New Chief of General Staff, Modernisation of Air Force, S-300 - Belarus Security Digest

S-300

Aliaksandr Lukashenka made a good personnel decision by appointing a new Chief of General Staff.

Security agencies suffer from underfunding. It forces them to adopt austerity measures and negatively impacts the number of those who want to choose to serve in the military.

Unable to procure new combat aircraft, the Belarusian authorities have decided to modernise their existing fleet.

The delivery of new armaments from Russia has been postponed once again. The Kremlin may use its military and technical assistance to Belarus as leverage against Minsk.

A New Chief of General Staff Appointed 

On 11 January 2014, Major General Alieh Bielakonieu, previously in command of the Special Operations Forces, was appointed the Chief of General Staff. He belongs to a group of operational commanders. He is considered to be aware of the real situation in the Belarusian Army and the has necessary business skills to run it: energetic, prone to innovation and not afflicted with Soviet dogmatism.

He is not afraid of assuming responsibility, which is unusual today for the Belarusian leadership. He has demonstrated the qualities of an efficient lobbyist, which helped to meet the needs of the Special Operations Forces in financial and material resources even under the conditions of budget cuts. He has also devoted a great deal of time to the welfare of his subordinates, spending a lot of time among troops. 

The Army Has to Cut Down Expenses

The practise of minimum spending being spent on the needs of the Army will continue in the coming years. For this reason the Ministry of Defence seeks to find money internally to maintain its capabilities and ration its costs. The most sophisticated systems are available to the Air Force and the Air Defence Forces of Belarus, which are have been the main priority for more than ten years already.

So, all the repairs and modernisation of weapons and equipment will be performed by Belarusian enterprises. Repair units have been set up for anti-aircraft missiles and radar, with troops performing routine maintenance and repairs. These measures will help to save money by not employing specialists from the manufacturers of combat weapon systems.

No Money, Shortage of Staff

Performance in staffing the Armed Forces in 2013 was analysed and its goals for 2014 were readjusted. The past year was marked with better staffing of the officer corps in comparison to 2012. It was achieved by implementing a set of measures. First, this was done by enlisting new graduates of military colleges. Second, by retraining warrant officers with their promotion to a military officer with the rank of lieutenant. Also, officer ranks were given to female military staff who were already serving in officer positions.

the Ministry of Emergency Situations this agency allowed its employees to hold second jobs in their spare time

In the state budget for 2014 the clothing allowance of the Army is only financed at 40% of assessed need. In other security agencies the overall situation is similar. At the end of January, it became known that the Ministry of Emergency Situations suspended payments of bonuses to its rank-and-file and junior command personnel, bonuses that which amounted to between 250,000 – 270,000 Belarusian roubles. To take cool the situation down a little, due to the low wages of servicemen, the Ministry of Emergency Situations this agency allowed its employees to hold second jobs in their spare time.

The Novelty of the Belarusian Defence Industry on Combat Duty

The new domestic radar station "Vostok-D" went was launched for combat duty for air defence in the 49th Radar Brigade. The station was created in accordance with the State Armament Programme and is of an original design. The manufacturer of the station is the company "Radar Systems." The main activities of the company's branches are design and industrial-scale manufacturing of air defence systems, radars, radio navigation systems and means of electronic warfare and their modernisation.

The technical specifications of the station allow it to replace several obsolete medium and long range radar stations at once. The station has a high detection range (up to 360 kilometres) and mobility; it is capable of efficiently tracking small targets and objects manufactured with stealth technology.

Operational Readiness of Troops Tested

Operational readiness test of the Armed Forces that was promised by Aliaksandr Lukashenka started in January. The main burden was placed on the Air Force and the Air Defence Force as well as the Special Operations Forces. Aircraft were dispersed with their relocation to alternate airfields in Luniniets and Babrujsk. The units that were protecting the airfields had to operate under attacks from sabotteurs and reconnaissance groups of the enemy.

Plans to modernise the Air Force

On 30 January 2014, Deputy Minister of Defence for armaments Major General Ihar Latsienkou announced the decision to carry out the overhaul and modernisation of MiG-29 and Su-25 aircraft, was set to begin in early 2014. The first 10 aircraft are already in the 558th Aircraft Repair Plant in Baranavichy. It is still unclear if all aircraft will be modernised or only some of them.

Besides, in the nearest future the military and industrial complex of Belarus may carry out the comprehensive modernisation of Su-27 fighters. Their fate was extremely confusing. On 28 August, Minister of Defence Jury Zhadobin said that the Su-27 fighters were not decommissioned but their operation was discontinued.

Jury Zhadobin said that the Su-27 fighters were not decommissioned but their operation was discontinued

On 14 November 2013, Commander of the Air Force and Air Defence Force of Belarus Alieh Dzvihaliou said that the Su-27 had been removed from operational use because their operation was expensive. And he added immediately that the Su-30, which are an upgraded version of the Su-27, were considered as potential replacement fighters for the national Air Force. And on 18 November 2013, Aliaksandr Lukashenka, while visiting the air base in Baranavichy, said that withdrawal of the Su-27 aircraft from the Air Force of Belarus was premature.

It all looks like an attempt to patch a hole that appeared after the decommissioning of two dozens heavy Su fighters. The only thing is that the aircraft have not been operational since 2011. And the Belarusian authorities became especially concerned with this problem only after facing the prospects of receiving a Russian air base on their own territory.

Delivery of S-300 Postponed Again

The Ministry of Defence is pinning its main hope on 2015, when they expect (and for now that is all they do -- expect) the delivery of four battalions of air defence missile systems S-300 as well as radar equipment and trainer aircraft Yak-130 from Russia that they were promised three years ago. Belarus should then focus on their plans to get four battalions of air defence missile systems S-300 from Russia; they are seen as a kind of bonus for the planned deployment of a Russian air base in Belarus.

If in the past, the transfer of these weapon systems was planned for this year, now the question is whether or not they will arrive in 2015. It should be emphasised that these four battalions have been scheduled for delivery since 2011 already. In July 2012, it was announced that the delivery would take place in the near future. Now, this 'near future' appears to be 2015. With this in mind, the outlook for rearming of the 377th air defence missile regiment and changing over from the S-200 to S-300 air defence system looks rather dim.

Andrei Parotnikau

Andrei is the head of “Belarus Security Blog” analytical project.

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