Category Archives: Force Modernization

PAK FA’s Emergency Landing

Burned PAK FA Bort 055

Burned PAK FA Bort 055

Interfaks-AVN reported yesterday that a PAK FA on a test flight from Zhukovskiy made an emergency landing.

A source told the military news agency that bort number 055 received “insignificant damage” from a fire that was quickly extinguished.  The pilot was unhurt.

There are four flying T-50 or PAK FA prototypes at present, and two used for ground testing.

This wiki article on PAK FA lists the prototypes and when they first flew.  T-50-5 or bort number 055 is the newest, making its initial flight on 27 October 2013.

AVN notes that the prototypes have performed aerial refueling and are working through various supermaneuvers.

Visit to NAPO

Not long ago, NVO’s Viktor Myasnikov visited and wrote about Kubinka’s 121st ARZ, where Russia’s Su-25s receive major repairs and overhauls.  That story was a tad boring.

He’s doing a series on the military aviation industry.

This article on Su-34 production was more interesting and useful.  Full of facts and figures.

Su-34

Su-34

According to Myasnikov, the Su-34 was the first post-Soviet military aircraft formally accepted into the inventory by the government on  20 March 2014.  The contract for what was initially the Su-27IB was signed in 1989.

A pre-series airframe flew for the first time on 18 December 1993.  It flew as the Su-32FN at the Paris Air Show in 1995.

In 2003, the MOD decided to put the Su-34 into experimental use.  The year 2006 brought a contract for five Su-34 to be delivered in 2007-2009.

However, Myasnikov notes that the Novosibirsk Aviation Production Association (NAPO) named for V. P. Chkalov was in a pathetic state at the time:

“The state hadn’t ordered new aircraft, assembly shops were empty.  The company survived on account of consumer goods, making instruments, steel doors, etc.  Suffice it to say that now in the final assembly shop of 250 workers only 5 are veterans still having Soviet experience.”

Literally on its knees, he says, the factory re-trained workers and assembled one aircraft per year.

Then, in 2008, came the contract for 32 Su-34s by 2013, and a follow-on for 92 by 2020.  The plan for this year is 16 aircraft, possibly 2 more.

The Su-34, Myasnikov says, has 57,000 parts joined by tens of thousands of rivets and bolts.  About 200 other enterprises contribute products and components worth 75 percent of the aircraft’s cost.

Per unit, the Su-34’s price in the initial contract was 1.3 billion rubles (roughly $37 million).  The price in the second contract is only 1.05 billion ($30 million).

NAPO's Assembly Shop

NAPO’s Assembly Shop

Factory director Sergey Smirnov added that production of one aircraft initially took 460,000 labor hours; now only 170,000.  Call that about 230 manyears down to 85 manyears per plane.

Myasnikov writes that NAPO now uses more modern machinery, much of it imported, to reduce the number of work shifts required to make certain parts.  The two-man cockpit is made of 17-mm titanium sheets weighing only 380 kg.  The final assembly shop works round-the-clock in three shifts.

The average age of workers is 35, and gets younger by a year with each passing year.  The parents (and even grandparents) of many also worked at NAPO.

In all, NAPO has 6,700 employees.  Many work on components for Sukhoy’s civilian Superjet 100.  Their average age is younger than 35.

The typical wage at NAPO runs 32,000-34,000 rubles per month.  Some 800 workers are waiting for apartments, and the factory helps with securing mortgages for them.

NAPO expects to begin overhauling the first Su-34s in 5-6 years, and wants to put out 20 new ones each year.

Myasnikov sums up NAPO’s success story this way:

“Now it’s hard for even old workers to imagine that just several years ago the factory was in a pathetic state, and made consumer good instead of modern combat aircraft.  Thanks to people who knew how to preserve Russia’s aviation industry, who, despite difficulties, underfinancing, wage debts, didn’t allow the production and technological base to be destroyed.  Once the state undertook to reestablish the combat potential of the Armed Forces, and found money for the long-term rearmament program, aircraft plants revived and began working at full power.  The creation of a full-scale integrated structure — the ‘United Aircraft Corporation’ — also helped in this.”

Overfulfilling the Plan

News on the Russian military of late carries a distinctly positive tone.  The army is always receiving new weapons systems, completing major training evolutions, and signing up thousands of new contractees.

A contrast from years past when there was either no news or bad news about the military’s development (or lack thereof).  Probably neither editorial line accurately reflects, or reflected, reality.  Things are never as good, or bad, as they’re presented.

Ever an honest contrarian on the widest range of issues, Nezavisimaya gazeta now asks, somewhat obliquely, whether the frenetic activity of Russia’s Ministry of Defense is outrunning its financial support.

In an editorial last Thursday, NG wonders if the MOD can accelerate completion of many tasks without additional financing.

It isn’t the first time financial flags have been raised.  Several times over the last year, reputable media sources asserted that Sergey Shoygu’s MOD would face sequestration soon.  It hasn’t happened yet.  Maybe the possibility is more pregnant given that Russia’s economy is flatlined right now.  In some ways, worse than flatlined (e.g. the ruble exchange rate).

But we digress . . . .

NG reports that Shoygu, at last week’s collegium, reiterated the impermissibility of falling off a single task in the MOD’s “Action Plan 2020.”  The reports of MOD officials said there have been no failures, only many impressive figures about the “thoroughly dynamic process of perfecting the state’s defense system.”

General Staff Chief, Army General Valeriy Gerasimov reported the facts to the assembled generals and high-ranking civilian officials.

To wit, by year’s end, 580 modern bunkers and storage facilities will be built in 15 arms depots as well as 160 facilities for RVSN ground-based strategic nuclear weapons, Ground Troops missile brigades, pre-fab radar stations, Borey and Yasen submarine bases, and new airfields.

NG concludes:

“The fact is the scale of construction is grandiose, fully speaking for those amounts of financing the state is directing at the needs of the Armed Forces.”

The paper gives examples of hardware being acquired . . . 27 BTR-82As for the Western MD in January alone, 12 Su-35S fighters for the Eastern MD in February, 220 aircraft, 8 ships and submarines, 14 SAMs, 50 air defense radars, and more than 200 armored vehicles in 2014.

Meanwhile, the MOD’s capital construction chief Roman Filimonov reported a decision to move deployment of a pre-fab radar in the east up a year to 2014, outfitting of five VDV military towns up two years to 2014-2015, and quicker completion of a host of other projects planned for the more distant future.

Again NG concludes:

“The intentions, of course, are good.  It just pays to remember that last December the parameters of the military budget for 2014-2016 were specified. And no one promised the army any additional money.  And without it hastening fulfillment of plans appears highly problematic.”

An NG news story the following day added:

“We recall that the Minfin came out categorically against any increase in the military budget.  More than this it insisted on moving ‘to the right’ the terms for implementing several defense projects.  It seems in the Armed Forces they agreed with the financiers’ demands.  In the event that directors of central organs of the military command, in whose interests recalculation measures are planned, don’t know how to find sources of financing for new work, they’ve been promised a forced redistribution of resources from facilities already in the plan to facilities appearing with the changes introduced.  The collegium agreed to proposals voiced by Filimonov.”

So what do we take from this?

There’s no imminent threat to funding a rejuvenated Russian military.  The current pace of development, achieved in 2012, will continue while Russia’s economic and political system can bear it.

But the NG articles may foreshadow even tighter budgets.  Independent media are debating how to lift a stagnating economy still based on hydrocarbon rents.  The Sochi Olympic hangover may have just begun.  Government (and military) budget parameters are set, but they never really feel firm.  The MOD  just focuses on the money it has now.

In Soviet central planning, overfulfillment usually meant sacrificing quality to meet quantitative targets and time schedules, to make careers, and to earn bonuses.  Today it means more demand, less supply, tighter markets, and rising prices.  And even in the post-Serdyukov MOD, it means more opportunities for corrupt scheming.

The Next S-400 “Regimental Set”

On 14 February, Krasnaya zvezda covered the arrival of a new Pantsir-S battalion in VVKO’s 4th Air Defense Brigade north and west of Moscow.

In a bit of sidebar, the brigade’s commander indicated the next S-400 “regimental set” (sixth overall) will be deployed in his formation. Recall at the end of 2013, Russian media reported two “sets” (six and seven) were delivered to the military.

Pantsir-S (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

Pantsir-S (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

The new two-battery unit of six Pantsir-S vehicles came from Ashuluk, following its first live fire exercises.  Before this, the battalion was in Gatchina, near St. Petersburg, for initial training.

Colonel Valeriy Varentsov (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

Colonel Valeriy Varentsov (photo: Krasnaya zvezda)

According to its commander, Colonel Valeriy Varentsov, the 4th Brigade has four SAM regiments deployed in Yaroslavl, Tver, Kaluga, and Moscow regions.  It received its first Pantsir-S battalion a year ago, and it is part of the S-400-equipped SAM regiment at Dmitrov.

Colonel Varentsov notes the Pantsirs remain under factory warranty, so Tula-based developer KBP maintains them.  His troops will take that responsibility at some future time.

Varentsov expects another two-battalion “regimental set” of S-400 SAMs, which just performed live firings at Kapustin Yar, to arrive in his brigade soon.

One might guess the new S-400s will deploy with existing regiments northwest of Moscow near Klin or Solnechnogorsk, or southwest near Naro-Fominsk.

Varentsov said, for the first time, his brigade is getting S-400s on the MZRT-7930 8-wheel chassis from the Minsk Wheeled Tractor Factory, instead of the previous tractor / trailer configuration.  Its prime mover was apparently built by the Bryansk Automobile Factory.

The brigade expects S-500 deliveries in 2015, and a fully new inventory of armaments by 2020.  Varentsov hinted he’d like Baykal-1M command post vehicles.

SIPRI’s List

Always worth looking at SIPRI.  On 31 January, it released its list of the Top 100 arms producers worldwide in 2012 and 2011.

SIPRI observed a small global decline in arms sales over the past two years.  But Russia bucked the trend as “arms sales by Russian companies increased sharply, by 28 per cent in real terms.”

SIPRI provides the context for increased arms production by Russian companies that’s worth quoting in toto:

“Rapid rise in Russia due to domestic procurement plans”

“Russian companies saw a particularly large increase in estimated arms sales in 2012. Of the 6 Russian companies in the Top 100, all except United Aircraft Corporation saw increases in excess of 20 per cent, and Almaz Antei—with a 41 per cent rise—now stands in 14th place in the Top 100, the highest position taken by a Russian company since data became available in 2002.”

“Russian arms companies continue to maintain high export levels, but the increase in estimated arms sales in 2012 mainly reflects large and growing domestic sales, as part of Russia’s $700 billion 2011–20 State Armaments Plan. While there remains widespread scepticism as to whether the aims of the plan can be fully achieved, it is clear that a major increase in Russian military equipment procurement is taking place.”

“‘The Russian arms industry is gradually re-emerging from the ruins of the Soviet industry’, said Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, Director of SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme. ‘Nonetheless, the industry is still plagued by outdated equipment, inefficient organization and widespread corruption, which will continue to limit Russia’s ability to compete technologically with the West.’”

So, it’s not just that Rosoboroneksport’s order portfolio is stuffed full.  But SIPRI sees both good and bad news for Russian defense industry and production.

The top Russian firms on this year’s list are:  Almaz-Antey, UAC or OAK, Vertolety Rossii (Oboronprom), Sukhoy (UAC / OAK), United Enginebuilding Corporation, UEC or ODK (Oboronprom), USC or OSK, and Uralvagonzavod.

Falling off from 2010’s list are Irkut and MiG (UAC / OAK) and the Tactical Missile Weapons (TRV) Corporation.

Some changes may be the result of data collection problems SIPRI faces.

Here’s SIPRI’s data on arms sales by Russia’s top producers.

SIPRI Data on Arms Sales by Top Russian Producers

Pretty interesting stuff.  Strong and stable growth by Almaz-Antey.  Steady growth for UAC / OAK and Sukhoy.  Remarkable growth by Vertolety Rossii — quadrupling its sales in three years.  Ditto for UEB / ODK — nearly quadrupling.  Even Uralvagonzavod doubling its sales over the same period.

What’s Been Bought

It’s usually challenging to discover what the Russian military bought in any given year.  But it’s somewhat easier now that procurement is increasing.

Shoygu in the Videoconference (photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu in the Videoconference (photo: Mil.ru)

On January 14, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu reviewed 2013 procurement in a year-opening videoconference.

He indicated that GOZ-2013 was fulfilled at 96 percent for RDT&E, 93 percent for armament and military equipment purchases, and 91 percent for repairs and servicing.  Purchases increased by 70 percent over 2012.

Beyond that no details.

If Shoygu’s scant and statistical, Topwar.ru’s Kirill Ryabov rescues us.

Ryabov says GOZ-2013 amounted to 1.45 trillion rubles, two-thirds more than 2012.  Roughly the same accounting as Shoygu’s 70 percent.  But Ryabov’s also tracked what was bought.  He doesn’t give full citations for his data.  But it’s a working list.

He starts with air defense:

  • 6 S-400 SAM battalions.
  • 6 Pantsir-S1 missile-gun systems (ZRPKs).
  • 24 Tor-M1-2U SAMs (SA-15 upgrade).
  • 12 Tunguska ZRPKs.

More than 300 combat and support vehicles for the Ground Troops, including:

  • 2 Iskander-M SSM brigades (107th in the Eastern and 1st in the Southern MD).
  • 54 BTR-82A APCs.
  • 12 BMO-T flamethrowers.
  • 90 Tornado and Grad MLRS.
  • 20 Khosta SP guns.
  • 40 Msta-S SP howitzers.
  • 16 Zoopark counterbattery radars.
  • 16 Leyer-2 EW systems.
  • 10 Redut-2US communications systems.

And reportedly more than 5,200 other vehicles and automobiles.

It gets murkier from here on . . . .

For the Air Forces, Ryabov indicates OAK, in 2013, got orders for 60 military aircraft for 62 billion rubles.  Only 35 were reportedly ordered in 2012.

  • 2008 contract for 36 [sic?] Su-34 fighter-bombers was completed in 2013, and Sukhoy started filling the 2012 contract for 92 more.
  • 12 Su-35S were delivered ahead of schedule.
  • 8 Su-30SM, 12 Yak-130 trainers, and an An-140-100 transport were delivered or will be soon (?).

For helicopters:

  • 19 Ka-52 / Alligator.
  • 8 Mi-28N / Night Hunter.
  • 3 Mi-35M.
  • 3 Mi-26.
  • 5 Mi-8AMTSh.
  • 7 Mi-8 (jamming variants).

For the Navy, 12 large and 43 small ships were reportedly launched.  Thirty-five ships and craft of various types were commissioned into the fleet.

Anything more specific requires additional investigation. 

Two Borey-class SSBNs (which can’t perform their primary mission) were accepted for service.  Steregushchiy-class (proyekt 20380) FFL Boykiy joined the Baltic Fleet.

Steregushchiy-class FFL Boykiy (photo: Topwar.ru)

Steregushchiy-class FFL Boykiy (photo: Topwar.ru)

As if on cue, Deputy Defense Minister (armaments chief) Yuriy Borisov held a press-conference on January 16 to discuss last year’s GOZ.

According to him, the Su-35S has not been accepted, but it’s about to be.  Initial deliveries aren’t far behind.  More than 2,200 armored vehicles and other transport means were purchased, and 1,700 modernized.  He said the share of modern armor has reached 24 percent.

The year just past definitely continued the trend of more military procurement from 2012.  But is it enough to get the volume of weapons systems Russia’s military and political leadership wants before 2020?

Remember what procurement lists floated in 2010 looked like:

  • 56 S-400 “units.”
  • 10 S-500 systems.
  • 600 aircraft.
  • 1,000 helicopters.
  • Bulava SLBMs.
  • 20 submarines.
  • 15 frigates.
  • 35 corvettes like Boykiy.
  • Mistral-class amphibious ships.
  • Several new ICBMs.

Even relatively healthy acquisition like GOZ-2013 won’t get to these numbers.

Big Stories of 2014

Just before Christmas, RIA Novosti took a cut at identifying the big military stories of 2014.

A daunting, but intriguing task.  Here’s what it came up with:

  1. Acceptance of proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBN Vladimir Monomakh.  That’s unit three.  RIAN also puts five pending Bulava SLBM launches, including from Monomakh, on its list.
  2. Acceptance of the lead unit of proyekt 885 Yasen-class SSN Severodvinsk.
  3. Construction of a new National Command and Control Center for State Defense.
  4. Acceptance of the Ratnik future soldier system.
  5. One-Time Monetary Payments (or YeDV) for servicemen owed permanent apartments.  It’s supposed to end the housing line forever.
  6. Flexible pricing in the State Defense Order.  Starting in 2014, some contracts may be for a fixed price while others will be figured on what was actually spent to produce end items.
  7. Formation of an aerobatic flying group with new Yak-130 trainers.
  8. State acceptance testing for the T-50 / PAK FA.
  9. Continued, gradual rearmament to the level of 30 percent modern weapons and equipment in all forces.
  10. Formation of 16 new medical companies (to expand to 50 over the next 18 months).  A special mobile medical (medevac) brigade will be formed in each military district.
  11. Conscripts from reestablished sports companies slated to compete in the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

By way of context, here’s what RIAN predicted for the big stories of 2013:  end of explosive destruction of old munitions, Bulava / Borey / Yasen, Vikramaditya [ex-Gorshkov] handover, Putin’s promise to end the military’s housing problem, Shoygu’s pledge to turn MOD property matters over to Rosimushchestvo, Armata tank and related platforms, T-50 / PAK FA testing, creation of Concern “Kalashnikov” and the new AK-12, the Russian DARPA — Fund for Future Research, Oboronservis criminal cases in court, and Zapad-2013.

Interesting to consider how much (or how little) movement occurred on these issues last year.