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Russian Military Capability in a Ten Year Perspective 2013 .pdf



Nombre del archivo original: Russian Military Capability in a Ten-Year Perspective - 2013.pdf
Título: Russian Military Capability in a Ten-Year Perspective - 2013.
Autor: Jakob Hedenskog;Carolina Vendil Pallin

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Russian Military Capability in a Ten-Year Perspective - 2013

Russian conventional capability has increased and will continue to do
so during the coming ten-year period. Increased spending on defence
and especially on procurement will mean that units are better trained
and better equipped.
Russia’s military reform appeared to enter a calmer phase after a couple
of years of upheaval, restructuring, downsizing and the introduction of
new concepts. During the next few years the curricula for military education and training will undergo further change, exercises will include
new elements and more fine-tuning of the organisation will take place.
In a short-term perspective, Russia will probably not change its nominal
goal of 1 million men in the Armed Forces. In a ten-year perspective,
however, demographic and economic realities will probably force
the MoD to revise its personnel plans downwards.

This report and other FOI publications on Russia are available on the Russia
programme’s website www.foi.se/russia

Jakob Hedenskog and Carolina Vendil Pallin (eds)

The future defence budget’s share of GDP will probably be between 3.5
and 4 per cent and there is currently a political will to keep it at this level. Many defence industry companies are, however, inefficient and will
continue to have problems in spite of this when it comes to delivering
the modern weapons that the Armed Forces are demanding. Russia will
nevertheless gradually increase its military capability in terms of readiness level, force projection and sustainability. Russia will also continue
to develop command and control and gradually procure more modern
weapons and equipment.

Russian Military Capability in a
Ten-Year Perspective - 2013

Jakob Hedenskog and Carolina Vendil Pallin (eds)

FOI-R--3734--SE
ISSN 1650-1942

www.foi.se

December 2013

Jakob Hedenskog and Carolina Vendil Pallin (eds)

Russian Military Capability in a
Ten-Year Perspective – 2013

FOI-R--3734--SE


Title

Russian Military Capability in a Ten-Year
Perspective - 2013

Titel

Rysk militär förmåga i ett tioårsperspektiv 2013

Rapportnr/Report no

FOI-R--3734--SE

Månad/Month

December

Utgivningsår/Year

2013

Antal sidor/Pages

158 p

ISSN

1650-1942

Kund/Customer

Försvarsdepartementet

Projektnr/Project no

A11301

Godkänd av/Approved by

Maria Lignell Jakobsson

Ansvarig avdelning

Försvarsanalys

Cover photo: A Russian Army Engenering tank drives near the Baikal Lake in Russia, 17 July 2013, AP
Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service, TT Nyhetsbyrån.

Detta verk är skyddat enligt lagen (1960:729) om upphovsrätt till litterära och konstnärliga verk.
All form av kopiering, översättning eller bearbetning utan medgivande är förbjuden.
This work is protected under the Act on Copyright in Literary and Artistic Works (SFS 1960:729).
Any form of reproduction, translation or modification without permission is prohibited.

2

FOI-R--3734--SE


Sammanfattning
Rysslands konventionella militära förmåga har ökat och bedöms fortsätta att
öka under den kommande tioårsperioden. Större försvarsutgifter och ökad
materielanskaffning kommer att innebära att förbanden blir mer övade och
bättre utrustade och beväpnade.
Reformeringen av de Väpnade Styrkorna verkar gå in i en lugnare fas efter några
år av omställning, omstrukturering och införande av nya koncept. Under de
närmaste åren kommer undervisningsplanen för den militära utbildningen och
övningsverksamheten genomgå ytterligare förändringar, övningarna kommer
att inkludera nya element och finjusteringar av organisationen kommer att ske.
I ett kortare perspektiv kommer Ryssland inte att ändra målet att ha en
miljon man i de Väpnade Styrkorna. I ett längre perspektiv kommer dock
demografiska och ekonomiska realiteter att tvinga Försvarsministeriet att
revidera personalförsörjningsplanen.
Storleken på Rysslands försvarsbudget kommer troligen att vara mellan 3,5 och
4 procent av BNP och det finns i dagsläget en politisk vilja att behålla denna
nivå. Många försvarsindustriföretag är dock ineffektiva och kommer fortsatt att
ha problem med att leverera den moderna materiel som de Väpnade Styrkorna
efterfrågar.
Trots de många utmaningar som återstår kommer Ryssland att öka sin militära
förmåga i termer av beredskap, styrkeprojicering och uthållighet och förbättrad
ledning i takt med att ny teknologi används, materiel anskaffas och personalen
övas i ökad utsträckning.
Nyckelord: Ryssland, militär förmåga, Väpnade Styrkorna, personal, materiel,
övning, flygvapen, luftförsvar, marinstridskrafter, markstridskrafter, kärnvapen,
upphandling, strategisk riktning, mobilitet, beredskap, säkerhetspolitik,
strategi, doktrin, koncept, försvarspolitik, Putin, Sjojgu, Serdjukov, ekonomi,
försvarsutgifter, försvarsbudget, statliga beväpningsprogrammet, statliga
försvarsordern, korruption, försvarsindustri, FoU

3

FOI-R--3734--SE


Abstract
Russian conventional capability has increased and will continue to do so during
the coming ten-year period. Increased spending on defence and especially on
procurement will mean that units are better trained and better equipped.
Russia’s military reform appears to enter a phase of consolidation after a couple
of years of upheaval, restructuring, downsizing and the introduction of new
concepts. During the next few years the curricula for military education and
training will undergo further change, exercises will include new elements and
more fine-tuning of the organisation will take place.
In a short-term perspective, Russia will probably not change its nominal goal
of 1 million men in the Armed Forces. In a ten-year perspective, however,
demographic and economic realities will probably force the MoD to revise its
personnel plans downwards.
The future defence budget’s share of GDP will probably be between 3.5 and 4 per
cent and there is currently a political will to keep it at this level. Many defence
industry companies are, however, inefficient and will continue to have problems
in spite of this when it comes to delivering the modern weapons that the Armed
Forces are demanding. Russia will nevertheless gradually increase its military
capability in terms of readiness level, force projection and sustainability. Russia
will also continue to develop command and control and gradually procure more
modern weapons and equipment.
Key words: Russia, military capability, Armed Forces, personnel, equipment,
exercise, air force, air defence, naval forces, ground forces, nuclear weapons,
procurement, strategic direction, mobility, readiness, security policy, strategy,
doctrine, concept, defence politics, Putin, Shoigu, Serdiukov, economy, defence
spending, defence budget, state armament programme, state defence order,
corruption, defence industry, R&D

4

FOI-R--3734--SE


Preface
The Russia Studies Programme (Russian Foreign, Defence and Security Policy,
RUFS) and its predecessor at the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI)
have regularly produced assessments of Russian military capability in a ten-year
perspective. This study is the seventh since the first was published in 1999.
Two aspects make this year’s assessment different from the earlier ones. First,
in 2012 the Ministry of Defence requested another study to be published in
2013, less than two years after the previous assessment. To achieve this, the
report needed to be streamlined with more focus on the areas that are most
significant for Russia’s future military capability. It has not been possible to fit in
the chapters on foreign policy, domestic policy, Russian economic development
and energy strategy that have appeared in previous editions. These themes are
covered by other reports and articles in the RUFS output. Instead, new chapters
on defence politics, security policy and military strategic thinking have been
added to the study.
Second, the streamlining of the report has led RUFS to do more work on the
methodological approach of the report. A reference group was set up consisting
of experts on military affairs from FOI, the Swedish Armed Forces HQ and the
National Defence College. During the autumn of 2012, the reference group
held two seminars on the concept of military capability and how to assess it in
a ten-year perspective.
The core research group on this report has consisted of eleven researchers from
different fields such as political science, national economics, history, journalism
and military affairs. All the experts are experienced analysts on Russia and
military affairs and almost all speak Russian. The main authors for the chapters
are: Jakob Hedenskog and Fredrik Westerlund (Chapter 1: Introduction), Märta
Carlsson, Johan Norberg and Fredrik Westerlund (Chapter 2), Gudrun Persson
(Chapter 3), Per Enerud (Chapter 4), Susanne Oxenstierna (Chapter 5), Tomas
Malmlöf, Roger Roffey and Carolina Vendil Pallin (Chapter 6), and Carolina
Vendil Pallin (Chapter 7: Conclusions). Fredrik Westerlund contributed to
Chapter 3 on nuclear and missile defence issues and prepared the tables in
Chapter 6. Bengt-Göran Bergstrand contributed to the report with statistical
data and graphs. All authors provided material for the concluding chapter.
Per Wikström, at FOI's Division for CBRN Defence and Security in Umeå,
provided the group with maps.
A number of other people have contributed with their knowledge and expertise
for the benefit of the study. First of all we would like to thank our four
reviewers: Professor Julian Cooper, University of Birmingham, who read and
commented on both the first and the second drafts of the study; Bettina Renz,
University of Nottingham; Hanna Smith, Aleksanteri Institute at the University
of Helsinki; and Keir Giles, Conflict Studies Research Centre, UK, who all read
and commented on the second draft.

5

FOI-R--3734--SE


We are also very thankful to Sweden’s ambassador to Moscow, H.E. Veronika
Bard Bringéus, and her embassy staff, who were extremely generous with their
time and expertise during our visit in June 2013. Special thanks also go to Defence
Attaché Captain (N) Håkan C. Andersson, who organised the programme of
visits and accompanied us on some of the meetings in Moscow.
A special thank you to Director Ruslan Pukhov, Vice-Director Konstantin
Makienko and their staff at the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies
(CAST) generously shared their expertise with us and organised some of the
visits during our Moscow research trip. Special thanks go also to Per Wikström
for the maps, to Eve Johansson, who language-edited and copy-edited all the
texts for the English version, to Sanna Aronsson, who did the layout of the
report, and to Ebba Lundin, who gave the group administrative support during
the whole work process. We also pass on our grateful thanks to the reference
group collectively.
Stockholm, December 2013
Jakob Hedenskog, deputy research director, programme manager RUFS

6

FOI-R--3734--SE


Acronyms and Abbreviations1
Note
AFADC

Air Force and Air Defence Command

AIFV

armoured infantry fighting vehicle

ALCM

air-launched cruise missile

APC

armoured personnel carrier

ASD

Aerospace Defence Forces

ASM

anti-ship missile

ASW

anti-submarine warfare

Bde

Brigade

BMD

infantry combat vehicle (tracked)

Ru. boevaia mashina desanty

BMP

infantry combat vehicle (tracked)

Ru. boevaia mashina pekhoty

BTR

armoured personnel carrier (wheeled)

Ru. bronetransporter

C2

command and control

C4ISR

command, control, communications,
computers, intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance

CAST

Centre for Analysis of Strategies and
Technologies
chemical, biological, radiological and
nuclear

CBRN

1

Ru. Komandovanie voenno-vozdushnykh
sil i protivovozdushnoi oborony

Ru. Tsentr Analiza Strategii i
Tekhnologii (TsAST)

CIS

Commonwealth of Independent States

CPI

consumer price index

CSTO

Collective Security Treaty Organization

Div

Division

DOSAAF

Volunteer Society for Cooperation with
the Army, Aviation and Fleet

EU

European Union

EU-27
FOI

The 27 member states of the European
Union
Swedish Defence Research Agency

Sw. Totalförsvarets Forskningsinstitut

FSB

Federal Security Service

Ru. Federalnaia sluzhba bezopasnosti

FSO

Federal Protection Service

Ru: Federalnaia sluzhba okhrany

FTP

Federal Target Programme

GDP

gross domestic product

Ru. Dobrovolnoe Obshchestvo
Sodeistviia Armii, Aviatsii i Flotu

This list does not include, for example, names of military procurement projects and companies.

7

FOI-R--3734--SE


Note
GOZ
GPV

State Defence Order
State Armament Programme

HQ

headquarters

ICBM

intercontinental ballistic missile

IFV

infantry fighting vehicle

IISS
JSC

International Institute for Strategic
Studies
Joint Strategic Command

km

kilometre

LMV

light multi-role vehicle

MD
ME

Military District
military expenditure

Ru. Voennye Okruga

MED

Ministry of Economic Development

MIRV

multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle

Ru. Ministerstvo ekonomicheskogo
razvitiia

MLRS

multiple-launch rocket system

MoD

Ministry of Defence

Ru. Ministerstvo oborony

MoF

Ministry of Finance

Ru. Ministerstvo finansov

MRB

Motor Rifle Brigade

MRD

Motor Rifle Divisions

MTA

Military Transport Aviation

NATO

North Atlantic Treaty Organization

NCO

non-commissioned officer

NDB

nuclear depth bomb

NVO

Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie

ORBAT

Order of battle

R&D

research and development

RF

Russian Federation

Ru. Rossiiskaia Federatsiia

Rosstat

Federal Statistical Service of the Russian
Federation

Ru. Federalnaia sluzhba
gosudarstvennoi statistiki

RUR

Russian rouble

SAM

surface-to-air missile

SIPRI

Stockholm International Peace Research
Institute
submarine-launched ballistic missile

SLBM

Ru. Gosudarstvennyi oboronnyi zakaz
Ru. Gosudarstvennaia programma
vooruzheniia

8

FOI-R--3734--SE


Note
SLCM
SOCOM

submarine-launched cruise missile
Special Operations Command

SRAM

short-range attack missile

SSBN

strategic nuclear-powered ballistic missile
submarine

SSGN

nuclear-powered cruise-missile submarine

SSM

surface-to-surface missile

SSN

nuclear-powered attack submarine

SVR

Foreign Intelligence Service

TB

tank brigade

TD

tank division

UAV

unmanned aerial vehicle

USD

United States dollar

VKO

Aerospace Defence Forces

VPK

Voenno-promyshlennyi kurer

Ru. Sluzhba vneshnei razvedki

Ru. Voiska Vozdushno-kosmicheskoi
Oborony

9

FOI-R--3734--SE


10

FOI-R--3734--SE


Contents
1.
Introduction 15

Jakob Hedenskog and Fredrik Westerlund

1.1  Purpose and outline of the study
15

1.2 
Delimitations 17

1.3  On the concept of military capability
18

1.4 
Sources 19

1.5 
The work process 20
2.
The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013
23

Märta Carlsson, Johan Norberg and Fredrik Westerlund

2.1 
Force structure 24
2.1.1  Branches and arms of service 
25
2.1.2 
The nuclear forces   32

2.2  Personnel and the Logistics and Rear Service
37
2.2.1  Personnel issues in the Armed Forces  
37
2.2.2  The Logistics and Rear Service  
41

2.3 
Force disposition and mobility 42
2.3.1  Force disposition and reinforcements  
43
2.3.2 
Strategic mobility   44

2.4 
Exercises 45

2.5  Assessment of Russian military capability in 2013
48
2.5.1  Assets for limited wars common to all strategic directions   49
2.5.2  Military capability in the four strategic directions 
52
2.5.3  Strategic deterrence capability  
62

2.6 
Conclusions 64
3.
Security Policy and Military Strategic Thinking
71

Gudrun Persson

3.1 
Security policy in Russia 72

3.2  Threat assessment – the view from Moscow
74

3.3  Security policy in practice – a few aspects
76
3.3.1 
Domestic security  76
3.3.2 
Foreign security  78
3.3.3 
Military security  80

3.4  Security policy in a ten-year perspective
83
4.
Russian Defence Politics 89

Per Enerud

4.1 
The reform 90

4.2 
Exit Serdiukov, enter Shoigu 94

4.3 
The reformed reform 97

4.4 
Conclusion 99

11

FOI-R--3734--SE


5.
Defence Spending 103

Susanne Oxenstierna

5.1 
Economic development 104

5.2  The defence budget and total military expenditure
107

5.3 
Personnel costs 109

5.4  The State Armament Programme, GPV
111

5.5  Efficiency problems linked to the State Defence Order, GOZ
113

5.6 
Defence spending up to 2023 115

5.7 
Conclusions 117
6.
The Defence Industry 121

Tomas Malmlöf, Roger Roffey and Carolina Vendil Pallin

6.1 
The State Armament Programme 121

6.2  Industrial organisation, labour, capital and production technologies
123

6.3  Research and development and defence system technology
125

6.4  Defence deliveries to the Armed Forces
127
6.4.1  Strategic missiles and space systems 
128
6.4.2 
Fixed-wing aircraft  128
6.4.3 
Helicopters  130
6.4.4 
Air defence systems  132
6.4.5 
Naval systems  133
6.4.6  Combat vehicles and ground missile systems 
135

6.5  Russian arms trade and international cooperation
137

6.6 
Conclusion 138
7.






Russian Military Capability in a Ten-Year Perspective
143
Carolina Vendil Pallin
7.1  Security policy, the Military Doctrine and Russia’s view on future wars 143
7.2  Organisation, personnel, weapons and equipment
145
7.3  Readiness, command and control, logistics and mobility
152
7.4 
Conclusion 155

12

FOI-R--3734--SE


Figures
Figure 5.1 F
orecasts of the Russian population in the able-bodied age group
(15–72), 2013–2023, according to low, medium and high scenario;
thousand persons 105
Figure 5.2 E
stimated military expenditure as a share of GDP for Russia and
selected countries, 2003–2012; per cent 109
Figure 5.3 F
orecasts of the age group of 18-year-old males according to low,
medium and high population scenarios, 2013–2023; thousand persons
110
Figure 5.4 Estimates of the Russian defence budget, 2013–2023; billion RUR
117

Tables
Table 1.1 Work process of the study 21
Table 1.2 Institutions visited in Moscow, 3–7 June 2013
21
Table 2.1 P
ossible distribution of Ground Forces brigades and divisions* in the
Military Districts 26
Table 2.2 E
stimated numbers of military aircraft and helicopters in the Russian
Federation (RF) in 2012 27
Table 2.3 Selected operational Navy vessels 2012–2013
29
Table 2.4 World nuclear forces (warheads), January 2013 (January 2011 in brackets) 32
Table 2.5 R
ussian strategic nuclear forces as of March 2013
(number deployed in italics) 34
Table 2.8 Number of conscripts drafted 2011–2013
40
Table 2.9 The eastern strategic direction – possible assets and reinforcements
52
136
Table 2.10 The Central Asia strategic direction – assets and possible reinforcements 54
Table 2.11 The Southern strategic direction – possible assets and reinforcements
56
Table 2.12 The western strategic direction – possible assets and reinforcements
58
Table 5.1 Russia’s economic development, 2007–2012
105
Table 5.2 Th
e defence budget as a share of the federal budget, 2003–2012;
billion RUR, per cent 108
Table 5.3 P
lanned personnel in the Russian Armed Forces, 2012–2020;
thousand persons 111
Table 5.4 Allocation of funds in the MoD GPV-2020
112
Table 5.5 Th
e Russian federal budget 2012–2015; billion RUR and per centages
of GDP 116
Table 6.1 MoD Action Plan 2013–2020: procurement of modern weapons.
122
Table 6.2 Strategic missiles and space systems: assessment of State Defence Orders
(GOZ) and defence industry deliveries in 2011–2012 and State
Armament Programme (GPV) targets as of 2013
129
Table 6.3 F
ixed-wing aircraft: assessment of State Defence Orders (GOZ) and
defence industry deliveries in 2011–2012 and State Armament
Programme (GPV) targets as of 2013
130
Table 6.4 H
elicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles: assessment of State Defence
Orders (GOZ) and defence industry deliveries in 2011–2012 and State
Armament Programme (GPV) targets as of 2013
131
13

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Table 6.5 A
ir defence systems: assessment of State Defence Orders (GOZ) and
defence industry deliveries in 2011–2012 and State Armament
Programme (GPV) targets as of 2013
132
Table 6.6 N
aval systems: assessment of State Defence Orders (GOZ) and
defence industry deliveries in 2011–2012 and State Armament
Programme (GPV) targets as of 2013
134
Table 6.7 C
ombat vehicles and ground missile systems: assessment of State Defence
Orders (GOZ) and defence industry deliveries in 2011–2012 and State
Armament Programme (GPV) targets as of 2013 136

Maps
Map 2.1 Assessment of the eastern strategic direction
Map 2.2 Assessment of the Central Asian strategic direction
Map 2.3 Assessment of the southern strategic direction
Map 2.4 Assessment of the western strategic direction
Map 2.5 Assessment of Russian military capability in 2013

14

53
55
57
59
63

FOI-R--3734--SE
Introduction

1. Introduction
Jakob Hedenskog and Fredrik Westerlund
The Russian Zapad-2013 (West-2013) military exercise in September 2013
raised a renewed interest in the development of Russia’s military capability.
Newspaper headlines around the world speculated as to whether this was the
start of a second Cold War and there was considerable confusion as to how large
the exercise actually was. Did it involve just over 20 000 or up to 70 000 men?
Another incident that attracted considerable attention from the media was the
repeated exercises involving medium-range bombers with fighter aircraft topcover in the Baltic Sea area. Catchy headlines must, however, be interpreted
with caution, and the number of men and equipment in an exercise will in fact
only provide part of the picture. This study attempts to delve deeper into the
question of how Russian military capability has evolved since the last assessment
in 2011 and the conditions for its development in a ten-year perspective.

1.1  Purpose and outline of the study
In this report, military capability denotes the ability to generate assets for fighting
power in regular warfare. Our definition is further detailed and discussed below
in section 1.3 on the concept of military capability. The assessment of future
Russian military capability is made on the basis of the assessed regular warfare
capability in 2013, and of analyses of the societal preconditions for generating
military capability in a ten-year perspective.
The two main research questions in this study have thus been: what military
capability for regular warfare does Russia possess in 2013? and what are the societal
preconditions for generating military capability in the ten-year perspective?
Social phenomena affect military capability, as any armed force is a reflection
of its society. We propose that for Russia the most important preconditions are
security and defence policy, demographic trends and defence spending as well
as domestic defence industrial capacity. Security policy is a wide topic, which
is why we have chosen to focus on national threat assessment and the view on
future wars. These are two areas of security policy that arguably influence future
military capability. Based on the results of exploring these research questions,
we have made an effort to answer the overall research question in this study:
what military capability will Russia have for regular warfare over the coming
ten years?

Main research
questions

The outline of the study follows from the research questions, starting with
Russian military capability in 2013. In Chapter 2, Märta Carlsson, Johan
Norberg and Fredrik Westerlund discuss the equipment holdings and force
structure of the Armed Forces as well as issues of personnel, logistics and Rear
Services. The force disposition and strategic mobility – both vital aspects for
a country covering nine time zones and facing both Asia and Europe – are

The military
capability of
Russia's Armed
Forces in 2013

15

FOI-R--3734--SE
Introduction

then considered, followed by a discussion of the character of Russian military
exercises. Thereafter, the authors assess Russia’s military capability for regular
warfare as of 2013 in four different strategic directions. Finally, the implications
for military capability in a ten-year perspective are discussed.
Security policy and
military strategic
thinking

The aim of Chapter 3, by Gudrun Persson, is to analyse the current Russian
security policy thinking at the strategic level. First, the Russian official threat
assessment is examined. In particular, the current situation in the North
Caucasus and NATO’s missile defence are treated. Second, in view of the very
broad definition of the Russian Security Concept, a few aspects of Russian
security policy in practice are examined. Domestic, military, and foreign security
policies are all vital elements when estimating military capability in a long-term
perspective. The section of the chapter on domestic security analyses the policy
of patriotism. The section on foreign security is devoted to the new Foreign
Policy Concept. In the section on military security, attention is given to the
strategic policy of nuclear and non-nuclear deterrence, and the view of future
war.

Defence politics

The focus in Chapter 4, by Per Enerud, is on the consequences of the political
changes that took place during 2012–2013 for the military reform, first and
foremost the change of minister of defence and chief of the General Staff. The
chapter deals with three key areas of reform – the visions for a new organisation,
the personnel issue and the equipment of Russia’s Armed Forces – from a political
perspective, with a contextual approach to describe how the reform fits into a
general political public discourse in Russia. Those three areas are of paramount
significance for creating military capacity in a long-term perspective.

Defence spending

The purpose of Chapter 5, by Susanne Oxenstierna, is to describe and analyse the
recent development of the Russian defence budget and total military spending
and assess the expected developments over the period 2013–2023. The chapter
analyses the main factors behind the development of Russia’s defence spending,
starting with the development of the Russian economy, which is regarded as the
main determinant of the future size of spending on defence. The defence budget
and total military spending are analysed as well as the development of personnel
costs. The execution of the State Armament Programme (GPV) up to 2020
and the State Defence Order (GOZ) are also discussed since their performance
affects the efficiency of spending.

Defence industry

Chapter 6, by Tomas Malmlöf, Roger Roffey and Carolina Vendil Pallin, looks
more closely at the degree to which the Russian defence industry, i.e. the supply
side of the Russian military-industrial complex, is up to the task of enhancing
the country’s military capability. The chapter focuses on industrial organisation;
labour capital and production technologies; research, development and
defence system technology; defence deliveries to the Armed Forces; arms trade;
and industrial cooperation. It provides an assessment of the Russian defence
industry’s contribution to Russian military capability as a supplier of defence
materiel up to 2023.
16

FOI-R--3734--SE
Introduction

In the final chapter, Chapter 7, Carolina Vendil Pallin brings together the results
from the preceding chapters in an effort to assess Russian military capability in
a ten-year perspective. First, the implications of Russian security and defence
policy issues are discussed, including threat assessment, the view of future wars
and the military-strategic context. Thereafter Vendil Pallin addresses the issues
of the future organisation and personnel as well as the weapons and equipment
of the Russian Armed Forces. The implications for future readiness, strategic
mobility and logistics are also discussed, before the chapter draws conclusions
on Russian military capability over the coming ten years.

1.2  Delimitations
As this report focuses on assessing Russian military capability in a ten-year
perspective, the discussion in the chapters on security policy, defence politics,
defence spending and defence industry capacity is limited to aspects that have
a bearing on this. For instance, other aspects of security policy and the defence
industry as such have been left out or touched upon only briefly. Likewise, the
Russian economy in general is not discussed in detail here, but is the topic of
other FOI reports.2
Furthermore, the assessment of military capability is restricted to the ability to
generate assets for regular warfare. This means that several aspects of Russian
military capability have not been addressed here. For instance, Russia’s capability
to carry out peace operations and irregular warfare is not assessed. Russian cyber
warfare capabilities, although of growing importance, are also not discussed
in this report. Neither is the capability for large-scale, unlimited warfare, save
for the discussion of strategic deterrence. In contrast to previous reports on
Russian military capability in a ten-year perspective, we have excluded Russia’s
defensive capability as regards chemical and biological weapons. The available
new information on these matters is not deemed adequate to make a significant
contribution to the assessment of Russian military capability in this study.
The focus on the ability to generate assets means that our assessment of Russian
military capability does not include actual combat capability, i.e. how well Russian
forces could perform a particular mission in a particular environment against
a particular adversary. Moreover, the assessment only includes forces belonging
to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Forces belonging to other ministries are
not taken into account. Likewise, the military capabilities of Russia’s allies are
not assessed, but are considered as factors making up the perceived militarystrategic context. Furthermore, no comparison with other countries’ military
capability is made in this report.
Last but not least, specific Russian intentions for the actual use of military power
are not assessed. We analyse the general political will in Russia regarding when
and how to use military force, as this is an important precondition for building
future military capability, but do not consider possible actual plans for war
See, for instance, Cooper, Julian (2013) Russian Military Expenditure: Data, Analysis and Issues, FOI-R-3688--SE, September 2013.

2

17

FOI-R--3734--SE
Introduction

against any specific country. Furthermore, the probability of an armed conflict
involving Russia is not assessed in this study.
For most of the chapters, the collection of material ended in early September. In
Chapter 2, an exception has been made for the Zapad-2013 exercise, which was
carried out in late September.

1.3  On the concept of military capability
As stated above, military capability in this report denotes the ability to generate
assets for fighting power in regular warfare. We do not aspire to assess the actual
fighting power of the Russian Armed Forces, as this entails considering external
factors such as the specific environment, the opponent(s), allies and other
contextual elements (UK Ministry of Defence 2011: 4–1). We have chosen to
focus on regular warfare as this has been and still is the main military task in
interstate conflicts. Our aim is to make a qualitative assessment of the Russian
military force resources available in time and space for regular warfare operations.
Capability for
high- to mediumintensive regular
warfare

In the study, we have focused on two common aspects of regular warfare. The
first aspect is the capability to conduct high- to medium-intensive regular warfare
in limited wars with conventional as well as nuclear weapons. Limited wars here
denote local wars – such as that with Georgia in 2008 – and regional wars, e.g.
with China or NATO (on these concepts in the Russian Military Doctrine, see
Chapter 3, section 3.3.3). We study this aspect in two particular respects: the
ability to seize or hold territory, complemented with the capacity for stand-off
warfare. By stand-off warfare we mean the capability to fight enemy targets at
distances of over 300 kilometres, i.e. beyond the operational depth of a group of
armies’ operation to seize or hold territory.3
We assess the capability for high- to medium-intensive regular warfare in limited
wars separately in four main military-strategic directions: the Eastern strategic
direction covering Asia-Pacific region; the Central Asian strategic direction
covering Central Asia; the Southern strategic direction covering the Caucasus
and the wider Middle East; and the Western strategic direction covering Europe.
These roughly correspond to the four Russian Military Districts (voennye okruga).
Our definition of a strategic direction is related to Russian concepts of strategic
directions, emphasising a territory – with air, sea and land dimensions and
strategically important objects – that can be used to conduct military operations
with groups of forces (Ministry of Defence, Vol. VII 2003: 672). A group of
forces (gruppirovka voisk (sil)) may include reinforcements from other directions
(Ministry of Defence, Vol. II 1994: 524), and for this reason we have chosen
to base the assessment on the strategic directions rather than on the Military
Districts (MDs).

3

e Russian Military Encyclopaedia discusses the notion of operations with a group of armies. Despite
Th
referring not only to Russian but also to Western experience, we have seen this as appropriate since Russia’s
Military Districts have Combined Arms Armies as their main Ground Forces units. A recurring notion in the
encyclopaedia is an operational depth of some 300 km (Ministry of Defence, Vol. VI 2002: 77–79).

18

FOI-R--3734--SE
Introduction

The basis of capability in a strategic direction is the forces belonging to the MD
in question. To this may be added the Armed Forces’ strategic resources and
forces from other MDs. In order to assess capability in a particular strategic
direction, the available forces of the entire Armed Forces need to be described.
Furthermore, the military-strategic context in all strategic directions also needs
to be considered, as this affects the volume of forces that can be reassigned
to other Military Districts. Finally, the strategic transport capacity needs to
be described as it decides how fast additional resources can be deployed to a
particular strategic direction.
The second aspect of regular warfare is the capability for strategic deterrence.
This is the military prevention of large-scale wars, but also regional and possibly
even local wars (Sheehan 2010: 177–179). Strategic deterrence operates on
the global and inter-regional level, and capability is therefore assessed for the
Russian Federation as a whole. Russian strategic deterrence rests on its capability
with strategic nuclear weapons as well as with sub-strategic nuclear weapons
and conventional weapons. The latter’s contribution to strategic deterrence is
assessed on the basis of the available conventional and sub-strategic nuclear
force assets for high- to medium-intensive limited warfare in the four strategic
directions and for stand-off warfare in one strategic direction.

1.4  Sources
The assessment is based on open sources. Our ambition is always to use Russian
primary source material, such as official Russian documents, government and
agency information and statements of Russian officials. Russian scholarly
publications, periodicals and news media reports have also been employed.
Discussions with Russian scholars and representatives of Russian institutions
have been an important part of the research, in order to increase the relevance
and reliability of our assessments. Our methodology has therefore implied a
significant share of original research, not least since the study concerns the present
and the future, and scholarly works are often published with considerable delay.
In original research, the reliability of the sources is a vital issue. Also in this
regard, we have sought to reduce uncertainty by comparing different sources.
No single source on equipment holdings and the organisation of Russia’s Armed
Forces is both verifiable and detailed enough to be useful in assessing military
capability. In the study we have combined the strengths of different sources. An
overall shortcoming is that not all sources specify where they in turn got their
information from. Where the organisation of the Armed Forces is concerned,
the sources converge somewhat after 2011 when the new organisation had
settled down. The reorganisation of the Armed Forces in 2009–2010 led to
different sources listing different numbers of units depending on when during
the reorganisation process the figures were collected. Pre-2010 figures are
also distorted by units being reshuffled as six Military Districts were merged
into four in mid-2010. From 2011 the figures probably better reflect the new
organisation. 
19

Capability for
strategic deterrence

FOI-R--3734--SE
Introduction

Official Russian information (primarily the MoD website) gives too general
a view of the organisation, personnel and equipment holdings of the services
and branches. Despite giving more detail on both organisation and equipment,
the annual The Military Balance published by the International Institute for
Strategic Studies (IISS) has shortcomings for the period covered. It lists the
number of units in the different MDs, but not locations. Figures for equipment
holdings, e.g. for the Ground Forces, which are identical from one year to the
next indicate that holdings either have not changed at all – which is unlikely
since some small deliveries have actually taken place – or have simply been rolled
forward from one year to the next. One of its strengths is that The Military
Balance separates equipment that is actually used from equipment in store for
the Ground Forces and assesses the share of combat-capable aircraft. In May
2013, Russian experts interviewed in Moscow noted that The Military Balance
figures were exaggerated. Military Periscope (a commercial database updated on
1 October 2011) outlines organisation and locations, but is almost identical to
The Military Balance for equipment holdings. More recent is the Russian Valdai
International Discussion Forum (2012: 22) which lists brigades in the Ground
Forces in each MD, but not their locations. Air Force and Navy units are not
listed at all. The unofficial website warfare.be gives a good deal of detail, but
cannot be verified with official figures. The assessments of number of units and
numerical strengths in an MD are based in this report on a combination of The
Military Balance, Military Periscope and warfare.be. The information on the
MDs’ organisation is based on the two latter.

1.5  The work process
The work behind this report, from planning to the final report, involved a
process that took more than a year (see Table 1.1). Planning started at a project
workshop in September 2012, where the outline for the study and a draft
schedule for the work with the reference group were presented. During another
project workshop, in February 2013, the authors presented abstracts for each
chapter. The first drafts of all chapters were internally reviewed at seminars in
April 2013. During those seminars, as part of an extended study visit at FOI,
Professor Julian Cooper participated in the reviewing process and read all the
chapters.
In June 2013, six researchers from the group made a research trip to Moscow
to meet with Russian experts according to programme arranged by the Defence
Department at the Swedish Embassy in Moscow and the Centre for Analysis of
Strategies and Technologies (CAST) (see Table 1.2).
In September 2013, the final drafts of the chapters were reviewed during a twoday review seminar series with external experts in order to secure the quality of
the product. Publishing the report, for the first time, simultaneously in English
and Swedish, in identical versions, made it possible to engage reviewers other
than Swedish-speakers. Chapter 2, on military capability in 2013, was reviewed
by Keir Giles, Conflict Studies Research Centre, U.K. Chapter 3, on security
policy and military strategic thinking, was reviewed by Hanna Smith, Aleksanteri
20

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Introduction

Table 1.1 Work process of the study
Date

Activity

14 September 2012

Project workshop. First draft of outline of the study. First draft of work of the reference
group on military capability

16 October 2012

1st seminar of the Reference group on military capability

18 December 2012

2nd seminar of the Reference group on military capability

5 February 2013

Project workshop. Presentations of abstracts of all chapters

8–18 April 2013

Internal review of first drafts of the chapters

3–7 June 2013

Research trip to Moscow. Meetings with Russian experts

4–5 September 2013

Review seminars of all chapters with external reviewers

20 September 2013

Internal review of introduction and conclusion chapters

23 September 2013

Final chapters to editors

October 2013

Editing, translation to Swedish of the report

November 2013

Layout, approval of the report

December 2013

Publication. Study presented to the Ministry of Defence

Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland. Chapter 4, on defence politics, was
reviewed by Bettina Renz, University of Nottingham, UK. Professor Julian
Cooper acted as examiner for Chapter 5 on defence spending and Chapter 6 on
the defence industry.
After the seminar series, the authors revised their chapters again and the
Introduction and Conclusions were reviewed separately. All texts were edited
by Jakob Hedenskog and Carolina Vendil Pallin. The English texts were also
language-edited and copy-edited by Eve Johansson, UK, and translated into
Swedish by the authors, before final layout and approval of the report.
Table 1.2 Institutions visited in Moscow, 3–7 June 2013
Institution

Topics

Embassy of Sweden

Domestic affairs, defence spending, military reform

Federal Assembly, the Council of Federation

Defence and security issues

Russian Academy of Science/Social-economic
Institute

Russian economy, social issues

Natsionalnaia oborona

Military reform

Moscow Carnegie Center

Foreign and domestic policy

Gaidar Institute

Defence spending, military reform

Moscow School of Higher Economics

Domestic affairs

Center for Strategic Trends Studies

Domestic affairs, military reform

Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie

Military reform

Yezhednevnii Zhurnal

Foreign policy

IA Center

Military reform

Institute for Political and Military Analysis

Foreign policy

Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies
(CAST)

Defence industry, defence economics, military reform

Vedomosti

Military reform

Russia in Global Affairs

Foreign policy

21

FOI-R--3734--SE
Introduction

FOI’s Russia Studies Programme has long experience and the advantages of
continuity in assessing Russia’s military capability in a ten-year perspective. All
the researchers but two in the group have participated in at least one earlier
assessment and four have participated in four previous assessments or more.
One change from previous reports in the series on Russian military capability is
that this one starts from a more solid ground in describing the current capability
of the Armed Forces today – in this report for the year 2013 – which is then
used as a basis for the assessment of military capability in ten-year perspective.

References
Ministry of Defence (1994–2004) Voennaia Entsiklopediia v vosmi tomakh,
Volumes I–VIII, Moscow, Voennoe Izdatelstvo.
Sheehan, Michael (2010) ‘Military security’, in Collins, Alan (ed.)
Contemporary Security Studies (2nd edn), Oxford, Oxford University
Press, pp. 169–182.
UK Ministry of Defence (2011) British Defence Doctrine, Joint Doctrine
Publication 0-01 (4th edn), November.
Valdai International Discussion Forum (2012) ’Voennaia reforma: na puti k
novomu obliku rossiiskoi armii’, Moscow, July, http://vid-1.rian.ru/ig/
valdai/Military_reform_rus.pdf (accessed 10 May 2013).

22

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

2. The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed
Forces in 2013
Märta Carlsson, Johan Norberg and Fredrik Westerlund
Since 2008 the Russian Armed Forces have been going through a large-scale
reform programme with the purpose of improving their military capability,
especially in terms of readiness and availability. The first years of sweeping
changes, such as reorganisation and personnel cuts, have been followed by a
period of consolidation and, as of autumn 2013, adjustments are being made,
such as testing new structures and adapting the Air Force’s new organisation.
The political leadership’s ambitions regarding the Armed Forces, as seen
through a will to retain the increased defence spending that has accompanied
the reorganisation process, remain high and have started to materialise in terms
of gradually increasing military capability.
The aim of this chapter is to assess Russia’s military capability as of 2013. This
will be done by describing and analysing the structures and nominal strengths
of the Armed Forces and selected factors that influence military capability. This
assessment will in turn constitute a basis for assessing Russia’s military capability
in a ten-year perspective in Chapter 7.
What is Russia’s military capability today? This overall research question
is divided into two sub-questions emanating from this report’s definition of
military capability (see Chapter 1, section 1.3). First, what is the capability of
the Armed Forces to wage high- to medium-intensive regular warfare in limited
wars, i.e. local and regional wars? Second, what is the Armed Forces’ capability
for strategic deterrence? As regards limited wars, there are two main missions:
first, to seize and hold territory and, second, the ability for stand-off operations,
with both sub-strategic nuclear and conventional warheads. The description
and analysis of Armed Forces focuses on factors relevant for the definition of
military capability used in this study and does not aspire to cover every aspect
of the Armed Forces.

Research question

To create a basis for assessing Russia’s military capability in 2013, section
2.1, Force structure, will describe and analyse the Armed Forces in 2013 in
terms of the organisation and numerical strengths of the branches and arms
of service of the Armed Forces (only the Ministry of Defence, not from other
ministries). Russia’s nuclear forces cut across all branches of service and are
described separately. The assessment base is widened in section 2.2 with outlines
and discussions of personnel issues as well as the Logistics and Rear Services.
Section 2.3 outlines the principal aspects of force disposition and mobility of
relevance to Russia. Section 2.4 discusses military exercises. The frequency, scale
and scope of military exercises are crucial in forming military capability. A force
is likely to be able to perform in war what it has performed on exercise. The
more a force exercises, the better it gets. Based on this, section 2.5 outlines the

Outline of the
chapter

23

FOI-R--3734--SE
The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

relevant assets in each Military District (MD) and discusses Russia’s current
military capability in four strategic directions (east, Central Asia, south and
west). Finally, section 2.6 draws conclusions about Russia’s military capability in
2013 and implications for the coming ten-year period.
First, however, some remarks on terminology and method are needed. The
notion ‘modern equipment’ is frequently used in Russian sources. It seems to be
a policy-based notion that lacks a clear and widely used definition. Some see it
as meaning equipment that is newly (i.e. within the last ten years) manufactured
or modernised, even if it is a Soviet-era platform or system. Major General
Yevgeni Ilyin, deputy head of the Ministry of Defence’s Main Directorate for
International Military Cooperation, stated in Stockholm on 14 March 2013
that ‘modern’ referred to certain generations of systems. In his view, for example,
T-80 tanks (and their successors) were modern irrespective of when they were
produced. The adjective ‘modern’ is used here with the above comments in mind.
To get a quantitative indication of exercise activities, FOI set up a computer
program to find and process newspaper articles about exercises for naval ships
from the Northern and Baltic Fleets, for selected Airborne Forces units and for
Ground Forces units in the Western Military District. The period covered was
2010–2012, i.e. from when the reorganisation had had time to settle down. The
source used was the website of Krasnaia zvezda, the official newspaper of Russia’s
Armed Forces.

2.1  Force structure
At the top of Russia’s military pyramid, the president is the supreme commander
in chief and is supported by the minister of defence and the Ministry of Defence
(MoD). The General Staff in Russia is a part of the Ministry of Defence. The
chief of the General Staff leads and coordinates operations mainly through its
Main Directorate for Operations. Building and maintaining forces, generating
military capability, is the responsibility of the commands of each respective
branch or arm of service (Carlsson 2012: 32–35).
Four regional
Joint Strategic
Commands

Operations are commanded by four regional Joint Strategic Commands (JSCs).
A JSC is located in each of Russia’s four MDs. The four MDs/JSCs seem to
combine both the task of commanding operations and managing mobilisation
of reserves, which still seems to be planned for, although the extent to which it
will be used is unclear. The structure of the MDs/JSCs is likely to correspond to
Russian assessments about future threats and potential theatres of war. The JSCs
are intended to command forces from all branches and arms of service (with
exceptions such as strategic nuclear weapons) in each MD, i.e. commanding
joint inter-service operations. This requires the formation of permanent joint
command and control functions and the establishment of standing forces from
different branches and arms of service on strategic and operational levels. Despite
the extensive publicity they were given at the time they were formed, little has
since emerged about the JSC’s organizational structure and how they would
support its commander in charge of operations (Barabanov et al. 2012: 10–11;
24

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

McDermott 2013a: 27–30). Forces from all branches and arms of service and
non-MoD forces as well participate in Russia’s annual strategic exercises, which
at least creates good opportunities to develop, test and evaluate command of
joint operations.
2.1.1  Branches and arms of service
Russia’s Armed Forces (Vooruzhennye Sily) have three branches of service (vidy
vooruzhennykh sil): the Ground Forces, the Navy and the Air Force. Each of
these in turn consists of arms of service (rod voisk) such as infantry and artillery
etc. in the Ground Forces. There are also independent arms of service directly
under the General Staff: the Strategic Missile Forces, the Aerospace Defence
Forces and the Airborne Forces.
The Ground Forces (Sukhoputnye voiska) are the biggest service branch and have
eight arms of service: infantry (motor rifle), tanks, artillery and rocket troops,
engineers, signals, reconnaissance, air defence and CBRN (chemical, biological,
radiological, nuclear) protection (Ministry of Defence 2013e). In mid-2013,
the permanent readiness, i.e. standing, organisation included, nominally,
285  000 service personnel, including conscripts (IISS 2013: 226). As Table
2.1 shows, it consisted of seventy-nine standing brigades out of which thirtyeight were manoeuvre brigades – motor rifle and tank brigades able to seize and
hold territory – and the rest support brigades. There was also equipment for
up to fourteen manoeuvre brigades and support units in so-called storage and
repair bases. The exact number is unclear (McDermott 2013a: 66–67). A higher
assessment, 104 brigades (Forss et al. 2013: 70), included data from before
the 2009 reorganisation, i.e. it included some units that were later disbanded.
Russia has four military bases abroad, all the equivalent of reinforced brigades.
The Southern MD commands three (4th North Ossetia, 7th Abkhazia and
102nd Armenia) and the Central MD one (201st Tajikistan).
Hardware for manoeuvre units still dates predominantly from Soviet times.
According to The Military Balance, Russia in 2012 had 2 800 tanks, 18  260
infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs, including armoured personnel carriers
[APCs] and reconnaissance vehicles) and 5  436 artillery pieces in active use.
Some 18 000 tanks, 15 500 IFVs and 21 695 artillery pieces were in storage
(IISS 2013: 226–227). Russian analysts and journalists have noted that the
Military Balance figures were too high (interviews, Moscow 2013). Figures for
the Ground Forces’ hardware in 2012 seem to have been rolled over from the
previous years (IISS 2011: 184; IISS 2013: 226–227).
Much equipment is old, but it can still be used to fight with. Even half of
today’s nominal equipment holdings would be enough for an organisation of
some fifty-five manoeuvre brigades (forty standing; fifteen in storage) with some
estimated 6 650 IFVs and 2 550 tanks (Vendil Pallin 2012: 325), i.e. roughly the
same as today’s military organisation. The difference (12 000+ IFVs, 15 000+
tanks, 16 000+ artillery pieces) could be used for a mobilisation organisation.
The principles according to which mobilised reserves would be organised and
25

The Ground
Forces

FOI-R--3734--SE
The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

Table 2.1 Possible distribution of Ground Forces brigades and divisions* in the Military Districts
Military District

Eastern

Combined-arms armies

Central

South

West

4

2

2

2

Motor rifle brigades (MRBs)

11

7

9

6**

Motor rifle divisions (MRDs)

1

Tank brigades (TBs)

1

Brigades

1
1

1

Tank divisions (TDs)

1

Artillery brigades

3

2

1

3

Rocket artillery brigades

1

1

1

1

Surface-to-surface missile brigades

2

2

1

2

Air defence brigades ***

3

3

1

3

Airborne brigades

2

Special Forces brigades

1

2

2

2

25

18

16

20

Total number of standing brigades in each MD

1

Total number of standing brigades in the RF

79

MRB equipment store

8

3

2

TB equipment store

1

Total number of manoeuvre brigade stores in each MD

8

3

0

3

Total number of manoeuvre brigade stores in the RF

14

Grand total of brigades (equipped, not necessarily manned)

93

* Until further official information emerges, divisions are counted as brigade equivalents.
** Including one MRB in Kaliningrad under Baltic Fleet command.
*** Denotes Ground Forces’ air defence, to be distinguished from theatre missile defence.

equipped were still under development in 2013 (interviews, Moscow, 2013),
indicating that a fully functioning reserve organisation remains to be formed.
In May 2013, the Russian MoD announced that two brigades, the 5th Motor
Rifle and 4th Tank Brigades, in the Western MD would regain division status
(Ministry of Defence 2013b), seemingly going against the previous transition
from divisions to brigades that aimed to trade mobilised quantity for a leaner
force with higher quality and readiness. A military weekly quoted MoD sources
as saying that a new division would have at most 6 000 men and three regiments
(two motor rifle and one tank), but would not have its own air defence and
artillery assets, which were to be provided by the regiments’ own support units
(Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie 2013). This seems like the merging of the
manoeuvre and support units of two brigades into a three-regiment division. So
far, little suggests that divisions are to replace brigades as the basic unit in the
Ground Forces.
The Air Force
including Air
Defence Forces

The nominally 150  000-men-strong (IISS 2013: 230) Air Force (Voennovozdushnye sily) consists of the Air Force Main Command, two functional
commands (Long-Range Aviation and Transport Aviation Commands) and four
26

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

territorial Air Force and Air Defence Commands (AFADCs – Komandovaniia
voenno-vozdushnykh sil i protivovozdushnoi oborony), one in each MD (IISS
2013: 231–234).
The basic unit is a major air base in each MD with Air Groups (aviagruppy), i.e.
airfields with unified command over both flying squadrons and ground support
units spread across the MD. The AFADCs command air operations and the Air
Force Main Command manages training and acquisition. Results of exercises in
2013 prompted Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to note that the Air Force was
concentrated in too few locations, which impeded operations, indicating that
further reorganisation was possible (Tikhonov 2013b).
The Air Defence Forces consisted of forty-five surface-to-air missile (SAM)
regiments and eighteen radar regiments organised into some thirteen Theatre
Air Defence brigades4. In September 2013, sources differ on the structure and
locations of these brigades, indicating continuous organisational changes. The
Army Aviation is subordinated to the AFADCs. In 2011, eight Army Aviation
bases with some sixty helicopters in each were created and plans were announced
to increase the number to between fourteen and sixteen (Barabanov and Frolov
2012a).
Open sources diverge on the number of military aircraft. There are small but
regular deliveries of new and modernised aircraft. The predominantly Sovietera aircraft fleet is reaching the end of its service life. Some 1 460 aircraft were
combat-capable in 2012, down from some 1 600 in 2010 (IISS 2013: 230; IISS
2011: 187). The ambition is clearly to replace ageing aircraft, and many orders
have been placed (see Chapter 6 on the defence industry, Table 6.3).
Table 2.2 Estimated numbers of military aircraft and helicopters in the Russian Federation (RF) in 2012
Aircraft type
Fighter

Western

Southern

Eastern

Central

All MDs

Sum RF*

200

100

110

75

485

660

Fighter ground attack

80

80

90

30

280

320

Attack

10

110

70

10

200

210

Transport

25

10

25

25

85

280**

Attack helicopters

70

60

60

40

230

400***

Transport helicopters

80

90

70

40

280

500***

Source: Based on an average of The Military Balance 2013 and warfare.be.
* Both warfare.be and The Military Balance give total numbers that are higher than they would be if aircraft listed for the
MDs are added together.
** Likely also to include aircraft of the Military Transport Aviation.
*** In the case of transport helicopters, a number for the Russian Federation as a whole that is greater than the total for all
MDs could be explained by helicopters being used by other forces, but in the case of attack helicopters the difference is
inexplicable.

These are sometimes called VKO brigades, which is misleading since the VKO (Vozdushno-kosmicheskaia
oborona, Aerospace Defence Forces) is now an independent arm of service outside the Air Force.

4

27

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

Aircraft are mobile and the figures on their disposition across Russia given in
Table 2.2 is an approximation. They are also the assets that theoretically can
redeploy most quickly between strategic directions. Where military capability
is concerned, the limitation will then be the receiving units’ capability to host
aircraft and sustain them in operations. There are aircraft for both air defence and
support of ground operations in all MDs. Russia has some 100 heavy transport
aircraft (twelve An-124s; six An-22s; eighty Il-76s), which are important for
airborne operations (IISS 2013: 230; Barabanov and Frolov 2012b). Abroad,
Russia’s limited air assets in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan give it initial
air capability in these regions. Russia is also likely to be able to deploy aircraft
to Belarus.
As for the medium-range bomber fleet, there are some 105 Tu-22M3s in the Air
Force according to The Military Balance (IISS 2013: 230). Other sources put the
total number at 104 aircraft (Sutyagin 2012: Appendix 1), of which seventy-one
are deployed in the Western MD and thirty-three in the Central MD, and at
the considerably higher 150 Tu-22M3s (SIPRI 2013: 294). It should be noted
that some of the aircraft are of the Tu-22MR reconnaissance version. The other
aircraft of the Long-Range Aviation are discussed in section 2.1.2 on the nuclear
forces.
The Navy

The task of the Navy (Voenno-Morskoi Flot) is to employ conventional and
strategic resources to prevent the use of military force against Russia, to defend
the sovereignty of the country, to guarantee the security of Russian economic
activities on the world oceans and to participate in peacekeeping operations.
Most probably the Navy has great difficulties in fulfilling these tasks because it
does not have enough of certain vessels. Another reason is low levels of funding
in the past, which have affected maintenance, refurbishment and acquisition
(Kramnik 2011; Carlsson and Norberg 2012: 116).
The Navy, with nominally 130 000 servicemen, consists of four fleets and one
flotilla: the Baltic Fleet with its headquarters in Baltiisk outside Kaliningrad, the
Northern Fleet with headquarters in Severomorsk close to Murmansk, the Black
Sea Fleet with headquarters in Sevastopol, the Pacific Fleet with headquarters
in Vladivostok and the Caspian Sea Flotilla with headquarters in Astrakhan.
In addition, there is the Naval Aviation, the Naval Infantry and the Coastal
Defence Troops (IISS 2013: 227–229).
The priorities of the Navy are the Northern and Pacific Fleets, with their strategic
submarines. The Northern Fleet is probably primarily occupied with upholding
and protecting the naval component of the nuclear triad since a major ground
invasion from the north appears unlikely. Another important task is to uphold
Russian interests in the Arctic. The Pacific Fleet also focuses on the nuclear
component, as well as on protecting and defending the naval installations in and
around Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk. The Black Sea Fleet, the Baltic Fleet and
the Caspian Flotilla do not possess strategic submarines and their main task is
defending and protecting the mainland.
28

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Table 2.3 Selected operational Navy vessels 2012–2013
Type of vessel

Pacific
Fleet

Black Sea
Fleet

Strategic submarines
(SSBNs)
Delta III
Delta IV
Borei

-

Sierra I
Sierra II
Akula
Victor III

Aircraft carriers

Total

-

-

3 (6)
-

-

2–3 (6)
-

-

4–5 (9)

-

10–13 (20)

2 (2)
2 (2)
4 (6)
2 (4)
c. 19 (24)

? (c. 9)

? (1)

-

-

? (7)
-

Kuznetov

? (1)
-

0 (1)

Cruisers and destroyers

n/a

-

0 (1)
-

Slava (C)
Kirov (C)
Udaloi (D)
Sovremennyi (D)

1 (1)
4 (4)
1 (4)

Frigates

? (9)

n/a

n/a

n/a

2 (4)

? (26)

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

? (4)

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Corvettes
Large landing ships

? (c. 13)

1–2 (3)

Diesel-electric
submarines (SSK)
Kilo

Baltic
Fleet

4 (6)
0 (1)

-

Nuclear-powered attack
submarines (SSNs)

Northern
Fleet

-

2 (4)
-

Nuclear-powered cruisemissile submarines
(SSGNs)
Oscar I and II
Oscar II

Caspian
Sea Flotilla

17 (23)

1 (1)
1 (1)
2 (4)
2 (2)

Note: The table shows the number of operational vessels and the total number of vessels in brackets. It does not cover the
entire Navy, since information is scarce. The table is compiled from different sources, which means that the total number of
vessels does not necessarily add up. Many submarines are not in service due to refurbishment (six) or are transferred to
the reserve (one), while some of the first-rank vessels are being overhauled (two) or transferred to the reserve (four). ‘n/a’
means information not available. ‘?’ means that the number of vessels is correct but the number in operation is unknown.
Sources: Boltenkov 2013: 25; Kristensen and Norris 2012: 72; Makienko 2012; and Samsonov 2012. The FOI computerbased newspaper article search also mapped operational vessels belonging to the Northern and Baltic fleets during 2012
and the first six months of 2013.

29

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The Northern and Pacific Fleets have, besides strategic submarines, other types
of submarines such as nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines, nuclearpowered attack submarines and diesel-electric submarines. The Baltic and the
Black Sea Fleets only have diesel-electric submarines; the condition of the vessels
belonging to the latter fleet can be highly disputed. The Caspian Flotilla has no
submarines (Saunders 2010).
The main surface vessels of the Northern and Pacific Fleets are destroyers and
frigates. These are larger ships intended for independent missions in blue waters.
The Baltic and Black Sea Fleets depend on frigates and corvettes, the former
more on corvettes. They are mainly destined for operations in the littoral sea
zone. Finally, the Caspian Flotilla fleet consist of mine warfare and amphibious
ships, restricted to inland sea operations (ibid.).
Reliable information about the number of ships in operation is not available.
FOI has therefore made a compilation below of some of the figures available in
the Russian media.
The Airborne
Forces

The Airborne Forces (Vozdushno-desantnye voiska, VDV) are designed for
airborne landings and combat operations in enemy rear areas. This arm of
service is primarily a tool for the supreme commander (Ministry of Defence
2013d) and is only subordinated to the MDs/JSCs in certain respects (Litovkin
2012a). Its units are the core of the Collective Security Treaty Organization
(CSTO) Collective Operational Reaction Forces and Russia’s peacekeeping
forces (Interfaks-AVN 2013).
The Airborne Forces retain a division-based structure. In 2013, they had four
divisions – two airborne (98th Ivanovo; 106th Tula) and two air assault (76th
Pskov; 7th (Mountain) Novorossiisk) – and one independent air assault Brigade
(31st Ulyanovsk). Each division/brigade has one battalion-size tactical group in
high readiness for immediate responses in emergencies such as hostage evacuation
(Voenno-promyshlennyi kurer 2013). The Airborne Forces also include the 45th
Special Forces Regiment in Kubinka near Moscow, likely to be a core unit of
Russia’s newly formed Special Operations Command (SOCOM), which will
also include air transport and helicopter units (Trenin 2013), although details
remain unclear.
Some 10 per cent of the Airborne Forces’ equipment is modern (Litovkin 2012a).
The concept of armoured airborne units seems still to be in place. Several themes
recur in articles about the Airborne Forces’ development. Creating mobile
tactical groups would require, for example, intrinsic (i.e. their own, not coming
from reinforcements) combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and transport
and attack helicopters (Voenno-promyshlennyi kurer 2013). The capacity of the
Military Transport Aviation (MTA) is ‘enough for training’, but – apart from
Airborne Forces Commander Colonel-General Vladimir Shamanov admitting
that today the MTA’s capabilities are ‘limited’ – it is unclear how much could
be available for operations. Exercises indicate that the largest units that can be
airdropped are battalion-size (Interfaks-AVN 2012; 2013).
30

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The role of the Aerospace Defence Forces (Voiska Vozdushno-kosmicheskoi
Oborony) is to detect and repel missile attacks, to warn the political and military
leadership of an incoming attack, to protect objects of strategic importance
from attacks from the air and space, and to launch and control commercial and
military satellites. The Aerospace Defence Forces were created on 1 December
2011 by joining the Air Force’s SAM brigades in the Moscow region with the
Space Forces (Carlsson and Norberg: 115). The major part of the air defence,
however, remained under the command of the AFADCs (Litovkin 2012b). The
aim of the merger was to create a system which can repel an attack not only
by strategic nuclear weapons but also by cruise missiles and ballistic missiles
with conventional warheads. According to plans, an Aerospace Defence Forces’
command will be established by 2016 (Carlsson and Norberg 2012: 115–116).
The new arm of service is at present not fully functioning and has encountered
difficulties in the on-going consolidation and development process.
The strategic early-warning system for detecting incoming ballistic missiles
consists of satellites and ground-based radar and observation sites. Since
March 2012, the four satellites of the Oko system have provided Russia with
practically permanent coverage of the continental USA, but they cannot detect
launches from other areas. The ground-based early-warning radar chain is being
modernised and relocated to Russia. In January 2013 it consisted of one new
fully operational Voronezh-type radar in Leekhtusi (east of St Petersburg) and
five older radar stations, two of which were outside Russia (Podvig 2013).
The aged A-135 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) defence system is
operated by a missile defence division. It consists of sixty-eight short-range
Gazelle interceptors with nuclear warheads, a battle-management radar and
a command centre. The thirty-two long-range Gorgon interceptors had been
removed from service, but the command centre and the radar were undergoing
software upgrades in 2013 (ibid.). In addition, the Aerospace Defence Forces
have the S-400 air defence missile system. During the period 2007–2012, eleven
S-400 battalions were delivered to the Armed Forces (Westerlund 2012: 83;
Chapter 6, Table 6.5). Two of these are operated by the Baltic Fleet and another
two are stationed in the Eastern MD, according to media sources (RIA Novosti
2012). In mid-2012 two regiments, in total four battalions, were reportedly
operational within the Aerospace Defence Forces, in the Moscow area (ibid.;
Konovalov 2012). The remaining three delivered battalions and deliveries in
early 2013 may have made it possible for another one to two regiments to be
formed.
According to the 2020 State Armament Programme, in total fifty-two S-400
battalions are planned to be produced, a demanding task for the defence
industry. Deliveries of the next-generation missile defence system, the S-500,
are planned to begin in 2017 at the very earliest (Westerlund 2012: 83). It
will enable the Aerospace Defence Forces to destroy medium-range ballistic
missiles and salvos of hypersonic cruise missiles. According to information in
the Russian media, the Aerospace Defence Forces do not have this capability at
present (Konovalov 2012).
31

The Aerospace
Defence Forces

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

The Strategic Missile Forces (Raketnye voiska strategicheskogo naznacheniia) are
an arm of service of the Armed Forces and the main component of the strategic
nuclear forces. Their mission is nuclear deterrence of aggression and destruction
of strategic enemy targets. In 2013, the Strategic Missile Forces comprised a
force command, three missile armies with a total of twelve divisions, two training
centres and a school for technicians (Ministry of Defence 2013a).

The Strategic
Missile Forces

The Strategic Missile Forces are equipped with strategic nuclear missiles.
Both road-mobile and silo-based ICBMs form the arsenal. The composition
of warheads and delivery vehicles is described in Table 2.5 below. Command
and control regarding the Strategic Missile Forces is discussed in the following
section together with the other nuclear forces.
2.1.2  The nuclear forces
Russia’s strategic and sub-strategic (tactical)5 nuclear forces provide strategic
deterrence and complement conventional forces in regular warfare. Despite
previous reductions, Russia and the USA still have by far the largest nuclear
weapon arsenals (see Table 2.4).
Table 2.4 World nuclear forces (warheads), January 2013 (January 2011 in brackets)
Country
Russian Federation

Deployed1 warheads

Other warheads2

Total inventory

~1 800 (~2 427)

6 7003 (~8 570)

~8 500 (~11 000)

2 1504 (2 150)

5 550 (6350)

~7 7005 (~8 500)

290 (290)

10 (10)

~300 (~300)

-

250 (200)

~250 (~240)

160 (160)

65 (65)

225 (225)

Pakistan

-

100–120 (90–110)

100–120 (90–110)

India

-

90–110 (80–100)

90–110 (80–100)

Israel

-

~80 (~80)

~80 (~80)

North Korea

?

?

6–8 (?)

United States
France
China
United Kingdom

‘Deployed’ means warheads placed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces.
These are warheads in reserve, awaiting dismantlement or that require preparation before becoming
fully operationally available.
3
This includes circa 700 warheads for nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines in overhaul and
bombers, 2 000 sub-strategic warheads as well as some 4 000 retired warheads awaiting
dismantlement.
4
In addition to strategic warheads, this figure includes nearly 200 sub-strategic nuclear weapons
deployed in Europe.
5
This figure includes the US Department of Defense nuclear stockpile of circa 4 650 warheads and
another circa 3 000 retired warheads that are awaiting dismantlement.
Source: SIPRI 2013: 284, Table 6.1; SIPRI 2011: 320, Table 7.1
1
2

5

I n the absence of a generally accepted definition, sub-strategic nuclear weapons here refer to nuclear weapons
not covered by strategic arms control agreements.

32

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

In 2013, the strategic deterrence forces were estimated all in all to comprise
approximately 80 000 service personnel, including Air Force and Navy servicemen
(IISS 2013: 225). The forces are divided organisationally into ground, air and
naval units, the so-called ‘nuclear triad’. The main element of the triad is the
Strategic Missile Forces. Not only do they have the largest number of delivery
vehicles and warheads, but they also have higher readiness and all-weather
capability as well as a more robust command and communication system.
The naval element is the strategic nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines
(SSBNs), which are divided between the Northern Fleet and the Pacific Fleet.
When submerged, the submarines are difficult to track and destroy, making them
the main nuclear counter-strike asset. Two weaknesses are their vulnerability
before deployment to sea and the less reliable command and control conditions
on patrol. The Long-Range Aviation constitutes the Air Force component and
consists of two main bases, with strategic and long-range bombers. It is the most
flexible leg of the triad, being able to deliver both strategic and sub-strategic
nuclear as well as conventional weapons (Yesin 2012).
The American researchers Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris (2013) have
estimated that in March 2013 Russia had a total of some 2 500 strategic warheads
and 558 launchers, slightly more than estimated in January 2011 (Kristensen
and Norris 2011: 68). The previous trend of a continually diminishing force has
been broken. In the 2013 arsenal, 1 800 warheads were estimated to be deployed
on fewer than 500 launchers (see Table 2.5). The number of land-based ICBMs
has increased more than the number of ICBM-deployed warheads since 2011.
This is due to older ICBMs with multiple warheads being replaced by missiles
carrying fewer warheads. In 2012, deployment of single-warhead SS-27 Topol-M
ICBMs was completed, to the benefit of multiple-warhead missile procurement
(Kristensen and Norris 2013: 73).
Older submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) have continued to
be replaced with modern missiles, preserving the total of 2011. Due to the
introduction of the Bulava SLBM, carrying six warheads, the number of
deployable warheads has increased slightly. In early 2013, the first SSBN of the
new Borei class, the Yuri Dolgorukii, carrying the Bulava, entered into service.
The overhaul and conversion of the six Delta IV SSBNs to carry the modern
Sineva SLBM has also been completed. Both the Yuri Dolgorukii and the Delta
IVs are based in the Northern Fleet, leaving the Pacific Fleet with only three
older Delta III SSBNs.
The estimated number of strategic bombers in service has dropped to seventytwo compared to seventy-six in January 2011, due to four Tu-95 bombers being
retired. The fleet is continuously being upgraded and only sixty of the Tu-95 and
Tu-160 strategic bombers are deployed, according to the estimate of Kristensen
and Norris (2013: 75–77). They do, however, express uncertainty about the
number of aircraft and their operational status. For the number of delivery
vehicles of the respective types and the distribution of the warheads, see Table
2.5. Strategic deterrence and the roles of nuclear weapons in Russian policy are
discussed in Chapter 3 on security policy.
33

The strategic
nuclear weapons
arsenal

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

Table 2.5 Russian strategic nuclear forces as of March 2013 (number deployed in italics)
NATO
designation

ICBMs

Russian
designation

Year
deployed

Warheads * yield
(kilotons)

55

1988

10* 500/800 (MIRVs)

550

SS-19-M3
Stiletto

RS-18

35

1980

6* 400 (MIRVs)

210

SS-25 Sickle

RS-12M Topol

140

1988

1* 800

140

SS-27-Mod1
(mobile)

RS-12M1 Topol-M

18

2006

1* 800?

18

SS-27-Mod1
(silo-based)

RS-12M2 Topol-M

60

1997

1* 800

60

SS-27-Mod2
(mobile)

RS-24 Yars

18

2010

4* 100? (MIRVs)

721

SS-27-Mod2
(silo-based)

RS-24 Yars



(2013)

4* 100? (MIRVs)



326
?

1 050
~700
144
96

SS-N-18 M1
Stingray

RSM-50

3/48
2/32

1978

3* 50 (MIRVs)

SS-N-23
Skiff

R-29RM

0/0

1986

4* 100 (MIRVs)

0

SS-N-23 M1

RSM-54 Sineva

6/96
4/64

2007

4* 100 (MIRVs)

384
256

SS-N-32

RSM-56 Bulava

1/16

2013

6* 100 (MIRVs)

96

10/160
7/112

Total SLBMs

624
448

Bear H6

Tu-95 MS6

29

1984

6* AS-15A ALCMs or
bombs

174

Bear H16

Tu-95 MS16

30

1984

16* AS-15A ALCMs or
bombs

480

Blackjack

Tu-160

13

1987

12* AS-15B ALCMs,
AS-16 SRAMs or
bombs

156

Bombers

Total bombers
Total

Total no. of
warheads

SS-18-M6 Satan RS-20V

Total ICBMs

SLBMs

Launchers

72
60

8102
676

558
<498

~2 500
1 800

1

Since the assessment of 2011, Kristensen and Norris have revised their estimate of the number of warheads deployed on
the RS-24 Yars from three per missile to four per missile.

2

The bomber weapons are kept in storage, not deployed on the aircraft. Kristensen and Norris estimate that only a couple
of hundred weapons are present at the two bomber bases, with the remainder in central storage facilities.

Note: Some additional 4 000 retired strategic and non-strategic warheads were estimated to be awaiting dismantlement.
Abbreviations: ALCM = air-launched cruise missile; ICBM = intercontinental ballistic missile; MIRV = multiple
independently-targetable re-entry vehicle; SLBM = submarine-launched ballistic missile; SRAM = short-range attack
missile.
Sources: Kristensen and Norris 2013: 69, 77; 2011: 68.

34

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The information available about Russia’s sub-strategic nuclear weapons is limited.
In mid-2012 and early 2013, Russia was estimated to have approximately
2  000 sub-strategic warheads in service (Sutyagin 2012: 69; Kristensen and
Norris 2013: 77). A composite assessment arrived at the same number in 2010
(Zagorski 2011: 14). Warheads kept in nuclear weapon storage separate from
their launchers are assessed as being in service (Kristensen and Norris 2011:
68). There are nuclear storage facilities in all MDs except for the Southern MD.
There are, however, three nuclear storage facilities just outside it (See Map 2.5,
p. 63).
Information on the number of operationally assigned sub-strategic nuclear
warheads is even scarcer. Igor Sutyagin, research fellow at the Royal United
Services Institute (RUSI) in London, has developed and applied a methodology
for assessing the number of Russian operationally assigned warheads, i.e.
warheads assigned to available delivery systems (Sutyagin 2012). The method
has its merits, but his estimate rests on a number of assumptions drawn from
fragmentary historical facts. Even granted that Russian nuclear thinking clearly is
conservative, one has to wonder whether no new concepts have been introduced
and affected the operational deployment. Despite the uncertainties regarding
the numbers, Sutyagin’s estimate of the size and composition of the operational
sub-strategic nuclear force (see Table 2.6) can be used in an assessment of Russian
military capability. In mid-2012, Sutyagin estimated the operational force to be
860–1 040 sub-strategic nuclear warheads, with some 900 additional warheads
in service but not operationally assigned.
The nuclear warheads for air and space defence are probably of little military
significance. The ballistic missile defence interceptors are aged and inefficient
and the naval air defence warheads are few in number. Furthermore, Sutyagin
(2012: 23) doubts the nuclear role of the land-based surface-to-air missile
systems. The necessary technical battalions have been eliminated and training
for nuclear strikes seems to have stopped. Without technicians and training,
a nuclear capability is difficult to uphold. Kristensen and Norris (2013: 72,
78) estimate that some 340 warheads are assigned to surface-to-air missiles,
but acknowledge that there is considerable uncertainty regarding their nuclear
capability and warhead assignment. On the whole, none of these systems are
likely to increase Russian military capability significantly. Moreover, a high
proportion of the naval warheads has a narrow military use as it is dedicated to
anti-submarine warfare (Sutyagin 2012: 43).
In 2012, Russia nevertheless possessed a considerable number of other substrategic nuclear warheads. Sutyagin (op. cit.: 43–45) estimates that there were
ninety-six operationally assigned warheads for submarine-based long-range
land-attack cruise missiles and another forty-four warheads for anti-ship missiles.
Alongside up to 192 warheads for the SS-21 Tochka and SS-21 Iskander shortrange ballistic missile systems, Sutyagin (op. cit.: 55–56) holds it possible that
warheads may still be operationally assigned to heavy artillery units. Kristensen
and Norris (2013: 78) do not mention artillery but ascribe some 170 warheads
to the Tochka and the Iskander. Neither of them discusses nuclear landmines, the
35

Sub-strategic
nuclear weapons

36

Grand total

Ground Forces
Short-range ballistic missiles [SS-21, -26]
Nuclear artillery [2A36, 2S5, 2S7, Tyulpan]

Total

Navy
SLCMs [SS-N-21]
ASMs [SS-N-2c, -9, -12, -19, -22]
Surface-based NDBs [RYu2-2]
Surface-based air defence [SA-N-6, -20]
Surface ASW missiles [SS-N-14, -15]
Submarine ASW missiles/torpedoes
Shore-based aviation NDBs
Coastal defence missiles [SSC-1B, -3, -5]

Total

0–14
0–3

36

40
16
6
1
4
34
22
12

36–54
0–10

207–252

36–64

3 brigades
5 battalions

135

5 submarines
9 ships/submarines
6 ships
1 ship
4 ships
17 submarines
22 aircraft
6 battalions

36

2 regiments

0–17

14 battalions
3 battalions
0–15

34
18

24–36

76–103

24–36

2 brigades

0

52

1 regiment
1 regiment

0–15

15 battalions

Central MD
Vehicles
Warheads

0–6

4

4 aircraft
1 battalion
2

76–92

20–30

1 brig., 2 ind. bat’ns 20–30

20

7
3
1
3

6 ships
3 ships
1 ship
3 ships

36

2 regiments1 36
5 aircraft2
0

0–6

6 battalions

Southern MD
Vehicles
Warheads

102
72
18
18

56
21
19
3
8
42
20

48–72
0–8
501–593

48–80

4 brigades
4 battalions

175

8 submarines
13 ships/submarines
12 ships
2 ships
8 ships
21 submarines
20 aircraft
3 battalions
6

210

3 regiments
4 regiments
1 regiment
1 regiment

68 missiles
68
52 battalions
0–52
8 battalions
0–8
68–128

Western MD
Vehicles
Warheads

860–1 040

128–210

128–192
0–18

330

2

96
44
28
5
15
76
46
20

334

136
162
18
18

68–166

68
0–87
0–11

Total
warheads

The Fencer D regiment deployed at Gvardeyskoe (Crimea) is fully de-nuclearised and has not been included.
The five Fullbacks – and four Fencer Ds – currently deployed at the 929th Flight Test Centre in Akthubinsk are assumed to be part of their ordinary units.
Abbreviations: ASM = anti-ship missile; ASW = anti-submarine warfare; NDB = nuclear depth bomb; SAM = surface-to-air missile; SLCM = submarine-launched cruise missile.
Source: Sutyagin 2012 (primarily Appendix 1).

1

Total

Air Force
Backfire (Tu-22M3) [AS-4 missiles]
Fencer D (Su-24M) [AS-11 and AS-13/-18
Fullback (Su-34) [missiles and bombs]
Foxbat D/F (MiG-25) [AS-11 and bombs]

Total

Aerospace Defence Forces
ABM-3 Gazelle (A-135)
SA-10/20 (S-300)
SA-21 (S-400)


Eastern MD
Vehicles
Warheads

Table 2.6 Russian operational sub-strategic nuclear forces 2013: delivery vehicles and assigned warheads per force and military district

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

simulated use of which was reported in a Russian newspaper in 2010 (Falichev
2010). Finally, according to Sutyagin (2012: 33) the Air Force operates several
kinds of aircraft and a total of 334 operationally assigned warheads. This differs
significantly from Kristensen and Norris’ (2013: 77) estimate of approximately
730 warheads. They estimate the number of available aircraft to be 430, while
Sutyagin holds only 340 aircraft to be operationally available. Furthermore,
Kristensen and Norris assume a loading of two or three warheads per aircraft,
while Sutyagin assumes that warheads are assigned per unit and in different
quantities depending on type of aircraft. Even with Sutyagin’s lower estimate,
the number of operational warheads is significant.
Regarding the distribution of warheads between Russia’s Military Districts,
Sutyagin’s report is the only available source. More than half of the operationally
assigned warheads are estimated to be located in the Western MD, followed
by the Eastern MD with a quarter of the warheads (Sutyagin 2012: 69). The
Western MD, however, comprises both the Baltic and the Northern Fleet, the air
and missile defence of Moscow, and a large part of the long-range bomber force.
The 100 warheads assigned to the 600-kilometre-range AS-4 missile carried
by the Tu-22M3 bombers may well be used against targets in any direction.
The Su-24M Fencer force, estimated to carry half of the Air Force’s operational
sub-strategic nuclear warheads, can also achieve a long strike range through inair refuelling. In this light, Sutyagin’s estimate of the distribution between the
Military Districts seems credible.

2.2  Personnel and the Logistics and Rear Service
Apart from the above outlines on equipment holdings, nominal manning and
organization, military capability is also affected by actual manning as well as
Logistics and Rear Service. The first is personnel issues, as the Armed Forces has
difficulties in attracting enough numbers of suitable young men. The second
factor is Logistics and Rear Service which has been reorganized during the
recent transformation of the Armed Forces and which is vital for endurance.
2.2.1  Personnel issues in the Armed Forces
Personnel remains one of the more challenging issues for the Armed Forces.
Measures have been taken to increase the attractiveness of service and improve
the conditions, but service in the Armed Forces still suffers from negative
perceptions among the population. This results in large numbers of young men
avoiding military service, and difficulties in recruiting and keeping enough
suitable contract-employed soldiers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs).
Although it is no longer extensively debated, hazing is most probably still
prevalent and this has a negative impact on the individual serviceman, group
cohesion and military capability. The high employment rates in Russia create
competition for the labour force in which the Armed Forces is a less attractive
option for most young men.

37

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1 million men

Russian law stipulates that the Armed Forces should comprise 1 million men
(President of Russia 2008). For the past couple of years the Armed Forces in
reality have comprised not more than 800 000 men (Carlsson and Norberg 2012:
103) and in July 2013 the figure was confirmed by the chief of the General Staff
(Litovkin 2013a). According to information in the Russian media, however,
the Armed Forces amounted to about 700 000 men during the first six months
of 2013, and FOI estimates suggest that the figure could be as low as 625 000
(see Table 2.7). Irrespective of the exact numbers this results in the units not
being fully manned. In November 2012, unit manning levels were on average
between 40 and 60 per cent according to the General Staff (there are diverging
figures from different sources; see also Chapter 5 on defence spending). In the
summer of 2013, the chief of the General staff stated that manning levels were
around 80 per cent (Ministry of Defence 2013c). The personnel were not evenly
distributed across the Armed Forces. In the Southern MD, units were manned
to 90–95 per cent (Mukhin 2012a), indicating that this is the strategic direction
where Russia believes conflicts can arise quickly. The low manning levels result
in many units having difficulty function at full capacity. Moreover, the reform
goal that all units should be in constant readiness, when readiness is defined as
fully manned and equipped, is partly not being met.
In 2011 the personnel structure was revised, which means that the transition
from a system with the emphasis on conscription to one stressing contractemployed soldiers and NCOs will take place in the period up to 1 January 2017
(see Table 2.7). It also means a deviation from the target of 1 million men, as the
new plan allows for a maximum of 915 000 men. This has, however, received very
little attention, even in military circles, and it therefore has to be assumed that
1 million remains the magic number. Attempts to introduce contract-employed
soldiers and NCOs were made in the 2000s and failed (Carlsson and Norberg
2012: 104). The new contract-employed soldiers would be concentrated in
the Navy, the Strategic Missile Forces and the Aerospace Defence Forces (RIA
Novosti 2013a) and are supposed to fill the previous sergeant and sergeant major
positions, as well as specialist positions which would operate the new armaments
systems (Mukhin 2013c).

New personnel
plan

To fulfil the new personnel plan, 50 000 contract-employed soldiers and NCOs
would have to be recruited annually – a very ambitious target. The implementation
of the plan has, however, been debated. In late summer 2012 President Putin
stated that an increased share of contract-employed soldiers and NCOs could
only be realised if the economic conditions of the country permitted, and the
Ministry of Finance foresaw a reduction in numbers (Mukhin 2012a, 2012b).
In April 2013, however, Minister of Defence Shoigu announced that 60 000
contract-employed soldiers would be recruited that year (Vladkyn 2013), which
is 10 000 more than the planned recruitment rate. To meet the target of 425 000
in 2017 (Carlsson and Norberg 2012: 103) the Armed Forces would need to
have a higher recruitment rate since the share of contract-employed soldiers who
choose not to renew their contracts after three years remains high – according
to the Armed Forces it is 35 per cent that leave (Mukhin 2012a). In reality the
number is probably higher and experts quoted in the Russian media claim that
the share is 80 per cent (Smirnov 2013a).
38

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

Table 2.7 Plans and reality regarding manning of the Russian Armed Forces, 2012, 2013 and 2017
Media source April 2012
Officers

160 100

Media source first six
months of 2013

Plan 1 January 2017

220 000

NCOs and contractemployed soldiers

220 000
425 000*

Contract-employed
soldiers

189 700

186 000

Conscripts

317 200

295 710**

max 270 000

Total personnel

667 000
702 000

max 915 000

Est. total personnel

Source: Nikolskii 2012; Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie 2012; and McDermott 2011, based on Nikolai Pankov, Deputy
Minister of Defence.
* The Ministry of Defence has not clarified the division between contract-employed soldiers and NCOs.
** The author of the article has used the total number of conscripts. The Armed Forces do not, however, receive all
conscripts as they conduct the draft on behalf of all power ministries. The number of conscripts assigned to the Armed
Forces is normally not made public. There is, however, information to the effect that in the autumn of 2011 the Armed
Forces received 100 000 men out of the 135 800 conscripts drafted (McDermott 2012a), which is 73.6 per cent. During the
whole of 2011, 317 000 conscripts were assigned to the Armed Forces out of the 373 000 men drafted (Nikolskii 2012),
hence 85 per cent of the total. One could assume that this proportion is similar in the other drafts and gives an indication
of the number of conscripts and the total number of men in the Armed Forces. Consequently, during the first six months of
2013 the Armed Forces might have comprised 625 000–657 000 men.

The new personnel plan stipulates the introduction of the NCO in the Armed
Forces. So far only a few hundred have graduated from the two-year course at
the Airborne Forces’ Command School in Riazan: in June 2012, 180 cadets
(out of 240 accepted) graduated and in November 2012 175 cadets (out of 240
accepted) graduated (IISS 2013: 201; Mukhin 2012c). Another 124 NCOs
are expected to graduate in 2013 (out of 500 cadets at the Command School)
(McDermott 2013b). Even though the Ministry of Defence has not made
public the number of NCOs it intends to recruit, it is unlikely that the target
will be met in 2017 at this rate. In the meantime the Armed Forces have filled
the NCO positions with 60 000 former conscripts who have undergone a threemonth course (Mukhin 2012c).
Probably due to the slow introduction of NCOs, but also because of problems
in the Logistics and Rear Service (see section 2.2.2 below), Sergei Shoigu
announced in February 2013 that 50 000–55 000 warrant officers would be
reintroduced in the Army and the Navy. Until December 2009 the Armed
Forces had 142 000 warrant officers, who mostly served in the present Logistics
and Rear Service, but who also commanded troops and operated more complex
armament systems. These warrant officers were discharged and were supposed to
be replaced by NCOs (Smirnov 2013b). Shoigu has not mentioned a time frame
for reinstating the warrant officers or said whether there would be adjustments
regarding the number of NCOs. According to some experts the return of the
warrant officers means the renunciation of the NCOs (Golts 2013a), while
others see it as an interim solution (interview, Moscow 2013). It will probably
prove difficult to recruit new warrant officers due to specific requirements and
competition from other power ministries and other parts of the labour market.

39

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

Table 2.8 Number of conscripts drafted 2011–2013

Number of
conscripts

Spring 2011

Autumn 2011

Spring 2012

Autumn 2012

Spring 2013

218 700

135 800

155 570

140 140

153 200

Sources: Litovkin 2012c; Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie 2012; President of Russia 2013a.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces suffer from a shortage of conscripts (Boltenkov
2012: 24) and as a consequence the period of service has been debated. In
February 2013, however, President Putin made it clear that it would remain
twelve months (President of Russia 2013b).
Health situation in
the armed forces

The number of conscripts who can be drafted is limited by demographic factors
and poor health among young men. Over the period 2013–2023 the number
of men turning eighteen will be between 660  000 and 760  000 a year, with
rather large variations between the years (Rosstat 2013; see also Figure 5.3 in
Chapter  5 on Russian defence spending). Even if poor health is grounds for
exemption from military service, 52 per cent of the 295  710 men drafted in
2012 had health constraints (Burdinskii 2013). In addition to poor health, a
number of other exemptions exist, for example university studies, which further
reduces the pool of possible conscripts. The quality of the conscripts is another
fundamental question since they not only constitute the majority of soldiers
but are also the principal source for recruiting contract-employed soldiers and
NCOs. Besides poor health the conscripts often have a low level of education
and sometimes a criminal record. The low level of education can be problematic
when more advanced equipment is introduced in the Armed Forces (Carlsson
and Norberg 2012: 103).
The system of conscription for one year with two call-ups a year affects the
units’ capability as it limits the level of training and hence mobility. The new
requirements of the reform regarding mobility increase the time of training
needed, which reduces the time within which a conscript is combat-ready.
Modern, more complex weapons systems are supposed to raise the capability
of the units, but they require more than a year to learn how to operate. Those
units will therefore have to be manned with contract-employed personnel. As
long as it is problematic for the Armed Forces to recruit suitable soldiers it will
be difficult to use the full potential of more sophisticated weaponry.
The assessment made here of military capability in the different strategic
directions builds on the following estimates. The manning level of above 90 per
cent in the Southern MD probably enables it to launch an operation with half
of the units within a week and all units within a month from an order being
given. Other priority units are likely to be Russia’s military bases abroad and
the Airborne Forces, which in this study are assumed to have manning levels
similar to those of the Southern MD. As described above, unit manning levels
in the rest of the Armed Forces reportedly varied between 40 and 60 per cent
in November 2012. In this study the estimate is that standing units are manned
up to two thirds, which is possibly the minimum needed for a functioning unit.
40

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Half of the personnel in a standing unit are available for operations within a
week, the rest within a month due to leave, training and other assignments. A
nominally 4 000-man brigade would then have some 2 700 men on duty, out
of which around 1 350 (one third of the nominal strength) would be available
within a week, another third within a month. Filling up units further would
probably entail calling up reserves or re-prioritising between strategic directions.
Filling them to more than 90 per cent is assumed to take up to six months.
Seasoned contract soldiers are more capable than one-year conscripts. However,
without exact information about the shares of each in the different units it is
impossible to distinguish between the two categories.
2.2.2  The Logistics and Rear Service
The new Logistics and Rear Service was created in 2010 in order to support rapid
deployment and improve sustainability in operations. It has a more simplified
organisation than its predecessor but remains complex, as it also involves civilian
suppliers of goods and services. The challenge for the Logistics and Rear Service
is to abandon the Soviet practice of moving bulk supplies to the front and
instead respond to specific demands of the units as they arise during operations
(McDermott 2013a: 62).
The Ministry of Defence contains departments responsible for logistical
support, such as supplying units with weapons systems, ammunition and fuel
(Carlsson 2012: 29). In the MDs the Logistics and Rear Service is subordinated
to the commander and in war it will support all military and paramilitary units
within the MD. The ten combined-arms armies each have a Logistics and Rear
Service brigade assigned to them. On the command level of the combined-arms
brigades the deputy commander is responsible for the logistics. Logistics and
maintenance battalions have been introduced in order to carry out some of
the brigades’ own repairs and logistics (McDermott 2013a: 47–48). There is,
however, a lack of personnel in general, and especially of technical specialists
and contract-employed soldiers on this level (ibid.: 55–56).
The reform of the Logistics and Rear Service opened up scope for outsourcing
parts of its activities to civilian contractors. The aim was to enable the soldiers
to focus on training and to increase the quality of and reduce the price of
services. Nine joint stock companies were formed under the umbrella of the
state corporation Oboronservis. It was to provide the Armed Forces with
maintenance services and modernisation of weapons systems, refurbishment
of buildings, construction, agricultural products and foodstuffs, as well as
operating the canteens. This arrangement, however, created a breeding ground
for embezzlement, corruption and neglect of tasks. Contrary to intentions,
expenditure on logistics and rear service doubled or tripled at the same time
as quality deteriorated, and assignments were not performed, or only the more
lucrative ones were carried out (Vorobev 2012). This became the official reason
why Defence Minister Anatolii Serdiukov was dismissed in November 2012,
since he had been the chairman of Oboronservis.
41

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

The Logistics and Rear Service was tested during the Vostok-2010 and
Tsentr-2011 exercises, and to some extent during Kavkaz-2012, with limited
success (McDermott 2013a: 46–48). This might be explained by the fact that
the service had only just been introduced. The joint stock companies, which
were supposed to provide the units with rations, repair and maintenance of
the weapons systems and technical equipment during combat operations and
in states of emergency, were unable to do so during exercises (Smirnov 2013a;
McDermott 2013a: 45; Vorobev 2012; Smirnov 2012).
Despite these problems and signs that corrupt behaviour was still going on in
parts of Oboronservis (Mukhin 2013a), Shoigu declared in late February 2013
that the Ministry of Defence had no intention to abandon outsourcing (RIA
Novosti 2013b). In the spring of 2013, however, he created a department in
the Ministry of Defence which would monitor the activities of Oboronservis
(Mukhin 2013a). More importantly, in the field of repair and maintenance he
proposed to the defence industry a system whereby it would be responsible for
the mid-life upgrading and deep renovation of the armaments systems they
produced (Fedutinov 2013). He also decided to transfer tasks such as minor
repairs and operational maintenance to the Armed Forces (Mikhailov 2013).
Finally, in late April 2013 he cancelled the monopolies of the three joint stock
companies dealing with maintenance service and modernisation of weapons
systems. General Vladimir Bulgakov, who heads the Logistics and Rear Service,
announced that during exercises and in wartime private contractors would no
longer be engaged; instead the Armed Forces would cater for their own needs
(Mukhin 2013b). In order to take over these functions the MDs will have to
rebuild the organisation, which will take considerable time.
Current problems in the Logistics and Rear Service make it uncertain what
it would be able to deliver regarding rations and maintenance of armaments
systems in a combat operation. Difficulties in this area will remain in the coming
years. The Armed Forces’ ability to muddle through if needed should, however,
not be forgotten. Attempts are being made by the military leadership to address
the problems and in the longer-term perspective there may be a Logistics and
Rear Service which can provide the Armed Forces with better support.

2.3  Force disposition and mobility
The disposition of the Armed Forces is assumed to reflect Russian planning
based on threat assessments. Their disposition, if they are taken together,
indicates that Russia plans for operations in all strategic directions, ranging from
regional wars, in the east, the west and possibly the south, to stability operations
in Central Asia, the Caucasus or the wider Middle East. Keeping the guard
up in all directions limits the amount of forces available as reinforcements.
Strategic mobility aims to ensure flexibility to move available assets between
strategic directions. This section will discuss factors that affect the availability
of forces that can be redirected from one strategic direction to another and
strategic mobility. For the ability to fight local and regional wars, Ground Forces
manoeuvre brigades are the key units and are in focus here.
42

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

2.3.1  Force disposition and reinforcements
The force disposition in the MDs ensures that units for land, sea and air
operations are available in each strategic direction. But what can be said about
Russia’s flexibility to redeploy military assets between the different MDs, i.e. to
adapt military capability in different strategic directions?
The disposition of forces in an MD is the basis for force generation in the
strategic direction in question. The discussion here will take as its starting point
the MD’s nominal assets (see Table 2.1) and assess the number of units that can
be redeployed to other strategic directions without taking significant militarystrategic risks. For that reason, only half of the standing units are assumed to be
available for redeployment. The assessments made here are primarily based on
what the organisational structure of standing units may allow, since manning
levels, the ratio of conscripts to contracted soldiers and equipment standards
vary, both over time and across Russia. Furthermore, geographically isolated
forces such as the Caspian Flotilla, Russian military bases abroad, and the
forces in Kaliningrad, Sakhalin, the Kurile Islands and, to some extent, the
Kola Peninsula, are discounted as potential reinforcements from the assessments
made here.
The eastern strategic direction faces China and the Pacific Ocean, with the USA
and Japan as other regional powers. The Eastern MD Ground Forces consist of
thirteen manoeuvre units – eleven motor rifle brigades (MRBs), one tank brigade
and one motor rifle division (the 18th Artillery and Machine Gun Division
in the Kurile Islands) – and eight motor rifle brigade equipment stores. The
information about equipment stores indicates that the eastern strategic direction
is a ‘receiver’, i.e. significant military resources are unlikely to be moved from
east to west without major changes in the military-strategic situation.
The Central MD is responsible for the Central Asia strategic direction and
appears to be Russia’s strategic reserve for limited wars, both to the east and
to the west. It has seven manoeuvre brigades and one tank brigade and three
brigade equipment stores. The stores are in the eastern part, the tank brigade in
the western part of the MD. Half of the MD’s units, four standing manoeuvre
brigades, are assessed to be available for redeployment outside the MD. In
addition, up to three brigades with equipment from the stores in the eastern
part of the MD and auxiliary personnel can be redeployed to the Eastern MD.
The southern strategic direction includes the North Caucasus and faces other
volatile areas such as the South Caucasus and the wider Middle East. It has nine
manoeuvre brigades and no equipment stores, indicating that forces are planned
to be used at short notice. The units are therefore unlikely to be available for
redeployment elsewhere, save for one brigade.
The western strategic direction faces NATO. The Western MD has two tank
brigade equivalents and seven motor rifle brigade equivalents – including
one in Kaliningrad and one on the Kola Peninsula which are assessed here as
43

The four strategic
directions

FOI-R--3734--SE
The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

not available as reinforcements. Three brigades are assessed to be available as
reinforcements in other strategic directions.
Three divisions and one brigade of the Airborne Forces are assessed to be
available as reinforcements all across Russia. They are likely to play a key
supporting role in limited wars, especially initially when the ability to be
deployed comparatively swiftly would help in buying time for the mobilisation
and transport of reinforcements to the strategic direction in question. For all
of Russia, half an airborne division, the equivalent of an airborne brigade, is
estimated to be available within a week and one more division within a month.
Another two airborne divisions are estimated to be available within six months.
In addition, it is estimated that one airborne division is kept in reserve.
Military aircraft are the assets that can be moved most quickly between strategic
directions. Quickly concentrating air power in a priority strategic direction, the
more the better, can be crucial for swift success. The General Staff is assumed to
allow air power to follow in proportion to Ground Forces, reinforcing between
strategic directions, but to leave at least half of all units for each type of role (e.g.
fighters for air superiority and attack aircraft for support to ground operations)
in each strategic direction. Half of all units are accordingly assumed to be
available for reinforcements elsewhere (roughly 240 fighter aircraft, 240 attack
aircraft). Half of available units can redeploy within a week (120 fighters; 120
attack), and the rest within a month, taking into account the specifics of each
aircraft type and the capability to receive aircraft.
Naval ships are unlikely to reinforce other strategic directions, especially within
one week. Within one month most ships can, in theory, move between the
different fleets. It is assumed here that the General Staff would leave at least half
of available units for landing, air, surface and underwater operations respectively
in each of the four Fleets.
2.3.2  Strategic mobility
Railways

The Military
Transport Aviation
(MTA)

Transporting Russia’s troops, equipment and supplies remains dependent
on the railways. Air, river and road transport play smaller roles (McDermott
2013a: 37). In terms of quantity its railways are the most important asset for
Russia’s strategic mobility, especially within Russia, but also as far as Russian/
Soviet railway gauge reaches in former Russian and Soviet areas. Within Russia,
the state-owned monopoly Russian Railways is the basis for military railway
transport. The MoD also has a special arm of service, the 24 000–28 000-strong
Railway Troops, to enable mobilisation and transport, but also to build and
repair railways, protect infrastructure and carry out de-mining (Gavrilov 2010;
Ekho Moskvy 2011). The time frames used here denote when reinforcements
enter the territory of the receiving MD, i.e. they do not necessarily indicate that
such reinforcements are ready to start combat operations in all parts of it.
The Military Transport Aviation (MTA) has some 280 transport aircraft of
different sizes. Of these, around eighty are heavy aircraft designed to airdrop
44

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

equipment of the Airborne Forces, and another twenty that can transport
Ground Forces equipment. The MTA is obviously faster than trains, but they
are assessed here as being intended mainly to transport airborne troops and
personnel, especially in the one-week perspective. Air transports are vulnerable
and require fighter support near conflict zones. Limitations to the MTA’s
capacity indicate that it would be difficult for Russia to carry out more than
one regimental-size airborne operation outside its own territory in 2013, even if
Russian forces had air supremacy and all of the MTA were to be used.
The manoeuvre brigades, primarily still armoured, are too heavy for rapid
deployment, which limits the strategic mobility of the Armed Forces, especially
by air (McDermott 2013a: 32). Plans to convert brigades into three new
categories – light (lightly armed), medium or multi-role (wheeled), and heavy
(tracked) – by 2015 (McDermott 2013a: 73) may facilitate future mobility.
Mobility is today also hampered by difficulties in manning, in discipline and
in developing a competent NCO cadre (McDermott 2013a: 62). As a rule of
thumb, it is estimated that Russia is able to transport by rail one motor rifle
brigade (or equivalent) up to 1 200 kilometres (km) per day (McDermott 2013a:
22). With up to 10 000 km of railway between St Petersburg and Vladivostok,
transporting a whole brigade from east to west would hence take a week, not
counting time for loading vehicles onto and off the train.

2.4  Exercises
Frequent and large-scale military exercises are a key element in building military
capability. One assumption here has been that a force can only perform operations
in war similar to what it has performed in exercises. In times of restructuring
and introduction of new equipment, exercises are also important to test both
personnel and existing systems in practice and identify shortcomings that can
be addressed. In other words, exercises improve the real ability of participating
units.
One reform ambition has been to improve the ability for joint operations.
The Armed Forces’ annual operational strategic exercises, rotating between the
MDs, create the preconditions to develop the ability for joint operations, since
all the branches of service participate in the exercises, but the extent to which
they really do develop this ability is hard to determine.
In September 2013, the Zapad-2013 (West-2013) operational-strategic exercise,
a combined forces exercise with Belarus, took place in the Kaliningrad area,
western Belarus and the Baltic Sea. Approximately 22  000 servicemen, 530
armoured vehicles, ninety aircraft and ten ships from the Russian and Belarusian
Armed Forces reportedly participated on 20–26 September (Umpirovich 2013;
Wilk 2013).
The official scenario was to oust a terrorist formation which had seized
Belarusian territory. The tactical elements included deployment of Russian
and Belarusian units to the area held by the terrorists, before containing and
45

Zapad-2013

FOI-R--3734--SE
The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

defeating them. The Air Force and the Air Defence Forces supported the Army
by establishing air control and cutting off aerial supplies from foreign territory
to the terrorist formation. The Baltic Fleet established sea control, blocking the
adversary’s retreat and recapturing ships hijacked by the terrorists (Tikhonov
2013c). In Russian exercises ‘terrorist’ is a notion commonly used for the
adversary so that an exercise does not appear to be designed against any specific
country or countries. In this exercise, with the emphasis on the ability to act
on land, in the air and at sea as well as seizing terrain, the adversary appeared
to be a conventional adversary more than a terrorist group. The actual aim of
the exercise was probably to test the defences of Russia and Belarus against a
conventional attack from the west.
The Border Troops participated in some phases of the exercise and the readiness
of the Interior Troops was tested, as approximately 20  000 servicemen were
put on alert (RIA Novosti 2013c; Tikhonov 2013d). An unspecified number of
Interior Troops servicemen conducted anti-terrorist training elements (Ministry
of the Interior 2013). Although this was not officially a part of Zapad, the
Northern Fleet also conducted its main training event of the year during the
same period. It included air defence and anti-submarine warfare against an
unspecified adversary (Krasnaia zvezda 2013).
On the whole, the Armed Forces exercised for regular warfare, focusing on
joint operations. The exercise included joint inter-service operations with the
Belarusian Armed Forces as well as joint inter-agency operations with Border
and Internal Troops. Furthermore, command and control as well as mobilisation
of reserves were tested (Blank 2013; Kalinin 2013; Wilk 2013).
Kavkaz-2012

In September 2012, the week-long Kavkaz-2012 (Caucasus-2012) exercise was
conducted in the Southern MD. The Armed Forces had two main tasks: to
plan the use of force in resolving a domestic conflict and repelling an attack
on southern Russia by a conventional highly-equipped adversary (President of
Russia 2012; McDermott 2012b). The exercise was mainly a staff exercise to
improve command and control, and to test the new automated systems on brigade
level (Ministry of Defence 2012a) and command, control, communications,
computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems
(McDermott 2012b).
About 8 000 servicemen participated in the practical exercise phases (Voennopromyshlennyi kurer 2012a). The Air Force practised dispersed deployment,
landing and supporting ground units, and intelligence gathering (Voennopromyshlennyi kurer 2012b). Tu-22M3 long-range bombers launched strikes
with Su-27 air cover. The Caspian Flotilla prevented a landing of enemy ships
and the Black Sea Fleet repelled landing attacks from the air and sea. Iskander-M
missiles and naval precision weapons were also tested. The Armed Forces had
problems linked to deploying and sustaining forces in the theatre of operations,
as well as problems connected to undermanning, which in certain cases was said
to be up to 50 per cent. The media reported difficulties with the new brigade
command and control system, which the manufacturer blamed on insufficient
training for the servicemen operating it (McDermott 2012b; Vzgliad 2013).
46

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The Military Capability of Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013

From February to July 2013 Russia conducted a special type of exercise, which
reportedly had not been carried out for twenty years (Litovkin 2013b). A series
of five exercises took place without any prior notification to participating
units, although the real element of surprise has been disputed (Golts 2013b).
The exercises were systematic in testing readiness in all MDs and key assets
subordinated to the General Staff. The mobility of the troops by air and railway
was verified in the exercises (Litovkin 2013b), each of them involving up to
9 000 servicemen, except for the last, which, according to the Russian MoD,
nominally involved 160 000 servicemen from the Central and Eastern MDs.
For most participating units, it was most probably mainly a readiness check
in terms of their being present at the base. A smaller proportion of the units
was involved in manoeuvres in the field and in troop transport. As for military
capability, this was an exercise of Russia’s combined military capability in a
strategic direction comprising limited war and both conventional and strategic
deterrence, including patrols with Tu-95 strategic bombers that can carry
nuclear warheads.

Readiness checks

Reportedly, communication systems for command and control were a systemic
weakness, as was the ability of tank and APC crews to use live ammunition
(Tikhonov 2013b; Litovkin 2013c). Nevertheless, the exercises should have
given a clear picture of the true readiness of the Armed Forces and the problems
they could face in war operations. Altogether, they probably yielded a clear list
of the issues that needed to be addressed to improve military capability.
Apart from the well-publicised annual strategic exercises, units at all levels
must exercise to build military capability from below. So how much do Russia’s
Armed Forces actually exercise? One way to illustrate this is to count the
number of newspaper articles about exercises, assuming that articles about a
military exercise reflect that it actually has taken place. Through a computergenerated analysis of Krasnaia zvezda articles about Ground Forces exercises in
the Western MD and selected airborne units in 2000–2013, some 2 million
documents were searched and around 126 000 selected as relevant for further
text analysis. This analysis narrowed down the number of articles to about 5 300
that could generate data about exercises. Through data fusion the number of
excercises per unit per year could be estimated for the period 2010 –2012. For
selected Ground Forces’ units in the Western MD the numbers of excercises
were three in 2010, eight in 2011 and eleven in 2012. For selected airborne
units the equivalent numbers were 23 in 2010, 28 in 2011 and 29 in 2012.
The Ground Forces were reorganised in 2009–2010. The period 2010–2012
was therefore selected for analysis since a comparison further back in time could
give a skewed result. A reason for a seemingly sharp increase for the selected
Ground Forces’ units between 2010 and 2011 could be that some of today’s
brigades did not exist before 2010. Furthermore, this approach only noted the
existence of an exercise, not its nature or how successful it was.
Despite measures to avoid double counting, the figures should hence be treated
with caution. But, assuming that the shortcomings are the same over time, the
trend is the important point, not the numbers. The computer-generated analysis
47

An indication
of increasing
exercise activity


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