Tag Archives: SLBM

Re-Industrializing for Military Modernization

Golts

Golts

It’s been Golts overkill.  Despite the risk of overdosing, he has an article in Ogonek from 25 September which merits attention.

One could do much, much worse than to pick him, if you could read only one commentator.

Golts tries to explain why Russia’s OPK, its defense sector, has failed.

He gives prominent examples of defense industrial shortcomings including the most recent Bulava and Proton-M failures.  Interestingly, he says all serially produced Bulava SLBMs are being returned to Votkinsk for inspection.

Calling the list of failures “endless,” he concludes, “Production standards are falling uncontrollably not only in the space sector.”  He continues:

“The thing is not only particular failures.  Experts from the military economics laboratory of the Gaydar Institute suggest that defense order 2013 will be disrupted just as it was in previous years.  According to their data, defense order 2012 was revised and lowered at least three times.  And still it was unfulfilled by approximately 20 percent.  Accounting Chamber auditor Aleksandr Piskunov was extremely forthright in the Duma hearings:  ‘Almost one hundred percent fulfillment of state defense orders for the last 20 years hasn’t interfered with the failure of all armaments programs, with fulfilling them at 30, 40, 50 percent.'”

You may recall reading Piskunov here at the start of April.

Then, Golts notes, Putin himself cast doubt on the OPK’s ability to fulfill the current GPV.  He recalls the late July meeting when Putin indicated he’d entertain slipping ships and submarines due after 2015 into the next GPV (to 2025), so that there aren’t more “failures.”

Putin said work should be organized so producers’ capabilities coincide with the allocated funding.  Money, he said, shouldn’t be hung up in accounts [and stolen] while we wait for ships.  Golts reads this as Putin recognizing that the state of domestic industry is such that it can’t assimilate the gigantic sums allocated to it.

The defense sector has structural problems that endless calls for mobilization to face an aggressive West can’t resolve (i.e. a workforce that’s almost reached retirement age, continued aging of basic production equipment).

Golts again turns to Piskunov, who said only 20 percent of defense enterprises approach world standards in terms of technical equipment, and nearly half are in such a poor state that resurrecting them is senseless — it would be better to start from a “clean slate.”

But Golts focuses on poor coordination and cooperation among enterprises, government customers, and sub-contractors.  He turns to the familiar case of Bulava — 650 different enterprises reportedly have a hand in turning out this missile.

Most damning, Golts compares today’s “so-called united state corporations” unfavorably to Soviet-era defense industry ministries.  Ineffective and bureaucratized, the latter still managed to manufacture massive numbers of weapons.  And Gosplan matched prices for products and production by fiat.  Today’s goskorporatsii can’t.

There’s another important difference, Golts points out.  All Soviet “civilian” industries also produced arms, or parts for them.  Average citizens buying civilian goods helped finance military production with their purchases.

But the largest part of this permanently mobilized industrial system died in the 1990s and surviving parts retooled for other production.  Many in the latter category no longer wanted part of the defense order which would only make them less competitive in their main business.

Then Golts concludes:

“But it’s impossible to begin serial production of armaments without serial production of components.”

Today’s OPK chiefs don’t have the talents of some of Stalin’s industrial commissars, says Golts.  They are, however, good at blaming ex-Defense Minister Serdyukov for “destroying” the voyenpred system.

Golts really gets to it here:

“In reality producers of complex military equipment have a choice.  They can either make components in final assembly plants in a semi-artisan fashion.  Or they can buy them on the side, risking getting crap made in some tent.  It stands to reason the problem isn’t confined to recreating the military acceptance office in enterprises.  Complex chains of sub-contractors have to be established.  And, we note, even with money — this isn’t a banal task.  We’re really talking about new industrialization, the construction of new enterprises.  But just what kind?”

Golts recommends a policy of targeted and specialized re-industrialization.  Because of the expense, he says build specialized component factories to support production of critical systems where Russia is decades behind developed states — communications, reconnaissance, UAVs, precision weapons.  Russia will have to prioritize and Golts doesn’t see tanks, ships, and heavy ICBMs as priorities.  Those who pick the priorities have to withstand attacks from lobbyists for these weapons.

Golts believes Deputy Prime Minister and OPK tsar Dmitriy Rogozin knows the bind he’s in . . . and that’s why he says put off the beginning of serial production of many armaments until the next armaments program (2016-2025).

Golts concludes:

“Generally, the rearmament of the Russian Army is entering a new cycle.  Without any kind of results.”

Medvedev Talks Bulava Acceptance

Medvedev Shakes Korolev's Hand

This post is admittedly as much about using a good photo and video as relaying something you haven’t heard.  But the visuals bring the subject to life a little.  At any rate, the lengthy Russian holiday season is upon us, so any post (even one with fluff) is better than none. 

Tuesday Russia’s lame duck President and Supreme CINC Dmitriy Medvedev greeted a group of military men — Armed Forces, MVD, FSB, SVR, and MChS officers — in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s St. George’s Hall to congratulate them on their new command positions or promotions to higher ranks.

Shown above are (from right) Southern MD Commander Aleksandr Galkin, Central MD Commander Vladimir Chirkin, Northern Fleet Commander Vladimir Korolev, Black Sea Fleet Commander Aleksandr Fedotenkov, and VVKO Commander Oleg Ostapenko.

Galkin and Chirkin are apparently there to mark their elevation to three-star general-colonel rank, while the latter three are now at new posts.  And Ostapenko’s sporting a blue uniform.  Didn’t the ex-Space Troops wear green reflecting their RVSN roots?

Kremlin.ru published some of Medvedev’s remarks to his senior officer audience:

“In recent years, we have modernized the Armed Forces in the most substantial way, optimized the structure and manning of the army and navy, improved the combat command and control system, and strengthened the strategic nuclear deterrent forces.  From 1 December of this year, new troops –Aerospace Defense Troops began combat duty, and in November a new radar station for monitoring air space in the western direction was brought into operation.”

“The army and navy have to resolve an entire series of missions relative to supporting the national development strategy and, accordingly, military organizational development during the period of the coming 10 years.  One of the most important goals is the technical reequipping of troops.  Our key priority remains further reequipping of the troops, and weapons and equipment of the most modern and next generation.  And of course, this task also demands the preparation of specialists, demands the preparation of personnel who will be fully capable of using this equipment as intended.  Therefore, it is important to guarantee the proper level of professional knowledge in cadets and young officers.”

“We are continuing the improvement of our armament, and our equipment.  In this context, I would like to note specifically that despite the problems currently remaining in the missile-space sector, nevertheless, we have just made a very important step:  we completed the flight testing cycle of a naval strategic nuclear forces system, I have ‘Bulava’ in mind.  This cycle, I remind you, was not simple, and went forward with certain problems.  Still our industry proved it can develop new, modern, and highly efficient types of strategic weapons.  One of them is the ‘Bulava’ system, which now, after all this testing, will be accepted into the arms inventory.”

Pervyy kanal covered the ceremony, showing Medvedev, three VVKO and/or Air Forces general-majors, a Bulava launch, and assorted siloviki, including Sergey Ivanov, Nikolay Patrushev, Rashid Nurgaliyev, and Aleksandr Bortnikov.

The first general-major wearing the blue uniform is Sergey Popov, late chief of air defense for VVS, now Commander of VVKO’s Air and Missile Defense Command.  The second couldn’t be identified by your author.  The third is Igor Makushev, Commander, 1st Air Forces and Air Defense Command (perhaps just the 1st Air Forces Command since the advent of VVKO).

But returning to Medvedev and Bulava . . . the Supreme CINC’s words unleashed minor euphoria about the SLBM’s imminent acceptance. 

For example, on December 28, RIA Novosti reported its highly-placed Defense Ministry source claimed a decision on accepting the Bulava-Borey weapons system is before the country’s political leadership.

But Medvedev didn’t say the missile is now ready to be accepted.  He just said it would be, and we already knew that.  Also, he never mentioned Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy which must be accepted in tandem with Bulava for this strategic weapons system to achieve IOC.

Vedomosti’s Defense Ministry source was more on the mark saying Bulava “practice” launches could continue for some time. 

Going slow would seem to track with Defense Minister Serdyukov’s apparently unhurried approach toward Bulava at this point.  There have been reports that Dolgorukiy isn’t ready, and launches next spring and summer could come from Borey unit 2 Aleksandr Nevskiy by then.

At any rate, the Bulava program’s come a long way from the nadir of its December 2009 failure.  But this isn’t exactly the end of the road either.  Moscow still has to work out a reliable and well-controlled production run of some 128 missiles (and 768 warheads) plus spares.  Not to mention ramping up construction and completion of eight Borey-class boats.

Thank you for reading this meandering post, as well as others this year.  Your author wishes you a happy 2012.

С новым годом!

Bulava Postponed?

A Bulava Test

Interfaks reports an expected salvo launch of two Bulava SLBMs has been put off until next year, as Defense Minister Serdyukov said it might.  The press agency cites a well-placed Navy Main Staff source.  RIA Novosti, however, citing its own Navy Main Staff source, says the test was delayed by weather, but will occur today or tomorrow.  For its part, ITAR-TASS cites an OPK source who says the Bulava test firings are off until June because of White Sea ice.

The last Bulava test, a success, took place on October 28.  The Bulava / Yuriy Dolgorukiy weapons system might have been accepted into the inventory before year’s end following a successful salvo launch of two missiles.

BFM.ru talked recently to Aleksandr Golts and Vladimir Yevseyev about Bulava.  It notes the last planned launch of 2010 was also put off for ice.

Golts believes there’s a political motive for postponement.  He thinks the Defense Ministry can’t allow another failure and blow to its reputation and the image of Russian weapons.  And, by the time of the next test, the elections will be over, and Serdyukov may no longer be at the Defense Ministry.

Golts attributes Bulava’s problems to problems in the component base and the collapse of the Soviet sub-contractor chain.  The lack of serial production has made it impossible to guarantee quality component manufacturing.  Hence, something different seemed to go wrong in every test failure.

Golts doesn’t rule out the possibility that there simply aren’t enough missiles for testing (or for picking ones to test) because of the GOZ-2011 contracting dispute between the Defense Ministry and Bulava’s producer.

Yevseyev is a suspicious about postponing a shot for weather.  He calls the situation around Bulava ambiguous and unclear.  He says defects in the missiles might have been identified, and poor weather could be an excuse.

Like Golts, Yevseyev sees Bulava’s problems as symptomatic of larger defense industrial ones, and he doesn’t exclude a political motive:

“There’s a sharp decline in the quality of production, a partial loss of specific producers, technologies.  There’s aging of the machinery itself, the lack of qualified specialists who can work on it.  When the OPK’s been collapsing for so much time, it’s strange to hope it can produce such a complex technological product like a missile system.”

“It’s possible there’s a danger that, if there are unsuccessful tests in the period when we’re beginning Duma and presidential election campaigns, they’ll spoil the scene.  This is one of the possible reasons for the postponement.”

It seems understandable risk tolerance would be pretty low at this point given the history of the Bulava program, the bad publicity and angst generated by recent high-profile space failures, and the political season.  Perhaps it’s a case of better late, but better.

Bulava Success

Interfaks and ITAR-TASS report Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy successfully launched its third Bulava SLBM today, that’s the 17th overall test and the 10th success (including five in a row).

The earlier-reported launch window was missed due to bad weather, according to Flotprom.ru.

ITAR-TASS quoted the VPK this week regarding Borey unit 2 Aleksandr Nevskiy.  The VPK says Nevskiy won’t fire a Bulava before the summer of 2012.  After finishing its factory underway testing (ZKhI or ЗХИ) and several successful single Bulava launches, Nevskiy might be accepted into service by the end of 2012, according to the VPK.

Nevskiy’s now on a two-week phase of ZKhI and will be back in Severodvinsk by early December to rectify any problems identified.  ITAR-TASS says underway testing will continue as the weather permits.

Rossiyskaya gazeta Wednesday also noted that Nevskiy’s schedule has moved to the right, and it can’t be accepted until 2012.  RG covered how the first two Boreys used unused proyekt 971 Akula components, but some are talking about Borey unit three Vladimir Monomakh as a “modernized variant” and its builders will no longer be forced to stuff their “new contents” into a “different” hull.  Others have cited the lack of leftover parts as a problem that will increase the cost and difficulty of building the third new SSBN.

The paper says Nevskiy’s crew trained at Obninsk, and also aboard Dolgorukiy.  Like Dolgorukiy, Nevskiy will head for the Pacific Fleet, according to RG.  OSK and the Defense Ministry remain in difficult negotiations over the Borey’s reported 23-billion-ruble price tag.

Updating a related story, ITAR-TASS says new Yasen-class SSN Severodvinsk is now in its second underway period.  Its first (September until early October) was deemed successful; 80 percent of tasks were completed and only minor problems identified.

Worth recalling here that two Boreys, Bulava, and one Yasen were all on President Medvedev’s list of weapons systems to be procured in GOZ-2010.

Bulava Launch Plans

This week Izvestiya reported on coming launches of the Bulava SLBM.  The paper’s sources say the military and industry want two single test firings before trying a salvo launch test.  They suggest Bulava’s early problems were due to testbed Dmitriy Donskoy.  They also report complaints about the new Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy.

A Navy staff source tells Izvestiya two single Bulava launches are planned before a salvo launch of three [not two as previously reported] missiles is attempted.  An industry source confirms this plan, and adds that Bulava testing is on schedule.

The industry source says Bulavas produced more than two years ago – before the military leadership ordered production inspections – will be used in the test launches.  A specialist tells Izvestiya mod Typhoon-class SSBN Dmitriy Donskoy is now viewed more often as the problem in Bulava’s early failures than the missile itself.

The Navy staff source says:

“It was initially planned to conduct the salvo of three missiles in an October launch.  However, they refused this idea at the last moment to check all the missile’s and boat’s systems again.  It’s possible the December salvo will be put off to 2012 if any bugs are observed during the two launches.”

Commentator Konstantin Sivkov told Izvestiya the military and industry delayed the salvo test because of uncertainty about the missile system’s reliability:

“Water disturbance from the preceding missile plays a big role in a salvo launch.  Unstable water could knock the missile off during its exit.  Therefore, all systems have to work perfectly.  And there’s the ‘Yars’ accident in Plesetsk which sowed some doubts.  Only successful launches can dispel them.”

The launch window for Yuriy Dolgorukiy is October 20-22.  According to Izvestiya’s interlocutor, the success of all Dolgorukiy launches supports suspicions that Donskoy might be to blame. 

This seems somewhat flawed logically if the Bulavas themselves were assembled and inspected differently . . . unless they never found any real problem with the missiles.

If the October launch is successful, Izvestiya reports the next will be November 18-19 and the salvo launch of three missiles will be in December.  Success in the latter would finally confirm that the Bulava is ready for combat duty, and the Bulava / Borey weapons system could be accepted.

But Izvestiya also reports the Borey’s radioelectronic, hydraulic, and hydroacoustic [sonar] systems still don’t satisfy the Defense Ministry.  The command and control systems aren’t properly configured yet either.  In short, the SSBN hasn’t fully completed its development. 

And it’s certain the lack of an agreed purchase price and a contract isn’t helping this process.

Bulava Success

Bulava Launch (photo: RIA Novosti / Avrora)

Cheap post with a pretty picture thanks to RIA Novosti.  This was a maximum range test, from the White Sea to a target area in the Pacific Ocean.  It was the 16th test overall, and the second this year.  It makes nine announced successes out of 16.  And that’s four in a row.

If, as it appears, the designers and manufacturers have finally slicked the Bulava’s earlier problems, now Moscow will have to crank up the Bulava SLBM and Borey-class SSBN production lines.

That is a different kind of problem, a problem of the GOZ and the OPK.

Bulava Test on Saturday

Yesterday RIA Novosti’s source in the state testing commission said Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy will test fire a Bulava on August 27.  The launch was originally scheduled for last Saturday when a malfunction occurred on the submarine.  The news agency’s Defense Ministry source stressed that, although not impossible, conducting the test on August 20 was deemed “inexpedient.”  The defect in the power supply to one of Dolgorukiy’s systems has been fully corrected, and the submarine is ready for sea.  The state commission source said this launch — the 16th overall, and the second in 2011 — will be a maximum range test.

Failure to Launch

SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Guneyev)

Not the same as a failed launch, of course . . .

Interfaks reports proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy cancelled a Bulava test launch on Saturday.  According to Sevmash, the power supply to one of Dolgorukiy’s systems malfunctioned.  The submarine returned to the factory to investigate.  The Interfaks source said the state commission supervising Bulava testing indicated the launch would be put off until late this week.

The source emphasized there aren’t issues with the Bulava, which was fully ready for launch.  Interfaks recalled the 15th launch scheduled for last December was delayed until June because Dolgorukiy wasn’t ready, although the official reason was White Sea icing.  The June launch from the submerged Dolgorukiy was successful.

In Moskovskiy komsomolets, Olga Bozhyeva’s source says the problem was a sensor in a system needed to prepare the missile for launch.  They postponed until later Saturday, but, when they couldn’t fix it, the SSBN returned to port Sunday morning.  The source says the state commission will probably delay the next launch attempt until September.

RIA Novosti provided a more official spin on the cancelled test.  It emphasized there was no unsuccessful launch.  The news agency’s state commission source stressed that, when submarines go to sea for system testing, the commission makes its decisions based on many factors and conditions.  And the source stated the Bulava flight test program will be completed in the established time frame.

Bulava Plans

Plans for Bulava SLBM testing may be shifting.  When last we checked, Navy CINC Vysotskiy said look for four more tests with a salvo launch this year or next, but an OPK source said expect a salvo test in late August or fall.  The latter sounds more like what we are reading today.  In sum, it seems someone’s in a hurry to give Bulava final approval.

This morning ITAR-TASS reported Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy will conduct a maximum of two Bulava SLBM test launches, including a salvo launch, before the end of this year.  The news agency’s interlocutor said:

“It’s still planned to conduct the next, the 16th, flight test of one missile in the last ten days of August, and then – in fall or even in December – a salvo launch of two ‘Bulava’ missiles.  But another possibility isn’t ruled out – conducting a salvo launch of two missiles right off in August, omitting a single missile test.  Next week it will be known which possibility was finally selected.”   

The state commission told ITAR-TASS:

“Whatever the testing variant, in the event of a successful ‘Bulava’ salvo launch, a decision on accepting this missile system into our Navy’s arsenal will follow.”

ITAR-TASS also reported Borey number two Aleksandr Nevskiy has begun factory testing, and number three Vladimir Monomakh is 50 percent complete.

Bulava News

Today Navy CINC, Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy announced four more tests of the Bulava SLBM this year.  According to Interfaks, Vysotskiy said plans call for a salvo launch either this year or next, depending on the state commission overseeing the Bulava’s testing.

Last Wednesday, a defense sector source told Interfaks to expect the next Bulava test in a month.  Originally, the source said, it was supposed to be a salvo launch a month after the successful June 28 test from Yuriy Dolgorukiy.  But analysis of the June flight test and preparation for the next took longer than expected.  This source said the 16th test will be in late August, or possibly even fall.  He said Dolgorukiy will fire two Bulava SLBMs, one after another. 

On June 30, Vysotskiy claimed the second proyekt 955, Borey-class SSBN Aleksandr Nevskiy will finish sea trials, and test fire a Bulava this year.  But he didn’t repeat the claim today.