Ashurbeyli Interviewed (Part II)

The rest of former Almaz-Antey chief Igor Ashurbeyli’s interview with RIA Novosti . . .

Asked about the future of PVO, PRO, and VKO, Ashurbeyli says he sees the role of ground-based systems declining, and future “fire means” — after the S-500 — will be air-based.  Part of them, he claims, are already in RDT&E.

Returning more to the present, the former Almaz-Antey head says the Defense Ministry asks the impossible of weapons developers.  They have to sign contracts they know they can’t complete in the stipulated time frames, otherwise they’d have no work.

Ashurbeyli goes on to explain Almaz-Antey’s current production quandary.  The S-300 has been made only for export over the last 15 years.  One foreign order has just been filled, and only one remains.  So Ashurbeyli sees a gap between S-300 and S-400 production, and he predicts a decline in the factory’s operations in 2013 or even late 2012.

The lead-time for producing S-400 components is 24 months.  So, without budget advances today, there won’t be anything to produce in 2013.  In 2011, Ashurbeyli says, not a single supplementary S-400 production contract has been signed.

Ashurbeyli sounds a lot like former MIT head and solid-fuel ICBM maker Yuriy Solomonov who announced in early July that the 2011 state defense order is already broken.  Is it a coincidence both men were unseated from their general director and chief designer duties?

Ashurbeyli says:

“At the same time, the load on the plant today is far from full and the absence of contracts doesn’t allow for further renewing equipment and technology.  We have to understand that the S-400 is made on the very same equipment as the S-300.”

In response to another question, Ashurbeyli makes his case for consolidating the structure of aerospace defense industries.  He calls for a unified industrial corporation, a Concern VKO, to execute the Defense Ministry’s orders, and it’s needed, he continues, when a unified VKO is established [before 2012].  Organized like OAK or OSK, Concern VKO would bring in VKO-related weapons developers who aren’t part of Concern PVO Almaz-Antey. 

Ashurbeyli says this fall he’ll propose his view on how to integrate these enterprises and how to build the future VKO system to the country’s leadership.

So, where does this leave us?  If Ashurbeyli’s description is realistic, there’s no shortage of Almaz-Antey production capacity and no real need for new plants.  The problem is the lack of orders from the Defense Ministry.  For all the hype about increased defense spending and 20-trillion-ruble GPV 2011-2020, the absence of orders could be due to the military’s lack of cash or its difficulty arranging bank financing.  Or, despite Defense Minister Serdyukov’s talk about streamlining the GOZ, it could be that bureaucratic sclerosis (or corruption) is hindering the issuance of new contracts.

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