Category Archives: Defense Industry

Motovilikha’s Year

2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers leaving the factory in Perm

2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers leaving the factory in Perm

In September, we checked in on Motovilikha and its contract to produce 20 Tornado-S multiple launch rocket systems for the Russian MOD in 2020. Today it put out a press-release detailing its completion of state defense order work for 2019.

The enterprises of Motovilikhinskiye Plants put out more than 70 pieces of tube and rocket artillery, and spares for the MOD this year. Work on GOZ contracts finished last week.

Motovilikha subsidiary ZAO Special Design Bureau (SKB) repaired more than 30 2A65 Msta-B 152-mm towed howitzers and 2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers, and carried out capital repair and modernization of about 20 Grad MLRS updating them to Tornado-G systems.

Msta-B towed howitzers leaving the plant.PNG

Msta-B 152-mm towed howtizers leaving the plant

Quoting Motovilikhinskiye Plants director Aleksandr Anokhin, the press-release reported the volume of GOZ work will increase “substantially” in 2020.

The item notes that Motovilikha is the developer and only producer of Grad and Smerch MLRS, modified Tornado-G and Tornado-S systems, and associated reload vehicles. It produces 2S23 Nona-SVK and 2S31 Vena 120-mm self-propelled guns, the towed Msta-B, 2B23 Nona-M1 120-mm towed mortar, and other artillery systems.

Interestingly, the end of the press-release added that:

State corporation Rostekh, OOO RT-Kapital specifically, is currently implementing a systematic anti-crisis program in connection with the Motovilikhinskiye Plants group of enterprises which aims to preserve and develop their fundamental productive competencies in their existing facilities.

So despite the year just ending, Motovilikha is experiencing a crisis. But owner Rostekh wants to keep it operating in Perm. Beyond that, who knows. RT-Kapital is a branch of the conglomerate that works with “problem” equity and consolidates and restructures debt.

Cold War Sans CoCom

TMX-4000

Russia’s Kovrov Electromechanical Plant (KEMZ) is set to begin producing licensed copies of Takisawa’s TMX-4000 five-axis digital milling machine. KEMZ and Japan’s Takisawa have a contract for joint production of six machines before the end of 2021. The first is due in April 2020 and will be exhibited at Metal Working-2020 in Moscow in May.

According to a November 8 press release:

The transition to new generation digital equipment will substantially increase the volume of high technology civilian products. At KEMZ we are beginning to produce five-axis milling centers which have not been manufactured in Russia until now. One of these centers can replace several three-coordinate lathes and reduce the production cycle by several times. Potential buyers — Rostekh’s manufacturing enterprises and companies of the shipbuilding and oil processing sectors — are already interested in the model.

The advanced milling machine is designed to make complex parts for, inter alia, aircraft engines, hydraulic systems, and nuclear reactors with 5-micron accuracy. Only seven companies in the world can make such a machine, according to the press statement.

KEMZ and Takisawa have collaborated since 2013, producing six models of machine tools jointly and more than 30 modifications to systems now produced locally in the Russian Federation.

The TMX-4000 and other, essentially foreign, CNC milling systems will make much more than “high technology civilian products.” KEMZ belongs to Russian government-owned NPO Precision Systems (Высокоточные комплексы) which holds companies producing:

  • a wide variety of small arms and ammunition
  • grenade launchers
  • anti-tank missile systems
  • laser-guided munitions
  • aircraft- and helicopter-mounted guns and cannons
  • naval close-in weapons systems
  • Bakhcha and Berezhok turrets for armored vehicles
  • Arena and Drozd active armor defense systems
  • Pantsir-S1 gun-missile systems
  • Strela-10 and Igla-S SAM systems
  • Iskander-M SRBMs

One of Precision Systems’ main holdings — KBP — has been under U.S. DOT OFAC sanctions since 2014.

Precision Systems is controlled by government-owned conglomerate Rostekh which is also under U.S. sanctions.

Technology export controls and sanctions aimed at the Kremlin are an old story. They are difficult to manage. They threaten to punish allied countries and companies for doing business with Moscow in order to deter that activity and deprive Russia of commerce. They become as much a bone of contention among allies as a tool against an adversary.

During the Cold War, U.S. leadership was strong and CoCom prevented some strategic exports to the USSR. But that system, such as it was, also failed infamously.

In 1983-1984, Japan’s Toshiba sold the Russians sophisticated milling machines and Norway’s Kongsberg gave the Kremlin the computer and software needed to make more sophisticated propellers that eventually quieted its Improved Akula SSN and fourth-generation nuclear-powered submarines.

In 1987, the CIA assessed the damage like this:

Capture

But even with its massive purloining of Western technology in the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviet Union lost the Cold War. It proved incapable of exploiting the equipment and knowledge it stole. They didn’t help Moscow fix the enormous social and economic problems that doomed the CPSU and USSR in 1991.

In today’s Cold War redux, there’s little U.S. leadership, no CoCom, and a plethora of places Russia can get technology it needs and can’t produce. Now it’s buying the right to manufacture the same equipment it obtained surreptitiously nearly 40 years ago. It hasn’t fixed an economic system that struggles even to copy things.

It looked like post-Soviet Russia might join the Western community nations after the end of the First Cold War. It benefited from economic and technological cooperation and collaboration it could never imagine. As the Second Cold War unfolded, Russia largely retained that benefit despite sanctions. That benefit has been put to work in Mr. Putin’s arms buildup, in the development and production of more sophisticated weapons systems. The TMX-4000 and other machinery might be used to make an Iskander-MS (S for improved) that is on the Russian MOD’s agenda, or PAK DA, or Tsirkon hypersonic missiles, etc.

For its part, Japan only symbolically joined in sanctions against Russia following its 2014 invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Tokyo has kept its relations with Moscow on track in its (probably futile) pursuit of the Northern Territories and a peace treaty to end World War II. The Japanese also balance between Russia and China in the (probably vain) hope that the two great powers won’t get too close at their expense.

But all this is neither here nor there because, under other circumstances, it might have been a different allied country working with KEMZ or some other Russian firm.

Russia will get the technology it wants from other countries somehow, some way. The past shows that. But it’s far from certain, again based on history, that Russia can do what it wants with that technology successfully.

Mil and Kamov Under One Roof

Mi-35

Mil’s Mi-35 multipurpose combat helicopter

State-owned helicopter conglomerate Russian Helicopters plans to bring the Mil and Kamov design bureaus under a single organizational structure before 2022, according to a company statement.

Russian Helicopters (itself controlled by government holding company Rostekh) announced the two longstanding bureaus will be united in a new National Helicopter Center named for M. L. Mil and N. I. Kamov [National Center of Helicopter-building or NTsV — НЦВ].

Mil and Kamov will be joined in one business by mid-2020. “Further integration processes connected with optimizing the activity of the two design bureaus in the format of one company will continue until 2022,” Russian Helicopters noted. The company said the center will unite the potential of the two helicopter-building schools for more effective resolution of design and modernization missions.

The independent Mil and Kamov “brands” will be retained, but their workers will be combined in the NTsV. The merger is supposed to remove existing administrative, legal, and economic barriers to cooperation between their designers.

Ka-52

Kamov’s Ka-52 attack helicopter

Interfaks-AVN reported the establishment of the center is explained by a need to optimize the work of a whole range of supporting and administrative sub-units and to allow engineers from both bureaus to exchange technical solutions, unify standards, and share work loads.

Besides cutting management and labor costs, the union of Mil and Kamov is supposed to reduce the time required to put helicopters into serial production.

According to Russian Helicopters’ deputy general director Mikhail Korotkevich:

By our accounting, the distribution of tasks between two design bureaus, as well as between the production and repair plants of the holding will allow us to free up 15-20% of their annual effort which can be directed at creating technical reserves and developing new equipment.

Korotkevich added that Russian Helicopters wants to eliminate “unnecessary competition” between Mil and Kamov on similar helicopter designs. He expects more efficient use of infrastructure and lower expenditures on testing to come from the merger of the bureaus.

This merger of Russian helicopter giants will be interesting. 

There are mergers and then there are mergers. Putting Mil and Kamov under the same tent as separate entities is one thing. Сhanging their business and breaking their “rice bowls” is something else. Actually achieving efficiencies and savings is another thing too.

From Soviet times, the Russian approach was to create competition where it wasn’t in the socialist centrally-planned economy. That’s how the MOD and defense industry created world-class armaments — Sukhoy vs. Mikoyan, Ilyushin vs. Antonov, Rubin vs. Malakhit, Yuzhnoye vs. Makeyev vs. MITT, etc.

Over time the design bureaus — probably guided by the MOD and government — tended to concentrate on their specialties rather than competing directly.

This hasn’t stopped brutal clashes particularly when state purchases of weapons systems are limited or declining. It may be happening now, and it may have led the Kremlin to rationalize Russia’s military helicopter market. But blending Mil and Kamov won’t be easy. There has been more recent bare knuckle competition between the helicopter designers than in other segments of Russian defense industry.

In recent days, Primorye media reported on a demonstration by workers at Kamov’s AAK Progress plant 100 km northeast of Vladivostok. They are protesting the lack of orders for their helicopters and attendant cuts in the work force.

Contract for Tornado-S MLRS

Tornado-S

According to Kommersant, Perm-based ZAO Special Design Bureau (SKB) received a contract worth 6-7 billion rubles ($93-$108 million) to produce 20 combat systems for the Russian MOD. The paper’s sources say the contract is for Tornado-S multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) and transport-reload vehicles. The equipment is to be delivered in 2020.

The 12-tube, 300-mm Tornado-S (9K515) MLRS is a “deeply modernized” version of the Smerch. It reportedly features GLONASS satellite navigation, automated fire control, and 9M542 PGMs. Unlike earlier systems, Tornado-S gives specific flight profile data to each rocket. Its effective range is 120 km.

Tornado-S first entered the inventory in late 2016. Smerch was accepted for service in 1989.

The new 9K515 weapons system includes the 9A54 launch vehicle and 9T255 transport-reload vehicle.

Tornado-S and TZM

The 20 systems in the contract likely include 16 launch vehicles (two battalions of eight) and four transport-reload vehicles (two per launch battalion).

The Russian MOD is using new Tornado-S MLRS to build a heavy rocket launcher brigade at the district level in each of its four MDs. In Soviet times, each MD (front) disposed of its own rocket launcher brigade, typically four battalions of 18 40-tube, 122-mm BM-21 Grad systems.

Those “brigades” look like this now:

  • Western MD…Tver…79th Brigade…three battalions of Tornado-S…12 launchers.
  • Southern MD…Znamensk…439th Brigade…??? battalions of Tornado-S…??? launchers.
  • Central MD…Shchuchye…232nd Brigade…two battalions of 220-mm Uragan…16 launchers.
  • Eastern MD…Novosysoyevka…338th Brigade…2-3 battalions of Uragan…16-18 launchers.

But these are more like rocket battalions than the brigades of old days.

The first Tornado-S deployments began in 2017 in the Western MD and continued in the Southern MD in early 2019.

It seems likely the Tornado-S systems due in 2020 will go to the Central or Eastern MD before the Western or Southern get more.

Kommersant detailed the poor financial status of ZAO SKB. Its parent, long-time sole producer of Russian MLRS Motovilikhinskiye Plants is bankrupt. SKB was split away to keep creditors at bay. The rest of Motovilikha is supposed to retool to make civilian products. The growing problem of insolvency in Russia’s OPK is worthy of a look.

Putin on Import Substitution

Putin addresses the VPK

No one in Russia’s defense industries will say Moscow’s program of import substitution isn’t going well. But, while acknowledging some success, the Supreme CINC intimates it could be going better. Izvestiya recapped Putin’s remarks last week as follows [my trans.]:

Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged mistakes in planning the import substitution program in the defense-industrial complex (OPK). According to him, they caused movement in the deadlines for several state defense orders in 2018.

“Considering the complexity and interconnection of all our rearmament plans for the army and navy, such failures have to be effectively eliminated,” the head of state said at a session of the Military-Industrial Commission on Thursday, September 19.

Putin also ordered the government and leading departments “to take supplementary measures to guarantee technological independence in the area of military production.” Including those products in the design phase.

The head of state also noted that the process of import substitution in the OPK is ongoing and Russia has achieved technological independence in more than 350 types of armaments.

“The import substitution program began five years ago, over this time we’ve really managed to advance somewhat, at least in a number of significant directions,” TASS cited Putin.

The President noted that in recent years the share of the domestic electronic component base in modern types of armaments has grown substantially and the production of engines for helicopters and Navy (VMF) ships has been arranged.

“Also soon it will be possible to repair engines for An-124 aircraft in Russian enterprises,” he added.

On August 1, 2018, Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Borisov announced a possible breakdown in the deadline for delivering combat ships to the VMF in 2018. He noted that the state “practically every year” struggles “with systematic violations of the period for supplying ships and boats to the VMF by a number of shipbuilding enterprises.”

Meanwhile in February 2018, Pavel Pechkovskiy, a directorate chief in the Defense Ministry’s Department for Support of the State Defense Order for Ships and Naval Armaments, related that practically all main equipment for VMF ships had been fully shifted to domestic types in the framework of import substitution.

Mr. Putin doesn’t sound particularly pleased, and his praise is faint (“really managed to advance somewhat”). He was likely more frank behind closed doors.

The share of domestic electronics “has grown,” but Putin doesn’t tell us where it stands in absolute terms.

But in May, an economist writing in VPK estimated not more than 15 percent of the “electronic component base” (EKB) is Russian-made, and not less than 70 percent of the OPK is buying foreign EKB in the same volume as always.

The Russians are producing the VK-2500 gas turbine to power their military helicopters. They used to get helicopter engines from Motor Sich in Ukraine.

As Putin noted, Russian industry is updating the D-18T engine for the Ukrainian-made An-124 transport. The modernization of the An-124 is supposed to carry the transport into the 2040s.

Meanwhile, the Antonov Design Bureau in Kyiv claims Moscow lacks many essentials to overhaul the An-124 (e.g. documents, design drawings, test data). And AO UZGA is having difficulties that may be technical or financial in renovating the D-18T. Of course, the updated D-18T isn’t really an import substitute.

Then there are naval gas turbine engines for Russia. They too were formerly made in Ukraine and need replacement. Russian engine-builder ODK asserted earlier in September that its enterprises are now filling all orders for engines once supplied by Motor Sich. But Izvestiya leaves the reader wondering if ships due this year will be late anyway.

Still Waiting for Subs

Budnichenko and Krivoruchko at Sevmash

Krivoruchko and Budnichenko at Sevmash

The press-conference photo shows Deputy Defense Minister and arms tsar Aleksey Krivoruchko with Sevmash general director Mikhail Budnichenko. Heavily scaffolded CGN Admiral Nakhimov provides the backdrop. The Sevmash boss looks like he needs some antacids.

Krivoruchko told the assembled Russian media:

“The quantity of nuclear submarines being transferred to the fleet will be increased, the decision on this has been made. We expect to receive 10 nuclear submarines of projects 955A and 885M by 2024.”

If we’re generous, we could say the Russian Navy got (or will get) five new SSBNs and two new SSNs — a grand total of seven — in the first two decades of the 21st century.

Now Krivoruchko says Sevmash will finish and deliver ten in the next five years.

Let’s look closer.

The initial 955A — Knyaz Vladimir — is in trials and could be accepted in December 2019.

Krivoruchko also told the media Knyaz Oleg, Yasen-M SSNs Kazan and Novosibirsk, and former project 949A Oscar II SSGN Belgorod — now project 09852 and reported Poseydon “doomsday torpedo” carrier — will be received in 2020.

He also noted that contracts for two more Borey-A (making ten Borey boats overall including seven Borey-A units) and two more Yasen-M (nine Yasen overall including eight Yasen-M) have been signed.

If Kazan arrives in 2020, Novosibirsk seems more likely in 2021. Knyaz Oleg might reach the fleet in 2021.

Krasnoyarsk possibly in 2022, and Arkhangelsk in 2023. Generalissimus Suvorov could be delivered in 2023 or 2024. Perm perhaps in 2024.

The first of the last two Borey-A SSBNs currently on the books — Imperator Aleksandr III — might make the 2024 deadline. But almost certainly not the other — Knyaz Pozharskiy.

So ten new nuclear submarines in Russia’s order-of-battle by the end of 2024 is certainly conceivable, but is it likely? Here are some difficulties:

  • Russia is still taking an inordinate amount of time to build boats. Nine, ten, even 11 years. It hasn’t delivered a new nuclear submarine in five years. Saying it can cut the time to seven or eight years could be specious.
  • 2020 is the big year. If Russian builders don’t deliver the five submarines Krivoruchko promised in 2020, his plan for 2024 becomes impossible. All other boats will be pushed back accordingly.
  • The backlog in the hall at Sevmash will be hard to unwind. Instead of cutting to 7-8 years, build time could stay at 9-10-11 years.
  • Five years is a long time. Political, economic, technological, and military changes could impact Krivoruchko’s schedule decisively.

Perhaps Krivoruchko’s message is just the MOD’s latest effort to hurry Sevmash along.

The extra two 955A SSBNs Krivoruchko mentioned, if built, would give Moscow a force of ten modern boats to split evenly between its Northern and Pacific Fleets.

Submarine Class Delivery Laydown to Delivery (Years)
Yuriy Dolgorukiy Borey 2013 16
Aleksandr Nevskiy Borey 2013 10
Vladimir Monomakh Borey 2014 9
Severodvinsk Yasen 2014 20
Knyaz Vladimir Borey-A 2019-2020 (?) 7-8 (?)
Kazan Yasen-M 2020 (?) 11 (?)
Belgorod ex-Oscar II 2020 (?) 28 (?)
Novosibirsk Yasen-M 2021 (?) 8 (?)
Knyaz Oleg Borey-A 2021 (?) 7 (?)
Krasnoyarsk Yasen-M 2022 (?) 8 (?)
Arkhangelsk Yasen-M 2023 (?) 8 (?)
Generalissimus Suvorov Borey-A 2023-2024 (?) 8-9 (?)
Perm Yasen-M 2024 (?) 8 (?)
Imperator Aleksandr III Borey-A 2024-2025 (?) 8-9 (?)
Knyaz Pozharskiy Borey-A 2025-2026 (?) 8-9 (?)
??? Yasen-M
??? Yasen-M
??? Borey-A
??? Borey-A

Keep the Outhouse

Many things kept me from the keyboard in recent months. I’m trying to reboot.

Topwar.ru ran an interesting item on September 5. The RF Education Ministry is considering ending the training of lathe operators, fitters, and machinists in Russia’s post-secondary vocational and technical colleges.

The ministry proposes to stop accepting students for these “obsolete” skills starting in 2021. It will end courses for nine professions and 23 specialties in all.

The old skills don’t correspond to the demands of today’s labor market, according to the ministry. They will be replaced by training for the top 50 future professions and specialties as determined by the Ministries of Labor and Education.

If the Education Ministry has identified the new jobs, Topwar didn’t relay them.

Reader comments were interesting. Some readers pointed to artificial intelligence, computer programming, and even the Fedor robot working aboard the ISS. Others focused on economics. Many young people don’t want to work for 30,000 rubles ($450) a month out in the hinterland (closer to Moscow machinists make more).

It’s likely the RF Ministry of Education has the picture below in mind.

It shows a Swiss CNC vertical milling machine in some Russian business. Perhaps this is what the ministry wants future workers to learn.

But many Russian industries and crucial defense enterprises don’t look like this. And the Russian OPK advertises every day to fill openings for qualified machinists.

Maybe enterprises will get these workers from other sources. Maybe the Education Ministry’s proposal won’t even take effect.

Or maybe the OPK hasn’t focused what the ministry is suggesting. It could have a negative impact on Russian defense production.

As our dedy are fond of saying:

Не срывай сортир до того как унитаз хорошо работает!