Novyye izvestiya interviewed Ruslan Pukhov last week. He has some perspectives on Russian military procurement we’ve heard before, and some we haven’t.
NI asked the CAST director if the U.S. Tomahawk strike on Shayrat would hurt Russia’s exports of air defense systems. He said no, for all the obvious reasons.
More interestingly, Pukhov said air defense equipment typically represents 10-20 percent of Russia’s annual arms exports. This could rise in coming years, he stated, due to future sales of the S-400 to “China and other countries.”
Asked how Russian weapons have performed in Syria, Pukhov responded:
“The Syrian campaign has made a good advertisement for Russian arms, particularly for new types of Russian combat aircraft (Su-30SM, Su-35 and especially Su-34) and helicopters (Mi-28N and Ka-52), but also for precision munitions — cruise missiles and aircraft ordnance. Therefore it’s possible to expect growing interest from foreign buyers and growing sales in these segments. The negative side one can draw from the actions of the Russian grouping in Syria is, first and foremost, the insufficient capability of its technical reconnaissance systems, including unmanned aerial vehicles and space systems. The quantity of precision weapons is still insufficient. The precision arms themselves in a number of cases require additional development. There is still a lot of work ahead, but the main thing is that the Syrian campaign has allowed for revealing these deficiencies and partially eliminating them. Meanwhile the cost of acquiring this priceless experience has been relatively low.”
Of course, the cost is only low if you’re not in the crossfire in Syria.
NI asked Pukhov if Russian weapons are better today or are they still based on old Soviet ones. He answered:
“There is progress, but a large part of equipment, including what is being produced and bought now, still depends precisely on the Soviet legacy. The weapons systems of a really new generation (the T-50 fighter, ‘Armata’ tank, new generation armor) remain in development and still haven’t gotten to the serial production stage. But we have to understand that the creation of new generation armaments in any case involves many years – the cycle is 10-15-20 years from the start of R&D to the real achievement of combat capability in series models in troop units. Considering that in Russia significant financing of defense and the OPK began only after 2005, and on a really large-scale only after 2010, then you really can’t expect any other result. If there’s success in financing at the necessary level, then after 2020 the arrival of platforms and systems of a really new generation will begin.”
And how have economic problems and sanctions affected the OPK?
“The crisis still doesn’t directly affect the OPK. Even with a sharp contraction in federal budget revenue and eight years of economic stagnation, state defense order financing has been preserved at a high level, and it will begin to drop only from 2017. But not because of economic difficulties, but in connection with saturating the troops with new and modern equipment. From another side, sometimes the conditions of GOZ price formation turn out so severe for enterprises that it sometimes leads to GOZ contracts being fulfilled at the limit of profitability.”
“The full action of sanctions began to be felt from 2015. Because the non-supply of a number of components from Ukraine and Western countries already caused a shift in the completion of a number of programs, the most well-known instances are connected with the construction of project 11356 and 22350 frigates, but also project 20385 corvettes, on which Ukrainian gas turbines and German diesels, in turn, were replaced. In addition, sanctions complicated the purchase of Western-produced equipment by Russian enterprises, and, most importantly, its licensed maintenance. And as practice has shown, analogues from China and other countries don’t always meet the quality standards we need. By 2018, the import substitution program will allow for covering 80-90% of imported items, and finally, imports will be replaced by 2020.”