The Russian optoelectronic space surveillance complex Okno is located in Tajikistan. (Yuriy Mukhin / Aerospace Defense Forces)
WARSAW — With a planned investment of 2 trillion rubles (US $55 billion), Russia is buying new weapons and aims to modernize its Aerospace Defense Forces (VKO) by 2020, said Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov.
The VKO, which replaced Russia’s Space Forces in 2011, will be modernized over the next six years and its structure overhauled in 2015. The VKO consists of a space command center, an air and space defense command, and the space center in Plesetsk.
Under the plan, the military branch will comprise four subdivisions, Maj. Gen. Sergei Yagolnikov, a spokesperson for the VKO, told news agency RIA Novosti. These will include a space- and ground-based intelligence-gathering and ballistic missile early warning system, an air and space defense command, a command-and-control structure, as well as a logistics support branch.
With these efforts, the ministry plans to integrate the activities of all units responsible for ensuring Russia’s aerospace defense into one branch, local analysts said.
Yagolnikov outlined the principal motives behind the planned reform in an article published Feb. 4 by local military magazine VPK.
The overhauled structure will integrate Russia’s response to potential attacks into a single system of aerospace defense, Yagolnikov wrote. Emphasis will be put on enhancing the role played by radars in detecting airbor ne threats.
According to Yagolnikov, the Defense Ministry is working on about 100 research and development projects for new VKO weapons. These will be financed by the funds announced by Borisov on Feb. 28.
Russia’s space agency Roscosmos confirmed plans announced by the country’s defense minister in a May 13 statement. Some of the projects to be carried out under the Russian space program to 2020 include developing advanced rocket technology, modernizing the Plesetsk space center and developing new space launch vehicles, according to Roscosmos.
Moscow is also aiming to secure its national satellite navigation system, Glonass, against signal disruptions.
In November, the Defense Ministry handed a 350 million ruble contract to two local defense contractors, the Russian Scientific-Research Institute of Physical-technical and Radiotechnical Measurements and NAVIS navigation systems. Under the deal, the two entities will subject Glonass receivers to signal-jamming attacks at a special facility to teach the system to distinguish noise from signal and bypass it.
The system was developed by the then-Soviet Ministry of Defense in 1976 as an alternative to the US-controlled Global Positioning System (GPS). To compete with GPS, the Russian government has been trying to involve other countries in joint strategic cooperation on Glonass.
There is increased evidence that Russia wants to challenge the global domination of GPS with its own system. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said May 13 that Moscow may halt the operations of GPS stations located on Russian territory by June 1 if the US refuses to decide whether it will similarly host Glonass stations on its soil before May 31.
Furthermore, as Russia plans to bolster its unilateral space projects, the country will not extend the joint use of the International Space Station (ISS), Rogozin said. US astronauts are transported to the station only onboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
The Russian government plans to use the station for national space projects.
“We are going to need the ISS before 2020,” Rogozin said. ■