Publication: The Military Balance 2015
05 December 2014
Modernisation of the Russian armed forces, begun in 2008 under Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and merely adjusted under his successor Sergei Shoigu, continued in 2014. The appointment in May of a new Ground Forces Commander-in-Chief, Colonel-General Oleg Salyukov, ended a period with no commander in office, but this was the only major personnel change during the year. It was also a year of relative organisational stability, although preparations began for the creation of a new Joint Strategic Command (OSK) North, based around the navy’s Northern Fleet. Shoigu announced in October that, as part of the expansion of Russia’s military presence in the Arctic, units would be stationed ‘along the entire Arctic Circle’ by the end of the year; Russia has, however, aspired to revive its Arctic presence for some years, as noted in recent issues of The Military Balance. However, much international attention focused on Russian activity in Ukraine, and the performance there, and actions, of its troops.
The practice of ‘snap inspections’ continued, although on a reduced scale. The inspections were first carried out in 2013. Analysis of shortcomings in that year’s inspections led to changes in 2014; in particular, the assessment that there was inadequate training of equipment crews – especially in those crews comprising soldiers serving their one-year conscription term – was addressed by intensifying the combat-training programme. Deficiencies in live-firing routines were dealt with by increasing, by a factor of five to six, munitions allocated for exercises and problems with vehicle handling were addressed by boosting, by a factor of two to three, the training hours allocated for combat-vehicle driving.
Exercises also revealed that the serviceability levels of military equipment were generally unsatisfactory. Serviceability in the air force and the navy was assessed at less than 55%, and in the land forces at less than 65%. This deficiency also led to remedial action. The Oboronservis state corporation, which repairs equipment and provides support functions for military units – and was the subject of corruption allegations linked to the resignation of Serdyukov (see The Military Balance 2013, p. 199) – was radically restructured. Its repair plants and bases became state-industrial corporations, reducing staff numbers from 130,000 to 30,000 in the process. At the same time, first-line equipment-repair and maintenance units were strengthened; some of these had been cut during previous reforms.