Russian MOD activity plan for 2013-2020 published

The Russian Ministry of Defense recently published its activity plan for the rest of the decade. Everyone who can read Russian should go look at the handy summary in table form. There’s a lot of information there. I’ll try to pick out some of the highlights here.

The first section covers personnel. Here we find out concrete plans for the number of contract soldiers per year. The numbers are as follows: 2013: 241,000; 2014: 295,000; 2015: 350,000; 2016: 400,000; 2017 and thereafter: 425,000. I assume each figure is for the end of the year specified, though this is not clearly indicated. Contract soldiers are broken out into several categories. Submariners and paratroopers are to be fully staffed this year; Sergeants, combat units, special purpose brigades, and naval infantry in 2014; reconnaissance and artillery specialists in the Airborne Troops in 2015;  various types of technical personnel in 2016, and positions tied to using complex and expensive weapons and equipment in 2017. Perhaps equally interesting are the goals for 2013 for those areas not fully staffed. Here we have sergeants and positions tied to using complex and expensive weapons and equipment at 75%, combat units and special purpose brigades at 60%, naval infantry at 40%, technical positions at 30%, and  reconnaissance and artillery specialists in the Airborne Troops at 25%. Furthermore, there’s yet another official admission that many military billets remain unfilled, with an announced target for filling all billets of 82% by the end of 2013 and 95-100% by the end of 2014.

The second section deal with modernization of armaments. Here it’s probably easiest to just reproduce the table, with the labels translated.

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
submarines 47% 47% 51% 53% 59% 63% 67% 71%
surface ships 41% 42% 44% 47% 54% 59% 65% 71%
airplanes 23% 30% 37% 45% 55% 59% 67% 71%
helicopters 39% 54% 63% 71% 76% 79% 81% 85%
ground forces missile systems 27% 64%* 64% 82% 100% 100% 100% 100%
artillery 51% 52% 53% 55% 59% 67% 73% 79%
armored vehicles 20% 25% 37% 44% 56% 67% 75% 82%
multipurpose automobiles 40% 44% 48% 52% 56% 60% 65% 72%
Overall modernization 19% 26% 30% 41% 48% 59% 64% 70-      100%

* This is almost certainly a typo and should read 46%, given the overall progression of 18-19% improvement per year in ground forces missile systems.

The plan also has some information that sheds light on the extent to which existing weapons and equipment are in working order. Targets for 2013 by branch of the military are 65% for ground forces, 55% for the air force, and 56% for the navy. These can be taken as the highest bound of equipment in working order at the present time. The goal for 2020 is to reach 80-85% for each branch. There are target dates for the start of serial production of various major platforms. New tanks and armored vehicles are to enter production by the end of 2015, new aircraft (unclear which type, but probably the T-50), air defense systems and corvettes by 2016 and the new destroyer by 2018.

There’s also a whole section on new infrastructure, that indicates plans to improve residential facilities at 100 military bases per year in 2014-2016 and 50 per year thereafter. There are more specific plans listed, including for construction of cafeterias, parks, and sports halls. The plan calls for the construction of three new ranges in 2013-14 and the modernization of over 200 existing ranges by 2017.

The plan includes a very interesting section on improvements in control systems, with plans for the establishment of a national defense control center by December 2014, combat control center at branch headquarters in 2015, at military district headquarters in 2016, and at the unit (i.e. brigade or division) level in 2017.

Military education plans for 2013 include 70 students at the General Staff academy, 790 at the service academies, and 15,680 at the various military institutes and schools. Five new presidential cadet schools are to be established by 2016.

Military preparedness is also expected to increase, with the number of at-sea days per year for naval crews set to more than double — from 60 in 2013 to 125 in 2019 (after reaching 100 in 2016). Annual flight hours for air force pilots are also set to increase, though at a slower rate, from 100 in 2013 to 125 in 2020 for tactical aviation, from 110 in 2013 to 150 in 2018 for military transport aviation, from 70 in 2013 to 130 in 2020 in army aviation, and from 70 in 2013 to 120 in 2020 for naval aviation. Tank drivers are to go from 250km per year in 2013 to 500 in 2017, while armored vehicle drivers drive 350km  this year and 1000 by 2017. The number of annual parachute jumps for airborne  troops are to double, from 6 in 2013 to 12 in 2020. And modern uniforms are to be provided to all soldiers by 2016.

There’s also a section that details progress to be made on solving the housing question. The final 33,400 apartments for retired officers on the waiting list since before January 2012 are to be handed out this year. Another 19,800 apartments will be provided by the end of 2014 to those who joined the waiting list after that date. Starting in 2014, the plan is to provide one time payments to retiring officers in lieu of actual apartments. As for providing members of the active military with housing, progress is expected to be slower, with 100% fulfillment of the plan not reached until 2018.

I don’t think all of these targets in various fields will be met on time. But more importantly, the MOD has produced a public document that creates a set of metrics and expectations for progress over the next seven years. This is something that experts and Russian society can use to see how well the MOD is doing for years to come. It should serve this purpose much better than previous vague statements along the lines of “70 percent modern armaments by 2020” or “we will solve the housing problem by year X.” At the same time, there will inevitably be pressure on MOD officials to fudge the numbers down the road to make sure the activity plan appears to be on track, regardless of the actual circumstances. Only time will tell whether this tendency will overwhelm the potential value of honest record keeping and public accounting for keeping the military reform process on track.