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terça-feira, 26 de março de 2019

Russia: Talking Militarily (in a breve restospective)

Russia inherited from ancient USSR part of is military force, when in the beggining of the 90's the union of the socialist republics end, and some of is military force was used by the russians, but most of the material was scrapped or keep at the minimum for better days (like the Kirov cruzers). With a lack of money Russia invested in balistic nuclear missiles, submarines and anti-aircraft defenses, areas were they specialized with strong products and with a good investment return tax.  With Putin the reconstruction of Russian Armed forces biggin in high speed, and since second Chechênia war and Georgia conflit, the nation show to the World how different they were from the times of Soviet Union for example in Afghanistan or Iraq. Syria confirmed the good renovation work, with Havoc or Sukoy T50. Basically Russians are much better from the end of the century and there's a plan to keep going the modernization. But is this the correct way to do so? Probably in Air Force and Army yes, but in the Navy there´s some doubts, since some great projects made for example for India and Vietnam have only a few supporters in Kremlin. And Pak-Fa is canceled or in a minor production? Why? Probably money and tecnologic gap are the main problems since India was in the consortium and when they left their support ended. In the Army, Armata give the world one fine example of the russian engineering but there's a nead for much more military equipment, better personal and training.  Kremlin give the money and make the politic decisions, and when democracy or the Crimeia invasion bring sanctions, the need of new investiments bring Russia more dependent from China or Iran, economocally speaking. And when we don´t know how is the gold reserves in the country, how is the oil price fluctuations or if there's a strong limitation of the currencies that are living the nation, it gets hard to do prognostics about the armed forcses modernization. True that Armed Forces reforms keep going but t'ill when?

Militarily speaking, after the end of Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin gave preference to the nuclear power of Russia, and in the conventional equipment, specially to AA (anti-aircraft) missiles. With a lack of money who was need in other economic areas, Army, Navy and Air Force were put in minimal services, most factories were close or sell to the new capitalism and parts of the industry were now in independent nations who came from the old republics, for example like Ukraine or Azarbejan. Main task was what to do with so much material, soldiers and a massive structure from USSR times, and for me the President make a wrong aproach to the problem, since there was new and a more logic material who that could be put in transe t'ill better days (like it happened with the Slava crusers), to the detriment of other must more difficult and expensive (like the Kirov cruzers).  Only when Putin, an ex KGB coronel came to the presidency a new impulse was given to the armed forces modernization in Russia, with the main reason being a "significant humiliation" that the Russians  think that NATO and west in general, given to the kzars nation in the 90's (specially the iron curtain in NATO). And even when Medvedev was president the renovation keep on going (since Putin was the Prime Minister), with the war in Georgia in the middle and a certain impression that modernization was in the righ tracks. After Crimeia invasion was clear that this Russia is very different from that who fought in Chechenia (first war) at the time of Yaltzin, with Syria only confirming this first good impression.

But there's some problems in this modernization. First the russian tecnology was limited for example in LPD's so they make a deal with the freanch to buy Mistral class, and also the russains had plans to a  partnership with Italians (Centaur Tank Hunter and Iveco ), but the pression from russian industry was high and only the bussiness with the french was made (late was off by the santions, with DCNS paying good money by the cancelation of the deal), and with Ukraine, of course for a big need of cargo planes (for example Antonov, also a deal that was canceled), and other aviation parts (like aviation motors, that today are not officially produced). With China, the estraged strategy only to sell, first the Su27, then destroyers Sovremenny and last the Tu26, that despite the problems with LPD (Mistral was sold to Egipt after the enbrago to the Russians), and the Type 26 that is a good ship, Russia doesn't have planes to .  What is Putin thinking? Probably that Air Force and Army is more inportant to a continental russia change this "foreign exchange gain".  The In the russian navy, is more importante to the nuclear power made by the submarines that the surface fleet, but is this logic? Whell, i understand, and aprove in Atlantic and Pacific, but not for the other reigions, like Baltic or Black Sea, were a surface fleet have advantage almost in the harbour, with Anti-Aircraft and surface russian missiles range. Also the air coverture is high, since bases in Kalinegrad and Sebastopol (and also Russian air bases in the Black Sea zone), make a coverture in almost all the sea surface and above. So the logic is a strong fleet that can make missions in all the zone, like the Russians have in the Caspian See, and were the importance came across when was the military intervention in Syria (the ships fired cruise missiles). But there´s a need for big an fast in the Kremlin, and with the obligation to do national, this could bring serious trubles to the Russian Armed Forces.  

Also the Landing Ships classes like Ropucha or Aligator's class can operate without limitations in the Black or Baltic Sea, since the fighter bases are in range t'ill Turkey. Probably the main problem is ASW, since there's not a big fleet of helicopters (most of ships carry just one), and the lost of Moskva and Leninegrad helicopter carriers were never compensated, and so most of the hunting for enemy submarines is made by planes (who are also not many, since they still use Beriev Be12). True that helicopters and planes have re-fuel systems but in a war is a much more complicated this type of operation, and the weather have something to say about it. Russia have a interesting aircraft models for ASW or Maritime Patrol, like the Beriev or the Tu195, but in the last 30 years there's a lack of a new type, that could be the Beriev 200 if the military had a military version (the only that exist is the civil one). The same thing with helicopters, since the Ka32 is updated and also the M14, but again there's no new plans for a Mi17 naval version or a Mi6 (Mi38T had only 2 machines to be deliverer in 2019). Besides, the war with Ukraine gives the need not only a strong Coast Guard but also a capable Navy fleet, with of course a significant number of modern sensors, helicopters, planes and vehicles. True that Kiev doesn't have the straight to fo furhter that the actual frontiers but even Russia that could go straight to Nato borders understand that will give a strong reaction from US and their allies, and if Crimeia is in Russians hands, and a divied Ukraine could not get to UE and Nato organizations, all the situation is just fine to Moscow and the rest of the most powerfull group of nations in the world. But the future can't change this balance of power.  

The Army is were the russians have one interesting modernization program. Not only with a strong force of helicopters (for example Mi17 and Mi26 for transportation and Havok and Hokum to atack), but there's significant changes in armoured cars, since MBT (better T72 and of course the T90 and Armata), to troop carrier (like  Ural, BMP3 our T14), or alson recon (Tigr or BTR ). Personal weapons and uniforms are also mutch better, not only with russian material but also american and german, like bullet prove vests and telescopic sights (significant number came from the civil market). Also there's a massive reogarnization from regiments with new ones, fusions betwen old ones and also some of them close permanently. Another subject that we see in the russian army with some modifications his the number of "incidents" that kill or wonded especially among the recruts, much low, what is important to bring more quality in the voluntiers, especially to the elite units.
Logistic and support, had been a problem since the USSR times, but it´s not easy to fix, specially with a lot to do in modernizations, from the factories to the suplay chain, with means of transportation and routes to be improved. But with the seize of continental Russia, it is not easy and we are talking a nation that today still have one significant part of the military industry separete in the old republics of the soviet republic. Besides, with the war with Ukraine one of the principal aviation forneceteurs stop the production what was a problem for Russian Aviation Industry. Also some projects like the An76 is frozen with the prototypes keeping in the hands of the Ukraine, and worst, without new alternatives (in some years the possibility of making cargo planes with India was real, but their Air Force is shopping to US planes like C17). So, the only option his to modernize again the Il 76 and An12, projects from the could war (60/70). 

With USA out of the Nuclear intermediere Missiles agrement signed in 1987, the idea of Russia development new weapons is this area, give's us an ideia that the budget could be again separated with less to the armed forces modernization and more to new missiles development. Since a few years ago Russia is talking about a new Nuclear Stealth Bomber, but when the production of Tu160 is on the move again, probably a new type of plane is not going to be a tomorrow reality (like Tupolev Pak Da). When USA have the B2 and is substitute (B21 Raider) is on the way, China talk about the H20 in 2019 with a possibility that the new bomber go fly by 2020, that's not god for Russia (since both are in Asia and Pacific area).
In the AEW and ELINT bussiness, also the modernization is on the slow mode, with Il20 and Il50 being streight for another upgrade. Basically new projects are in the navy and in missiles, especially the nuclear ones, and even the AA an SUW are upgraded without new equipment being in the fase of project or in pre-production. 
Russia was working with India and Ukraine in several planes, but HAL folowing the PAK-FA problems, and Antonov because of the war, abandon the respective concorcium, só Sukoi and IL are left all alone and the cost are, off course incresing.
And how to invest in new material in a situation of embargo and less money? Probably using the gold reserves that are significant from USSR times, or making new bussiness especially with China (not only arms but also oil, gás and other resources because China needs everything). Some millitary trades are also a good idea, since Russia was excelent fighters, AA missiles and the chinese a fine LPD and some interesting tanks (especially MBT's), and the money spare in development and pre-production is usefull in other areas). 

In conclusing, Russia was made a long way since USRR times, for better. Today the country have less equipment and a more reduced armed forces, but was we see in Georgia and Syria, much more efective and with less casualties. It will be interesting to see more Russia in Peace Missions by the UN, or majoring conflits like Arménia, but for now Kremlin is watching Georgia and Ukraine (amont others), and putting the Baltic states in standing bye (the 3 NATO nations that probably in Putin times were not enter in the Atlantic Alliance). About CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) and is armed force (CSC - Colective Security Council), the second works mutch better (besides only 6 nations rectify the agrement in 1992), with Peace Forces in Tajikistan and Abkhasia but with serious acusations that this ia a way of Russia attemps to maintain is sphere of influence in some of the ex republics of the USSR (
The general panorama in Russian armed forces is that Air Force and Army are in razoable state of modernization, with some fine upgrades and new projects, but navy only have a major investment in Nuclear Submarines and one or another new frigate or corvette. No cruzers, destroyers, lpd's and there's only some talks about a new carrier, what is strange since there's rumors about new russian bases in Venezuela or the re-open of ancient bases in the Artic. So the question is: With what means? If 3 Blackjack bombers go abroad, all the logistic, pilots and maitenance crew will follow. And there's no nead of this means to protect the motherland?
But there´s more. Since the americans have one stealth bomber (and the other is on the way), russians have only plans for their first one or there is something more significant (or is Pack-Da real)?

Of course if Russia only upgrade is material will be a military power nation in the next 20/30 years, but after that?Again, we are talking about a continental armed forces, with a navy that is only capable in Black, Caspian and Baltic Sea, being conditioned in the rest (exept in the Artic, were it is probably the best and more lethal force). So, there's the central question: Army and Air force could win a war without a strong navy? Probably in a particular space and time yes, but with all the logistic by air and land been like WWII but in a much more hard way (no Murmank or Golf convoys to support the war enforcer), is very difficult to do so. 
There are some questions about logistic (some years ago for example, russian aviation had a significant support from Ukraine industry), and the state of preparations of all millitary forces, since there's a huge nation and more reduce armed forces since the USSR. Probably the elite forces are very good and the regular regimets in only normal operacional state, but and the reserves or equipment in store? And the recrut problems? Two questions that are no easy to respond. Since the center of Russia is calm, probably the armed forces in those areas are more reduce and with inferior equipment. The best ones are in the border and areas were are Russia need geopolitical influênce like the Caspian Sea, and probably abroad are some of this elite troops, but in major exercices there are of course changes and there's a need of reserve or second hand forces to make aperance and keep the good form.  About recruting, there's also two points: One is to get young russians to the armed forces, and another is to make a slight number of casualties in the recruting process (what also includes the praxes). And we are talking about a essencial mesure to assure resources for the russian armed forces, that for sure Kremlin knows that have to be based in the confidence and segure of the soldier,  since voluntiers are today a warrentie for best recruts and also a better possibility of a strong armed forces.

And if we talk about confidence, probably the Ukrainian conflit is a good example, since day after day, possible fotos of Russian Forces inside Ukraine get to the mídia. We know that are a lot of fake news  but was we said in Portugal "weres is smoke there's fire", and we have not only probably satellite photos but also some famillies that say theirs sons or unsbands were obrigaded to fight in Ukraine (with some deaths of course). Is not the propose of these lines to know if there is Russian forces in Ukraine, but with all the information hanging around, if is true probably in future will be a lack of cofidence between civilian and military (with also de politicians in the midle) like the one who happen afteer the Krusk acident. And confidence is need for a good recruting process.
Back to material, better military colaboration with China is needed, since with ocidental nations we have only some shy gifts, and the chinese have great ships, planes and tank models. And they buy a lot to Russia, so insted money was positive that they pay with some good material that the Russians don´t produce (a commum production to some types always be positive). The political stuff is done, with the two nations aligned in the security concil of UN and with an achivment that permits military drills in Asia and Pacific.
For now there's no problems between China and Russia, but in the future when the expansion for example in the Pacific and Africa, colide? All is about military equilibrium, and for now China is not superior to Russian, in land and air, only in severeal areas in sea, but the fabrications of armament is much more faster in Xii Ping land that with Putin in Russia. Again, is the stategy in Armed Forces upgrade and the partneship with China the correct aproach? For now, probably yes, but in the future is dificult to say. 

A logic modernization get us to a challenge and Russia is in a way of fast results. That's why Pak-Fa is only in small production (is better to do Su27, 30 and 34 and much cheap), and Pak-Da is only a design in the board (more Blackjack?), also the same in tanks and other ground models (we talk about Armata and is slow production, but BTR is still going since the 60's), with ships being the must hard stuff to Russian militaries. In one side the need to modernize the Kirov and keep one of the Typhoon submarines in service (i know, is for tests but theres not something small and cheaper?), and Kuznetzov in a trail mode from one mission to the docks. There´s no LPD and also the tank naval transportations are getting old and there´s no substitute, with also a few fast boats in service, and i don´t see a new one in years comming.  There´s new submarines, nuclear and diesel ones, rumours about one base in Venezuela, but is possible a detech like in Syria? I guess only with reduce navy units and crew, because there´s importance in artic and also in some areas like Baltic and Black Sea. There´s a nead for easy frigates and corvetes, but no will to do them.
So, the final question is: How to be a superpower if there's a small fleet? He know that Russia is like a continent, but America, Australia or Africa are not easy to reach without a fleet (at least the two first ones). And they have resources like in Venezuela, and USSR experimented the block of Cuba and knows how is not to have a powerfull surface fleet especially againts USA, but also China and for example Japan or Korea who are in great expansion.
And pollitically? Probably the way we are talking about will be made if Putin and Medvedev continue to be elected in Russia, but if they don´t there's no warranty that the armed forces reform will be the one they planed. So, Russia is in the right track but there's a long way to go.