Tag Archives: Helicopters of Russia

World-Class Competitors

Defense News has posted its annual list of the world’s top 100 defense companies for 2012.

The same seven Russian firms appear on the list.  But against the backdrop of a declining international defense market, the performance of Russian companies last year is interesting.

They did fairly well, except for airplane makers.

Almaz-Antey’s reported defense revenue rebounded strongly in 2012 – by 62 percent — to make it 14 overall.  It moved up from 21 last year.

Helicopters of Russia’s revenue jumped 32 percent to put it at 24.  It was 44 last year.

Sukhoy’s revenue was down 8 percent.  But down less than others.  With the market declining,  it came in 43rd, up from 52nd last year.

United Engine-building’s revenue increased nearly 50 percent to make it number 49, up from 55.

Irkut’s revenue and position declined, more than 18 percent to make it 62 versus 53 a year ago.

RTI Sistemy reported a 12 percent gain to be 80th instead of 100th last year.

RSK MiG was down 17 percent and came in at 93rd.

Here are the posts on 2011 and 2010.

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Update on World-Class Competitors

By way of follow-up on a previous post, Defense News’ list of the top 100 defense industrial producers for 2011 is out.  No change in Russian companies except for some changes of position on the list.

Sukhoy, Helicopters of Russia, and RTI moved up the list with increased revenue over 2010.  Almaz-Antey, Irkut, and United Engine-building slipped down.  RSK MiG hasn’t reported 2011 data.

Here’s last year’s post.

Some World-Class Competitors

Despite problems with its state defense order and defense-industrial complex, Russia clearly has world-class defense producers.  This is apparent not just from their arms exports, but it’s also evident in their defense-related revenue.

Eight Russian companies just made the Defense News list of the Top 100 defense corporations worldwide.  They are Almaz-Antey, Helicopters of Russia, Sukhoy, Irkut, United Engine-building, Tactical Missiles, KB Instrument-building, and RTI Sistemy.

With 2010 defense revenue of nearly $4 billion, Almaz-Antey has appeared in the list since 2005 (Antey appeared alone prior to that).  Yet its revenue’s only about half that of Thales, a fourth of EADS, perhaps reflecting that those companies are more diversified in their defense and non-defense business. 

Helicopters of Russia vaulted into the middle of the Top 100 list with 2010 defense revenue of nearly $2 billion (a gain of 134.1% over 2009).  Consolidation of its helo design and manufacturing capabilities seems to have put Russia on the map (or at least on the Top 100).  Still, Helicopters of Russia has about half the defense revenue of Textron, and half as much diversification in its business.  The difference is more pronounced when comparing to United Technologies.

Sukhoy and Irkut need no introduction, but it’s a little surprising that their defense revenue was lower than Helicopters of Russia.

United Engine-building (ODK) is an interesting case.  Not huge defense revenue, but more diversified than other Russian corporations in the Top 100.

A number of Russian companies have fallen out of the Top 100 over the years.  They include submarine and shipbuilders Sevmash, Admiralty Wharves, and Northern Wharf (the United Shipbuilding Corporation — OSK — hasn’t appeared in their place), RSK MiG, Uralvagonzavod, and Aerospace Equipment.  It’s hard to say why they’ve fallen off; it could be their financial reporting — still sketchy at times — has made it hard to evaluate their revenue claims. 

Still, eight Russian companies in the Top 100 is a long way from 1999 when only Rosvooruzheniye (remember it?) made the list.

The Russian firms in the Top 100 are strong weapons and military equipment exporters, but the lesson for them from abroad seems to be that greater diversification and more civilian business makes a defense company more profitable.

No Funding for Domestic UAVs

Israeli Searcher Mk.2

RIA Novosti reports a highly-placed OPK representative says development of Russian UAVs hasn’t been financed for two years.  According to him, this is connected with the drawn-out work of Defense Ministry experts considering Israeli drones purchased two years ago.  The source continues:

“It’s obvious Russia’s Defense Ministry can’t figure out its future actions:  either continue to buy UAVs abroad, or finance our own development.”

It seems pretty clear to this author it’s the former, especially considering the following figures.

TsAMTO gave the news agency a rundown on Russia’s 2009 contract for Israeli UAVS:  two Bird Eye-400 ($4 million), eight I-View Mk150 ($37 million), and two Searcher Mk.2 ($12 million).  TsAMTO also says a $100 million contract for 36 unspecified UAVs was signed later.

RIA Novosti also notes, this March, the Defense-Industrial Corporation (Oboronprom) agreed on a $400 million contract with IAI to assemble Israeli UAVs in Russia.  Oboronprom’s Helicopters of Russia sub-unit is responsible for the Russian side of this joint venture.  At the time, Russian experts argued that comparable domestic UAVs were several times cheaper.  But Russian designers also acknowledged lagging in some technologies, particularly optical-infrared sensors and data transmission.

More than a year ago, then-Armaments Chief Vladimir Popovkin said 5 billion rubles had been spent on domestic UAV development without result.  Then months of comparing foreign and domestic models followed.  And now the money trail makes it pretty obvious the Defense Ministry (and big OPK players themselves) are intent on buying abroad.  Small Russian UAV makers are the short-run losers. 

This seems a smart choice for now.  It will be some time before  Russia successfully integrates foreign-designed UAVs into its military operations.  There doesn’t seem a compelling reason to aim for self-sufficiency in something that’s still a niche mission. 

What will happen depends on how Moscow handles its domestic developers.  Will they be able to apply foreign UAVs to their own work and make competitive models of their own?  Falling behind on pilotless technology is not exactly a negligible risk in the coming unmanned age.

Israeli and Russian UAVs for Ground Troops

Yesterday Aviaport.ru wrote that Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov, his First Deputies, Vladimir Popovkin and Nikolay Makarov, Air Forces CINC, Aleksandr Zelin, and industry representatives attended a demonstration of Russian and Israeli UAVs at Kubinka on 10 March. 

The systems shown included the Israeli mini Bird Eye 400 and medium-range Searcher MkII, and also an unnamed Russian mini selected in comparative testing last fall. 

Aviaport.ru says Russian systems were only on static display, but Israeli ones were actively demonstrated.  The Searcher MkII performed a six-hour continuous flight in the vicinity of Kubinka at an altitude of  five km, relaying imagery to its ground station in real time.

Israeli drones arrived in Russia last year, and operators and technicians were trained, but they are only just starting to be used.  A Defense Ministry source tells Aviaport.ru these UAVs are already receiving high marks from the military.

UAV.ru’s editor-in-chief Denis Fedutinov thinks new pilotless aircraft will be based at the 924th Combat Training and Personnel Retraining Center.  The Center’s personnel previously used only Russian-made UAVs, the most modern of which was the 1980s-vintage Pchela.  Fedutinov says:

“Compared with them [Pchela], the impression of Israeli systems will be like switching from a Zhiguli to a Mercedes.”

Nevertheless, according to Fedutinov, the “door isn’t closed” for Russian developers.  The tests of the mini-UAV last year showed an increase in quality of Russian systems, and there was a promise to buy several dozen Russian systems for experimental use in the Ground Troops.  

The tactical-class segment still isn’t occupied, and there are two Russian contenders — VEGA’s Tipchak and Kronshtadt’s Dozor-100.  The latter is reportedly preferred given Popovkin’s negative comments about the former.

Fedutinov thinks when it comes to larger systems there’s still a possibility for cooperation with the Israelis, and there is Russian interest in the Heron system.  But decisions on this issue are essentially political.

After meeting his French counterpart in Paris — mainly about the Mistral acquisition, Defense Minister Serdyukov declared his interest in procuring all types of UAVs, from reconnaissance to strike variants, according to ITAR-TASS.  Serdyukov stated:

“At present, we’re studying the line-up of Israeli pilotless aircraft in detail.  As is known, ‘Helicopters of Russia’ has agreed with the Israelis on establishing an SP [joint venture] to produce such systems.”

Serdyukov added that a UAV operator training center will be set up soon:

“Where this center will be located isn’t decided yet.  These systems will be part of the Ground Troops.”

He said the Defense Ministry wants to buy all types, from light to heavy UAVs.  Russia is also interested in the foreign practice of using satellites to control unmanned reconnaissance and strike aircraft, Serdyukov said.

Russia is Priority for Mi-28N Deliveries

Mi-28N (photo: Denis Rossin)

Yesterday Rostov Helicopter Plant (‘Rosvertol’) General Director Boris Slyusar said the Russian Armed Forces are the priority for Mi-28N ‘Night Hunter’ deliveries, despite what he claims are many profitable offers from abroad.  According to ITAR-TASS, he said:

“We have many requests for the Mi-28N, but the RF Defense Ministry still doesn’t have these systems in sufficient quantity, and we will take its interests into account first.”

Slyusar didn’t give the number of Mi-28N helicopters in Russian forces, but he said the North Caucasus Military District (NCMD) has about 20 ‘Night Hunters,’ and there will be more.  He added:

“Our task is to create in the district’s [NCMD’s] troops in 2011 two groupings of Mi-28N.”

Who knows what he means by groupings.  Squadrons?  A second squadron or two additional squadrons?  The information on the number of Mi-28N delivered is unclear and contradictory.  In late 2009, Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov rather dubiously claimed Russia had already procured 27.

In May, a ‘Rosvertol’ marketing official said Russia would receive two squadrons of Mi-28N helicopters before 2011.  She said two Mi-28N went to the pilot training center at Torzhok in early 2008, and ten more — apparently for the NCMD’s Budennovsk-based 487th Helicopter Regiment — were delivered in 2009.  In mid-2009, ‘Helicopters of Russia’ General Director Andrey Shibitov also told Interfaks-AVN the Russian military had 12 Mi-28N helicopters.

So the question still stands:  a second squadron of maybe 10 helicopters, or two additional squadrons?  One thing’s certain, this goal’s been pushed from 2010 to 2011.

‘Rosvertol’ General Director Slyusar indicated his company sold 10 billion rubles of products in 2009,  and this year sales are more than 15 billion rubles.  Receipts from domestic and export sales are about equal.  By 2015, the company has an ambitious goal of $1 billion in sales.  Slyusar says the company is moving on this plan with modernization, equipment purchases, and people.