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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Combat Readiness

Combat readiness [boeva gotovnost] is the ability of troops (forces) in any situation to begin military operations on time and successfully carry out assigned tasks. Russia maintains a substantial portion of its nuclear forces on continuous alert, including keeping nearly all ICBMs on alert, and maintaining a significant number of SSBNs at sea at any given time. During the Cold War both countries concluded that they could not be certain of their ability to absorb ("ride out") a surprise nuclear attack and still respond with a second strike. They had therefore developed systems that focused on launching very quickly.

In the year 2020 the President of Russia approved by his decree "Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the field of nuclear deterrence." Moscow can use nuclear weapons in response to an attack on it or its allies using nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, or in the event of aggression with conventional weapons, if “the very existence of the state is endangered.”

Combat readiness is the ability of troops ( armed forces ), a specific military formation to start performing combat missions in accordance with their intended purpose within the specified time. The armed forces of various states establish their own list of degrees of combat readiness. They correspond to various modes of functioning of subunits and military units - from which they can begin to carry out a combat mission within a certain period of time, established in a documented manner and enshrined in service instructions for each serviceman in his position. With each subsequent degree of combat readiness , the time required to be ready to conduct hostilities is reduced. The highest level of combat readiness means that a particular formation is ready to immediately begin combat operations.

In the USSR Armed Forces there were 4 levels of combat readiness. Like the US five DEFCON levels, Russia has a number of readiness levels:

  1. CONSTANT [konstanta]
  2. ELEVATED [prypodnatie]
  3. MILITARY DANGER [voennaya opasnost]
  4. FULL [polny]

President Vladimir Putin on 27 February 2022 issued orders to introduce what he called a "special combat service regime" to bolster the military's deterrence force.. He gave the directive on Sunday to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, General Valery Gerasimov.

Putin said Russian nuclear forces would be placed in a "special mode" of readiness following "aggressive statements" by NATO powers amid the invasion of Ukraine. "I order the defense minister and the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into a special mode of combat service," Putin said in a televised address. The last nuclear exercises took place on February 19, when Putin staged very large drills across Russia to test the country’s nuclear program and its readiness. The decision came after Western leaders agreed to a fresh wave of sanctions on Moscow, including freezing Putin's personal assets and cutting some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system. Putin also blamed what he called "aggressive statements" by leading NATO powers.

The actual effect of the order, however, was not immediately clear. Former Russian military officer Konstantin Eggert told DW he had "trouble discerning" what Putin meant when he said nuclear forces are on higher alert. "The expression he used to indicate some heightened state of alert does not exist in Russian military manuals. Somer observers suggested that the combat readiness was raised from CONSTANT to ELEVATED level, but "Nuclear forces are pretty much always on heightened alert," Eggert noted.

Doctor of Military Technical Sciences, Major General Boris Vladislavovich, who served in the Strategic Missile Forces and the General Staff, told Komsomolskaya Pravda that the "special mode of combat duty" meant "the highest degree of combat readiness. It is followed only by "full combat readiness". When the "red button" can be activated at any time. Or "nuclear briefcase". By the way, we have three of them - the President, the Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff. Such a system makes it possible to insure against any errors in the use of nuclear weapons."

The Strategic Missile Forces provides for several degrees of BG. In peacetime, the BG "Constant" ensures the timely transfer of troops (forces) from peacetime to martial law, deployment and entry into war. At the same time, command and control agencies and troops are maintained in readiness to carry out measures to bring them to the highest levels of combat readiness: "Increased", "Military danger", "Full". With the growing threat of war, the degree of combatant combat increases by carrying out a set of organizational, mobilization, technical, and other measures within the time frame established by the plans to bring troops (forces) to the highest degree of combat readiness.

Constant combat readiness is the state of the Armed Forces, in which subunits and units are concentrated in a permanent deployment point and conduct daily activities: a strict daily routine is followed, high discipline is maintained. The party is engaged in the current repair of equipment and training. Lessons are coordinated with the program. The troops are ready at any moment to move to the highest rank of BG. To do this, specialized units and subdivisions provide services 24 hours a day, all activities are carried out in accordance with the plan. There are special warehouses for the storage of material and technical means (ammunition, fuel and lubricants). Machines have been set up that, at any time, if necessary, can deliver them to the area where the unit or unit is located.

Increased combat readiness is a state of the armed forces in which units and subunits are ready to act in a short time to repel a military threat and carry out combat missions. After checking the BG of a given rank, the readiness of the unit for possible changes in the regime, the amount of stocks of materiel, weapons and equipment necessary for the given level for the export of military personnel and officers to the places of mobilization are determined. Increased combat readiness is used mainly for training purposes, since it is expensive for the country to operate in this mode.

The "military danger" level is defined as the state of the military-political situation, characterized by a combination of factors that, under certain geopolitical, military-strategic, socio-political and economic conditions, can lead to an armed conflict or war. It is determined by the presence of existing contradictions between the rival parties, as well as intentions to resolve them with the use of military force. In the mode of military danger, combat readiness is such a state of the armed forces in which all equipment is withdrawn to a reserve area, and military units and subunits are raised in case of alarm in a short time to complete tasks. The army of the third degree of combat readiness (whose official name is “military danger”) has the same functions. Blood sugar starts with an alarm.

In the fourth class of the BG, military units and formations of the Armed Forces are in a state of maximum combat readiness. This method provides for measures aimed at the transition from a peaceful situation to a military one. To fulfill the task set by the military leadership, personnel and officers are fully mobilized.

Full combat readiness in the absence of a direct invasion is carried out to control a specific area. In addition, the claimed rank of BG may indicate the start of hostilities. In very rare cases, full combat readiness is checked. This is due to the fact that the state spends a lot of money on financing this level. A nationwide full readiness announcement could be made to test all units globally. In each country, according to security regulations, only a few units can be permanently deployed in the fourth level BG mode: border, anti-missile, anti-aircraft and radio engineering units. This is due to the fact that under the current conditions, a strike can be declared at any moment. These troops are constantly focused on the required positions. Like regular military units, these units are also engaged in combat training, but in case of danger they begin to act.

B.g. missile units, units and formations are characterized by the ability and ability to solve assigned combat missions; efficiency of the solution and the possibility of increasing B.g. (translation from peacetime to wartime). Efficiency in solving assigned combat missions is achieved by: advance planning and input of combat use data into the equipment of combat missile systems and into an automated combat control system, development of combat action plans; the quality of organization and performance of combat duty, the comprehensive support of combat operations; the time of execution by duty combat crews of operations for direct preparation and launch of missiles; the duration of the cyclogram for the preparation and launch of missiles. A missile unit (compound) should be considered combat-ready if it is combat-ready, has combat missions, deployed in battle order and ready to carry them out on time (bearing combat duty in the established degree of combat readiness). B.g. missile units and formations is the defining element of B.g. missile formations and the Strategic Missile Forces as a whole.

The Strategic Missile Forces are provided with: high readiness for the performance of combat missions of missile units, formations and associations; organization of continuous combat duty at control points of various levels by duty shifts capable of independently fulfilling the received order to launch missiles; the presence of an automated system for the combat control of troops and weapons, which makes it possible to launch missiles directly from the highest levels of command and control; centralization of the planning of technical maintenance of launchers associated with a decrease in their readiness for launching missiles; comprehensive support for combat duty and combat operations; readiness to carry out combat missions to defeat strategic enemy targets, depending on the degree of threat of unleashing a war, etc. technical and organizational measures. Moreover, under the level of B.g. is understood as a measure of the ability of the Strategic Missile Forces to complete the assigned tasks on time.

The higher the degree of BG, the greater the number of troops (forces) capable of immediately starting hostilities and the less time they will need to prepare for combat missions. When bringing to the highest degree of combat readiness, an increase (strengthening) of duty forces and means at command and control and communication points is carried out in stages; controls are transferred to an enhanced (combat) mode of operation; new units and subunits are formed (mobilized); units are dispersed to the established areas (places) for the performance of combat missions; combat missions are specified, and other activities are carried out in accordance with the plans. The increase in the BG of troops (forces) can be carried out both by successive introduction from the lowest to the highest level of BG, and directly to the highest level of BG, bypassing the intermediate one. The transfer to the highest degrees of BG, bypassing the intermediate ones, is carried out with a sharp aggravation of the situation or the beginning of a war with the rise of troops on combat alert.

According to the defense terminology guide published by the Ministry of Defense, the strategic deterrence forces (SSS) are the backbone of the combat power of the Russian Armed Forces and are designed to deter aggression against Russia and its allies, as well as to defeat the aggressor, including in a war with the use of nuclear weapons. The SSS includes the Strategic Offensive Forces (SNA) and the Strategic Defensive Forces (SOS).

“The strategic nuclear forces, which include the Strategic Missile Forces, form the basis of the strategic nuclear forces, equipped with intercontinental-range missile and aviation systems, and long-range precision weapons. The SNS also includes strategic non-nuclear forces as dual-purpose forces - formations and units of strategic and long-range bombers of the Air Force DA, as well as submarines, surface ships and naval missile-carrying aircraft of the Navy with conventional long-range precision weapons. The basis of the SOS is the combat-ready forces and means of the Aerospace Defense Forces, which include a missile attack warning system, a space control system, anti-missile defense and anti-space defense, and air defense,” the reference book says.

There are several stages of readiness - from approximate time to full readiness. For example, it is possible to prepare a mobile regiment, complexes like Yars, Topol for going into the field. Mobile ICBMs can be taken out into the field and dispersed. Commanders can prepare submarines for going to sea. Forces can send missiles to long-range aircraft, and then disperse these aircraft to alternate airfields. All these are different degrees and levels of readiness, which can be applied both immediately and in parts, and again in different degrees.

Russia’s deployed ICBMs are at launch-on-warning (“ready to launch if it appears that another state has initiated a nuclear strike against Russia”). Sea- and air-based nuclear weapons are at lower levels of readiness. Gravity bombs are not continuously deployed on heavy bombers and Russian SSBNs are not on continuous at-sea patrol. Increasing the mobility of ICBMs, and increasing the number of prepared and presurveyed places from which they can be launched, could help increase the time available for reaching a decision to launch. Russia has implemented measures to reduce the risk posed by advanced conventional weapons to missiles prior to launch, including electronic counter-measures and decoys.

In 1991-92 Russia formally reversed the Soviet Union's previous "No First Use" of nuclear weapons pledge, adopting instead a policy of first use if necessary. The U.S. State Department explained in written answers to a U.S. Senate Committee in 1997, "The likeliest scenario - albeit still extremely unlikely - for a Russian use of nuclear weapons would probably be a small war on Russia's periphery which threatened to escalate beyond the Russian ability to prevent a catastrophic defeat with only conventional weapons".

Early warning teams will have up to three minutes to determine that indications of an incoming nuclear attack are real and report to the president; the president would have a maximum of twelve minutes to decide whether to retaliate in kind or risk decapitation of nuclear command and control capacity and decimation of Russian nuclear forces. The time could be much shorter for Trident SLBMs if they were launched from close to Russian home waters. Missile launch crews in underground command posts and submarines would have two and twelve minutes respectively to take the missiles out of their silos and tubes and launch them on their 30 minutes (or less) flight path to enemy targets.

In the middle of a nuclear crisis, if strategic doctrine and operational plans require a very quick decision on strategic force employment, the possibility grows of miscalculation or a decision based on the wrong information by the national command authority. This is why the issue of launch alert status has been of great interest.

Reciprocal "de-alerting" of nuclear forces would increase the time necessary to prepare them for launch from the current "hair-trigger" postures developed in response to the needs of the Cold War. Though open to criticism as a technical response to a political and moral problem, de-alerting provides several benefits: increasing nuclear safety in the short term without radical changes in defence policies, and building confidence over the longer term that will encourage further progress.

Dr. Bruce Blair, a former U.S. Air Force missile launch control officer, and a leading authority on nuclear command and control systems, argued that even modest de-alerting would increase current nuclear safety. Moreover, proceeding eventually to zero alert could create an international norm that would pressure all States to keep nuclear weapons off immediate launch status. There is also a convergence between de-alerting and the elimination of nuclear weapons in the long term: continued de-alerting would result in a comprehensive stage which would in effect be tantamount to elimination.

In June 1997, Sam Nunn, a pragmatic and highly-respected former U.S. Senator and Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined with Bruce Blair to advocate de-alerting. "Although such measures could be reversed if circumstances change and national security requires it, de-alerting would create a judicious delay in the capacity for launch in order to assure more reliable control over nuclear weapons, to reduce daily nuclear tensions, and to strengthen mutual confidence in each other's nuclear intentions. De-alerting does not mean the elimination of nuclear weapons, but it would eliminate their hair trigger, unlike the "de-targeting" steps taken under the 1994 Clinton-Yeltsin agreement which can be reversed in a matter of seconds..."

Blair noted in 1998 that ". . .the Russian defense establishment is more suspicious of the West than most observers imagine, the nuclear threshold is lower than commonly perceived, and the domestic and international context is a more pivotal factor in Russian threat assessment than is normally recognized. Worse, perhaps, the danger of Russian nuclear miscalculation is not as remote as many suppose, and the progressive deterioration of Russian early warning and control represents a more serious threat than either of our governments is willing to acknowledge."

Britain's July 1998 Strategic Defence Review announced limited de-alerting measures, and the eight States which comprise the "New Agenda Coalition" featured de-alerting prominently in their June 1998 call for further action on nuclear disarmament.

The reality is that by 2022 no progress has been made towards realizing any of these broad objectives. There has been no willingness on the part of Russia and the United States to lower the launch alert status of their ballistic missiles.

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Page last modified: 28-02-2022 14:34:30 ZULU