Tag Archives: CAST

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.”

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Russified Dokdo

It is, by no means, clear that the first Russian Mistral won’t be delivered when it’s due at the end of October 2014.  Maybe it will be just quiet enough on the eastern front of Ukraine for Paris to fulfill its contract with Moscow.

But CAST’s Andrey Frolov suggests in a recent VPK article that, if the first Mistral isn’t delivered, Russia could team with South Korea to build its own LHD at Zvezda shipyard in Komsomolsk.

South Korea's Dokdo

South Korea’s Dokdo

Frolov says:

“If we leave parenthetical the question about the need to have a UDK [multipurpose assault ship] in our Navy and accept as an axiom that our fleet needs them, next the question arises about the possibilities of Russian defense industry for import substitution for such a class of ships.”

Then he turns to what it would take and the rather large obstacles Moscow faces:

“Obviously neither Russian nor Soviet shipbuilders had experience in similar construction, especially on such a technological level.  Those large assault ships [BDK], which entered the USSR Navy and were inherited by the contemporary fleet, represent a completely different direction conceptually and technologically.  Taking into account the fact that, according to well-known data, in the post-Soviet period the design of an UDK has not been ordered from a Russian KB [design bureau], it is possible to suppose:  in the best case, only draft drawings, done on initiative, exist.  That is, in the event of a possible order from the Defense Ministry, several years would be needed just to prepare a design.  The experience of developers of designs like aircraft carriers by OAO Nevskoye PKB as well as a ship of less displacement in the destroyer class (the design has been in the works for several years already) speaks eloquently about the possible difficulties on this path.”

“It is possible to trace the pitfalls in the construction of our own forces in the history of the modernization of CVHG project 11434 Admiral Gorshkov for India, in the serial frigates of project 22350, and also in the lead unit of large assault ship project 11711 Ivan Gren, which we note, is much simpler to build than Mistral.”

Russia’s shipyards are so busy with naval and civilian orders that laying down even two LHDs seems improbable, according to Frolov.

Nor, with sanctions in place, does Frolov think it’s realistic to believe that Russia can obtain all the dual-use technology it needs for such ships.  It’s also doubtful it can develop its own.  And the cost of these ships is a large issue.

But, says Frolov, the possibility of foreign cooperation remains.  European partners are already irrelevant because of sanctions.  Daewoo Marine Shipbuilding and Engineering (DSME), however, already partnered with Zvezda in an effort to land the contract Mistral won.

Frolov believes Russia and South Korea have similar views for an LHD:  a ship for littoral operations close to home rather than for transoceanic expeditionary warfare.

Russia would have to develop some equipment, components, and systems for a Russified Dokdo to replace U.S. ones that Washington would certainly not permit the South Koreans to provide to Moscow.

Frolov reminds that Russia already has a record of weapons development cooperation with Seoul.  For example, the Russian radar developed for the ROK’s KM-SAM will be used on Russia’s new Vityaz SAM.

He concludes that a Russian-Korean LHD could become “a more threatening player on the world arms market” and fill Zvezda’s construction program.

Not Enough Resources (Addendum)

Ruslan Pukhov

In Friday’s NVO, CAST Director Ruslan Pukhov expounded on Konstantin Makiyenko’s thoughts about whether Russia’s current military modernization plan is doable.  And he offered ideas on how to make it more doable.

Pukhov points out that, in addition to 19 trillion rubles for military modernization, the Kremlin is footing bills for higher military pay, better living conditions, and housing as well as intensified combat training.  Liberal critics question whether the government can afford a greater defense burden at a time when it also needs to modernize infrastructure, health care, and education.

The planned military expenditures seem, Pukhov continues, balanced and acceptable, following 15 years of army underfinancing.  They shouldn’t threaten the country’s development.

Still, he says, skeptics have a point.  Vladimir Putin’s plan presupposes a decade of growth in the economy, perhaps not dynamic, but growth.  However, it’s also highly possible we’ll see stagnation or even recession in an economy which, with oil prices over $100, shows meager (for a developing market) growth of four percent.

Then Pukhov really gets to it.

With the slightest decline in hydrocarbon prices, “Putin’s preelection promises, including also in the military sphere, will become unfulfillable.”  And the Finance Ministry is developing plans to trim defense spending by 0.5 percent of GDP.

Pukhov asserts the Defense Ministry can continue transforming the armed forces if it sacrifices quantity for quality and foregoes more “metal” for human capital investments.

First, he says abandon the official but never explained million-man army manning level in favor of 700,000 or 600,000 personnel.

Second, the state should meet all its social obligations to servicemen and continue training by skipping some procurement.  The only “holy cow” would be strategic nuclear deterrence forces.

Third, Pukhov suggests sacrificing some planned naval development.  He offers that, as the world’s fifth or sixth largest economy, Russia simply can’t afford to recreate a global navy.  First on the chopping block, Mistral and renovated Kirov-class CGNs.

But Pukhov doesn’t sound fully convinced himself.  Some points not made need to be noted.

Pukhov should know Moscow has already gone well below one million men, if only semi-officially.  There isn’t much savings in reduced conscript numbers.  Pukhov doesn’t mention the huge “human capital” expense of trying (once again) to recruit professional contract soldiers.  The word corruption — the proverbial elephant in this room — isn’t uttered either.  The state already accepts 20, perhaps 40, percent less military than it pays for.  That’s where real savings are.  Foregoing some “metal” is a good idea, but Pukhov has scarcely begun to sort out what Russia’s acquisition priorities should be.

Mr. Pukhov should be commended for addressing this topic, but his critique is pretty mild.  He may still be attacked for it by some.  A much more radical restructuring of Russia’s military development program than Pukhov’s may eventually be needed to save it.

SIPRI’s List

SIPRI’s completed work on its list of the world’s biggest arms producers for 2010.

The list includes 11 Russian companies — Almaz-Antey, OAK,  OSK, Vertolety Rossii, Sukhoy, Irkut, ODK, Sevmash,TRV (Tactical Missile Armaments), Uralvagonzavod, and Salyut.

SIPRI listed parents and subsidiaries this year because the data was available.  It also notes that many Russian companies might be in the top 100, but there’s insufficient financial reporting.  There isn’t enough data on Oboronprom, but its subsidiary Vertolety Rossii is here.  Similarly, it says there would be many Chinese and some Ukrainian and Kazakh firms on the list if their annual reports were public.  SIPRI relies on CAST for its numbers on Russian arms makers.

Interesting to note a big 2010 loss for OAK and a small one for Sevmash.  If you look back to the 2009 report, you’ll see most of OAK’s problem is MiG.

We might compare SIPRI’s work to Defense News’ list described here.  Unfortunately, DN’s page is no longer available.

The discrepancy between the two lists is a little surprising.

Not Enough Resources

Konstantin Makiyenko (photo: Radio Mayak / Kirill Kurganov)

Still parsing reaction to Prime Minister Putin’s manifesto on the army . . . there are lots of positive reviews and recapitulations.  But commentators who don’t exactly agree with Putin are far more interesting and illuminating.

One particularly fitting this description is Konstantin Makiyenko, who makes succinct, obvious, and bravely ventured points.

Makiyenko, Deputy Director of CAST, is by no means anti-regime.  He is, however, honest.  His observations appeared in Interfaks-AVN, and you can read them courtesy of VPK.name.

He concludes simply that Russia may not have the resources for the plan of major army and defense industry modernization Putin laid out in his campaign article:

“The Russian economic system, which, with oil prices at 100 dollars a barrel, provides only four percent GDP growth, isn’t capable of being the base for realizing the plans outlined.”

AVN says Makiyenko doesn’t exclude that, owing to insufficient budgetary resources, the Finance Ministry will have to work out plans for future cuts in spending on national defense.  But, at the same time, he apparently said Putin’s manifesto on the army wasn’t populist, and he has “no objection” to majority of the Premier’s proposals.

But Makiyenko lays down a sharp, if understated, critique of Putin’s stewardship of Russia’s defenses since 1999.  Agreeing that nuclear deterrence has been the only guarantee of Russia’s security, Makiyenko continues:

“In this relation, the current situation is in no way different from the state of affairs in the 1990s, when, as it’s justly noted in [Putin’s] article, ‘other weighty material arguments didn’t exist.'”

“. . . adequately evaluating the situation now, one has to admit that even today other ‘material arguments’ haven’t appeared for Russia during the last 12 years.”

“In this connection, the thought about how one should particularly attentively follow the appearance of new technical means, for example MD systems and long-range, precision non-nuclear means, capable of devaluing Russia’s nuclear deterrence potential, are very important.”

So, conventional weakness drives Russian objections to MD, one supposes.

AVN also indicated Makiyenko is skeptical of Putin’s call for public-private partnerships and more private capital investment in the OPK given that the once-and-future Supreme CINC nationalized first-class companies like Irkut and Saturn.

Guns and Money (Part I)

Ruslan Pukhov

What does Russia need to spend on defense?  Komsomolskaya pravda’s Viktor Baranets engaged Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Director Ruslan Pukhov on the issue recently.

It takes a bit, but the interview gets interesting, and it’s worth hearing, one thinks.

Baranets asks, do military expenditures depend first and foremost on the economy?  On government policy?  On the treasury?  On the military power of one’s enemies?  Pukhov replies:

“In the first place, on the requirements for guaranteeing national security, and secondly on economic possibilities.  But if the country faces serious threats, then maintaining adequate military power becomes an absolute priority.  And then the resources for these purposes are allocated without looking at the economy.”

OK, that’s standard, but the big question is if . . . if it faces threats and if those threats are really serious.  And one might quibble, you can’t allocate what you don’t have (at least most countries can’t).

Baranets probes further.  People want to understand the 30% jump in military spending.  Have external threats grown?  Pukhov answers: 

“We have to maintain large Armed Forces because of the country’s huge size and its borders with military giants, like NATO and China.  Here the correlation of our military potentials has significance first and foremost.  That’s one.”

“And two.  The most important mission for Russia will remain the preservation of powerful, but expensive strategic nuclear forces and advisably — nuclear parity with the U.S.  It’s clear nuclear arms are the main guarantee of our security.  They make a big war between contemporary world powers impossible.  I’m convinced that, if not for the nuclear shield, the fate of Yugoslavia would have awaited Russia in the 1990s.  That is forcible dismemberment with the support of a NATO intervention.”

“Yet another factor:  Russia is faced with real threats to its security in the form of terrorism in the North Caucasus where an ethnic separatist rebellion has transformed into a general Caucasus Salafist underground, but also in the post-Soviet space — in the first place, in view of Georgia’s aggressive actions.”

“Going further:  our Armed Forces are extremely obsolete technically, they lag the current level of military technology development and need renewal.  For almost two decades after 1991 our Armed Forces were totally and chronically underfinanced, didn’t receive new armaments.  After this almost 20-year ‘buying holiday’ it’s necessary now to pay up, trying in the most compressed time to overcome the accumulated lag.”

“And, finally, everything enumerated above has to be overcome in conditions of the fact, unpleasant for the national self-consciousness, but, alas, indisputable, that Russia is a poor country.”

Baranets asks, how can Russia be poor?  Pukhov’s answer:

“We actually have many natural resources.  And this, incidentally, is yet another argument for having effective Armed Forces.  Natural riches have to be protected.  But by the size of the economy we aren’t even in the top five countries in the world, and the main thing is we seriously lag behind developed states.”

“So we have to conduct military organizational development under conditions of a shortage of resources and significantly bowing before many other countries of the world according to our level of economic development and national wealth.”

“All types of resources enumerated by you [Baranets] are in short supply for us.  Industry requires serious modernization, the scientific-technical base, established in the USSR, is practically used up, the quality of human resources is also not at a high point — the technical training school system has collapsed, so finding qualified workers is an integral problem.  Now we can already talk even about the collapse of secondary education — more often illiterate conscripts are coming into the army, and how can you trust them with complex equipment?”

Baranets says some experts think 1.5 or 2 trillion rubles as foreseen for defense in 2012 is too much when compared with what will be spent on science, education, and health.  One can even hear pronouncements like “the army is stripping the people.”  Pukhov reacts:

“I repeat:  Russia’s in a situation where it’s forced to hurry to catch up and reestablish that which dissipated, was squandered and left adrift in the area of national defense in the 1990s.  Essentially, we didn’t develop, but, to the contrary, we collapsed the army.  Now we need to reestablish the army, buy new equipment and armaments.  This isn’t the army ‘stripping the people.’  This is them ‘stripping’ the army for long years.  But there is generally an old true formula — people who don’t want to feed their own army will feed a foreign one.  Education, medicine and other sectors can be self-financed to a significant degree.  The Armed Forces can’t be self-financed in principle.”

Pukhov covers a lot of ground.  And he makes sense of some stuff.  But some points are debatable.  He’s one who wants to blame the 1990s for everything when then-President Putin was also guilty of neglecting the army in the 2000s.  Yugoslavia did a good job of “dismembering” itself before NATO and Russia intervened.  Instruments other than force exist for managing Russia’s problems in the North Caucasus and Georgia.  Is there a realistic threat of having to feed someone else’s army?  Wouldn’t a slower paced military build-up be more sustainable?   

Part II tomorrow.

Pukhov’s Perspective

Thanks to VPK.name’s retransmission of Interfaks-AVN, we can look at Ruslan Pukhov’s latest comments on the State Program of Armaments, 2011-2020 (GPV-2020).  Recall he’s director of the Center of the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

In a nutshell, AVN concludes Pukhov believes the Russian Army’s rearmament requires much greater resources than provided in GPV-2020, but the country’s economic possibilities don’t allow for spending more:

“Twenty trillion rubles which were proposed to allocate for the purchase of armaments and military equipment by 2020 — this is the minimum amount essential for rearming the army, but at the same time it’s the maximum possible volume of resources which can be spent on armaments, proceeding from the possibilities of the country’s budget and economy as a whole.”

Pukhov goes on to say some experts have said 36 or even 50 trillion rubles would be required to rearm all Russia’s armed services and branches completely.  That, of course, is beyond the economy’s capabilities:

“Even the current plans are highly ambitious and entail very high macroeconomic risks.  In the event of the actual fulfillment of the plans for financing GPV-2020, the average annual expenditures on purchases of arms and military equipment will come to 2 trillion rubles a year, that is nearly €47 billion at the current rate.” 

For comparison, Pukhov told AVN Britain and France, with economic potential similar to Russia’s, each spend less than €20 billion annually on new weapons.

Pukhov sees military spending of 4 percent of GDP when the Armed Forces’ other needs are considered:

“Accounting for the need to realize not just the rearmament of the Russian Army, but also to increase significantly the number of contractees, to improve soldiers’ food, clothing, and pay, to resolve the housing problem for servicemen, it’s impossible to exclude that at some time military spending could reach four percent of GDP.” 

He sees it as a very high share of GDP for a country facing the modernization of health care and education, and also the renewal of all its infrastructure.  Still, he concludes:

“But considering the country’s defense was underfinanced for fifteen years and the high probability of the aggravation of the military-political situation in the post-Soviet space, especially in Central Asia, the military expenditures provided are not only acceptable, but even absolutely essential.”

In these sound bites, Ruslan Pukhov’s views sound reasonable, independent, and nuanced given that he tends to reflect defense sector interests.  He recognizes Moscow’s at the limit of what it can spend on new weapons, and he cites figures you read here or here early this year.  He could have noted that the goal is only to renew 70 percent of the Armed Forces’ inventory by 2020.  He acknowledged it’s a lot of money for a country, and a military, facing other expensive challenges, but he maintains it’s necessary by pointing to the neighborhood Russia lives in. 

It’d be interesting, however, to see an interview or article exploring the possibility that Russia can meet its most likely, most realistic military threats and requirements more efficiently and effectively than envisaged under GPV-2020.  Perhaps some services, branches, and unified strategic commands need more money and modernization than they will get, and maybe others need less.  One doesn’t read much about relative priorities within the Armed Forces beyond the fact that the Navy will be emphasized and the Ground Troops won’t.  The rest of the military apparently will move forward on a very broad front.  It’s probably not the best force modernization approach.