What has taken place in the Russian Armed Forces in 2015
Written by Alexey Ramm; Originally appeared at VPK; Translated by Carpatho-Russian exclusively for SouthFront
The past year has been rather busy for the Armed Forces of Russia. First, in 2015 the reform that was begun by Sergey Shoigu from the moment of his appointment to the post of the Minister of Defense has actively proceeded. Despite the fact that it spent this year under the designation of Air Forces, which not only changed its name to Aerospace Forces but also underwent serious organizational and regular changes, other types and aspects of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation also did not stand on the side.
Secondly, the Russian military-political leadership actively reacted to foreign policy challenges, in particular the continuing war in the Donbass, and also to NATO actions in Europe, directed, as the leadership of the North Atlantic Alliance declares, towards “restraining the aggressive policy of Russia”.
Thirdly, within the framework of restraining the probable adversary, and also protecting national interests in the Arctic, the military strength of Russian forces was actively built up in the northern regions.
The present military reform is rather hidden and finds practically no coverage in mass media. But nevertheless we shall try to investigate and sum up this year.
The call is accepted
One of the most significant events was the appearance of the 1st Guards Tank Army as a part of the Western Military District. Despite conspiracy theories that have arisen, deployment of this new operational unit was part of the answer of the Russian military-political leadership to the Ukrainian crisis and NATO’s actions.
In particular, the staff of the 20th All-Arms Army was returned from the settlement of Mulino of the Nizhny Novgorod Region to Voronezh, after having been earlier sent from there during the transition to its new profile,.
The 1st Guards Tank Army, formation of which began at the end of last year in the settlement of Bakovka situated near Moscow, took up its tasks and incorporated military units, in particular the 2nd Guards Taman Motor Rifle and the 4th Guards Kantemirov Tank Divisions, which were earlier subordinate to the 20th Army, which had “departed for the south”. Practically the entire leadership staff of the “Twenty”, including the commander of the Army Major General Alexander Chayko and his deputies, went to the 1st Tank [Army].
It is notable that Major General Sergei Kuzovlev, who had earlier held the position of chief of staff of the 59th Army and was appointed as commander of the “Twenty”, appears on the sanctions list of the Ukrainian government as a participant in “Russian aggression”.
It is expected that, rather than the 1st Guard Tank Army’s divisions and brigades, it is not just the 9th Motor Rifle Brigade transferred from Nizhny Novgorod, but also the newly formed 1st Guards Tank Brigade that have entered or will soon enter the 20th Army.
It is planned that both brigades will be placed in newly constructed military camps in the city of Boguchara in Voronezh Oblast and the settlement of Valuyki in Belgorod Oblast. It is remarkable that the 345th airborne assault brigade also will be developed in 2016 in Valuyki.
In 2015, ground forces besides the tank army were replenished with several new artillery and rocket brigades. Thus, in Mozdoka a guided missile brigade was formed as part of the 58th Army, and in Buryatia an artillery brigade was formed for the 36th Army. Also a new motor rifle brigade – the 80th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade – appeared in the settlement of Alakurtti in Murmansk Oblast.
Two new brigades were created as units of the Reserve of the Supreme Chief Command — the 1st Guard Engineer and the 28th Pontoon Bridge — at the end of this year in the city of Murom so as to, as the chief of engineer troops of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Lieutenant General Yury Stavitsky announced, increase the capabilities of the engineer troops and efficiency of their use, create a reserve for the resolution of emergency tasks and strengthening of groups of forces in strategic sectors.
Also Yury Stavitsky noted that before 2020, there will be created in each all-arms army engineering and pontoon-bridge brigades, the structure of which will include assault and obstacle-clearing battalions intended to ensure bypassing barriers, minefields, fortified areas, and other obstacles. The first such battalion already is a unit of the 1st Guard Separate Motor Rifle Brigade.
It may be assumed that the leadership of the military department and the command of the land forces, beginning this year and before the end of 2020 have begun systematic work on setting up in each army operational unit a so-called army set, which will include an administrative brigade and reconnaissance, artillery, engineer, pontoon-bridge, radiological-chemical–biological-defense, and missile brigades, and also an air defense brigade. It must be noted that currently not one tank or all-arms army has a complete army set.
Information was made known at the end of 2014 regarding the formation of the new Sever [North] Strategic Command, which includes not only the Northern Fleet, but also detachments and units of Air Forces and Land Forces. But already this year new strategic command was augmented with the 80th Motor Rifle Brigade, which is deploying in the settlement of Alakurtti in Murmansk Oblast.
Unlike the 200th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade (city of Pechenga, Murmansk Oblast) which had earlier joined the Sever, the new brigade has a unique staff focused on conducting combat operations in Arctic conditions. Also the 80th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade is actively equipped with special caterpillar conveyors created for operations in Arctic conditions, and the staff not only will have special training, but will also receive the newest sets of clothes and equipment for conducting combat operations in the conditions of extremely low temperatures.
The first echelon with staff of the 80th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade arrived in Alakurtti on January 12, 2015, and conducted battalion-level tactical training in the summer.
Despite the absence of official data, it may be assumed that this year the Sever Strategic Command included also the 61st Marines Brigade, the 1st Air Defense Division (the former 1st Brigade) and detachments, units, and strategic formations of the Northern Fleet.
In addition to the creation of a new military base on the island of Kotelny, the renovation of military facilities is now ongoing on Novaya Zemlya, in particular in the settlement of Rogachyov. So, at the end of this year the combat alert mission was taken up by the newly-created antiaircraft missile regiment (armed with a modernized version of the ZRS S-300PM), which became part of the 1st Air Defense Division.
From the Air Force to Aerospace Forces
Reorganization of the Military Air Forces into Aerospace Forces, regarding which Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu personally reported on August 1 during a teleconference, was the most significant event of this year.
In the reformulation of the Aerospace Forces of Russia, all air force and missile defense created earlier during the transition to the new command profile of the Air Forces and air defense became armies. (The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Commands became the 6th, 14th, 11th, and 4th Armies respectively). The air and missile defense command which is based in Balashikha situated near Moscow became the 1st Air and Missile Defense Army (special purpose), and the Space Forces became the 15th Aerospace Forces Army (special purpose).
In addition to reforming the operational units, the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and the command of the Aerospace Forces continued the fight that was begun last year against one “legacy of the past” — the aviation bases reconfigured into aviation divisions, brigades, and regiments.
The 546th aviation base for army aviation (2nd category) became the 16th Aviation Brigade, and the 387th and 393rd bases became helicopter regiments. According to some information, this year both aviation bases for long-distance aircraft (the 6950th and 6952nd) were reconfigured into the 22nd Heavy Bomber Division. This new reform was preceded by a verification and so-called running in of new staff.
In particular, the 15th Aviation Brigade (the city of Ostrov in Pskov Oblast), which was created at the beginning of 2014, carried out some test training which was called upon to find locate problem areas of the new military structures. Only after elimination of the admonitions in 2015 was the reconfiguration of air bases of army aircraft into brigades and regiments begun.
This year was a record one for the number of awards and honorary designations assigned to military detachments and units. Thus, the 1st State Test Spaceport was awarded the Order of Suvorov, and the Military Academy of the General Staff the Order of Kutuzov. The 106th Training Center for Army Air Defense was assigned as an honorific the name of Hero of the Soviet Union Marshal of Artillery V.I. Kazakov.
But the most fruitful year was 2015 for detachments and units of Airborne troops: the 38th Communications Regiment, the 4th Antiaircraft Missile Regiment, and the 11th and 83rd Landing and Assault Brigades became Guard forces. The 137th Airborne Regiment received the honorable name of Ryazan, the 217th Airborne Regiment became the Ivanovo, and the 106th Guard Airborne Division the Tula. The 7th air assault division (mountain) was awarded the Order of Suvorov.
Summing up briefly, one may say that this year was a certain starting point of the active phase of reform of the Russian Armed Forces that was begun by Sergei Shoigu already in 2012. However, the Ukrainian crisis exerted a strong effect on the plans of the military department, since it forced them to parry not just possible problems from Ukraine, but also the policy of “restraining Russia” that was declared by NATO.
Judging by the available data, the “reformist salvoes” that sounded this year are only the beginning of a rather large-scale, multi-year (most likely before 2020) military reform, during which it is planned not only to re-arm the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, but also to give them organizational and staff structure which, in the opinion of the Russian military-political leadership, is most responsive to modern threats.