15:15 GMT +3 hours28 November 2014
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Analysis & Opinion

Russian Army's weaknesses exposed during war in Georgia

Analysis & Opinion
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MOSCOW. (Nikita Petrov, special for RIA Novosti) - On September 10, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov is scheduled to address the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, to inform the deputies about current military development and various problems.

(Russian troops return from Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone - Image gallery)

Serdyukov will probably have to explain why the Russian Army lacked modern weapons during the recent peace enforcement operation in Georgia.

The main elements of the North Caucasian Military District's 58th Army have already been re-deployed to Russia. The bravest officers and men have received government decorations. Those killed in action have been buried. And now it is high time to assess the operation's lessons.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has senior Defense Ministry officials to do this, also telling Serdyukov to submit proposals on amending the state rearmament program. The Russian Army primarily requires combat-support systems, rather than new weaponry, in order to become a genuinely modern and effective fighting force.

Those, who fought in the South Caucasus this August, know that Russian peace-keepers sustained the greatest casualties during the first hours of the Georgian aggression because Moscow and Vladikavkaz, where the 58th Army's headquarters is located, failed to promptly order troops to repel the attack and to send elements of the 58th Army to South Ossetia.

Бронетехника грузинских вооруженных сил на парадеMoreover, Russian forces did not know the firing positions of Georgia's Grad multiple-launch rocket systems, Gvozdika self-propelled guns and T-72 tank units.

Nor did the Russian Army have any dependable reconnaissance systems, including unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs).

Although Russian and foreign UCAVs are regularly displayed at the annual MAKS international aerospace show in Zhukovsky near Moscow, including at the MAKS-2007 show, the Russian Army still lacks them because the national Defense Ministry decided to stop buying them in 2006.

Consequently, the Russians had no choice but to send a Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bomber on a reconnaissance mission and to use Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack jets to hit Georgian MLRS batteries.

The Georgians downed four Russian aircraft, which could have been saved if the Russians had the required UCAVs.

The destruction of three Su-25 attack planes, which had won a reputation for themselves during the 1979-1989 Afghan war, shows that they have not been overhauled since.

The Su-25s still lack radar sights, computers for calculating ground-target coordinates and long-range surface-to-air missiles that could be launched outside enemy air-defense areas.

Nor did they have any "smart" weapons for destroying Georgian artillery pieces and surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems. This is quite surprising, because such weapons have been repeatedly displayed at various exhibitions.

Although some companies are ready to install interchangeable state-of-the-art radio and electronic equipment on the Su-35, the Defense Ministry prefers to deal with (and handsomely pay) its favorite contractors.

These companies were not up to the task, and are responsible for the loss of four aircraft and the capture of two pilots. Several more pilots were killed as a result of their incompetence.

A similar situation holds in the sphere of radio-electronic warfare. It turns out that Russian electronic counter-measures (ECM) systems are unable to jam and suppress enemy SAMs and reconnaissance systems, radars and UHV communications and troop-control networks.

This is rather disturbing, especially as the Georgian Army lacked modern systems. As a result the 58th Army sustained unnecessary casualties, and also lost more combat equipment than it should have.

ТАНК Т-90 СThe Russian tank force has been suffering from major problems for a long time. The North Caucasian Military District, for instance, still operates T-72 main battle tanks without night sights. But not even the more sophisticated T-80-U and T-90 have such sights, either.

Moreover, their explosive-reactive armor was not filled with explosives and could not therefore deflect high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) weapons.

It is common knowledge that tanks are extremely vulnerable in mountainous and urban areas and during re-deployment because their crews lack all-round visibility, making it difficult to spot enemy soldiers with rocket launchers or shaped-charge hiding in caves and ravines and behind rocks and bushes.

The Dzerzhinsky Ural Railroad Car Works (Uralvagonzavod), which has developed all post-Soviet and Russian main battle tanks except the T-80, unveiled its Tank Support Combat Vehicle (TSCV) over 20 years ago.

The TSCV featured nine weapons systems, including guided anti-tank missiles, large-caliber machine-guns, SAMs and 30-mm and 40-mm automatic rocket launchers, and was intended to be used against Mujahedin forces in Afghanistan.

Most importantly, the TSCV had effective target-acquisition systems for detecting and killing enemy soldiers long before they could fire the first shot.

Although the TSCV has passed all state tests with flying colors and has also been displayed at numerous exhibitions, it has not served with the Russian Army to date.

Unlike most advanced foreign armies, including the Israeli Army, Russian tanks are not supported by attack helicopters. There is no regular radio communication between Russian tank, motorized-rifle, helicopter, attack-plane and tactical-bomber units either.

Although experts have been discussing the creation of an integrated combat-control system for many years, such a system remains on the drawing board.

The Russian Army and its commanders have not yet realized that all units and weapons accomplishing a joint objective must become part of an integrated combat-control system.

Russian officers and soldiers have to compensate for the current lag in combat-support systems with their selfless heroism and bravery. But this costs the country and its armed forces dearly.

It is high time we learned modern fighting skills. The system for awarding state defense contracts must also be modified accordingly.

Unfortunately, the Russian Army is unlikely to receive new weapons and combat-support systems after the South Ossetian conflict. Although Russia has once again paid a high price for victory, its generals and politicians often prefer empty talk to candid and sober-minded assessments.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.