Since initiating the reform and modernization of Russia’s Armed Forces in late 2008, the defense leadership in Moscow has paid close attention to improving command and control (C2), both by simplifying its structural organization and through exploiting modern technologies. A key component in this process involved developing and introducing automated C2 systems, as part of an effort to adopt network-centric warfare capabilities (see EDM, April 19, 2016). While this has not yet permeated the entire force structure, progress has been marked in recent years, with all branches and arms of service becoming increasingly linked in an integrated information space. On June 5, the Russian defense ministry confirmed the latest high-technology iteration of this technological development, announcing the introduction of a new Automated Command and Control System (Avtomatizirovannyye Sistemy Upravleniya—ASU), in the Western Military District/Joint Strategic Command (Obyedinennyye Strategicheskoye Komandovanie—OSK) (Topwar.ru, June 5).
The headquarters of the 6th Combined-Arms Army (CAA) in St. Petersburg, co-located with the OSK HQ, will receive the new ASU, which has already acquired the nickname of “Star Wars Headquarters” within the Russian Ground Forces. Its purpose is to connect all levels of C2, from the strategic down to the tactical, and provide commanders with decision-making options in real time. This latest version of the Automated Command and Control System began testing in early 2019; further work is ongoing to aid its successful introduction in the 6th CAA. The defense ministry then plans to introduce the new system within all the CAAs. According to sources speaking with Izvestia, the new ASU was first tested in the 1st Guards Tank Army, and was created on the basis of the Akatsiya-M system, at a cost of 21 billion rubles ($330 million) (Militaryarms.ru, June 6).
The automated C2 system allows for closed high-speed communications to continuously receive information from the National Defense Management Center (Natsionalnogo Tsentra Upravleniya Oboronoy—NTsUO) in Moscow, as well as other relevant commands. The commander and army HQ can use this ASU to control varied and complex force groupings. Russian specialists argue that this reduces the time involved in the command cycle by two or three times. Military expert Viktor Murakhovsky told Izvestia, “The new system uses the so-called network-centric principle of control, when all structural elements are tied together. It integrates with automated command-and-control systems of other types of armed forces and types of troops, including airborne forces, the navy and air defense. The system helps in solving a variety of tasks—from calculating military capabilities and modeling of hostilities, to organizing a march or bringing food to the front line.” Murakhovsky emphasized that the ASU improves the speed and efficiency of the command-and-control system and allows the military to stay one step ahead of an adversary; the driving force in these initiatives is to seize and maintain control on the battlefield (Izvestia, June 5).
The main task of the new ASU is to ensure the exchange of data between command posts and headquarters. Also, the automated C2 system includes reconnaissance assets, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and satellites. This will facilitate greater operational flexibility, while the ASU speeds up the response time of commanders’ reactions to developments on the ground during combat operations. All information in real-time is displayed on an electronic map, and information-exchange tools embedded in a single circuit enable faster changes to documents, orders and sudden shift in the course of operational activities (Topwar.ru, June 5). According to Izvestia, the new ASU has several important functions: “In the first place, the automated control system is collecting information about the actions of the enemy, then about the air, ground, jamming, radiation, chemical and bacteriological situation in the area of the army. It also summarizes data on the availability of equipment, the availability of ammunition and fuel and lubricants, and even the moral and psychological state of the personnel” (Izvestia, June 5).
The new ASU covers all types of communication, wired, radio, relay and satellite, along with accesses to the Russian GLONASS satellite navigation system. It receives information through closed radio and satellite channels and synthesizes a single picture of the battlefield. Although much of its technical characteristics remain classified, it seems the breakthrough lies in its function as a way to integrate other ASU systems in use within the Armed Forces. To date, the Ground Forces, Aerospace Forces (Vozdushno Kosmicheskikh Sil—VKS), Military-Maritime Fleet (Voyenno-Morskoy Flot—VMF) and Airborne Forces (Vozdushno Desantnye Voyska—VDV) operate different ASU versions. The new ASU entering service in the 6th CAA in St. Petersburg appears to be a part of an effort to integrate the existing systems (Militaryarms.ru, June 6).
One illustration of the diverse nature of existing ASU complexes in service within the Russian military is the Andromeda-D system, used by the VDV. Efforts to integrate such systems in order to facilitate greater C2 integration with other force elements resulted in closer cooperation between the VDV and the defense industry. The Andromeda-D system has already undergone two phases of introduction, and a third stage will be completed by the end of the year. This was announced in May by the director general of the Research Institute of Communication and Management Systems (NIISSU, part of the Roselectronika holding of the Rostec state corporation), Valery Evtukhovich, during the Minsk MILEX-2019 exhibition. “The ASU of the first stage [and] second has been created; the third stage ASU is being developed. This is the next iteration of the development of the system, which is currently at the development stage. These decisions will be published at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020,” Evtukhovich explained. He further confirmed that the VDV has received upgraded versions of the Andromeda-D ASU, and these developments prove ongoing experimentation and the evolution occurring in Russia’s adoption of automated command and control (TVZvezda, May 17).
This latest iteration of Russian ASU technology marks an important step along the path of adopting command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) approaches to modern warfare, thus enhancing Russian’s conventional military capabilities. The new ASU, initially introduced in the 6th CAA in St. Petersburg as a precursor to wider procurement, also seeks to overcome problems of integrating existing ASU complexes in use within the various branches and arms of service. It will, in the future, integrate the NTsUO, OSK commands, CAA HQs, down to commanders in the field, in order to take another vital leap forward into real-world network-centric operations.