25 January 2019

Russia's Armed Forces - Between achievements, performances and ambitions (I)

Cristian Eremia

Image source: Mediafax

It is already a tradition for the Russian political leadership to make public, at the end of the year, the results of the progresses made across state’s main military structures, addressed both to the domestic public, as well as to the foreign audience. Hence, president Vladimir Putin has participated at an evaluation of the activities and processes of the military construction in the Russian state, during which he set out a series of priority directions for the future development (1) of the Russian armed forces. The one who reported all these analyses was, of course, the Minister of Defence, Serghei Soigu (2). We would like, in the following paragraphs, to select some of the main elements presented across these public political debates, which are describing the performances, as well as the ambitious projects of the military authorities and other state departments with a specific weight in modernizing and strengthening the defense and security of the Russian state.

Military policies and strategic planning

The Kremlin's overall assessment of the strategic planning of defense and Russian Armed Forces’ (RAF) endowment policies shows that on internationally plan and on the long term will be severely reduced predictability and strategic retention in the military field and will be a deterioration of the whole architecture of international control over arms and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. From a Russian perspective, this security risk is added to others already known, including the impossibility of preventing a new global arms race, which forces Russia to take supplementary consolidation measures for its security and to continue the ascendant direction of RAF development.

On the whole, the internal analyses are showing that all categories and types of armed forces have developed in a balanced manner during the last years, in line with the strategic planning of defense and with the new weapons and military equipment endowment program.
The nuclear triad, which plays a crucial role in Russian vision in maintaining global parity, has been considerably strengthened - the proportion of modernization and endowment with modern military techniques in this area is about 82%. Strategic Nuclear Forces (SNF) are permanently maintained at a level that guarantees nuclear deterrence.

In 2018, a new missile regiment endowed with the "Yars" mobile missiles systems was transferred to the regular battle service. SNF received a Tu-160 aircraft and four Tu-95 MS. It has been confirmed that the Tu-160 adapted aircraft as a missiles carrier and the development of missiles systems to be based on the Tu-160 airplane and on strategic-purpose submarines respectively. Two premieres took place. The first one happened in May, when the "Yuri Dolgoruky" strategic submarine had successfully launched such a four-ballistic missile "Bulava" in the Kura-Kamchatka polygon, and the other one was in November when the new Tu-160 missiles carrier aircraft would have successfully launched 12 air-to-surface cruise missiles, XA-101, in the Pemba testing polygon - the Arctic Circle area.

The Ministry of Defense and the Defense Industry have carried out research - designing, manufacturing and implementation activities into operation some of the most modern and performing armaments in the world (according to Russian strategists' estimations), focusing on those models that are likely to increase the potential combat capacity and to counteract  the US anti-missile defense system:

  • Passing to the series production of strategic missiles system “Avangard”, in 2019 to be founded the first regiment equipped with this kind of system;
  • Successfully testing, as a fight experiment, the system with strategic destination of intercontinental ballistic missiles “Sarmat”;
  • Passing to the experimental battle service of the "Kinjal" Hypersonic Missile Air System (it was reported that 89 patrol flights have already taken place in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea's air space, exercising such systems);
  • Concrete preparation for putting into service of high power laser fighting systems
  • the transition to the experimentation of combat facilities on the platform provided by the “Project Borey-A” submarine, which will be remarked, according to Russian producers, with superior reliability characteristics and extremely low probability of discovery, comparing to similar models from other states.

Russian military planners are stating that these weapons will multiply the defensive and offensive potential of the RAF, strengthening the deterrent capacity of enemies, contributing to maintaining the global balance of forces, ensuring without strategic limitations Russia's security in the next decade.

Regarding conventional forces, Land Forces level reached about 48% with modernization of military equipment. The military units received about 2,200 new or upgraded weaponries. The Air Forces received 126 modern aircraft and helicopters, nine spacecrafts and 120 air defense units, the share of modern military equipment in this category reaching 64%. The equipment and modern military equipment in the Naval Forces has exceeded slightly above 60%, this category of forces receiving in the previous year 14 war ships, 11 support ships, 4 coastal rocket launcher systems "Bal" and "Bastion". Assault Air Forces have received more than 300 specific armaments, about 11,000 flight equipments for personnel, guns and other military materials.

Medium-range and unmanned strike systems are in an advanced stage of construction, being expected for the first models to be operational this year. With regard to unmanned short-range combat systems, around 300 such equipments is annually allocated to the troops, with the current fleet estimated at around 2,100 units.

The improvement activities of the unified command and control automated system (SAUC2) within the RAF are also under priority. For the first time, SAUC2 is built on an domestic software and hardware platform. Up to now, over 2,300 military units have been equipped with communications and C2 equipments, which led to a 66% implementation of SAUC2.

Let's now list the strategic priorities for RAF development. The first priority for 2019 remains the strengthening of the strategic potential of the nuclear strategic forces, and it is necessary to accelerate the processes of research and manufacture of new modern military techniques in the field. At the political level, the "priority priorities" for the development of anti-missile defense systems to surpass the performance of similar US systems. There will be an priority to serial production and the entry into the combat service of the "Avangard" global range of missile systems.

An important priority will be the improvement of the Joint Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance System for the collection and processing of information (the unified ISR system), electronic warfare and information systems. The policy directive calls for a shift to "new standards" in the collection, transmission and processing of information, with the central objective of reducing as much as possible decision-making times.

The cyber technologies, artificial intelligence, robotics and unmanned systems will, also, remain the uppermost concerns for the Russian specialists, as well as the modernization of the communication system between all the conduction levels of the combat actions.

Another established priority is the continuous improvement of strategic planning and development "without template" of plans for complex operations, by using conventional and unconventional methods and means, the projection of force far away from national borders, with new concepts and forms of modern warfare and the use of advanced armaments in combat. Russian policy recommendations are specifically aimed at planning naval and air military operations, avoiding standardization and classic approaches to military campaigns. At the same time, they want to improve personnel’s military training quality, demanded by the “superior quality” of the new armament.

The Russian political-military leadership has announced that it will ensure permanent control over the implementation of the State Arms Program, while performing an optimal "discipline and work" scheme between the defense department and the defense industry companies.


Military training and military exercises

In 2018, six independent and unannounced checks were carried out at all levels of all forces categories, in all military districts. The Russian military authorities believe that these verifications confirmed the high level of readiness for the, as well as the force projection capacity and military mobility necessary to rapidly transfer forces and means over long distances up to 7 thousand kilometers in order to speed-up and to strengthen the grouping of forces on the most important strategic directions.

Overall, over the past year, the RAF has conducted more than 18,000 military exercises and more significant training activities on different levels and strategic directions, focusing on inter-arm activities or on the simultaneous involvement of different categories of forces. The number of military exercises conducted bilaterally with other states increased over the same period by 20%, on the basis of some countries' interest in taking part in "international war games." Such military activities took place in 2018 on the territory of seven states, in Russia, Azerbaidjan, Belarus, China, Kazakhstan and for the first time on the territory of Armenia and Iran.

An important task for 2019 is the development of military cooperation with the other states under the Tashkent Treaty, the CSTO. For this purpose, a major military application was planned, "Center-2019". The main goal of the participants of these exercises will be to identify and detailly practice the issues regarding the cooperation in solving common defense and security missions in Central Asia.

(1) http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/59431

(2) http://kremlin.ru/catalog/persons/90/events/59431