Russia began the most ambitious test of its strategic bomber fleet in almost a quarter of a century today.
Up to 20 bombers are being sent into the air with full combat payloads to carry out live firing exercises of their cruise missiles. It is the largest display of Russian air power since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Officials said that the bomber runs would test Russia's readiness to deploy its nuclear deterrent. The week-long drill, part of a broader military exercise codenamed Stability-2008, takes place against the background of heightened tensions with the West after Russia's war with Georgia in August.
"During these exercises, for the first time in many years, the crews of Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95MS Bear-H strategic bombers will fly missions carrying the maximum combat payload and fire all the cruise missiles on board," Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Drik told RIA-Novosti news agency.
The flights involve more than a third of Russia's combined fleet of Bear bombers and Blackjack supersonic aircraft. The Air Force is stepping up its combat training regime, scheduling 350 live-firing drills for the second half of this year.
Lieutenant Colonel Drik said that the latest exercises in Russia's northern regions were unprecedented in scope and would also involve Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bombers, fighter jets, and interceptor aircraft.
A former Air Force commander, General of the Army Pyotr Deynekin, said that Bear bombers had carried out live-firing tests of their entire cruise missile capabilities only once before, in 1984, at the height of the Cold War. Blackjack bombers had never previously conducted such tests because it was too expensive, he said.
The bombers will fire their missiles at targets located on a training range, Lieutenant Colonel Drik said. The goal was to "exercise the strategic nuclear deterrence during the exercises".
The Stability-2008 manoeuvres, conducted jointly with neighbouring Belarus, are being watched closely by Western military analysts as Russia flexes its muscles across the globe. Nato fighter jets have repeatedly scrambled to shadow Bear bombers flying close to European and US airspace in the past year after Vladimir Putin ordered round-the-clock patrols to resume for the first time in 15 years.
In a move that threatens a re-run of the 1962 missile crisis, Russia's military has recently talked up the prospect of opening a base in Cuba for its strategic nuclear bombers as a response to the setting up of America's anti-missile shield in eastern Europe. Two Blackjack aircraft landed in Venezuela last month for the first time in what its anti-American president Hugo Chavez called a "warning" to the US.
The Kremlin has also ordered its nuclear-powered warship Peter the Great and a submarine destroyer, Admiral Chabanenko, to take part in war games in the Caribbean with Venezuela, Russia's first naval mission to Latin America since the Cold War ended.
In a calculated show of defiance to Nato, the vessels passed through the Strait of Gibraltar at the weekend in only the second Russian naval deployment in the waterway since the Cold War. They were en route to Libya and Syria, both traditional ports of call for Soviet warships.
Russian marines practised landings under fire at the weekend in exercises on the country's Far East coast as part of Stability-2008. Ships and submarines from the Russian Pacific Fleet, backed by air support, also took part in the engagement.
Russia says that the month-long large-scale military exercises, which continue until October 21, are intended to rehearse strategic deployment of its armed forces, including the "nuclear triad" of air, sea and ground missiles.
It's been a busy week with 4 x nuclear ballistic missiles launched as well as bombers launching they're full complement of cruise missiles for the first time since 1984.
3 of the missiles were launched by the Navy (from submarines).
One of them was a new version of the R-29RM missile called "Sineva".
Of interest was the record breaking range achieved - over 11 000 km (it was previously assumed by western analysts that it's max range didn't exceed 9000 km). Also, a novelty was the target area chosen - near the equator in the Pacific ocean. The usual Russian practice is to launch missiles from the Arctic region to the Kamchatka peninsula in the Far East.
The Sineva launch was observed by Medvedev from the aircraft carrier "Adm. Kuznetsov". After the launch he commented on the need to build more aircraft carriers and hinted that the next one will be nuclear powered.
"We need to build new aircraft carriers," Medvedev said. "This is an important area of progress for our navy. All large nations do so when developing powerful fleets. Energy facilities must be nuclear. This also creates a range of other possibilities. Electronic equipment and arms must change as well."
The main obstacle for such wide-scale plans isn't the financial crisis, but rather searching for an appropriate territory to build the aircraft carriers.
"The issue of money isn't important for us despite the crises on the international financial market. The real issue is where to build. The country has decreased in size since the fall of the Soviet Union, and we have fewer places where we can construct these kinds of ships," Medvedev said.
Independent military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said the exercises reflected Russia's determination to prepare for major military conflict.
"This was a dry run for a war with the United States," Felgenhauer said of the missile launches, part of major military manoeuvres billed "Stability 2008" involving all military branches.
"These are the biggest strategic war games in more than 20 years. They are on a parallel with those held in the first half of the 1980s. Nothing of the sort has been seen either in Russia or the United States since then," he said.
The 4th missile launched was a Topol ICBM from the Army's Plesetsk launch site, also observed by Medvedev....here's been a busy boy ;D
Post by TsarSamuil on May 27, 2009 10:34:10 GMT -5
'Red Dawn' redux: Russia begins massive military modernization effort
Some 36,000 officers are expected to be cut this year and many Soviet-era 'phantom divisions' eliminated. But will the economic crisis undercut reforms?
By Fred Weir | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor from the May 26, 2009 edition
Moscow - After nearly two decades of false starts and failures, the Kremlin appears determined to begin the radical military reforms needed to fashion a modern army from the tangled wreckage of its Soviet-era armed forces.
Unlike previous attempts, little public fanfare accompanies the current effort to modernize Russia's army, begun in earnest after the dismal assessments began rolling in of the military's performance in last August's war with the tiny Caucasus republic of Georgia.
But behind-the-scenes infighting has reportedly been furious, pitting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev against most of the military's general staff, as well as some powerful nationalist and conservative political forces.
In the past month, several top generals and defense ministry officials have been sacked by the Kremlin, including chief of the GRU military intelligence Valentin Korabelnikov and head of the main personnel directorate, Mikhail Vodzakin, effectively crushing institutional resistance to the reforms, experts say.
Although the overall size of Russia's armed forces will slip modestly from just under 1.2 million to 1 million men, the planned changes will slash the 355,000-strong officer corps, particularly the bloated upper ranks, by almost 150,000. More importantly, it will reconfigure the forces to eliminate many Soviet-era "phantom" divisions, which have generals but no troops. In their place, a smaller number of fully staffed units will be formed and – eventually, it is hoped – retrained, equipped with modern weapons, and handed a fresh mission that expresses Russia's post-Soviet national priorities.
Supporters of the reform are jubilant. "By the end of this year Russia will have a new army," says Vitaly Shlykov, a former deputy defense minister who now works as a civilian adviser to the defense ministry. "All these skeleton formations from Soviet times will be replaced with real, functioning units. This alone is an achievement we have not seen in Russia for 150 years, a triumph of common sense over bureaucratic inertia."
But opponents insist this reform, which comes after almost two decades of futile tinkering with the military, will only hasten the collapse of Russia's once-proud armed services.
"This is not a reform, it is the final blow to the army," says Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading Communist parliamentarian and deputy chair of the State Duma's Security Committee. "The essence of these measures seems to be to cut staff, especially the officer corps. We are losing the professional basis of our army, and demoralizing those who remain. Officers have been constantly under stress of these endless reforms for the past 15 years or more, and they are exhausted and harassed by the constant threats of dismissal or demotion. This is the biggest damage."
A more efficient fighting force
At the heart of the debate are sweeping plans to abolish the Soviet-era "mobilization" army, which was designed to fight World War II against the massed forces of the West. In line with that model, the Russian military still maintains far-flung facilities, vast stockpiles of armaments, and an organizational structure that is meant to be filled out with millions of reservists in short order.
Besides streamlining the army's structure, the plans call for the military to sell off many assets that will not be needed in future, including factories, tracts of land, massive fuel dumps, and armories stuffed with outdated weapons.
"Our authorities are spurred by genuine necessity to make these changes," says Viktor Myasnikov, a military expert with the independent Moscow daily newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "The mobilization army utilizes the resources of the entire country; the whole economy serves its needs first, the country's needs second. It's expensive and threatens to bring Russia to the brink of bankruptcy. If we're to have a market economy, the army must be separated from the economy."
A 'complete outsider' is leading the reforms
The Kremlin's point man in this effort is Anatoly Serdyukov, the former head of a furniture company, who was appointed as defense minister by Mr. Putin two years ago. Although Mr. Serdyukov's immediate predecessor, the former KGB general Sergei Ivanov, was technically Russia's first-ever civilian defense minister, experts say that Serdyukov's advantage is that he's a pure politician, with no ties to any segment of the former Soviet military machine.
"Attempted military restructurings failed in the past because a minister would come into office, start favoring his branch of the service at the expense of others, and call that 'reform,' " says Mr. Shlykov, who was a war planner for the GRU intelligence service in Soviet times. "That's why a minister who's a complete outsider was the right idea."
Another difference is that Serdyukov is open to fresh ideas, Shlykov says. "In the past, to mention US or German experience was anathema" to the military brass, he says. "But we need to learn from the experience of other countries, and Serdyukov is willing to listen. That's a big change."
No end to conscription
One reason the Kremlin has waged a low-key battle for military change, without attempting to mobilize public support, is that most Russians view abolition of the hated military draft as the most urgent priority of reform, and that does not appear to be in the cards anytime soon. Like his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, Putin reneged on pledges to end conscription, though he did shorten the length of obligatory service to just one year.
Supporters of the current reform argue that conscription will have to remain until all the preconditions of a professional army have been put in place, though they admit this is unlikely to attract much popular support. "The task right now is to make structural changes, equip the military with modern arms, and improve social welfare of army people," says Valentin Rudenko, a military expert with the independent Interfax-Military news agency. "It's still too early to say how it's going to work, because we don't see any results yet."
Paying for the reforms?
One glowering threat on the horizon is the growing economic crisis, which could force the Kremlin to scale back its ambitious $200 billion rearmament program, thus validating critics who argue that the army is simply being gutted, not rebuilt.
Another threat is that some of the officers to be let go – an estimated 36,000 this year – might fail to find new jobs in Russia's economy, where unemployment now tops 10 percent, and end up turning to crime. Following the collapse of the USSR, thousands of trained military and KGB specialists poured into the private sector, many of them going to work for the notorious Russian "mafia."
"The economic crisis has broken the plans for military reform," says Viktor Baranets, one of Russia's best-known military experts who has a regular column with the popular Moscow daily Komsomolskaya Pravda. "My computer is literally burning with all the letters I get from officers complaining. We see serious reductions in supplies, procurement of modern equipment, and cutting off of social programs for officers" due to the economic downturn, he says.
"Military officers seem to lack any confidence in the future, and if this continues the army is going to go into shock and nothing else."
Russian and Chinese military forces are taking part in a five-day joint exercise, one of the biggest of its kind.
The “Peace Mission 2009” drill was officially started on Wednesday in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk by Russian Chief of General Staff Nikolay Makarov and his Chinese counterpart Chen Bingde.
About 3,000 army and air forces personnel, 300 armored vehicles and 45 aircraft will take part in the maneuvers at the Taonan military range in China. The scenario of the exercise says a large group of terrorists have captured a city and provoked massive riots there. The joint force is to defeat the militants and quell the uprising.
Chinese media say the scenario resembles the bloody riots in Xinjiang province earlier this month, even though the plans for the dill had been announced long before that. “To some extent, the July 5 Xinjiang riot pushed forward anti-terrorism cooperation between China and Russia,” the China Daily newspaper quoted Major Wang Haiyun, a former Chinese military attaché to Russia, as saying.
This is the fourth “Peace Mission” exercise. For Russia’s Far Eastern military command it will be the largest movement of troops across the national borders since the campaign against Japan in 1945.
“This is not an act to stick with fashion but a concrete advancement in preparing our military forces for joint countering of security threats in the region,” General Makarov told the media.
He added the drill was even more important in the context of Japan and South Korea taking a militarization course following North Korea’s nuclear test in May and subsequent missile test launches.
According to Makarov, the Russian military will have things to learn from their Chinese partners, who provided security during the Olympic Games in Beijing in August. Their advice will come in handy in 2014, when Russia itself is to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
General Bingde praised the traditional war games and stressed that they “are not directed against a third party and are not a threat to other nations.”
Last Edit: Jul 24, 2009 2:17:59 GMT -5 by TsarSamuil
Post by TsarSamuil on Sept 10, 2009 8:50:06 GMT -5
Russia, Belarus start Zapad 2009 military exercise
MOSCOW, September 8 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Belarus are starting a large-scale military exercise involving about 12,500 service personnel and up to 200 items of military equipment and hardware, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.
The drill, called Zapad (West) 2009, takes place in Russia and Belarus and will end on September 29.
"The plan for the exercises was developed jointly by the Russian and Belarusian Armed Forces General Staffs and is purely defensive," the ministry said, adding that tasks to be practiced include dealing with armed conflicts, natural and man-caused disasters and ensuring strategic deterrence as well as the security of the Russia-Belarus Union State.
The ex-Soviet neighbors announced plans in the late 1990s to form a union state in a bid to achieve greater political, economic and military integration, but the project has largely existed on paper.
The exercise will, among other things, rehearse interoperability within the framework of the Belarusian-Russian integrated air defense system, which the two countries agreed to establish recently.
Russia is represented by the Moscow Military District units, Ground Forces, Air Force, Air Defense Forces, Airborne Troops and Baltic Fleet naval task forces, and Belarus by operational command units, Interior Ministry, Emergencies Ministry and State Security Committee troops.
The exercise will involve 5,000-6,000 Russian servicemen and 7,000-8,000 Belarusian servicemen, as well as up to 40 aircraft.
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