkin says this might have caused genuine alarm in the two retired generals.  He speculates there could be more delays in producing missiles for the S-400 as well as for the S-500, which will need to operate against targets in near space.  Finally, he notes that, although the military doctrine contains an understanding of VKO, there’s still no Defense Ministry organization responsible for it.

On balance, it sounds like Litovkin believes Kornukov’s and Sitnov’s concerns are genuine, rather than commercially motivated.

Yuriy Gavrilov, writing in Rossiyskaya gazeta, concludes that recent talk about VKO means that Russia has to take immediate measures, or allow the distance between itself and the U.S. to increase each year.  He gives a little useful history.  Yeltsin’s 1993 decree said to create VKO, but the establishment of OSK VKO and VKO brigades amounted to little beyond changing the names of existing units, without changing their command, control, subordination, or weapons systems. 

Kornukov mentioned VKO relies on S-300s, MiG-29s, and Su-27s, and the few deployed S-400s, which still need work and rely on a single suitable missile.  All of which means, while waiting for the S-500, Russia has no real system for intercepting medium- and short-range ballistic missiles at an altitude up to 200 kilometers, or hypersonic cruise missiles.

Gavrilov quotes Sitnov:

“To develop modern systems that cover air and space, to develop new satellites for reconnaissance, and comms relay, missile attack warning, a super-modern component base, new materials, powders, new developments in the area of command and control are required.”

But that’s not all.  Gavrilov says VKO also needs one master, but aviation and PVO belong to the Air Forces, while anti-missile defense, missile attack warning systems, and control of Russia’s orbital grouping belong to the Space Troops.  Kornukov and Sitnov argue for giving it all to the VVS.

And Gavrilov says time is short.  By 2030, hypersonic and air-space vehicles, sixth generation UAVs, as well as weapons ‘based on new physical principles’ will already be in foreign inventories.

Aerospace Defense in Disarray

Retired Army General Kornukov

While Russian air and aerospace defenders were meeting in Tver last week, former Air Forces (VVS) CINC, Army General Anatoliy Kornukov gave Interfaks his opinions in a Moscow news conference.  

Kornukov is a member of a group calling themselves the ‘Extradepartmental Expert Council on the Problems of RF Aerospace Defense.’  He also advises the General Director of Almaz-Antey. 

He called aerospace threats the greatest danger for Russia’s security.  He said: 

“An attack from space decides everything now, strikes from space can be delivered to any point on Earth.” 

Kornukov thinks Russia’s aerospace defense (VKO or ВКО) concept’s been thought over long enough, and: 

“Unfortunately, there are still few practical decisions and concrete results.  New air defense systems are being developed very slowly.” 

“We, unfortunately, created a time lag of 20-30 years behind our possible enemy.” 

The ex-CINC says, although the VKO concept was approved in 2006, little has changed: 

“Years pass, but everything stays the same.  And to say that we’re ready for something now would be an exaggeration.  We can now resist an air attack from the standpoint of remaining S-300 systems.  As well as with those residual Su-27 and MiG-29 aircraft, the majority of which lack engines and spare parts.  The picture is simply terrible.” 

He also noted that new systems are progressing slowly, and are entering the armed forces’ inventory even more slowly.  He believes the Operational-Strategic Command of Aerospace Defense (OSK VKO or ОСК ВКО–the old Moscow Air and Air Defense District) can only destroy 1 in 5 targets: 

“If the reliability earlier was 96 or 98 percent, then now the effectiveness [of systems in the inventory] is in the range of 15-20 percent.  What’s meant is how many aircraft of 100 could get through without being countered.  Now about 80.” 

Kornukov recommends establishing VKO under the VVS, and under PVO specifically.  For example, he’d like the Moscow-based OSK VKO to control its own missile-space defense (RKO or РКО) formations and units.  He says: 

“Once all missile-space defense was in one set of hands–the PVO CINC.  He answered for PVO and for RKO.  Now the thinking is inexplicable:  each is dying by itself.  There’s not a person defined as responsible even for air defense.” 

“I think the correct decision would be for everything  to be located in one set of hands, and one person answering for the condition, training, employment [of PVO means]. 

He reminded the audience that, once the province of PVO, control of anti-missile defense went first to the RVSN, and now resides with the Space Troops.  Olga Bozhyeva reported that Kornukov wants RKO, specifically the 3rd Missile Attack Warning System Army to come to the Air Forces, and the latter should change its name to reflect its aerospace orientation.  He doesn’t like the idea of creating a new armed service called aerospace troops that would control PVO.  

Asked about Russia’s ability to defend against potential missile attacks from North Korea or Iran, Kornukov called the country’s capability to counter these threats ‘limited.’  He said, although the S-400 can cope with air-breathing threats, Moscow has no means for countering ‘operational’ (i.e. intermediate-range) missiles. 

Other members of the ‘Extradepartmental Expert Council’ had their say as well.  Former chief of PVO’s equipment ordering directorate General-Major Kolganov said: 

“. . . the VKO concept developed several years ago is not supported today organizationally or financially.  There is no targeted program for its realization.” 

Former Armaments Chief General-Colonel Anatoliy Sitnov says: 

“. . . in Russia they remembered about VKO only after the U.S. began to test the X-37 orbital glider.   . . . everyone’s occupied with a general assimilation of budget resources, and not at all with the development of new strategic technologies for modern space systems, reconnaissance, [and] missile attack warning satellites . . . .  This can’t come from a private businessman.  He comes to grab some budget money and sell what’s been made for scrap.” 

“We lost 300 super-technologies, primarily in aviation and air defense.  In particular, in the production of supergraphite, which is used in nose cones for missiles . . . .” 

Sitnov also criticizes poor organization for VKO: 

“There is no one to be in command, no one to command and control forces and means, no one to commission new air defense systems.” 

“It is time to move from words to deeds, to take purposeful directions and targeted programs for developing new aerospace defense systems.” 

“But we are waiting for someone to come and help us.  No one will.” 

Kornukov is an old PVO guy–albeit an Air Defense Aviation pilot; he was the first CINC of the VVS after it subsumed PVO.  Maybe he, and the others, are just shilling for Almaz-Antey to get even more from the State Defense Order.  Or perhaps their assessments are sincere.

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.