Category Archives: Force Modernization

Sorry, Not a Victor

Sorry, Not a Victor (photo: Reuters / Yuriy Maltsev)

Sorry, Not a Victor (photo: Reuters / Yuriy Maltsev)

What great fun when the general press covers Russian military issues!  Business Insider ran this pictorial presuming to show an outdated Victor-class SSN headed for scrap.

In fact, it’s two not-quite-so-old Pacific Fleet Akula submarines headed for overhaul.

But what great pictures!  

One supposes this is how the hull looks when it hasn’t seen a drydock in many years.

Su-35 Deliveries

Su-35

Su-35

RBK-TV ran a short segment on 3 October indicating that OAK, Sukhoy, and KnAAZ (aka KnAAPO) will deliver (or will have delivered) 22 Su-35 aircraft to the Air Forces by the end of 2014.

Twelve Su-35 were reportedly delivered in 2013, so 22 plus delivery of 14 more in 2015 would fulfill Sukhoy’s 2009 contract for 48.  There’s been talk all along about a follow-on contract.

The report briefly covered the aircraft’s capabilities and noted that China would be the primary foreign customer for it.  However, according to RBK, the export variant will not carry the same avionics as the domestic version.

The video features OAK President Mikhail Pogosyan saying that the corporation’s military production is fully independent of foreign suppliers (and therefore unaffected by Western sanctions).

The broadcast ends noting that more than 12 billion rubles have been invested in Sukhoy’s modernization over five years.  More than 3 billion from targeted state programs have gone into financing Su-35 development.

Putin Launches GPV 2016-2025

Putin Addresses Session on GPV 2016-2025 (photo:  Kremlin.ru)

Putin Addresses Session on GPV 2016-2025 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

On 10 September, Kremlin.ru posted President Putin’s opening remarks to a session on developing the draft State Program of Armaments (GPV) 2016-2025.

Putin’s speech can be divided into several themes:  financing, the arms race, threats, particular weapons systems, and other tidbits.

A critical question is how will funding for a new GPV compare with the approximately 20 trillion rubles laid out or earmarked for GPV 2011-2020. But Putin took pains to stress only that financing for the new GPV will be based on the government’s macroeconomic forecasts.  He noted:

“The government has prepared two variants [not good and possibly worse?] of such a preliminary macroeconomic development forecast, and today, we will hear about it in a meeting with the government, and talk more about this.  We will proceed exclusively from realities, from our possibilities, and we will not inflate our military expenditures.”

“I ask you to choose and present the most balanced variant of resource support for the new state program of armaments before the end of October 2014.  It must fully account for missions in the area of military organizational development and still be realistic, and proceed, as I already said, from the country’s financial-economic possibilities.  But I am sure we can find a variant acceptable both according to financial support and to the quality of those weapons systems which we will discuss more today.”

This seems consonant with his statement last December that the OPK and military should not expect future procurement budgets to match what was laid out in recent years.

In this September 10 session, Putin eschewed interest in a new arms race, but stressed that Moscow has no choice but to take “countermeasures” against U.S. and NATO threats.  A few examples:

“[modernizing the armed forces and defense industry] is not connected to any kind of arms race . . . .”

“And we already many times said and warned that we will be forced — exactly forced — to take adequate countermeasures to guarantee our security.”

“We have spoken many times, and very much hope that there will not be excessive hysteria [from the U.S. and NATO?] when these decisions [about the GPV?] are finally made and begin to be realized.  I want to note that everything we are doing are only countermeasures.”

“Sometimes the impression is created, I just talked about this, that someone wants to launch a new arms race.  We will not, of course, be dragged into this race, it is simply absolutely excluded . . . .”

The Russian president also laid out at length his view of the threats requiring countermeasures:

  • U.S. missile defense;
  • U.S. Prompt Global Strike;
  • Militarization of space [?];
  • Conventional strategic weapons;
  • Prospective build-up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe.

He restated the official Kremlin narrative explaining why that alleged NATO build-up will happen:

“The crisis in Ukraine, which was actually provoked and created by some of our Western partners, is now being used to reanimate this military bloc.”

A regime that wants to prevent a Maydan on Red Square pretty much has to declare that the revolutionary impetus came from outside.  It also has to overlook that it was the seizure of Crimea and the start of Moscow’s war in eastern Ukraine that awakened NATO.

Look for a more detailed exposition of Moscow’s new threat assessment when the updated Military Doctrine appears in December.

What did Putin say about what will be purchased under the new GPV?  In short, not too much new:

“. . . our fundamental systems:  both of a defensive nature and strike systems have simply already reached or are reaching the end of their service lives.  And if we need to replace them, then replace them, of course, with prospective, modern ones having a future of long use.”

“I note that for the draft GPV-2025 there is already a unified system of preliminary data which confirmed the basic directions of arms and equipment development for the period to 2030 and formed a list of types determining the future profile of weapons systems.”

“Most of all we are talking about the creation of a rational list of strike means, including the guaranteed resolution of nuclear deterrence missions, about rearming strategic and long-range aviation, and continuing formation of an aerospace defense [VKO] system.”

“Further.  In coming years, it is already essential to support the breakthrough development of all components of precision weapons, to create unified types of general purpose arms and equipment, and for the Navy — new ship projects, standardized in armament, command and control systems, and communications.”

Overall, continuing the course and priorities — such as they are — of the current GPV.

Now, the tidbits . . . .

Putin seemed to say the 2015 goal of more than 30 percent modern arms and equipment has already been reached.

According to the president, more than 3,600 items of “fundamental weapons” (68% of the contracted quantity) have already reached the troops this year, along with 241,000 other items [presumably procurement not part of a major weapons system].

Putin gave only the briefest acknowledgement that, with looming sanctions, defense industry must be ready to manufacture its own critically important equipment, components, and materials.  Industry, he said, should also be looking to produce important civilian machinery in the future.

He only slightly criticized work on past GPVs, saying:

“It goes without saying we must carefully analyze the experience of realizing the previous programs, including the problems and oversights which led to delays in placing and fulfilling orders, and at times even to tasks not being completed.”

However, Putin also took the chairmanship of the Military-Industrial Commission (VPK) on himself, indicating that he thinks the GPV could use some “manual control.”

That’s about 950 words describing what Putin said in roughly 1,200.  One hopes his speech has been deconstructed and reconstructed in such a way that it illuminates more than the original.

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.