Russia’s Armed Forces have undergone a prolonged transformation over the past decade as part of reform and modernization of Russian military capability. This has covered many facets involving numerous experiments and corrections. However, the political-military leadership has not forgotten the key role traditionally assigned to artillery in Russian combat operations. In 1944, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin asserted in a speech that “artillery is the god of war.” As the current modernization process continues, it appears that artillery systems are now playing an increasingly important role in efforts to boost the accuracy of fires. Artillery reform involves an experiment to increase the effectiveness of the Missile and Artillery Troops (Raketnyye Voyska i Artilleriya—RV&A) by developing new artillery models or modernizing existing systems as well as restructuring units and integrating these into the unified information space. Some of this process draws on lessons learned from artillery use in Syria and recent tests in last month’s (September 16–21) strategic-operational exercise Tsentr 2019 (see EDM, October 9; VPK, October 8).
During Tsentr 2019, a number of test elements were included, involving widespread use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), new communications systems, command-and-control (C2) systems, electronic warfare (EW) assets, large-scale airborne assault forces, strategic mobility, and further examination of advances in the integration of artillery into the Reconnaissance-Fire System (Razvedivatel’nfaya-Ognovaya Sistema—ROS). Moreover, military operations in Syria confirmed the advantage in terms of mobility of artillery units equipped with D-30 and 2A65 Msta-B howitzers as examples of towed artillery over the systems mounted on tracked chassis (see EDM, September 25).
The common theme in these modernization efforts is to unite systems in the information space, in order that artillery and precision missiles receive accurate targeting in real time and then execute high-precision fires. Artillery personnel receive target information from forward-spotters and UAVs, with all this transmitted in real time using the Strelets intelligence management and communications complex (Kompleks Razvedki Upravleniya i Svyazi—KRUS). This was tried and tested in Syria. ROS, the Russian variant of network-centric warfare, aims to unite all units and subunits operating on the battlefield with automated C2 reporting identified targets; the information is gathered from UAVs and electronic intelligence equipment. The data is also transmitted to higher commands (VPK, October 8).
In the process of artillery reform, there is a mixture of new systems appearing and efforts to modernize existing ones. The Ground Forces will receive the new Koalitsiya-SV self-propelled howitzers. Equally, the defense ministry is returning to service Cold War–legacy systems such as the long-range 2S7 Peon and super-heavy 2S4 Tyulpan mortars. Krasnopol guided munitions have been returned to service after their discontinuation in the mid-1990s. The self-propelled howitzers Koalitsiya-SV and 2S19M2 Msta-S as well as the multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) Tornado-S and Uragan-M were created for integration into the information space. But the older systems—such as the 2S1 Akatsiya, 2S3 Gvozdika or the 2S19, in addition to the MLRS Uragan and Grad—need to be modernized. Work is in progress to update these systems, with an improvement program for the Grad initiated this year (VPK, October 8, 2019; Topwar.ru, January 30, 2018).
An additional example of upgrading existing systems is the 203-millimeter self-propelled Malka. Uraltransmash recently announced the completion of the modernization of this artillery gun, which Alexei Leonkov, the editor of Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine, describes as one of the most powerful in the world. Leonkov notes the link to the ROS: “Now everything is moving to an automated control system in which these types of fire weapons are combined into reconnaissance and fire circuits. That is, the target designation for these complexes can be various reconnaissance systems: both ground and air, which will give instructions to the calculations of these artillery guns, and they will produce high-precision firing.” Malka fits into this modernization pattern, as Leonkov concludes: “As a result of modernization, the artillery installations will work in a single whole with other artillery systems, with multiple rocket launchers and field artillery systems, and [they will] deliver high-precision crushing blows with their entire arsenal” (RIA Novosti, October 6; (RT, October 3).
In early 2018, Russia’s defense ministry decided to comprehensively modernize the 2S7 Peon artillery systems developed in the 1970s. “The large-scale modernization of the 203 mm caliber Peon artillery mounts has begun. A key element in updating self-propelled guns capable of hitting enemy targets at ranges up to 50 kilometers will be a more advanced combat fire-control system. The structure of the divisions of heavy-duty artillery systems in the future will include UAVs. They will help aim the artillery at the target,” according to a source in the defense ministry. Viktor Murakhovsky, the editor-in-chief of Arsenal of the Fatherland, considers the “digitalization of high-powered artillery control systems as an important element in the rearmament of the Ground Forces. Such modernization unites artillery assets in a single reconnaissance-fire complex. Consequently, this reduces the time of preparation and combat use of strike systems. The interval from identifying a target and setting a task for its destruction to a salvo is reduced by three to five times,” according to Murakhovsky (Topwar.ru, January 30, 2018).
Such approaches to the future role of artillery in the Russian Armed Forces was also expressed by Army General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff, in his annual address to the Academy of Military Sciences, in Moscow, in March 2018. Gerasimov explained, “In order to ensure the speed and continuity of the fire impact on the enemy, reconnaissance-strike and reconnaissance-fire complexes are being created. The integration of reconnaissance-information and information-control systems with weapons systems of military branches and arms is being carried out,” adding, “Work is underway to create an interspecific automated reconnaissance and strike system. Their result should be a 2- to 2.5-fold reduction in the time parameters of the fire task solution cycle—from reconnaissance to target destruction. At the same time, the accuracy of the strike [using high-precision weaponry] will be 1.5–2 times [better]” (TASS, March 24, 2018).
In the rush and high-profile efforts by Moscow to develop and introduce more high-precision strike systems, including cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons, artillery is frequently overlooked in Western analytical circles. It is, however, highly likely that artillery modernization is in fact central to achieving Russia’s military modernization aims, at least in terms of enhanced fires on the modern battlefield.