Aerospace Defense Forces (VKO)

The Russian Aerospace Defense Forces (VKO) were created in 2011 by a decree of former President Dmitry Medvedev12 and ever since have been the subject of controversy. The birth pangs of the new organization perfectly reflect the circumstances surrounding the radical military reform launched by former Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov and the former CGS General Nikolay Makarov in 2008.

The establishment of Aerospace Troops (AST) as an independent unit was a major structural innovation of 2011. To some extent this may be considered as a restoration of the ex-USSR Armed Forces type called National Air Defense Forces. An Aerospace Defense Force would soon be added to the Russian armed forces, the commander of the Russian Space Forces, Lieutenant General Oleg Ostanenko told the Defense and Security Committee of the Federation Council in May 2011.

The creation of the new force was in compliance with the directives of the Commander in Chief of the Russian armed forces, President Dmitry Medvedev. The new force was part of the reorganization of the country’s aerospace defense system, and it will have a clear-cut integration structure with the Command and Management system. As the name suggests, the major duty of the Aero-space Defense Force is the protection of Russia’s interests in the air and space.

All the existing Air Defense Systems, including Air Defense Force, Anti-missile Defense Force, the Moscow Anti-rocket Defense Force, the Early Warning against rocket attack system and the space echelon satellites, which monitor missile directions are all to be part of the new Aero-Space Defense Force. The new Force will become fully operational when the S-500 complex, which is capable of hitting targets anywhere, including in the near orbit, is commissioned.

New branch of the Russian Armed Forces — Aerospace Forces — started performing assigned tasks on August 1, 2015. The Aerospace Forces perform a wide range of tasks:

  • repelling of aerospace threats and protecting posts of state management and military control, groupings of troops (forces), administrative and political centers, industrial and economical region, most important economics and infrastructure facilities of the country from aerospace strikes of the enemy;
  • engaging facilities and troops of the enemy as with common as with nuclear means of destruction;
  • aviation support of troops from other services and branches;
  • engaging ballistic missile warheads of the potential enemy attacking important state facilities;
  • providing the highest command and control bodies with reliable information concerning ballistic missile launches and warning about missile attack;
  • space facility observing and detecting threats against Russia happening as in as from space, meeting such threats;
  • launching spacecraft, controlling military and dual-purpose satellite systems during the flight and operating one of them in order to provide the troops with necessary information.
  • proper maintenance service of the military and dual-purpose satellite systems, launching and controlling complexes, and other tasks.

The Aerospace Defense Forces (Russian abb. VKO) is principally new branch of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, designed and responsible for air and space defense. The Aerospace Defense Forces has a wide range of functions and the most important among them are the following ones:

  • Providing Command Authorities with highly accurate information on detection of ballistic missile launches and prevention of missile attacks;
  • Destruction of the ballistic missile warheads of the conditional enemy in case of crucial governmental facilities being attacked;
  • Defense of the Major Command control stations and governmental facilities, armed formations, the most important industrial and economic centres and other installations against enemy’s joint air- and space-based strike weapons (Russian abb. SVKN) in the zone of probable damage;
  • Monitoring space objects and identification of potential threats to the Russian Federation in space and from space, prevention of attacks as needed.
  • Carrying out spacecraft launches and placing into orbit, controlling satellite systems, including Integrated ones (intended to be used for both military and civilian purposes) in flight, and using separate ones towards providing the Russian Federation Armed Forces with the necessary information;
  • Maintaining both military and integrated satellite systems with launching installations and assets of control in the workable order, and a number of other tasks.

This new branch of the Russian Federation Armed Forces was established on December 1, 2011, in accordance with the RF President’s Decree, designated as «the Aerospace Defense Forces» (Russian abb. VVKO or VKO). The Aerospace Defense Forces is formed of the following structural units and formations: the Space Command, the Air Defense and Space Defense Operational Strategic Command. The necessity of joint forces and assets, responsible for space and air defense, caused the creation of the Aerospace Defense Forces as a unified system of Air and Space Defense.

Creation of the Aerospace Defense Forces was caused by the necessity of the unified command and force, capable of operating in air and space combat trials, as nowadays, the race to attain strategic advantages in space became a prerequisite to ensure national security and interest in military, economic or social spheres. On December 1, 2011, the Aerospace Defense Forces was formed of the following structural units and its formations: the Space Command, the Air Defense and Space Defense Operational Strategic Command. Today, the Aerospace Defense Forces is a modern, developing, high-technology type of armed service, designed to perform defensive duties and ensure national security in air space.

The facilities of the RF Aerospace Defense Forces are located through the whole country – from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka. Complexes of early radar warning and air space control systems are located in the territory of some post-Soviet states: Azerbaijan, Byelorussia, Kazakhstan, Tadjikistan. On December 1, 2011 the Aerospace Defense Forces, including formations from different military districts, were put on combat duty to defend the territory of the Russian Federation from enemy’s joint air- and space-based strike weapons.

Russia’s active steps in boosting its air and missile defense capabilities are aimed against the potential threat of Prompt Global Strike which US “under certain conditions” might decide to carry out, Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces’ deputy chief said 04 April 2015. The potential threat of Prompt Global Strike by the United States against the Russian Federation is one of the top challenges for the Aerospace Defense Forces, Major General Kirill Makarov said.

In this regard an effective air and missile defense system remains one of Russia’s top priorities, since PGS initiative aims to deliver a precision-guided conventional weapon airstrike within less than one hour after Washington deems the target to be a national security threat. “It is precisely to combat these aerial assets that we are building the air and missile defense of Russia’s system,” said Makarov, emphasizing that Russian political and military leadership considers this task to be of “paramount importance.”

Space Forces

The first Soviet ground station sites, responsible for spacecraft control and launching, appeared in 1955, when the decision of building the ICBM test range in Kazakhstan (present: Baikonur cosmodrome) was made. In 1957 the Ground Control Station (Russian abb. KIK) became operational, while the first artificial satellite was prepared for launching. Later the same year, the construction of a testing range, designed for the R-7 ICBM launches, started in the Arkhangelsk district (present: Plesetsk cosmodrome).

On October 4, 1957, the world's first artificial satellite «PS-1» was launched from the Ground Control Station, on April 12, 1961 – the station units carried out monitoring and launch of the first manned spacecraft «Vostok», piloted by Yuri Gagarin. From that time, all space missions and programs (international included) were partially accomplished by units or formations of the Ground Control Station.

To organize space control, in 1960 the 3rd Department of the Main Missile Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR was formed and in 1964 reformed into the Central Spacecraft Directorate of the USSR Defense Ministry (Russian abb. TsUKOS) and in 1970 – into the Main Spacecraft Directorate of the USSR Defense Ministry (Russian abb. GUKOS). In 1982 GUKOS with its subordinate bodies was reassigned from the Strategic Missile Forces to the USSR Defense Minister directly, thereafter the Administration of the Defense Space Units’ Chief was established.

In August, 1992, the Russian Federation Space Forces were formed and shared control of both Baikonur and Plesetsk Cosmodromes, from 1994 it also operated the Svobodny Cosmodrome and the Main Trial Centre for Testing and Control of Space Means (Russian ab. GITSIU KS), A .F. Mozhaisky Military Space Engineering Academy and the 50th Scientific Research Institute of the RF Defense Ministry (Russian abb. 50th TsNII MO RF).

Since 1957, units of the Launch Control Center have carried out launches and flying control of more than 3000 spacecrafts and still have accomplishing objectives on space defense, participating in joint international manned spaceflights and operating various programs, concentrated on earth science, communication, and scientific research. In close cooperation with a number of scientific and commercial organizations, flight tests of more than 250 aircraft types of military, research and socioeconomic designation have been filled.

Manned flights, voyages to the Moon, Mars, Venus, complex missions of scientific experimentation in the outerspace, launch of the «Buran» unmanned orbiter, creation of the international space station, - the list of the Russian achievements in space technology could be extended. Military formations of space designation played a crucial role in the cosmonautics development.

Step by step, activities of the Ground Control Station of military designation became more complicated. From the very beginning of the space age, the necessity of monitoring of conditional enemy’s missile launches, observation activity, control of space objects and assessment of space objects state, prevention of possible emergency in space appeared. Space attack emerged as a possible threat. Therefore, in the 1960s the construction of early warning radar systems (Russian abb. PRN), space control systems (Russian abb. KKP), first missile defense installations – was started by the Soviet scientists.

During 1970-1980s, a great deal of promising programs of space exploration and satellite technology was designed by the Soviets as project pipeline to be implemented for the next few years, but it is being realized even at present. Space systems of early warning, reconnaissance, navigation and communication were constructed and came into service. Orbital complex became fully operational and effective as a means of accomplishing routine tasks and ongoing activities of the Armed Forces. Systems of early warning radar and missile defense were put into combat duty.

All these programs, international included, had been realized in the next 50 years with the direct participation of the Ground Control Station units and the troops of Anti-Missile and Anti-Space Defense (Russian abb. RKO), reorganized as the Aerospace Defense Forces in 2011, considering the fact, that space – is a common field for the RKO and Space Forces’ future armament and technology development.

For 10 years, units of the Space Forces carried out more than 200 rocket carrier launches, putting into orbit more over 300 spacecrafts of military, integrated, socioeconomic and scientific designation, including scientific experimental installations, systems of telecommunication and navigation, remote sensing, cartography and communication complexes, etc. By the means of the Space Control System, more than 900 dangerous approaches of space objects to the international space station were prevented. By the alert forces of the Titov Chief Test and Space Systems Control Centre about 2,5 million sessions of the spacecraft guidance have been carried out.

Air Defense Forces

Efficiency of using both informational and striking combat assets, capable of repelling air or space attack, has significantly risen due to assignment of the Air Defense Forces to the VKO. The first ones came into being during the World War I, as air protection force for the Russian capital, the city of Petrograd, and associated precincts, and other important facilities of the country. Air defense batteries, air-crews, aerial observation stations – had already operated as a part of the Air Defense Forces.

The further organization of the Air Forces (designated as the Air Defense in 1928) has undergone changes with the development of the military aviation. The formation of the anti-aircraft artillery regiments started in 1924. On may 10, 1932, the Directorate of the Air Defense of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (Russian abb. PVO RKKA) was established. On November 9, 1941, the Soviet Air Defense Forces became a separate service arm. In January 1942, Fighter Aviation was incorporated to this new separate branch, just as Surface-to-Air Missile Troops and Radiotechnical Troops.

During the Great Patriotic War, the Air and Air Defense Forces (Russian abb. PVO) included formations of operational and strategic designation: PVO fronts and air armies. By operating in combat trials during the war, more than 64 000 enemy’s aircrafts were destroyed by the PVO Forces, using artillery fire or by carrying out destruction at the aerodromes.

At present, all formations and units of the Air Defense Forces are permanently on high level of combat readiness. The structure of the Forces includes Surface-to-Air Missile Troops and Radiotechnical Troops, intended to defend control stations of governmental authorities or command structures, armed formations, the most important industrial and economic centres and other installations from enemy’s joint air- and space-based strike weapons in the zone of probable damage.

Radiotechnical complexes and automated radar systems and stations (of low, high and medium altitudes) are intend to carry out radar reconnaissance of air enemy and get the necessary information on air activity within radar detection zone, supporting superior agencies and other armed services, control stations of the Fighter Aviation, the Surface-to-Air Missile Troops and the Radiotechnical Troops with this information, while accomplishing combat tasks in peace- or wartime.

At present, the Surface-to-Air Missile systems are assigned to the Air Forces as the most striking force. Russian surface-to-air missile systems S-300, S-400, Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft artillery weapon system are capable of destroying various air targets, including BM warheads.

The personnel of the Air Defense Forces are on combat duty 24 hours a day, responsible for air defense and cover of the capital area and the central industrial region of the country. The Surface-to-Air Missile Troops and the Radiotechnical Troops of the PVO ensure air defense of approximately 140 objects of state administration, industry and energetics designation, transport and communications, atomic power stations.

Join the mailing list