Category Archives: Force Modernization

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.

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Taking Stock of Russian Acquisition

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.”

Ruslan Pukhov

Ruslan Pukhov

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.”

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.

The State of VTA

News on the Il-76MD-90A program provides an opportunity to look at the state of Russia’s VTA, or Military-Transport Aviation.

il-76md-90a-prototype-prepares-for-takeoff

Il-76MD-90A prototype prepares for takeoff

The Il-76MD-90A is a new aircraft, an updated version of the venerable Il-76 transport produced by the Soviets in large numbers during the 1970s and 1980s.

According to most sources, the VTA is supposed to acquire 39 Il-76MD-90A transports by 2020 [or 2021?].  This may have been slashed to 30, others say.  Manufacturer Aviastar-SP reports it has ten of the aircraft in various stages of assembly.

The new transport was at TsAGI in Moscow recently for static structural testing. Prior to that, it conducted flight tests from the Aviastar-SP production facility at Ulyanovsk-Vostochnyy.

Besides new PS-90 engines, the Il-76MD-90A has an all-glass digital cockpit, new flight controls, navigation, and communication systems.  The airframe and landing gear have been reinforced.  It lifts 60 tons while reportedly consuming less fuel.

The original Il-76 had slightly greater cargo capacity than the U.S. C-141.  It’s critical to the mobility of Russia’s Airborne Troops (VDV) and their air-droppable equipment.  Civilian versions of the Il-76 remain in use worldwide.

At present, VTA may operate about 100 Il-76M or Il-76MD, and perhaps ten An-124 transports.  But the number of operational aircraft could be as low as 60 Il-76 variants and a handful of An-124. 

At the outset of the current GPV in 2011, the air forces hoped to procure 100 or more new and updated heavy transport aircraft.  The current inventory needs complete replacement in the 2020s and early 2030s.  But they have relatively little to show well into 2017.

Together with 39 (or 30?) Il-76MD-90A transports, VTA plans to acquire 30 Il-76MDM aircraft.  It’s a renovated Il-76MD with its original engines but the glass cockpit and other updates from the Il-76MD-90A.

Cooperation with the Antonov design bureau and its production facilities is off the table now that military-industrial ties with Ukraine have been severed. Observers once looked for Russia’s VTA to buy 30-50 An-70 transports and the same number of Il-76MD variants and updates.

They also anticipated that Moscow would buy 20 new An-124 aircraft and modernize quite a few existing ones.  No alternative for replacing the super-heavy transport has been proffered.

The PAK TA (future aircraft system — transport aviation) remains a mirage. Moscow could mobilize Aviastar-SP to renew production of the An-124, but it would require a lot of resources and time, plus the facility will already have its hands full with the Il-76MD-90A, etc.

There is also the question of VTA’s smaller transports which are ancient and in dire need of replacement.  The MOD has settled on procurement of 48 turboprop Il-112V aircraft in GPV 2018-2025 to replace some of its aged An-26 fleet.  This decision came after it abandoned efforts to get Antonov’s An-140.  The Russians reportedly will continue to develop the turbojet Il-214 medium transport despite India’s decision to bow out of the once joint effort.  But there’s little tangible in this program to date.

Postscript on PAK FA

As if on cue, Russian Deputy Defense Minister and arms tsar Yuriy Borisov told journalists on February 2 that production of Russia’s T-50 / PAK FA fifth generation fighter may not begin until after 2018.

“Most likely,” he said, “this will be the next state armaments program, that is 2018-2025,” TASS reported.

Borisov added that the Defense Ministry is not in a hurry.  He said, as long as existing analogues satisfy the armed forces’ requirements, there is no need to spend money to buy expensive new equipment, according to TASS.

“We’ll use it on a trial basis, we’ve bought limited quantities, we’ll see how they work in practice, identify all deficiencies, put in place all changes so when the time comes to buy the models have been developed in practice,” Borisov noted.

What satisfies the requirements at this point is the procurement of 12 MiG-29SMT, two Su-30M2, 17 Su-30SM, and 12 Su-35S fighters, or 43 fighters in all, in 2016.  But, after peaking in 2014, Moscow’s acquisition of combat aircraft declined some in 2015 and then fell more sharply in 2016, according to bmpd.

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.