Tag Archives: BMPT

Postnikov on the Army and OPK (Part I)

Ground Troops CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov really stirred up the hornet’s nest on Tuesday.  Russia’s defense sector – its OPK or oboronki – feeling offended recently, is abuzz about his comments.  Postnikov told a session of the Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee:

“Those models of weapons that industry produces, including armor, artillery and infantry weapons, don’t correspond to NATO’s or even China’s models in their characteristics.”

The military hadn’t criticized the domestic OPK’s heavy armor and artillery systems to this point.

Insulting Russian tanks is the particular point here.  According to Newsru.com, Postnikov apparently called the much-praised, newest T-90 in actuality just the 17th modification of the Soviet T-72.  And, at the current cost of 118 million rubles per tank, he suggested:

“It would be simpler for us to buy three ‘Leopards’ [German tanks] for this money.”

Newsru.com counters that Rosoboroneksport is proud of the T-90, its sales, and continued interest abroad, but admits it is weak against third generation ATGMs, modern sub-munitions, and “top attack” weapons.  The news outlet also notes that the Russian Defense Ministry has eschewed procurement of the T-95 and BMPT.

In its editorial entitled “Import Generals,” Vedomosti takes Postnikov to task, saying it’s not sure whether he means new or used Leopards, but the German tanks probably come in at $7.5 million a piece at least, against the T-90 at $4 million [i.e. only part of one Leopard for 118 million rubles].  And, says Vedomosti, comparing Russian tanks to Chinese ones is lamer still on Postnikov’s part.

According to the business daily, these criticisms of Russian armaments usually come with calls to buy the same systems abroad.  But the 2008 war with Georgia showed Russia’s deficiencies lay in soldier systems, comms, recce, C2, and some types of infantry weapons rather than in armor.  When Russia doesn’t make something like Mistral or it has inferior technology like UAVs, it’s understandable to buy foreign, but when it’s something like armor, it raises a lot of issues, according to Vedomosti.  Uralvagonzavod certainly needs tank orders.  The idea of large-scale foreign purchases is utopian, says Mikhail Barabanov.  The paper believes thoughts of buying Leopard tanks and Mistral mean Russia’s generalitet has plans beyond local wars.

BFM.ru says Postnikov put the Ground Troops’ modern arms and equipment at only 12 percent of its inventory at present with, again, the goal of 70 percent in 2020.  At the end of this year, the army will get its first brigade complement of the newest automated C2 (ASU) system [i.e. presumably YeSU TZ]:

“In November of this year, we plan to conduct research on the newest  ASU and hand down our verdict.”

According to BFM.ru, he said NATO and China already have analogous systems:

“But for us it is still the future.”

Nezavisimaya gazeta focused on Postnikov’s comments on Ground Troops brigades.  He said he now has 70, but plans for 109 by 2020, including “future type” brigades:

“There will be 42 brigades of the future type, in all there will be 47 military formations of the future type, including military bases abroad which will be built on the same principle.”

The Glavkom didn’t say how the new brigades will be different from the old.

Parsing what he’s talking about is a little tough.  At the end of 2008, the army talked about having 39 combined arms, 21 missile and artillery, 12 signal, 7 air defense, and 2 EW brigades for a total of 81, rather than Postnikov’s current 70.  One might guess a dozen arms storage bases in Siberia and the Far East could be fleshed out into maneuver brigades.  But where does the manpower come from?  Maybe some of the 70,000 officers cut and now being returned to the ranks by Defense Minister Serdyukov. 

Postnikov elaborated some on heavy, medium, and light brigades.  Heavy will have tanks and tracked armor.  NG concludes there won’t be a new tank.  Tanks in storage will get new electronics and Arena active defense systems.  According to Postnikov, medium brigades will get [among other things?] the Bumerang amphibious BTR now in development.  This, says NG, is the first time anyone’s heard Bumerang.  But if it isn’t successfully developed or produced in sufficient numbers by 2020, the army will just buy armored vehicles abroad since there’s already ample precedent for this.

Light brigades will have vehicles like the Tigr or the Italian LMV (Lynx), licensed production of which could begin in Russia this year.  One special Arctic brigade will be created at Pechenga. 

Several media outlets quoted Postnikov to the effect that there’s no plan to change 1-year conscription, but he noted:

“In the transition to one year military service, military men received only a headache.”

There’s lots more reaction to Postnikov’s statements, but it’s too much for one day.

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Defense Industry’s Last Warning

Popovkin in a Suit

Last Friday’s NVO printed an interesting editorial that discussed arms exporter irritation with Deputy Defense Minister, Armaments Chief [former Commander of Space Troops and ex-General-Colonel] Vladimir Popovkin for publicly admitting the Defense Ministry’s dissatisfaction with many of the OPK’s products.  The exporters are obviously upset that Popovkin’s comments have, and will, cost them sales abroad.  But NVO concludes a greater danger would be trying to silence anyone–high-ranking defense official or independent defense analyst–who dares point out the OPK’s problems in the hope of remedying them.

NVO’s sub-title for the article is “The OPK’s systemic crisis threatens a breakdown in the supply of combat equipment to the Russian Army and a lack of export contracts.”

The Greeks have apparently called off a purchase of 420 BMP-3s for $1.5 billion (let’s call it $3.6 million per vehicle).  The deal had been 2 years in the making, and it wasn’t the state of the Greek economy that caused the halt.  According to NVO, the money was already in the defense budget.  Rather it was Popovkin’s specific criticism of the BMP-3 that folded the deal.

Popovkin is quoted:

“We very much need to protect our soldiers.  Today everyone rides on top of the BMP because no one wants to ride in this ‘coffin.’  We need to make a different vehicle.”

Greek journalists published his remarks, and opposition politicians turned them into a scandal:  how can you buy unsuitable equipment that even the country that makes it won’t buy?

Popovkin also complained about the T-90 that the Indians are buying, the tank support combat vehicle (BMPT) that Rosoboroneksport recently demonstrated at an arms show in Kuala Lumpur, and other equipment which the army won’t buy for one reason or another, but which is put forth for export and actively advertised there.

According to NVO, the arms exporters are terribly offended because the [ex-] general cost them several lucrative contracts.  But, in NVO’s estimation, his speech is very necessary.  It says:

“. . . the truth about the condition of the Russian defense-industrial complex, about those processes occurring there, about the systemic crisis in it and the inability of its various directors, including even the government’s Military-Industrial Commission [VPK], to correct the existing situation, is not a secret at all.  It’s been talked about more than once.  On the most varied levels.  Including even presidential.”

NVO says this truth is very important; it could help the powers-that-be uncover the problem areas, fix them, and produce the modern equipment needed for the defense of the country’s interests.  Without an honest discussion, the deficiencies can’t be fixed.  But the Kremlin, government, the legislature, executive organs, or the regions won’t undertake any serious measures against negligent managers.  Despite constant talk of state arms programs, federal programs of technical reequipping of defense enterprises, in reality, with the exception of aviation and air defense firms, nothing is really happening.  It’s moving at a snail’s pace.  Or is it?

Foreign buyers send in 33 warranty claims for every 100 Russian weapons systems exported.  And the scandal with the Algerian MiGs didn’t teach the OPK anything.

It would be possible to silence critics and protect military-technical cooperation with foreign countries and keep the profits coming to the budget and the manufacturers.  But won’t the low quality of these systems, their inability to meet the demands of modern war, really be a negative advertisement?  Does someone really think if they quiet the generals, together with the Moscow media, military analysts and experts then they can sell some kind of half-finished military goods to a serious buyer?  Naive views worked out for illiterate dilettantes.

NVO figures there are two ways out:  either give up, lose export orders, and accept the situation or sharply improve the quality and effectiveness of Russian weapons, reduce prices and defects, and strive to be on the leading edge of technology.  In other words, saving defense industry is in the hands of defense industry itself.  And no one else.  

When it comes to combat vehicles, sniper rifles, UAVs, assault ships, night sights, and armor, the international division of labor in defense industry isn’t such a bad thing after all.  It brings Russia closer to the ‘probable enemies’ of the recent past.  But when it comes to nuclear-powered submarines and strategic missiles we still don’t know how to do them ourselves and no one’s going to sell us those.  And [unless Russia remembers how and gets its OPK in order] it will remember national security the same way it remembers the long forgotten past. 

This is NVO’s way of telling the Putin-Medvedev regime it would be foolish to shut down this feedback channel that tells it what needs fixing in the OPK.