Category Archives: Defense Industry

Not Necessarily New

Rossiyskaya gazeta reports the first Russian Tu-160M2 airframe has reached final assembly at Tupolev’s Kazan Aircraft Plant (KAZ). But it may not necessarily be new or significantly different from the last Tu-160 / Blackjack produced at KAZ.

RG picked up the story of the first Tu-160M2 from Kazan-based news service Biznes Online which follows plant newspaper Vpered.

The fourth series Tu-160 Valentin Bliznyuk (photo PAO Tupolev)

The fourth Tu-160 Valentin Bliznyuk (photo: PAO Tupolev)

Assembly of bombers at KAZ ended in 1992 with four airframes “in reserve” in various stages of production. Two were completed in 2000 and 2008 with two left unfinished at the factory.

The “Reserve”

For many years, Russian defense industries depended on their Soviet “reserve” [задел]. The “reserve” could be anything from materials to parts to money to technical know-how that helps an enterprise survive lean times. In many instances, they were wartime mobilization supplies. The “reserve” grew out of the Soviet command economy in which a factory would hoard extra resources to use against future production plans. But, over the years, defense industries steadily depleted whatever Soviet-era “reserve” they had. Another classic case of the “reserve” is Sevmash using unfinished Akula-class SSN hull sections to build the first three Borey-class SSBNs.

KAZ management readily admits the bomber bearing factory number 804 is not a full-blooded Tu-160M2. It’s a chance for the factory and its personnel to prove they can renew production of what is surely one of the most complex Russian weapons systems.

The plant has reestablished its vacuum annealing and electron beam welding processes to fabricate Tu-160 airframes. But the Tu-160M2 will depend on many subsystems, components, and parts from a large number of suppliers.

New avionics, navigation, weapons control, and electronic warfare systems aren’t due until series production. The bomber’s principal weapon, a new long-range, high-speed “smart” cruise missile known as Kh-BD, remains in development.

Production of updated NK-32-02 turbofan engines, which has only just begun at PAO Kuznetsov in Samara, could be the most difficult task. In early 2016, Biznes wrote that the company needed to make five engines that year, and 22 per year starting this year. However, it reported that Kuznetsov is “not in very good condition.”

For these reasons, KAZ workers themselves are skeptical about successfully resurrecting bomber production, according to Biznes.

RG indicated Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov stated in early 2017 the initial Tu-160M2 would come from the factory’s “reserve” and be ready for flight testing in 2018. Deputy Defense Minister and arms tsar Yuriy Borisov has also said early 2018. According to Interfaks-AVN, Tupolev announced an “experimental” Tu-160M2 would fly in 2019.

Biznes indicated completely new Tu-160M2 bombers — not Soviet legacy airframes — might not appear until 2020, reaching a rate of three per year by 2023. 

Interviewed by Krasnaya zvezda while visiting KAZ in early May, Borisov fully reiterated Russia’s plans for its strategic bombers: all existing Tu-160, Tu-95MS, and Tu-22M3 will be modernized, 50 Tu-160M2 will be produced, and the prospective PAK DA will fly in 2025-2026 and enter production in 2028-2029.

For its part, in its recent “Russia [sic] Military Power” publication, U.S. military intelligence notes:

“. . . all existing Tu-160s will be upgraded to Tu-160M1 or M2. Russia has announced that it will resume production of Tu-160M2 bombers and complete development of a new generation bomber (Russian designation: PAK-DA) within a decade . . . .”

The report allows that “timelines for both programs may slip if financial difficulties arise.”

But such troubles arose two or three years ago and Moscow’s economic woes make ambitious, if not grandiose, strategic bomber programs unaffordable. The burden of upgrading every existing bomber while developing a new one like the B-2 will be incompatible with declining defense budgets.

Yet strategic nuclear forces are an undeniable priority for the Kremlin and bombers figure as something of a hedge against U.S. missile defense systems.

Russian President Vladimir Putin loves the impression bombers make. In 2007, he restarted regular strategic bomber patrols along NATO borders to signal Russian intent to become more assertive abroad.

Well-worn shot of Putin before his 2005 flight in a Tu-160 (photo Kremlin.ru)

Well-worn shot of Putin before his 2005 flight in a Tu-160 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

He has also sent Tu-160 bombers to Venezuela and Nicaragua in a show-the-flag campaign. The Tu-160 flew its first combat mission over Syria in 2015.

Declining Defense Orders

Smaller military budgets and delays in putting GPV 2018-2025 into place will apparently trickle down into reduced orders for Russia’s defense-industrial complex (OPK) in coming years.

According to TASS on June 15, Deputy Chief of the Main Armaments Directorate Boris Nakonechnyy said the MOD can’t fully “load” OPK enterprises with orders during the next GPV.  “As the primary customer for weapons and military equipment, the Defense Ministry can’t fully support the work of enterprises,” he told the news agency.

There may be some reduction in defense orders during the new arms program, Nakonechnyy said.  But he indicated the MOD would still support the scientific work (presumably the RDT&E) of Russian defense-industrial enterprises.

Nakonechnyy said the MOD doesn’t expect global military threats to decline, but it’s not possible to increase substantially the funding needed to counter them.  At the same time, he emphasized it’s important for Russia not to lose the current tempo of development in its OPK, and not to allow itself to lag behind world leaders in military technology.

Welding parts for BMP-3 at Kurganmashzavod

Welding parts for BMP-3 at Kurganmashzavod

TASS provided no context for Nakonechnyy’s comments.  Other media outlets ran the TASS story as is.  Utro.ru, however, provided its own interpretation of his remarks.

While perhaps somewhat alarmist, Utro writer Andrey Sherykhanov puts Nakonechnyy’s statements in the context of the continuing battle between the defense and finance ministries over future military spending.

Sherykhanov recalls the recent Vedomosti report putting likely appropriations for GPV 2018-2025 at 17 trillion rubles, three times less than the original MOD request.  The peak of defense orders, he concludes, is already past.  The military will have no orders for production enterprises, which will close and send their workers on indefinite furlough as they did in the 1990s, he writes.

But maybe, Sherykhanov opines, this won’t be necessary since President Putin has said the OPK’s potential should be harnessed to the needs of cutting-edge, science-intensive sectors like medicine, energy, aviation, space, and information technology.  Last year the Supreme CINC himself said 30 percent of OPK production has to be for the civilian market by 2025, and 50 percent by 2030.  Massive state defense-industrial holding company Rostekh has already announced that half of its output will be civilian by 2025.

Sherykhanov writes that there’s no real concern about this new program of conversion to civilian production at present:

“In the upper echelons of power, they spoke about it just a year and a half ago. There’s a gathering sense that the leaders of Russian defense enterprises aren’t beating their heads with this, concentrating as they are completely on military orders which OPK enterprises are provided until 2020.  That is, they act according to this scheme:  we’ll handle this, and then we’ll see.”

Is Such a Ship Needed?

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin has concluded another week of meetings with military leaders and defense industry officials.  Some significant statements appeared in the media, but none more interesting than those from Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Rogozin.  He, of course, oversees the defense industries, and serves as Putin’s deputy on the government’s Military-Industrial Commission (VPK).

Rogozin contends the new state armaments program (GPV) will include innovative weapons systems rather than modernization of existing platforms.  He buries Navy hopes for a modern aircraft carrier, and — worse for the Navy — he’s down on big ships that make great targets.  And he expounds at length on transport aircraft programs (which his son Aleksey now directs as vice-president of OAK).

Dmitriy Rogozin

Dmitriy Rogozin

Vesti asked Rogozin what will or won’t be in the next GPV.  He answered:

“We are gradually moving away from the modernization of old types of armaments, although, we must say, modernization is just as normal as the development of new types.  But there can’t be an endless amount of modernization.  Let’s say, three-four times, not more.  Otherwise this stops the development of new weapons systems. Therefore the new program of armaments is, in essence, an innovation program which includes completely new approaches. Above all, it is the development of smart weapons, and automated command, control, communications, and reconnaissance systems. We’ll have modern troop communications, which has always been a weak point.  We’ll have robotic systems, we have almost completed development of new unmanned vehicles, both ground and air.  And, of course, a strong renewal of our satellite network is in progress.  High-quality navigation, reconnaissance, and many other things.”

Asked if the Navy was favored over the Ground Troops in the current arms program, Rogozin responded:

“No, we won’t have some kind of imbalance, that is something favoring the Navy, favoring the Aerospace Forces or favoring new smart systems.  This is the emphasis of the new program of armaments.  The Navy will receive new ships.  Today we are stressing ‘muscular’ ships — frigates, corvettes of near and distant ocean zones, that is what doesn’t provide a great target for the enemy, but nimble, maneuverable, and capable of responding just like a large ship.”

Vesti inquired about delaying investment in new aircraft carriers and strategic bombers.  Rogozin answered:

“If we talk, let’s say, about aircraft carriers, then technologically and technically today Russian defense industry is capable of developing a ship of such displacement.  But it’s a question for the military whether such a ship is needed.  After all, we have to remember that, unlike the United States, we are not a great maritime power, we are a great continental power, and we have several other priorities.  As far as a strategic bomber goes, we have completed unique work at the Kazan Aircraft Plant, reestablished, but on a new technological basis, electron beam welding that is needed to develop the titanium fuselage on which the technology of the Tu-160, our great strategic bomber, was always based.  And we will recreate this aircraft, undoubtedly, on a new technical basis, with new electronics, new weapons, but this doesn’t mean that we have abandoned plans to develop the future aviation system of long-range aviation [PAK DA].  Work on it is beginning, as on the future aviation system of military-transport aviation [PAK VTA], and on a medium military-transport aircraft.  Decisions were made recently in Sochi.  We will produce it, and we’ll have it around 2023-2024.  At the end of this year, we are planning for a small, light transport aircraft to fly.  For our army, which is compact, it’s important to have the possibility of being instantly redeployed to another theater of military operations where some threat is growing. In this way we’ll repulse any aggression by potential enemies not with great numbers, but with the great skill and mobility of our Armed Forces.”

Moscow’s made a start in this direction, but Rogozin might be exaggerating its progress.  More interesting is his intimation that the MOD is making trade-offs in the process of cobbling together GPV 2018-2025.  Are large (and expensive) ships out in favor of neglected military transport aircraft?  Rogozin rails against “endless” modernization but, practically in the same breath, insists the MOD won’t forget about PAK DA as it prepares to produce updated Tu-160 bombers.  Perhaps someone will remind him there are things besides modernization which interfere with the development of new weapons.

The State of the State Armaments Program

From the “better late than never” file…

On January 11, Aleksey Nikolskiy published an article on the next GPV for Vedomosti.  He laid out the state of the battle over state armaments program 2018-2025.

What Will They Spend?

According to Nikolskiy, the new GPV will be only half of what Russia’s Defense Ministry wants, if the Finance Ministry gets its way.

The GPV covers ten years, but the Russian government adopts one every five years. So the new program was due to be adopted and implemented last year.

The next GPV was being prepared in 2014-2015.  But with the poor economic forecast, Western sanctions, and the need for import substitution, the Kremlin elected to delay launching the new arms program until the first half of 2017, a former MOD official told Nikolskiy.

The new arms program is also late because industry’s initial promises on import substitution for Western as well as for Ukrainian products turned out to be too rosy, CAST director Ruslan Pukhov tells Nikolskiy.  But, he adds, it’s impossible to drag this out longer because industry needs to know the fiscal parameters of its work in the long-term.

The current program for 2011-2020 was approved in late 2010.  It contained 19.1 trillion rubles for the MOD.  That was more than $630 billion at the exchange rate of the day.  But, according to Nikolskiy, not more than 40 percent of this amount had been spent by the start of 2017.

Forty percent is 7.6 trillion, or roughly 1.3 trillion per year for the first six years of a ten-year program.  Leaving so much backloaded implies that Russian defense industry was unable to absorb and use more money, at least without massive graft and waste. So the new arms program might continue a similar annual rate of investment in acquisition.

Nikolskiy notes that every arms program the Defense Ministry requests is several times more than the Finance Ministry believes it can allocate.  In 2015, the former reportedly reduced its initial request for 2018-2025 from 55 to 30 trillion rubles while the latter was ready to agree to an amount not greater than 12 trillion.

Kommersant’s Ivan Safronov reported that Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov spoke in “elevated tones” during a September 9 Kremlin meeting on the GPV.  With President Vladimir Putin chairing the session, the ministers reportedly argued over the necessity and feasibility of 22 vs. 12 trillion rubles for arms procurement.

This is the customary kabuki.  In 2010, the MOD came in similarly high — 36 trillion. The Finance Ministry responded with 13 trillion. Ultimately, they compromised at a figure closer to the latter’s preference — 19.1 trillion rubles.  In retrospect, it wasn’t surprising given that even Putin expressed his qualms at spending so much. 

What Will They Buy?

According to a defense industry manager who spoke with Nikolskiy, armaments tsar Deputy Defense Minister Borisov already announced the emphasis in the near term will be placed to a greater degree on the purchase of well-assimilated systems – for example, Su-30SM fighters or Improved Kilo-class (proyekt 636) submarines – and on modernized equipment which is significantly cheaper than new.

Meanwhile, the acceptance of fundamentally new types of armaments is passing into the more distant future.  They include important platforms like the T-14 / Armata tank and T-50 / PAK FA fighter, and even some strategic weapons, writes Nikolskiy.

This would represent some retrenchment from Moscow’s ambitions in comparison with what it originally wanted from the current arms program.

Additional Perspective

U.S. defense acquisition is still probably three times the $50 billion or less Russia might spend on an annual basis.  Russian procurement of arms attracts more attention and causes more concern than its volume alone warrants.

What Russia actually receives for the money it spends makes an interesting comparison with China.  Beijing clearly lags Moscow in high-tech weapons, but it seems to get greater industrial bang for its buck when bending metal.

For example, Chinese shipbuilding.  In ten years, China put 22 Type 054A frigates to sea. The Russian Navy received three or four frigates during the same years.  China is set to build its third aircraft carrier.  Russia’s lone Kuznetsov carrier will soon enter the shipyard to begin a three-year (probably longer) modernization effort.

Perhaps China hands will tell us if naval construction is a happy aberration for Beijing or if it enjoys the same kind of productivity in ground and air systems.

Conclusion

Rearmament is something that has gone Moscow’s way in recent years.  It has restored Russia’s image as a formidable power.  Rearming — even over-arming — has created and fueled a siege mentality at home.  That mentality keeps the Russian Federation distant from the Western community of nations, and its people remote from the kinds of socioeconomic demands Westerners place on their political leaders.  So the arms program has been part of Putin’s strategy for that reason if no other.

Moscow will want to maintain the momentum rearmament has generated since 2011.  Too much of a break in funding would slow defense industry, which had difficulty finding traction.

But Russia’s economic situation is harder now than 2010.

Best Guess:  GPV 2018-2025 will be announced with a nominal budget between 15 and 17 trillion rubles.

The Ministry of Finance will still groan at this amount, but will be secretly pleased at having kept arms spending at a reasonable level.

What money is actually disbursed, as we’ve seen, will be less than the full amount as the years go by.

The State of VTA [Addendum]

As if on cue, an anonymous aviation industry source has spilled to Interfaks-AVN on developments in the Il-76MD-90A transport program.  Remarkable timing.  Can you say reflexive control?  But one mustn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  The author is grateful for all info.

The source says Aviastar-SP plans to complete three of the new transports this year.  It has already finished five, according to him.

Two Il-76MD-90A aircraft have gone to the MOD (the VKS presumably).  Two have gone to Beriev in Taganrog for “reequipping into special designation aircraft.”  AWACS and aerial tankers presumably.  The fifth is with Ilyushin for development and testing.

Interfaks-AVN’s source reports that the 2012 contract for 39 Il-76MD-90A transports is still in effect.

By 2025, Aviastar-SP intends to produce 170 aircraft in the Il-76MD-90A family.  By 2021, it aims to make 18 per year and 21 each year after 2021.  It is hoping for 65 export orders.

If you’re still reading in Ulyanovsk or Moscow, we’d all love to hear anything about plans to replace or produce more An-124 transports.

Cold Water on PAK FA

ODK General Director Aleksandr Artyukhov has dampened the prospects for Russia’s developmental fifth generation fighter aircraft, the T-50 or PAK FA.  Friday in Lukhovitsy at the presentation of the MiG-35, Artyukhov told RIA Novosti that R&D on PAK FA’s “second phase” engine won’t be complete until 2020.

t-50-pak-fa-photo-ria-novosti-aleksandr-vilf

T-50 / PAK FA (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksandr Vilf)

This contrasts with the more hopeful announcement late last year from Sukhoy aircraft plant KnAAZ when the “second phase” engine or “item 30” commenced stand tests.

ODK’s Artyukhov told the media that the plan is to begin flight tests of the “second phase” engine this year.

Existing prototypes fly with the first phase or “item 117S” engine (AL-41F1S). However, “item 30” advertises reduced infrared signature, increased thrust, supercruise, improved fuel efficiency, and lower life-cycle costs.

Artyukhov’s predecessor said more than two years ago that a PAK FA with a “second phase” engine would not fly until 2017.  ODK once hoped this would happen in 2015, but OAK’s former chief Mikhail Pogosyan said possibly not even before 2019.

But even with a tested “item 30” engine, it will be a challenge to integrate and test it fully this year.  So the first PAK FA fighters to reach the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) will probably have “item 117S” engines.

As the PAK FA’s engine has slipped, so has the aircraft itself.

The VKS officially hopes to accept its newest fighter in 2017, and take delivery of five in late 2017 or 2018.  It looks toward a total buy of 55 PAK FA.

However, in mid-2015, Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov said the military would procure one squadron of 12 PAK FA.  He didn’t commit to more.  Borisov said Russia would buy fewer PAK FA than planned because the 4++ generation Su-35 is superior to new foreign fighters in many respects.

Il-112V Light Transport in Next Armaments Program

The Voronezh Aircraft Plant is assembling the first prototype of the Il-112V light transport aircraft, according to the Ilyushin design bureau.  Russian Deputy Defence Minister and procurement tsar Yuriy Borisov has indicated that the Russian military will buy 48 of them in the state armaments program for 2018-2025, expected to be approved by mid-2017.

first-il-112v-fuselage-assembled-photo-www-ilyushin-org

First Il-112V Fuselage Assembled (photo: http://www.ilyushin.org)

The first Il-112V airframe should be complete by the end of January when ground testing is to begin.  Flight tests could start this summer followed soon thereafter by state acceptance testing, Borisov told Gazeta.ru’s Mikhail Khodarenok.  The Voronezh plant has also begun assembly of a second Il-112V.

The new transport will take the place of aging Antonov An-26 / Curl aircraft.  The Russian military still operates about 100 of the venerable transports.  More than 1,100 were produced between 1969 and 1986.

Series production of the Il-112V is supposed to start in 2019 with a rate of 12 aircraft per year.  The production run has been pared back to 48 from the original target of 62 transports.

Funding for Il-112V development was cut in 2010 when former defense minister Anatoliy Serdyukov opted to buy modified An-140 transports from Ukraine.  But the Russian light transport program was revived in 2013.  It received special impetus after Kyiv halted military-technical cooperation with Moscow in early 2014.

The Il-112V depends on successful production of TV7-117ST turbofan engines by Russian manufacturer Klimov.  The first two are scheduled for delivery and installation on the prototype airframe in February.  The Klimov engines will substitute for ones that Moscow used to import from Ukraine’s Motor Sich. However, they are not equal to Ukrainian engines in several respects including horsepower, service ceiling, and reliability, according to Khodarenok’s aviation sector sources.

The new Russian transport is designed for a takeoff weight of 21 tons with a maximum useful load of five tons.  It will carry 3.5 tons to a range of 2,400 km.

artists-concept-of-il-112v

Artist’s Concept of Il-112V

According to a recent report in Izvestiya, the Central Aerodynamic Institute (TsAGI or ЦАГИ) has raised the prospect of developing a different Russian light transport that could be rapidly converted between passenger and cargo variants.

Outside Russia, there are some 600 An-26 transports still operating, but they are at the end of the service lives and need replacement.  This provides a ready market for Ilyushin’s new light transport, but it already faces stiff competition from established products like the Airbus CASA C-295 and Alenia C-27J Spartan.

The Il-112V is an increasingly critical requirement given the obsolescence of Russia’s existing light transport inventory.  The urgency of the program is further underscored by Russia’s apparent difficulties in producing components to assemble the Ukrainian-designed An-140.