Brigadier General Prof Mitar Kovač, Ph.D.

15. 06. 2010

Brigadier General Prof Mitar Kovač, Ph.D.
Head of the Serbian Armed Forces General Staff Strategic Planning Department (J5)

– What are current activities of the Strategic Planning Department?

Through a series of activities related to army planning, organisation, mobilisation, development and military equipment, the Strategic Planning Department gave its contribution to the fast process of organisational and mobilisation changes in the Armed Forces and its advanced planning, developing and equipping. There is a number of ongoing activities in the field of work planning, professionalisation and modern armament and military equipment, as well as army organisation and mobilisation.

Development, review and coordination of the long-term plans for the Serbian Army, as well as participation in the planning of responses to various crises, are regular tasks carried out in keeping with the set dynamic plan and deadlines.

Serbian Armed Forces Plan is the basic document used in developing all other plans and orders related to development, mobilisation, training, combat readiness and the use of the army. It is an integral part of the Serbian Defence Plan and offers basic elements for the development of a number of documents related to other fields of defence.

I would like to emphasise that the activities carried out by the Strategic Planning Department are all directly connected, because the plans are being evaluated only when all the tasks in the field of organisation, mobilisation and modern armament and military equipment are carried out. Other General Staff and Defence Ministry departments are also constantly taking part in realisation of those tasks.

When it comes to current activities, I would like to stress that we are also carrying out a number of tasks related to army professionalization, planning, and modern armament and military equipment acquisition.

– Activities of all cooperating organisation units have to be coordinated and in keeping with certain regulations?

Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces are systems with a tradition and cooperation and coordination to a great extent regulated by a number of procedures and jurisdictions, thus cooperation being inevitable. Without adequate coordination and cooperation, there is no progress both in the General Staff and the Ministry of Defence. There is a number of specific teams for solving specific issues and problems, as well as various forms of joint activities, meetings, discussions. Hence, the cooperation exists and it is necessary since the majority of activities performed by the ministry is also carried out by the armed forces, on all levels - from strategic to tactical.

– What is this year's budget for army equipment?

The 2010 budget for the army supplies amounts to approximately five billion dinars. The amount concerning armament and military equipment is clearly defined and under jurisdiction of the Strategic Planning Department. The part concerning other assets necessary for normal functioning of the armed forces is under the jurisdiction of the MoD's Material Resources Sector. Such distribution of jurisdictions in planning and realisation of the armed forces equipping offer more efficient acquisition of armament and military equipment. Although the amount, considering the fact that the current military equipment is mostly out-of-date and the cut-down army budget, is very limited, it will have to be used on priorities defined by plans and programme documents. We expect larger amounts to be set aside for army equipment in the future.

– Financial assets can be transferred from a fiscal year to another. Some military equipment systems are being developed in years and require stable financing conditions. How are you addressing that problem?

Unfortunately, the Budget Law does not allow the assets to be transferred. That poses a problem in acquiring complex combat systems, since the process of equipping cannot be carried out within a calendar year. A way for long term financing of such projects will have to be found, at least on a two-year level. Other countries, such as Germany, have also gone through such an experience.

– It was mentioned earlier that the money acquired through sale of military real estate would be spent on army equipment and apartments, but now only apartments are still mentioned. Are those assets still available for equipment acquisition also?

The issue has been addressed somewhat differently in the practice. Current economic situation and potential buyers not being able to set aside considerable financial assets, as well as unfavourable real estate conversion, whether concerning exchange or sale, are making it impossible for the assets to be used for military equipment. The same thing that happened to the majority of countries that went through the process of reform and army modernisation before us, happened also to us - they were also unable to convert real estate to army modernisation. Our expectations are also modest, so no real chance for serious assets to be set aside for equipment is being taken into consideration.

– In what way will complex combat systems going to be acquired?

Complex combat systems are going to be acquired following the example of our neighbouring countries. All of them acquired them using non-budget appropriations, i.e. special assets appropriated in keeping with the Budget Law.

– Which means of the armament and military equipment are mostly required in the middle-term and long-term period?

The priority will be given to the Air Force and Air Defence, first of all to the multipurpose aircraft, radars and a number of air defence systems, which would integrate the Air Force and Air Defence in a conceptual modern sense, like it happened in a number of similar countries like Hungary and Czech Republic.
The second army mission, including units related to the Partnership for Peace programme, will also be given high priority.

– Strategic Planning Department is also in charge of the Serbian Armed Forces scientific research activities. What are main research projects?

A significant number of research activities in research institutes is being carried out in keeping with the army needs, such as army projects of the Military Technical Institute in cooperation with the Technical Test Centre and other military and non military scientific institutes in the country. Research is mostly directed to aviation, ammunition, antitank systems, phonometric reconnaissance, radiogoniometry, unmanned vehicles and Atomic Biological and Chemical Defence.

- "Nora” B52 and "Lasta95” are two major export projects. Self-propelled howitzer 122 mm D30/40 SORA, mini unmanned aerial vehicle "Vrabac”, anti-tank missile system "Bumbar” are also among significant projects. Are they also on your positive list?

The majority of the previously mentioned projects is being developed following the army needs and requirements. "Lasta" training aircraft project has been given priority. The research has reached its final phase, which means the project will soon be subjected to testing in the Technical Test Centre. The results show that this is a very good training aircraft. The acquisition of 15 of them has already been arranged, out of which four should be delivered by Utva factory in Pančevo by the end of this year. The rest should be delivered until mid 2012.
"Bumbar" has also reached its final phase. There was a certain delay due to insufficient financial resources. It should be completed by the end of the year and distributed to the army units. Unmanned aerial vehicles are being developed by the Military Technical Institute. The army requires a defined number of these aerial vehicles and if the project is completed successfully, they will be acquired in keeping with the available financial resources. Special programme documents have been drafted for acquiring unmanned aerial vehicles for the needs of the Serbian Armed Forces.
When it comes to self-propelled artillery 155 mm and 122 mm systems, the army supported their development and even expressed the need for fire support artillery systems, but they were not considered priority in the mid-term period. Their acquisition has been planned for 2020.

– What is the status of the complex Medela project aimed at equipping infantry troops?

This project comprises four subsystems with 28 new armament and military equipment assets. Due to well known financial problems in many segments, the project has not been completed according to the plan. Three subsystems have been completed, while the subsystem concerning the autonomy in the battlefield is still underway. We expect the fourth subsystem to be completed by the end of the year. Modular haversack is currently being tested in the Technical Test Centre, as well as a brand new camouflage uniform pattern. We hope to have a new uniform with a digital pattern by the end of this year.
I believe this is the moment for us to realise that the highest level cannot be achieved by the lowest price and to start importing it. We need to produce an adequate uniform competing with the uniforms in the neighbouring countries. The new uniform will match the final phase of professionalisation and focusing on the essential goals in the following year - the training of newly formed and newly filled out units comprised of professional troops.

–What is the cooperation with the institutions outside the defence system?

By its jurisdiction, the Strategic Planning Department cooperates with a number of military research institutes, as well as other research institutes in the country. For example, we have a successful cooperation with all universities in Serbia, as well as defence industry companies and companies dealing with production and import of armament and military equipment. That way we are trying to keep pace with the modern accomplishments in the world and to apply them in our everyday activities, in order to acquire modern means for our armed forces.

Mira ŠVEDIĆ "Odbrana" No. 114, June 15th 2010

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