MOSCOW, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- On Wednesday Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov addressed the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, to inform the deputies about current military development and various problems.
Serdyukov had to explain why the Russian army lacked modern weapons during the recent enforcement operation in the former Soviet republic of Georgia in the Caucasus.
The main elements of the North Caucasian Military District's 58th Army already have been redeployed 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 in Moscow 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 in the five-day conflict from Aug. 8-12 know that Russian forces sustained the greatest casualties during the first hours of the Georgian aggression because Moscow and the North Ossetian capital of 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.
Moreover, Russian forces did not know the firing positions of Georgia's Grad multiple-launch rocket systems, Gvozdika self-propelled guns and T-72 Main Battle Tank units. Nor did the Russian army have any dependable reconnaissance systems, including unmanned combat aerial vehicles.
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 Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot attack planes, which had won a reputation for themselves during the 1979-1989 Afghan war, shows that they have not been overhauled since.
The Sukhoi 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 systems. This is quite surprising, because such weapons have been displayed repeatedly at various exhibitions.
Although some companies are ready to install interchangeable state-of-the-art radio and electronic equipment on the more modern Sukhoi Su-35, the Russian Defense Ministry prefers to deal with -- and handsomely pay -- its favorite contractors.
However, 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.
(Part 2: Russian weaknesses in radio-electronic warfare)
(Nikita Petrov is a Russian military analyst. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)
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