Russian Army Not Fit For Modern War: Top General - January, 2009

Despite its outdated military hardware and sub-par military command-and-control apparatus, in just about four days, a relatively small contingent of Russian troops utterly crushed Georgia's Western/Israeli/Turkish trained armed forces. Military officials in Moscow, however, are not resting on their laurels. A series of major reforms are currently beginning to take place in the armed forces of the Russian Federation. The next five to ten years will be crucial in this regard.



Russian Army Not Fit For Modern War: Top General

January, 2009

Russia's war with Georgia showed that most of its senior officers are not equipped or trained to fight a modern war, Russia's top soldier said on Tuesday. Russia easily defeated its Western-leaning neighbor and briefly occupied large parts of the country after a five-day war in August, triggered by Tbilisi's attempt to retake its rebel pro-Moscow South Ossetia region by force. But the conflict exposed a lack of modern equipment, poor communications and other shortcomings in Moscow's Soviet-era war machine, Nikolai Makarov, chief of the general staff, said. "To find a lieutenant-colonel, colonel or general able to lead troops with a sure hand, you had to chase down officers one by one throughout the armed forces, because those career commanders in charge of 'paper regiments and divisions' just could not resolve the tasks set," Makarov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. "When they were given personnel and equipment, they simply lost their heads, while some even refused to fulfill the given tasks," Makarov told Russia's Academy of Military Sciences. "So I have a question: 'Do we need such officers'?" Foreign analysts and critics at home have expressed doubts Russia will be able to defeat a stronger force than Georgia, while the Defense Ministry unveiled a military reform plan aimed at creating a smaller, but better equipped and mobile army. Russia's army inherited a largely Soviet-era military structure, in which many units are run mainly or exclusively by officers, existing mostly on paper and ready to be mobilized with reservists in case of a large-scale war.


Makarov said 83 percent of today's Russian army were numerically incomplete and only 17 percent were combat-ready. "Of those 150 regiments in our air forces, there are only five ones permanently combat-ready and capable of fulfilling all tasks set, albeit with limited numbers -- operating just 24 aircraft instead of 36," he said. Makarov said a similar gloomy picture was seen in the navy, where "one half of warships stands idle at anchor." The defense ministry aims to trim the army to 1 million people in 2012 from today's 1.13 million. Makarov said some 100,000 officers would be demobilized "in the nearest time." He said Russia would struggle to modernize 30 percent of its weapons by 2012 and up to 70 percent by 2020. But as long as Russia's conventional forces were in a poor state, Moscow would continue to rely heavily on its formidable arsenal of strategic nuclear forces. "We attach and will continue to attach priority significance to our strategic nuclear forces," Makarov said. "Under the cover of this shield, we must be guaranteed we will be able to implement the reform of our armed forces."


Moscow Reconsidering Military-Reform Plans

On October 14, 2008, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov announced a plan for overhauling the country's Armed Forces. However, this ambitious military reform is currently being reconsidered. On December 4, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told a live question-and-answer session that officers would not be discharged en masse. Only those officers on the verge of retirement and college-and-university graduates who have served their two-year military obligation will be discharged. Warrant officers and sub-lieutenants will receive their walking papers after serving out their contract, unless they agree to civilian jobs with higher wages.

Colonel General Viktor Zavarzin, chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee, told foreign military attaches in Moscow that the government would reconsider the military-reform plans. Army General Nikolai Makarov, Chief of the Russian Armed Forces' General Staff, discussed the projected army reform at the General Staff Military Academy. He said a new national military doctrine would be drafted in parallel with the military reform. "They are now working actively on the document which, I think, will be more applied and specific," Makarov said.

The Russian Security Council is working on the new military doctrine. Former General Staff Chief Army General Yury Baluyevsky, who with other analysts criticized the current military doctrine for its vague and verbose provisions, now heads a board that will edit the new document. Moreover, General Makarov said the military-reform plan had been drafted long before the August 2008 Russian-Georgian conflict. Naturally, the conflict facilitated and expedited the army reform. The Russian Army conducted a peace enforcement operation after Georgian forces attacked Russian citizens and peacekeepers in South Ossetia.

The operation's lessons show that the Armed Forces require all-out and prompt modernization, which can no longer be postponed. The problems encountered by the 58th Russian Army during the Georgian conflict convinced skeptics that the four-tier troop-control system comprising military districts, armies, divisions and regiments had to be replaced with a more rational and effective three-tier system that would comprise military districts, tactical commands and brigades.

General Makarov said a three-year experiment to assess the effectiveness of regional commands was now over. There were plans to establish the West, South and East regional commands. From now on, military districts will be vested with strategic-command functions. Each military district will become an independent operational strategic element and will control all local Army, Navy, Air Force and Air-Defense units on its territory. Technically speaking, any military district must be able to fight small wars in its own zone of responsibility, without involving other districts. Each military district will have an assault/airborne brigade. In all, there are plans to deploy 80 brigades, including 40 general-purpose Army brigades. Each brigade will become a permanent-readiness unit and will be expanded to war-time strength.

Unlike previous decisions, cadre-strength regiments will not be abolished completely. Some of them will be converted into logistics-support centers and military-equipment depots, and will still be subordinated to military-district commanders and, if necessary, will facilitate pre-war mobilization. All divisions will be disbanded and converted into brigades, which, in turn, could be re-deployed to other sectors. The self-contained modular brigades would be expected to fight independently of other units in preset sectors using a variety of weapons and military equipment. They will use radio-electronic warfare systems and will be supported by nuclear, chemical and biological (NBC) protection units, combat-engineer and logistics-support units and the Air Force tactical-support units mostly comprising attack and transport helicopters.

General Makarov said these units could be re-integrated into the Army similar to the U.S.-style format after all obsolete helicopters are replaced with the more advanced Mil-28N Havoc, Kamov Ka-50 Hokum (Black Shark) and Ka-52 Hokum (Alligator) attack helicopters and Mil Mi-35 Hind helicopter gunships. General Makarov said only contract soldiers would serve on the southern theater of operations, and that they would be reinforced by conscripts in other areas. Tactical commands, an intermediate element between military districts and general-purpose brigades, must be ready to fight in any theater of battle and not just its immediate location.

In 2009, military units will be transferred to unfamiliar training centers during every strategic exercise involving the variety of military equipment used by general-purpose brigades. Forced marches along rugged and mountain terrain will also be conducted during such exercises. It is intended to hold comprehensive training-center and headquarters exercises involving computers and topographic maps. Commanders at all levels will learn to use and control motorized-rifle, tank, artillery, surface-to-air missile (SAM), telecommunications, reconnaissance, radio-electronic warfare and combat-engineer/sapper units. They will also be trained to use Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS), drone data and radio intercepts and will learn many other practical skills.

In 2009, the Defense Ministry and the General Staff will hold several comprehensive strategic exercises, including those involving Belarusian Army units in the western sector. Such exercises will be scheduled regularly. General Makarov said not all divisions would be disbanded. The Army will retain at least one artillery/machine-gun division currently deployed on the Kurile Islands in Russia's Far East. The Strategic Missile Force's 12 divisions will be reduced to nine by 2012. Airborne divisions will also be retained. The Special Forces Command, formerly called the Moscow Air-Defense District, will become part of the Air Force and will form the mainstay of the Aerospace Command, an Air Force component.

General Makarov said the global financial crisis had affected many aspects of Russian life, including the Armed Forces. However, officers will receive housing, no matter what. And the Government will also purchase state-of-the-art weapons and military equipment despite the crisis. The 2007-2015 state rearmament program will be implemented on schedule and will equip the Armed Forces with essential weapons systems.


In related news:

Opening up the Arctic Region and Russia's Submarine Fleet (Part II)

K-3, the pioneer of the Soviet nuclear-powered submarine fleet, carried out the first mission under the ice in November 1959. The submarine had to return to base, though, after the periscope was damaged because of lack of experience and a faulty design of instruments monitoring the ice situation. But that experience was valuable in that it demonstrated that nuclear-powered submarines could and would perform missions under the ice! On July 17, 1962, K-3 reached the North Pole after all and surfaced close to it. The Soviet flag was hoisted on an ice floe. In September 1963 the nuclear-powered submarine K-115 (Design 627, commander--Captain 2nd rank I.R. Dubyaga) for the first time ever covered the distance from the Northern Fleet to the Pacific Fleet under the ice. Ten days later it was followed by K-178 (Design 658, commander--Captain 2nd rank A.P. Mi-khailovsky), which surfaced several times among ice during the route, including two emersions near Soviet drifting stations SP-10 and SP-12. On September 29, 1963, K-181 (Design 627, commander--Captain 2nd rank Yu.A. Sysoyev) surfaced in the region of the North Pole. All three commanders were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union for those missions. They marked the start of an active and systematic opening-up of the Arctic seas by Soviet nuclear-powered submarines.

In 1978, when I was commander of a flotilla of nuclear-powered submarines of the Northern Fleet, I was put in charge of a cruise by a submarine unit from the North to the Far East under the ice of the central Artic region, the first cruise of its kind in the history of the Soviet Navy. Many separate cruises under the ice had been carried out by that time to become a Navy routine.

In early 1978 the flotilla received orders to get two missile-carrying nuclear-powered submarines of Design 670 ready for a cruise to the Pacific Fleet. Subs of this design had a displacement of 6,000 tons, a submergence depth of over 300 meters and were capable of an underwater speed of up to 26 knots (about 48 km/hour). They were armed with eight sea-launched anti-shipping missiles and a torpedo unit. The crew consisted of 90 men. The distinguishing feature of the submarines was that they had only one nuclear reactor whereas other modifications of Soviet subs had two. In accordance with plans drawn up earlier, the first submarine would cover the designated distance and surface in clear water. Only then would the second sub be allowed to leave base. Meanwhile, various forces and means of support, i.e., ships, aircraft, reserve crews and the like, would be ready to deal with possible emergency situations.

The flotilla's headquarters took the initiative to supplement the plan with a scheme according to which the submarines would be part of a group maintaining underwater communications, with the group's commander stationed aboard one of the subs directing the operation. This would half the operation's duration and cost. Besides, if the nuclear-powered submarines were to operate on their own, an emergency in one of the reactors under the ice would make the sub's situation quite difficult (indeed, almost hopeless) because the storage battery would supply energy to the electric motors and repair work for only a limited period of time. If, however, the subs operated as part of a group, the second sub might help in spotting a water opening making it possible for the first one to surface or else make an ice lane by exploding torpedoes. A joint operation would make for a more accurate navigation, which is crucial to navigation in high latitudes. The morale factor was just as important. It is obvious that joint underwater navigation would call for better standards of training for the crews and proper documentation so that it could subsequently be put to the test at sea. Such documentation drawn up by the flotilla's headquarters had shown its worth in the course of training exercises and cruises, including a 1974 cruise when a detachment of three surface ships and two nuclear-powered submarines navigated through the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans all the way to the Far East.

I received orders to take charge of the group and oversee the entire operation. Captain 1st rank (later Rear-Admiral) Ye.A. Tomko, division commander, was put in charge of the second submarine. The commanders of the submarines were Captain 2nd rank V.R Lushin and Captain 3rd rank A.A. Gusev.

In the early morning of August 22, 1978, both ships left base, and as soon as they reached the sea, they submerged before embarking on their route. It took them two days to reach the ice edge where each of the subs navigated under the ice to test instruments and mechanisms in real conditions. As it turned out, they had demonstrated an almost fault-free performance, and once we sent a report to the headquarters of the North Fleet, we received permission to go under the ice coupled with traditional good wishes for a safe voyage. In the afternoon of August 26 the submarines went down to designated depths and swung into a line abreast. The main phase of the navigation had begun. The ships' mutual position in formation was controlled by sonar instruments. The distance between the ships was kept within 2-4 km. The submergence depth varied from 40 to 200 meters depending on the probability of encountering icebergs. Each of the subs was assigned its own depth echelon to ensure a safe navigation. A sonar telephone was used to maintain communications. Depths, ice thickness, temperatures and the salinity and density of outboard water were continuously monitored all along the route. All parameters characterizing navigation conditions and the work of the submarines' systems and mechanisms were carefully recorded. Special attention was given to measures preventing a fire since during underwater navigation, let alone navigation under ice, anything igniting anywhere in a nuclear-powered submarine creates the most dangerous emergency situation. On the whole the mission was trouble-free--it confirmed the correctness of preliminary plans and a high degree of the equipment's reliability and the crews' professionalism.

Around noon on September 1 both submarines surfaced close to a standby icebreaker in a designated area of the Chuckchee Sea after covering some 3,500 kilometers under ice. In a report sent to our superiors we said the main phase of the cruise had been completed, then we received congratulations, took in a bit of fresh Arctic air and headed for the Bering Strait in surface condition. The strait is too shallow for submerged navigation. Obviously, it can be crossed underwater, but this was not necessary in our case. The Bering Sea welcomed us with stormy weather. The submarines submerged and headed for Kamchatka together just as they had been doing until then.

In the morning of September 8 they moored at the piers of a submarine flotilla where they were to join the Pacific Fleet. An official citation said the submarines' commanders, the division commander and the commanding officer in charge of the mission had been awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union for "the successful fulfillment of a special mission assigned by the commanders and the courage and bravery displayed therewith." Regrettably, both commanders are no longer alive. They certainly deserve eternal glory and remembrance.

Exactly a year later a multi-purpose nuclear-powered submarine set out for the North Pole. The aim was to test the capabilities of the submarine of a new design operating under Arctic ice and continue exploring the navigation region around the pole. This time too I was put in charge of the mission. We spotted a suitable ice lane close to the pole, and on September 1 surfaced there without difficulty. Having fulfilled a designated program of operations and admired to our hearts' content the primordial beauty of the Arctic unharmed by civilization, we submerged and crossed the pole once again. It occurred to me that 29 years before when I was navigator aboard a diesel submarine on the first Arctic mission, I could not have imagined a situation where a submarine would surface at the North Pole in that matter-of-fact and even routine manner! I felt proud of my country and its people and navy.

The experience gained then made it possible for groups of nuclear-powered submarines to fulfill several missions under the ice in the Arctic region, which paved the way for making wide use of nuclear-powered submarines to tackle numerous tasks in the Arctic. In principle, it is possible to create underwater container carriers for a speedy delivery of important cargoes from the Pacific Ocean basin to European ports and back, underwater drilling stations for the development of oil and gas fields on the shelf of the Arctic Ocean, underwater tankers and much else. Such an approach would keep the country's dying submarine-building industry afloat, something that is easy to ruin but difficult to revive. It is obvious that projects of this magnitude could only be shouldered by a strong state with wise leaders who are well aware of the country's national interests and act accordingly.

Russian Military Spending to Reach $125 Billion by 2011

The state will earmark 4 trillion rubles ($125 billion) for arms procurements by 2011, including 1 trillion rubles ($31 billion) in 2009, the Russian prime minister said on Thursday. Vladimir Putin said the modernization of defense related enterprises would continue despite the global financial crisis. "The modernization of defense industry enterprises as well as the development of modern weapons should continue," he said. He added that federal defense programs need to be reviewed and "streamlined," in particular with regard to production volumes. Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said earlier on Thursday the state had earmarked $10 billion for 'core enterprises' and defense-related sectors of industry.


Russian Army Looking For a Few Good Men

President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree reducing the number of military personnel in the Armed Forces in yet another step towards a transforming the Russian Army into a professional, contract-based defense force. According to the new decree, issued earlier this week, by Jan.1, 2016, the Army and Naval Fleet will consist of 1,884,829 people, including civilian personnel. Military personnel will number 1 million, down from 1.3 million. Another major difference is that military personnel will consist largely of contracted soldiers, rather than conscripts. In February, Defense Mixnister Anatoly Serdyukov issued a directive to start creating educational groups in the St. Petersburg Military and Space Academy, the Moscow Military Command High School, and other cities across Russia. Each group will consist of 100 people taken from volunteer soldiers and conscripts. The educational groups will train professional sergeants, who will graduate after two and a half years in the facility. "After they complete the training, the contract sergeants will get a diploma for higher specialized education," the official Rossiyskaya Gazeta quoted General Staff Chief Nikolai Makarov as saying. "They will direct military collectives on a professional basis." Graduates from these educational groups will be used to staff military units of permanent combat readiness. The decrees are part of a federal program that aims to transfer sergeants and other officers serving in the military to a contract-basis. Today, most sergeants and many other officers in the Russian Armed Forces are conscripted. The program stipulates that by 2013 over 85,000 junior officers will be professional rather than conscripted. Earlier last fall, Serdyukov had announced one of the most radical measures to reform the army, slashing the officer corps to about one-sixth of its former size and introducing changes to the command structure. The move, announced in October, was deemed necessary but controversial, because it would involve officers who could end up losing their jobs. Later, the Kommersant business daily reported that Nikolai Markov had signed a directive on "the inadmissibility of divulging information on the reform of the Russian armed forces."


What Future For Carrier Aviation?

Every time the heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov sails to distant seas, it sparks a discussion on the future of aircraft carriers and their place in the Russian Navy. The latest sortie by Kuznetsov to the Mediterranean was no exception: on top of it all, it was marred by a fire aboard, in which a sailor died. Commissioned in 1991, Admiral Kuznetsov for a long time faced an uncertain future - the collapse of the Soviet Union and of military planning left it without a credible air wing. Instead of a 50 aircraft complement that its hangar deck can accommodate, Kuznetsov has fifteen Su-33 fighters, three to five Su-25UTG training planes, and ten helicopters. Another source of trouble is its boiler and turbine unit manufactured in Kharkov: it is not very reliable, while the rupture of ties with the former sister republic made its repairs problematic. As a result, Kuznetsov took up a permanent birth at ship repair yard No. 55 in Murmansk. Service aboard at that time was also difficult. But as time went on, things began to look up. Increased funding brought the ship back in line: technical problems were solved, pilots logged their regulation hours, while the ship itself was sent on periodic cruises to practise training missions. But ships are not distinguished for their longevity: even given a capital refit Kuznetsov is unlikely to last more than 30 to 35 years, or until 2020-25. Knowing lead times to construct ships and design aircraft, the question arises: what future is there for carrier aircraft? Without a replacement all cruises made by Kuznetsov and flights from it make no sense - the experience gained will be wasted. The answer to this question was given recently by the top officials of Russia and its armed forces: they said the country must start building aircraft carriers. This raises a series of questions, above all concerning the ability of the Russian industry to build an aircraft carrier now. Seeing the plodding way in which Admiral Gorshkov is being upgraded for India, Russian shipbuilders are unlikely to do without foreign assistance, and the Russian naval commander-in-chief's interest in French shipbuilding is understandable. Another thing to remember is that a carrier requires several types of planes, basing facilities, a trained crew, and a sea-going escort. At issue is not the building and commissioning of a hull several tens of thousands of tons in displacement, but of re-establishing a navy as a balanced fighting service provided with everything necessary for action. It will not take long to find out whether or not this country is capable of doing this: just a few years.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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