Sunday, March 29, 2015

The RF Navy vs Your "Critically Important Facilities"

Coming to a theater near you: Kilo-class diesel submarine "Novorossiysk", capable of launching land-attack cruise missiles
[credit: Admiralty Shipyards]
Meanwhile, Russia is progressing toward its goal of deploying long-range, conventionally-armed cruise missiles with ever increasing stand-off launch distances on its heavy bombers, submarines and surface combatants, augmenting the Kremlin's toolkit of flexible deterrent options short of the nuclear threshold. Should these trends continue, over time NORAD will face increased risk in our ability to defend North America against Russian air, maritime, and cruise missile threats. -- Admiral Gortney, March 2015

In his written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 12, Admiral William Gortney (Commander, U.S. Northern Command and Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command) briefly touched upon an issue that will become a real headache for NATO and its allies as early as this year: Russian Navy submarines with conventionally- or nuclear-armed, long-range land-attack cruise missiles. Whereas similarly armed strategic bombers and naval surface combatants are somewhat easy to track, the same cannot be said for their undersea brethren.

"America is worried about the growing missile deterrence capabilities of the RF."
I really sympathize with you. How well I understand you!
[RF Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Rogozin responding to Admiral Gortney's written testimony to the SASC]

Both the 2010 and 2014 versions of the Russian Federation Military Doctrine state that the "deployment of strategic non-nuclear precision-guided weapons systems" was and remains a key external military threat to Russia. But the latest version also introduced Russia's own "non-nuclear deterrence system" that includes "non-nuclear means" to prevent aggression against Russia. Paragraph 32.b lists "strategic (nuclear and non-nuclear) deterrence, including the prevention of military conflicts" as a primary mission of Russia's Armed Forces during peacetime.

Whether talking about foreign systems or its own, Russia uses the term "strategic non-nuclear deterrence" to refer to the use of precision-guided munitions. In the Russia Navy, this means sea-launched land-attack cruise missiles (LACM), specifically the new SS-N-30, which is part of the Kalibr family of missiles.

To better understand how Russia views "strategic non-nuclear deterrence" and how Russian submarines would be employed in such a role, a review of a few definitions is in order.

In June 2012, the Serpukhovo Strategic Rocket Forces Military Institute hosted the 31st All-Russia Scientific-Technical Conference - "Problems of the Effectiveness and Security of the Functionality of Complex Technical and Information Systems". One of the topics presented at the conference was Method of Selecting Indicators of the Effectiveness of Defeating Enemy Facilities Using Nuclear Weapons and Strategic Non-Nuclear Weapons [document apparently removed after recent website reorganization]. In that brief, presenters from the Petr Velikiy Strategic Rocket Forces Military Academy listed four strategic operations, including the Strategic Operation to Defeat the Adversary's Critically Important Facilities (Russian abbreviation: SOKVO). As the authors explained, the goal of this strategic operation is "to disorganize the adversary's governmental and military command and control, to destabilize the socio-political environment, to create conditions for preventing or stopping aggression against the Russian Federation, and to defeat the adversary, to include as [when the adversary is] part of a coalition."

The SOKVO strategic operation may have been formalized sometime over the past decade, but the concept probably received serious research funding as early as the 1990s following the United States' first combat test of its Tomahawk LACM during Operation Desert Storm. In 2010, the Club of Military Leaders of the Russian Federation held a conference titled "Russia in Wars of the 19th and 20th Centuries: Lessons and Conclusions". At the conference, retired General-Colonel Viktor Barynkin briefed on the history of operational strategy as a science in Russia. In the post-WWII years, operational-strategic views were revised with the introduction of nuclear weapons. However, those views have again changed to focus not on destruction of an adversary, but on destruction of its key facilities. This in turn led to Russia's development of its SOKVO strategic operation. "The era of the theory of defensive and offensive fronts, oceanic strategic operations, and wartime districts is over... It has become practical to combine defensive and offensive operations and strategic operations in the oceanic theater of military actions into a single strategic operation."

Critically Important Facilities
This term can find its roots in RF state documents dating back to at least the mid-1990s. The 2012 Russian Security Council directive "Primary Areas of Focus of State Policy in Ensuring the Safety of Automated Control Systems of Critically Important Facilities of Russian Federation Infrastructure Using Industrial and Technological Processes", while primarily addressing information security, does provide a state definition of "critically important facility" as:

critically important facility of Russian Federation infrastructure (herein - critically important facility) - a facility, the destruction (or disabling) of functionality of which leads to the loss of command, collapse of infrastructure, irreversible alteration (or disabling) of the economy of the nation, constituent member of the Russian Federation or administrative-territorial unit, or significant worsening of the security of the livelihood of the populace living in these areas, for a lengthy period

Examples of "critically important facilities" include:

  • communications lines
  • radio and television systems
  • factories
  • electric/hydroelectric/nuclear power stations
  • oil and gas drilling companies
  • transportation activities

Russia classifies the threats of "critically important facilities" as:

  • nuclear (nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons complex companies)
  • radioactive (locations where liquid radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel are stored)
  • chemical (oil/chemical, metallurgic, machine-building, food production, and radio-technical, electro-technical and defense manufacturing companies)
  • man-made (large railway nodes, naval ports, airports, large cities, bridges, tunnels, dams, fuel- and energy-related facilities)
  • flammable (gas and oil pipes, storage facilities, pumping stations, etc.)
  • state command, financial/credit, information and telecommunications (financial institutions, fixed and mobile command stations, telephone/television/radio networks, large public arenas)

It is important to point out that the U.S., too, considers non-nuclear missile strikes as an alternative to strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons. According to the Pentagon's June 2013 "Report on Nuclear Employment Strategy of the United States":

DoD is directed to conduct deliberate planning for non-nuclear strike options to assess what objectives and effects could be achieved through integrated non-nuclear strike options, and to propose possible means to make these objectives and effects achievable. Although they are not a substitute for nuclear weapons, planning for non-nuclear strike options is a central part of reducing the role of nuclear weapons.

New Mission, New Missile
"Critically important facilities" can be defeated or destroyed using a range of tools, including long-range LACMs. Russia's newest naval land-attack missile, the SS-N-30, can hit targets located anywhere from 1,300km (700nm) to 2,600km (1,400nm) away, although sources differ. Caspian Flotilla commander  Rear Admiral Alekminskiy mentioned the 2,600km range during a June 2012 meeting with Dagestan president Magomedsalam Magomedov; however, a range of 3,000km (1,620nm) has been seen in unofficial reporting.

There are at least two variants of the missile: the original designator (3M-14) and a "special" designator (3M-14S), the latter of which may be configured with a nuclear warhead (although a nuclear-armed LACM is outside the boundaries of "strategic non-nuclear deterrence"). The U.S. TLAM-A Block II had two maximum ranges for both conventionally- (1,700km/900nm) and nuclear-armed versions (2,500km/1,350nm). If the Russians have created a LACM with two different ranges that are very similar to the ranges of U.S. TLAMs, those ranges might similarly represent both conventionally- and nuclear-armed missile ranges.

Below are nine maps depicting approximate range rings for an SS-N-30 launch platform (ship or submarine) operating in various areas of the world. The yellow and red rings depict 1,300km/700nm (conventional) and 3,000km/1,620nm (nuclear) ranges, respectively. The launch points chosen are not meant to suggest actual planned launch areas, but simply to provide a sense of LACM coverage.

Southern Norwegian Sea launch point
Central Mediterranean Sea launch point
Northwestern Caspian Sea launch point
Combined European theater launch points
Central Sea of Japan launch point
Central Pacific Ocean launch point
Eastern Pacific Ocean launch point
Western Atlantic Ocean launch point
Combined launch point coverage against North America

In summary, the purpose of strategic non-nuclear SS-N-30 land-attack cruise missiles, as part of a SOKVO, is to defeat or make unusable those things that make life bearable in the modern world: electricity, heating, water, telecommunications, airports, bridges, banks (credit/ATM cards), and, of course, the internet. Russia is currently building several classes of submarines and surface combatants capable of launching the SS-N-30. At the same time, Russia is upgrading some of its older nuclear submarines and surface ships to carry the land-attack cruise missiles in an apparent attempt to achieve some level of parity with the United States and its ubiquitous Tomahawk LACM launchers.

The reader should remember that by early 2016 Moscow will have bombers, surface ships, and submarines at its disposal to launch LACMs. Any strategic operation could include one or a combination of any of the three platforms to inflict the desired amount of damage

If having a large stockpile of LACMs and launch platforms is more than just for show, what would trigger Russia to actually launch LACMs? Would Russia have used them against rebel strongholds in Syria or during last year's crisis in Ukraine? Could there be an instance when Russia and the U.S. are both launching LACMs into the same country to support opposite sides of a conflict?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

'The Diplomat' Assessment of Russia's Pacific Fleet Needs Re-Work

Franz-Stefan Gady's article on the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet would have been forgettable were it not for the fact that RIA Novosti picked it up three days later. So, let's review Gady's statements:

"In the last two years, Russia’s second-biggest fleet, the Pacific Fleet, has been receiving new ships for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2013 the fleet obtained a new Borei-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), and is expecting five more over the next decade. The fleet has furthermore received one Dyugon-class landing craft in 2014."

-- Between December 25, 1991 (which many consider to be the end of the Soviet Union), and now, at least 16 new-construction submarines, surface combatants, and landing craft joined the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet.

  • Dolgorukiy nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (x2)
  • Grachonok landing craft (x3)
  • Grisha V light frigate (x1)
  • Nanuchka III patrol combatant (x1)
  • Ondatra landing craft (x1)
  • Serna landing craft (x1)
  • Tarantul III patrol combatant (x6)
  • Udaloy I destroyer (x1)

"Another Borei-class SSBN, the Vladimir Monomakh, is expected to enter the service of the Pacific Fleet this year. Its sister ship, the Borei-class SSBN Alexander Nevsky, recently conducted a successful single test-launch of the Bulava inter-continental ballistic missile in the Kamchatka Peninsula."

-- Using Gady's argument that "Aleksandr Nevskiy" is already part of the Pacific Fleet, "Vladimir Monomakh" has been part of the Pacific Fleet since it was commissioned on December 19, 2014.

-- SLBMs are not launched "in the Kamchatka Peninsula." They are launched from a body of water towards an impact range. In this case, the Bulava was launched in Sep 2014 from a submerged location in the White Sea towards the Kura Range on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

"The Pacific Fleet is also expecting two Steregushchy-class corvettes, multipurpose ships for littoral zone operations, in 2015."

-- Wrong. Based on published contract information, only one Steregushchiy frigate ("Sovershennyy") is currently scheduled to be transferred in fall 2015 from Amur Shipyard to the Vladivostok area for outfitting. While factory sea trials and state testing are scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year, there is no guarantee the frigate will join the Pacific Fleet by the end of 2015.

"The first of six Yasen-class multi-purpose attack nuclear submarines (SSGN) projected to enter service in the Far East over the next ten years will join the Pacific Fleet in 2017 at the earliest."

-- Not likely. The first Severodvinsk unit will stay in the Northern Fleet for the foreseeable future. Hull sections for the second unit ("Kazan") will be mated sometime this year, with a launch possible in 2016 and delivery possible in 2017. Given that it is the first modernized Severodvinsk, it, too, probably will stay in the Northern Fleet for some time. Although no one has specified which Severodvinsk submarines will join the Pacific Fleet, the first unit that likely will join that fleet is "Novosibirsk", which was laid down in July 2013. But unless the shipyard's construction pace picks up, that unit probably will not launch earlier than 2017 and will not be delivered earlier than 2018.

"The surface fleet includes one heavy nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser...three guided missile destroyers..."

-- Kirov-class nuclear powered cruiser "Admiral Lazarev" has been in mothball status for at least 15 years. Despite having undergone minor dock work last year - limited to repainting the hull and verifying the ship could remain afloat for a few more years before being scrapped, the 30-year-old cruiser is not likely to undergo an overhaul or upgrade. Also, it's unclear which Sovremennyy destroyers Gady includes in his calculations.

"The only SSBN operational is the new Borei-class Alexander Nevsky."

-- Yes, if you don't count the two operational Delta III SSBNs "Podolsk" (which launched an SS-N-18 SLBM in May 2014) and "Svyatoy Georgiy Pobedonosets" (which returned from a patrol in December 2014), and, of course, a second Dolgorukiy (“Vladimir Monomakh"). If you apply Gady's logic that "Admiral Lazarev" should be included as part of the Pacific Fleet order-of-battle, then we should add Delta III ("Ryazan"), which is undergoing long-term repairs at Zvezda Far East Shipyard and could return to service in 2016, thus making it closer to operational status that "Admiral Lazarev".

"...the main task for the Pacific Fleet in 2015 will be to maintain complete control of the Northern Sea Route..."

-- The Northern Fleet Joint Strategic Command, established on December 1, 2014, has this mission, not the Pacific Fleet, which would only support the Northern Fleet as required. Besides, with the limited numbers of operational combatants, the ability of the Russian Pacific Fleet "to maintain complete control of the Northern Sea Route" is, likewise, limited.

"However, in 2015 we will see very little change in Russia’s maritime posture in the region."

-- Concur.