Rastopshin on OPK’s Problems

In yesterday’s Vremya novostey, Mikhail Rastopshin recalled how President Medvedev reproached the OPK last year for lagging in the production of new types of weapons to rearm Russia’s military. Medvedev said, if Moscow’s enemies possess superior weapons, no strategy or tactics will help Russia.

Rastopshin asks why the rearmament tasks laid down in documents like the National Security Concept and Military Doctrine remain unfulfilled? These documents seem like they did nothing to slow the degradation of the OPK and the army.

Among other basic state documents, Rastopshin mentions the Federal Goal Program (FTsP or ФЦП) Reform and Development of the Defense-Industrial Complex (2002-2006), but it didn’t bring the desired results. The first Russian State Armaments Program for 1996-2005 (GPV-2005) was in ruins a year after it was adopted. The second, the GPV for 2001-2010 (GPV-2010), and the current GPV for 2007-2015 (GVP-2015) are coming to naught.

According to Rastopshin, this attests to an inability to forecast arms and equipment development tens year out. There’s not only a lag of technological generations in traditional armaments, but an absence of entire classes of new weapons based on different physical principles.

After the Georgian war, Medvedev apparently ordered Serdyukov to prepared proposals on outfitting the army with modern combat support equipment. This amounted to ‘reloading’ the GVP. One can suppose that serious proposals didn’t ensue since Medvedev had to return to this problem in late 2009.

Weapons from yesterday are not infrequently put forth as our modern armaments. But there’s no other place to get them since military science and design bureaus are in a steep decline. The insolvency of the domestic defense system can be followed in the munitions sector, which hasn’t produced artillery shells since 2005. Russia lacks war reserves of ammunition, and an army without munitions is no longer an army. The sector has been producing poor quality powder, making it likely that fragmentation shells won’t reach their targets and armor-piercing ones will lose their penetration capability.

Taken as a whole, the existing armaments development system can’t provide a high tempo of rearmament, nor quality which continues to drop in both domestic and export orders. Complaints from foreign buyers are increasing, but domestic complaints are concealed. The fall in quality places doubt over future weapons. And there’s a huge divergence between the army’s demand for new weapons and the OPK’s ability to provide them, according to Rastopshin.

The quality problem won’t be resolved because OPK management is so complicated. The OPK has been reformed 8 times in the past 15 years. The lack of quality restructuring at the top exacerbated problems at the bottom. Management could not bring order to NIIs, KBs, or factories, failure above gave birth to technical breakdowns below. Rastopshin says in today’s RF Government, the Department for OPK Industries has the same status as the Communal Services Department, a situation tantamount to simply ignoring the country’s defense capability.

The creation of industrial holdings was chosen as the path to improved OPK management. Uniting in these holdings enterprises that use old production equipment, lack sufficiently qualified personnel, have eliminated quality control, testing, standardization, and military acceptance offices cannot bring the desired results.  It results only in old weapons unsuited for combat in today’s conflicts.  Rastopshin recommends returning to a Ministry of Defense Industry [sounds a little like one more reform at the top that doesn’t influence the situation below].

Rastopshin sees a gulf between the army’s ‘new profile’ structure and supplying it with new arms.  For this reason, he says, the combat readiness of the new TO&E brigade with old armaments remains extremely low.

He points to NATO’s superiority in conventional arms to say that Russia couldn’t hold out two weeks.  Russia would have to resort not only to strategic, but also tactical nuclear weapons.  So Rastopshin concludes Russia needs to revisit the issue of producing nuclear-armed intermediate and shorter range missiles, and leaving the INF Treaty.  He sees Moscow as having little choice since it’s left choosing between conventional defeat or strategic nuclear conflict.

Rastopshin sums up, it’s time to stop giving the army old, ‘modernized’ weapons, the life cycle of which was long ago used up.  Medvedev himself has said this more than once.

Sadly, Rastopshin offers more criticism than solid answers (except for seeing an INF withdrawal as one path for Russia).  Science and applied science need to be improved as does personnel training for the OPK.  New requirements need to be put on the OPK.  He’d also like to see some of those who have reorganized the OPK punished for irresponsible actions that have damaged the country’s defense capability.

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