Written by Sergey Shoygu, Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation; Originally appeared at VPK, translated by Alice Decker exclusively for SouthFront
The main tasks assigned to the armed forces before starting the operation in Syria have been accomplished.
2016 saw many major events related to the security of our country. The geographic scope and the nature of the challenges were broadened. Military force played a larger role in international relations. Instead of focusing on the fight against terrorism, NATO declared that the main threat is Russia.
The military budget of the NATO countries increased by $26 billion to a total of $918 billion. The bloc’s leadership decided to deploy four reinforced tactical battalion groups in the Baltic States and Poland, and to place and maintain an armored brigade of American ground troops in the countries of Eastern Europe.
NATO stepped up its intelligence activity along Russia’s perimeter. In ten years, the total number of flights by NATO reconnaissance aircraft near the Russian border has almost tripled, and in the southwest of the country it’s eight times more. For comparison: in the 1990s there were 107; in the 2000s — 298, in 2016 — 852. This forced us to increase the number of fighter aircraft sorties by 61 percent in order to prevent violations of our airspace in the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Arctic.
NATO has intensified its training exercises twofold, and most of them are directed against Russia. At the Salisbury Military Training Ground, the British armed forces have begun to denote the enemy by using Russian-made tanks and our army’s uniform. The last time that training method was used, it was by Fascist Germany.
The United States missile defense system in Europe has been brought up to the level of initial operational readiness. Elements of it are deployed in Japan and, starting in 2017, in South Korea. The versatility of the Mk-41 missile launchers is such that after installation, you can covertly put in place “Tomahawk” cruise missiles. There are 150 to 300 of them on our borders and their operational range is up to 2400 km. The missiles’ flight time to Russia’s western border is less than ten minutes. It has been decided that this threat will be neutralized.
In the United States a program has been implemented to modernize the nuclear bombs and their storage sites in Europe. About 200 of the updated American weapons are deployed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey.
Such actions create additional risks for Russia, to which we cannot fail to respond. It is important to note that the Russian Armed Forces are not being drawn into an arms race, but are systematically carrying out the program to update the Army and Navy that was adopted in 2012.
The Middle East Test
162 types of modern and upgraded weapons were tested in combat in Syria. They have proven to be highly effective. Among them are the latest Su-30SM and Su-34 aviation complexes and the MI-28n and Ka-52 helicopters. This was the first use of precision-guided munitions and sea-launched cruise missiles by the Russian army in combat conditions, and it confirmed their tactical characteristics.
It is important that a number of shortcomings were identified which were not exhibited during ground tests of the new weapons. The purchase of ten units was suspended until these shortcomings were eliminated. As a result, we have significantly improved the quality of the technology and confirmed its reliability.
The main tasks assigned to the armed forces before the operation in Syria was launched have been accomplished. Russia’s Air Force changed the course of the war against terrorism in the country; defeated the principal gangs in the areas of Homs and Hama; drove the militants out of Latakia and the territories to the south and north of Damascus; de-blocked the main transport artery linking the capital with the North of the country; and freed Aleppo and Al-Kar’jatejn — this was of key importance. Together, all of the fighters cleared 12,360 square kilometers of Syrian territory and 499 settlements. Since the start of the operation, the Russian Air Force carried out 18,800 sorties and landed 71,000 strikes against terrorist infrastructure. They liquidated 725 training camps, 405 ammunition factories and workshops, 1500 pieces of military equipment, and 35,000 fighters, among them 204 field commanders.
Specialists from the International Anti-Mine Center [of the Russian Armed Forces] cleared 26,853 explosive devices from an area of 1420 hectares. In liberated Aleppo alone, 66,000 tons of explosives were detected and destroyed.
Participation in Russia’s delivery of humanitarian aid came from the UN, Armenia, Belorussia, Serbia, India, China and Kazakhstan. And just to occupied Deir ez-Zor, about 2500 tons of humanitarian cargo were delivered by parachute, including from the UN, using Russian platforms.
Defense Control Panel
Taking into account the experience in Syrian, we modified the division-wide unified command and control systems for troops and weapons at the tactical level. This has reduced the time needed for decision-making and planning for combat commanders and staff.
The work of the National Defense Control Center was raised to a new level. Round-the-clock monitoring was implemented as well as coordination of the 6,500 events on the Armed Forces action plans. The efficiency of decision-making on critical issues was improved threefold.
The information platform brings together into a unified system the interactions of 73 Federal departments, the government of all 85 constituent entities of the Federation, and 1320 state corporations and enterprises of the defense industry.
For comparison: our National Defense Control Center (NDCC) has 19 times the total volume of stored data and surpasses by three times the computing power of the French combined control center “Balard”. And by the way, the Ministry of Defense built this complex of buildings three times faster and 2.6 times cheaper than the French equivalent.
The Armed Forces are successfully fulfilling their mission of ensuring [our] military presence in the strategically important regions of the world. Long-range aircraft performed seventeen flights on air patrols over the waters of the Norwegian, North, Black, and Yellow Sea, and the Sea of Japan, in the western Pacific, the northeastern Atlantic, and the Arctic zone.
The ships and vessels of the Russian Navy are seeing increased activity. Our flag was present in the Arctic, Central and Northern Atlantic, and the Caribbean: a total of 121 tours. They provided regular combat service in the Gulf of Aden, an area where pirates are a threat.
For four years the strategic command forces in distant maritime zones have fulfilled the mission of protecting the national interests of Russia and its allies in the Mediterranean region, with up to 15 surface ships and vessels of various classes, on average.
The Ruble is Under Protection
Optimization of the state defense procurement system allowed us to reach our defense procurement targets in 2016. Equipping the armed forces with modern weapons and equipment in units on stand-by increased to 58.3 percent, and serviceability — to 94 percent. This was facilitated by the budget control system for the state defense procurement funds. Today, accessing data from the authorized banks in real-time, the Defense Ministry can see every ruble in the budget as it is spent and watch as it flows through every link in the supply chain. With the introduction of this system we are, figuratively speaking, no longer blind, and that has made possible a more effective monetary policy and allowed us to move to making quarterly advances on the execution of state defense orders in accordance with production and technological cycles. As a consequence the risk has gone down by a factor of three — overdue receivables decreased from 363 billion rubles at the beginning of the year to 120 billion for the current period.
A Massive Training
Five comprehensive snap inspections of combat readiness contributed to improvements in the training of personnel and coordination of military formations. Every military district took part, and every type and kind of serviceman, with the active involvement of the central authorities and the governments of the administrative units of the Federation.
The most ambitious was the strategic command and staff exercise “Kavkaz-2016”. The military units of four armies were regrouped over a distance of 2,500 kilometers. They achieved the complete deployment of troop management systems in the new theater. In the end, this confirmed the ability of the military leaders to effectively manage the newly formed groups created in the event of threats to national security in the South.
The activities of operational and combat training were also stepped up. A total of 3630 exercises were conducted, including 1250 for combined forces. Together with the international war games and the experience gained in Syria, this improved the troops’ field training. The annual flying rate went up by 21 percent. The crews of surface ships and submarines increased their sailing experience by a factor of 1.7. By this means the number of well-prepared homogeneous naval tactical groups was increased by 27 percent. And the number of jumps made by the Airborne troops saw a five percent increase.
The army’s program of international games has expanded to include 23 military specialties. Some 82,000 servicemen took part in the competition, including 3,500 from other countries.
The continuing development of the system of military education contributed to the increased professionalism. This year the teaching staff of the universities of the Ministry of Defense was reinforced by officers with combat experience. From 1 September, the training of students and cadets has been converted into unified electronic textbooks. All of the Ministry of Defense universities are linked to the country’s principal information resources.
The network of pre-university education continues to expand. The Suvorov Military School in Tula is open. A chain of command has been created at the Nakhimov VMU, which included reorganizing its branches at the Sevastopol and Vladivostok presidential cadet schools. In 2017 the system will be filled out with a branch in Murmansk. And Petrozavodsk will open a presidential cadet school.
With the support of the Ministry of Defense, the all-Russian Military–Patriotic public movement “YunArmia [Youth-Army]” was established. Today it has reached almost all parts of the Federation and is gaining popularity among young people.
A Social Offensive
A priority in 2016 was to resolve certain issues of social services for servicemen.
- We moved to a planned way of providing permanent housing. We maintained greater numbers of apartments for servicemen. In one year, 28,500 people received one. Additionally, a special fund of the Ministry of Defense included 12,100 housing units. Taking into account the decision to raise compensation for subleasing to the real level, as well, the problem has been removed.
- Ongoing development of the mortgage system. In 2016, 21,000 soldiers participated. The average size of apartments purchased was 60 square meters, which is 20 percent above the forecast figure.
- A substantial improvement in the accessibility and quality of health care. The provision of modern equipment will make 83 kinds of high-tech medical care available and make possible unique operations.
- The capacity of sanatoriums and health facilities was raised, and provided a threefold increase in the number of military personnel who have received medical and psychological rehabilitation. Practically everyone who needed it received treatment.
- Measures to develop the military-construction complex resulted in synchronizing the infrastructure with the reception of weapons and military equipment. Today, the total need of the military in facilities, taking into account the deterioration of funds, amounts to 30 million square meters. In a year, 2550 buildings and structures were constructed, with a total area of 2.7 million square meters, that is 18 per cent more than in the previous period. For comparison: in 2010–2012, there were 210 structures built. The use of modern technologies has cut in half the time required to erect shelters for machinery and housing facilities/barracks, and has brought the construction cost for Defense Ministry projects to within 30,000 rubles per square meter, which is lower than for the country as a whole.
- We carried out a major reform of the entire complex. Spetsstroy of Russia has been abolished. The Armed Forces has eight federal state companies that build only specific structures for the Defense Ministry. This has removed intermediate links and middlemen, and the number of administrative staff has been reduced by half.
- We are comprehensively developing the Arctic territory. Work has been completed on the New Siberian Islands, the Franz Josef Land archipelago and Novaya Zemlya. Construction is underway for technical radar stations and aviation guidance points on Alexandra Land Island, Wrangel Island and the village of Cape Schmidt.
• The environmental cleanup has been completed in the Arctic in the area around the Alykel (Pevek) air terminal, on Novaya Zemlya, and on Kotelny Island and Wrangel Island. In total 165 hectares were cleared, and 6,500 tons of scrap metal removed.
• Railway troops are completing construction of the Zhuravka – Millerovo route, bypassing Ukraine. The roadbed is ready. The scope of work was nine million cubic meters. Out of 84 km of track, 23 km have already been laid. The work will be completed by September 2017.
• On the grounds of “Patriot” Park, the Defense Ministry conducted 14 events (conventions and exhibitions) in 2016. The most significant was the international military-technical forum “Army 2016,” in which delegations from 70 countries and more than a thousand companies participated. This dispelled the myth that Russia suffers from international isolation and it demonstrated the power of the national weaponry.
In the year 2017, the Defense Ministry will have to address several priorities. First and foremost, it has to:
- Continue ramping up the combat capabilities of the armed forces.
- Take measures to strengthen the armed forces in the Western, the Southwestern and Arctic strategic areas.
- Ensure the timely availability and strict fulfillment of the Defense Procurement-2017 and get 60% of the units on stand-by supplied with up-to-date weapons and military equipment.
- Put on combat duty with the Strategic Rocket Forces (RVSN) three strategic rocket regiments, equipped with modern systems.
- Bring into service five upgraded strategic aviation systems.
- Give the army two “Iskander-m” brigade missile complexes, and rearm three tactical PVO Divisions with Zenit Tor-M2 “ air defense missiles.
- Ensure the delivery of 905 modern tanks and armored fighting vehicles.
- Furnish the VCS and Naval aviation with 170 new and modernized aircraft.
- Rearm four anti-aircraft regiments with S-400s missiles.
- Bring online eight surface ships and nine combat boats for the Navy.
- Provide the coastal troops with four “Bal” and “Bastion” missile complexes.
- Ensure the commissioning and put on combat duty three pre-fabricated radars in Yeniseisk, Barnaul and Orsk.
- Launch the second Unified Space System spacecraft.
- Build up the military-patriotic work among youth.
- Hold a Congress of the All-Russia Military-Patriotic public movement «YunArmia».
Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation