Tag Archives: MiG-29K

Death of Mikoyan

On October 21, the labor union of the Engineering Center of the Experimental-Design Bureau (OKB) named for A. I. Mikoyan went public with its claim that  well-known aircraft maker RSK MiG is in a catastrophic state.  Metronews.ru published part of the union’s open appeal as well as MiG’s official reaction.  The union’s letter is addressed to the president, prime minister, and heads of political parties, and dated October 11.

Union chairman Yuriy Malakhov says:

“The situation taking shape in our engineering center forced me to write this letter.  We’ve always been the brain of the company, it’s right here that new aircraft models were developed.  For a long time, we’ve had no new orders.  In the past five years, six general directors have been replaced, they all come from the Sukhoy company, and the impression’s created that they are strangling us, they want to close our company.  All the best orders go there [Sukhoy].  For example, we aren’t even allowed to participate in developing unmanned aerial vehicles.  Sukhoy is working on them, but this aircraft company doesn’t have our experience.  They focused on heavy fighters.  The pay of our colleagues is lower than in the trolleybus yard next door.  Lead engineers get 8-10 thousand rubles [per month].  Sometimes with occasional bonuses they get 30 thousand.  Talented young specialists leave for other firms, for example, Boeing, where they get two-three times more.  Now 10 percent of orders come from Russia, the rest from abroad.  In the course of several years we tried to get a response from our leadership, but no one wanted to start negotiations with us.  And the engineering center’s director decided to meet with employees only after this letter.  We are very much hoping for this meeting.  We expect new orders and increased wages.”

 MiG’s press-secretary offered this response:

“The absence of the Gosoboronzakaz in the 1990s was a serious blow to the country’s defense industry, including to RSK MiG.  Only those companies that had large export contracts could develop successfully, for example in that period the Sukhoy company managed to conclude contracts with India and China.  At that moment, MiG had only a contract with Malaysia.  In recent years, RSK MiG’s been headed by directors from Sukhoy corporation – Nikitin, Fedorov, Pogosyan, Korotkov.  From outside this could look like a raider’s seizure of MiG.  But who needs to seize debts and problems?  A positive dynamic began precisely with the arrival of these people – large foreign contracts were signed, the contract with the Defense Ministry to supply MiG-SMT.  Aircraft were supplied against this contract and they’re being successfully employed in the RF VVS.  Presently, a contract with the Defense Ministry to supply the MiG-29K is being discussed.”

“Today RSK MiG’s order portfolio is more than $4 billion, serial production of new aircraft is unfolding. There is a positive dynamic, maybe it’s not as quick and wages not as high as all of us would like.  Some young specialists come and stay, some leave.  But on the whole the company has good prospects.”

A couple points on these claims.  We know raiders take and sell what’s good, and leave “debts and problems” behind.  The Defense Ministry’s acceptance of the Algerian MiG-SMTs was more a financial bailout for the company and face-saving maneuver for Russia writ large than a real contract.  Not mentioned is Aleksandr Sukhorukov’s October 11 statement that MiG-29K procurement won’t come until 2013-2015.

The text of the union’s letter says MiG is simply dying.  It cites many problems and complaints, including a 48-billion-ruble debt, losses and delays in contracts, moving engineers to Zhukovskiy, closing MAPO, etc.  It says crucial pay bonuses can’t always be paid, and MiG is just supplying skilled people to Sukhoy and Irkut.  The letter calls OAK an incomprehensible middle layer blocking competition, but allowing personal lobbying.  Finally, it blames Mikhail Pogosyan for closing MiG’s promising future projects.

Scanning other recent MiG headlines – the Indian tender wasn’t the only blow to the MiG-35, its chances with the Russian Air Forces didn’t look too rosy anyway, and the early September MiG-31 crash indicated again what dire straits that old airframe is in.

Izvestiya’s Ilya Kramnik published recently on the MiG-29’s fate.  He wrote that (unlike the Su-27 or Su-24) the Defense Ministry doesn’t plan to modernize the MiG-29.  His military source says replacement of these worn-out aircraft in the future is deemed more cost-effective.

Kramnik’s source describes production of the generation “4+++” (?!) MiG-35 as an unavoidable but not yet decided step.  He sees the MiG-29 variant line ending since it’s outclassed by updated Su-27s.

Kramnik’s OPK source sees 20 or 24 MiG-35s being produced each year, for about 25 billion, to replace 150 or 160 MiG-29s in Russia’s inventory.

He cites Konstantin Makiyenko who sees the MiG-35 as important not just as a MiG-29 replacement, but also to keep Russia in the light- to medium-, $60-million-range fighter export market and not leave this industry segment to China and its J-10.

But Konstantin Bogdanov tells Kramnik he thinks the MiG-35’s loss in the Indian tender hurt its chances at home because it raises questions about MiG’s ability to support a production program for the Russian Air Forces.

One also wonders how much MiG-35 and MiG-29 will be needed with T-50 / PAK FA, with Su-35, and with Su-27 upgrades out there.

It’s hard to see the MiG story as anything but another chapter in the painful and necessary process of post-Cold War industrial downsizing and restructuring.  After all, the U.S. is down basically to Boeing and Lockheed Martin.  In MiG’s case, one can question whether the selection is really natural and the fittest are truly surviving.  The answer is probably yes.  However they managed it, Sukhoy and Irkut played their post-Soviet hand better, and it shows today.  The Russian aviation sector will be better off with further consolidation.  Still it doesn’t need Sukhoy to be a monopolist.  Managing that outcome will be tricky.

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The GOZ This Week

Putin at the Conference (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskiy)

At United Russia’s interregional conference in Cherepovets on Monday, Prime Minister Putin reported on the Defense Ministry’s failure to conclude all its GOZ contracts by his most recent September 1 deadline.  Putin said, despite Defense Minister Serdyukov’s assurances that only OSK contracts need to be finished, agreements with MIT and OAK are still not finalized.

According to RIA Novosti and the stenogram, Putin told the United Russia audience:

“Unfortunately, full agreement between the Defense Ministry and producers by 1 September didn’t happen, as we arranged.  Disagreements continue there in several areas.”

“I want to direct the attention of all sides to this process:  firstly, we have a colossal amount of money being allocated for strengthening the country’s defense capability.  We’ve generally never allocated such money, well, in Soviet times, when they threw everything at the defense sector, there were comparable figures, but in recent history never, — 20 trillion to 2020.  We are constrained in other places – very many – either to stop or cut our expenditures, but we need to do this to guarantee our defense capability.  But we don’t need to absorb these billions and trillions, we need to provide items quantitatively and qualitatively.”

“At the same time, of course, the profitability of enterprises should also be guaranteed.  The obvious fact is a minimum of 15 percent.  It’s necessary to get this profitability so there are resources for development, for worthy wages for the workers.  I hope that soon, in the course of a week, this process will be concluded in shipbuilding, in missiles, and in aviation.”

“In 2012, orders, advances and other payments should be sent in full measure to enterprises not later than March.  I’m counting on this very much.”

Vedomosti’s source close to the Defense Ministry admitted a week won’t be enough to close contracts worth 500 billion rubles with Sevmash and tens of billions with MIT.

Kommersant’s source familiar with the course of negotiations with MIT confirmed that the process isn’t complete.  Another source said a contract for Yak-130 trainers is almost complete, but one for MiG-29K fighters isn’t.  Konstantin Makiyenko told Vedomosti the MiG-29K doesn’t matter since the Kuznetsov aircraft carrier is headed for repairs.

Most striking is Putin’s call, a plea almost, not to “absorb” the GPV’s 20 trillion rubles without supplying the new weapons and equipment the army needs.  He’s well aware the situation could be like water in sand.

Latest on GOZ Woes (Part II)

To review this week . . . Prime Minister Putin’s current deadline for completing GOZ contracts is August 31, but it’s unlikely to be met, even by loyal Deputy PM and OSK Board Chairman Igor Sechin.  Deputy Finance Minister Siluanov said Defense Ministry contracts are being made on credits and government-backed financing rather than cash.  Putin said the price tag for GOZ-2011 is 750 billion rubles, but 30 percent of projected procurement still isn’t covered by contracts as the final third of the year begins.

How did the government, Defense Ministry, and OPK arrive at an August 31 deadline that’s unlikely to be met?

The latest round of this year’s GOZ woes started in early July when MIT General Designer Yuriy Solomonov told Kommersant that GOZ-2011 was already broken, and Russia’s strategic missile inventory is not being renewed as necessary.  He said there’s no contract for the RS-24 / Yars ICBM, and the late arrival of money makes it impossible to salvage 2011.

President Dmitriy Medvedev responded by calling Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov on the carpet.  According to RIA Novosti, he told him:

“Sort out the situation.  If there’s information that the state defense order is broken, it’s true, organizational conclusions are needed in connection with those who are responsible for this, regardless of position or rank.”

“If the situation is otherwise, we need to look into those who are sowing panic.  You know how according to law in wartime they dealt with panickers — they shot them.  I’m allowing you to dismiss them, do you hear me?”

RIA Novosti reported Serdyukov’s opinion on the “wild growth” in the price of military products, especially from MIT and Sevmash.  He said MIT is asking 3.9 billion and 5.6 billion rubles respectively for Topol-M and Yars ICBMs.  Serdyukov put GOZ-2011 at 581 billion rubles [different from Putin’s figure!], and added that only 108 billion, or 18.5 percent, was not yet under contract.  He said everything would be done in 10 days.

At virtually the same time, Deputy PM and VPK Chairman, Sergey Ivanov told ITAR-TASS 230 billion rubles were not yet contracted out.  OSK piled on Serdyukov, claiming contracts for 40 percent of the Navy’s share of the GOZ weren’t finalized.

In late July, it looked like Northern Wharf (which reportedly produces 75 percent of Russia’s surface ships, and is not part of OSK) might be made into an example for other “GOZ breakers.”  While prosecutors talked vaguely about the misuse of GOZ money, the shipbuilder’s representatives apparently mounted a vigorous defense, asserting that the enterprise has been right on time, even though it’s underfinanced by the Defense Ministry.

Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy said prosecutors uncovered 1,500 GOZ-related legal violations during the preceding 18 months.  He indicated there were 30 criminal convictions, and state losses amounted to millions of rubles in these cases.  The most egregious example  was the theft of over 260 million rubles given to OSK’s Zvezdochka shipyard to repair Kirov-class CGN Petr Velikiy.  Fridinskiy indicated the enterprise director and his close associates apparently had 40 million of the money in their own names.  Recall Fridinskiy earlier said 20 percent of defense procurement funding is stolen.

According to Rossiyskaya gazeta, Defense Minister Serdyukov claimed he was on the verge of signing contracts with MIT for Topol-M and Yars production.  Once again, he said all contracting would be finished in two weeks.

In mid-August, OSK enterprises Sevmash, Admiralty Wharves, and Zvezdochka said they would soon be forced to cease work unless the Defense Ministry signed contracts with them.  Putin, Sechin, and Serdyukov met and launched a special interdepartmental commission to set prices for the Navy’s remaining 40 billion rubles in GOZ contracts.  And, according to Kommersant, everyone was once again reassured that all contracts would be completed in two weeks.

And it’s not just all ICBMs, ships, and submarines . . . Kommersant wrote that the Defense Ministry eschewed contracts for 24 or more MiG-29K and more than 60 Yak-130 trainers at MAKS-2011.

So what does the mid-year GOZ picture look like? 

The president and prime minister have fumed and set a series of deadlines, not met thus far.  And the defense minister and deputy prime ministers have assured them they would meet each deadline in turn. 

More interesting, and somewhat unnoticed, is the fact that the prime minister and defense minister (among others) seem to be consistently working from different sets of numbers on the size of the GOZ, and how much has been placed under contract.  The GOZ hasn’t captured this kind of leadership attention at any time in the past 20 years.

Producers are being honest when they say late state contracts mean they can’t do anything (or at least what the Defense Ministry wants them to) in what remains of the year.

Picking up the pieces of GOZ-2011, and trying to put GOZ-2012 on a better footing will occupy the rest of this year.

Lost in everything is what will the Russian military get eventually by way of new hardware, and when will they get it?  And how good will it be?

Air Forces Prospects

With MAKS-2011 underway, this is something of a moving target.  Before getting to the main topic, a little news from Zhukovskiy . . . some of today’s headlines. 

OAK President Mikhail Pogosyan told the press two more T-50 prototypes will join the development and testing program this year.  He expects more than 100 military transport aircraft to be bought under GPV 2011-2020.  Il-112, Il-476, and Il-76MD will come first, then ten An-124 in 2014-2015, and later a larger number of An-70s.  Pogosyan said, starting from 2011, OAK will deliver more than 20 combat aircraft each year.

VVS CINC, General-Colonel Zelin told the media he foresees five squadrons of Su-34 (possibly as many as 120 aircraft).  The VVS will have six by the end of 2011 and will get 12 next year under the current contract for 32 aircraft.

For Air Forces Day, RIA Novosti had military commentator Konstantin Bogdanov describe how he sees things developing for this armed service.  How he puts the Air Forces’ future picture together is worth a look.

Bogdanov says he sees, for the first time since the Soviet collapse, movement, a turnaround in procurement financing, and real deliveries of aircraft in 2011. 

Interestingly, he begins with the Su-35S.  Forty-eight of these “transitional” 4++ generation fighters will be procured, but there could be more if there is any delay in the 5th generation T-50.  Bogdanov suggests, even without a  delay, the pragmatic Defense Ministry leadership could decide to blend 4th and 5th generation technology and equipment in one aircraft.

Bogdanov maintains one Su-34 flew missions in the 5-day war with Georgia [has anyone seen this elsewhere?], then got its serial production go-ahead, and contract for 32 aircraft in fall 2008.  Modernizing the aged Su-24 is a backup plan for the Su-34.  Bogdanov claims VVS CINC Zelin has hinted that ALCM-armed Su-34s could go to LRA.

Some old Su-27s have been updated to Su-27SM, and even a few new Su-27SM3 — unsold to China — have been obtained.

RSK MiG’s future, according to Bogdanov, looks less certain.  Russia had to buy the defective Algerian MiG-29SMTs.  It’s unclear if the Defense Ministry will have any requirement for the MiG-35.  And this leaves MiG with the possibility of providing MiG-29Ks to replace the Navy’s Su-33 fighters on the Kuznetsov’s deck.

Bogdanov then mentions how Irkut has parleyed its export success into more domestic sales.  He says the firm has redeveloped its Indian Su-30MKI into the Su-30SM, and it may sell as many as 40 to the Defense Ministry.  Twelve might go to replace Naval Aviation’s Su-24s at Gvardeyskoye in the Black Sea Fleet [apparently these aircraft weren’t swept up by the VVS earlier this year].  Similarly, says Bogdanov, KnAAPO last fall sold the VVS four Su-30M2s, domestic versions of its Su-30MK2 export.

Turning to rotary-wing aircraft, Bogdanov sees stable order books for Russian helicopter makers.  The order books are balanced in terms of military and civilian, and internal and external buyers, and all sales sectors are growing.

He says by 2010 the military’s contract for Mi-28N helicopters reached 100 units and serial production of its main competitor, the Ka-52, continued.  Mi-8s have been bought by the dozens.  And the hangars and flight decks of Mistral helicopter carriers will have to be filled in the future.

Bogdanov concludes more than 100 helicopters of all types may be procured before the end of 2011.  He repeats the familiar goal of 1,000 new helicopters by 2020, and says the near-term future for this sector looks good.

Bogdanov sees more clouds in military transport development and production.  Il-476 production at Ulyanovsk still needs to stand up, and Zelin’s already announced that a new A-100 AWACS will be based on it.  Restarting An-124 production and buying the An-70 from Ukraine are possibilities with details to be worked out.

Focused on platforms, Bogdanov gives short shrift to organizational and human aspects of VVS development.  He notes the Air Forces are completing the change from mission-oriented air armies and divisions to territorial composite or mixed formations (air bases), and he briefly mentions scandals over the handling of “order 400” premium pay.  But he concludes:

“In coming years we’ll see more than a few painful symptoms in the VVS, both strictly aviation-related and internal, and those connected to the general background of difficult transformations of the country’s armed forces.  Let there be pains, but let them be growing pains.”

Naval Aviation Chief Interviewed

Hero of Russia, General-Major Igor Kozhin

On Sunday, RIA Novosti interviewed Naval Aviation Chief, General-Major Igor Kozhin on his branch’s 95th anniversary.

The news agency’s recap reminded that Naval Aviation lost its strike assets to the Air Forces on 1 April.  And, by year’s end, all remaining Su-27, MiG-31, Tu-22 and part of its transport aircraft will move to the VVS.  Only land-based ASW and carrier aviation will remain.

Asked about training, General-Major Kozhin focused on cost and retention.  He claimed training a pilot costs a rather exorbitant $1.5 to 2 million annually.  He indicated the need to keep older, experienced personnel — even in a civilian capacity — to train his younger pilots.

On upcoming training, Kozhin said his one regiment of 20 carrier-qualified pilots will conduct 100 takeoffs and landings from the Fleet Admiral of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov in August and September.

Kozhin said Kuznetsov is currently preparing for sea, and there’s no plan for capital repairs even though a replacement isn’t foreseen at this time.

He gave no hint of any impending carrier deployment as rumored earlier this year. 

RIA Novosti asked about renting the NITKA carrier trainer in Ukraine.  Kozhin answered by updating the construction of a similar facility at Yeysk, in Krasnodar Kray.  He said toward fall the takeoff and landing strip will be complete, then landing systems will be installed, and the ground-based carrier simulator will be functional in 2013.  He said the entire Naval Aviation training complex will be finished in 2015.

Finally, on new aircraft, Kozhin said the first four MiG-29K for Naval Aviation could apppear in 2012, but the Defense Ministry will have to sign the contract before mid-August.  Otherwise, the first delivery will be in 2013.  In all, a Navy buy of 20 is planned, but the factory is busy now filling India’s order for fighters for the ex-Gorshkov being renovated at Sevmash.

VVS Taking VMF’s Land-Based Fighters and Bombers

Vesti.ru has rebroadcast Interfaks information from a Main Navy Staff source who says, on 1 April, Naval Aviation (VMA) will begin transferring its land-based fighter and bomber aircraft to the Air Forces (VVS).

By year’s end, the VVS will get the Navy’s remaining Su-27 fighters, MiG-31 fighter-interceptors, long-range Tu-22 [sic] supersonic bombers, and also part of the VMA’s transport aircraft.

Russian Naval Aviation Tu-22M3

The Interfaks report will probably get garbled into all aircraft, or all land-based aircraft, going to VVS, which is not the case, as it makes its way into other Russian and English language news stories.

VMA will retain control of its Il-38, Tu-142, and Be-12 ASW aircraft, and its deck-based aircraft, the Su-33 fighter and Ka-27 helicopters, according to the Interfaks source. 

According to the Vesti.ru article, missile-carrying naval aviation has deteriorated since the Soviet collapse, and only the Northern and Pacific Fleets have long-range ASW aircraft which, it claims, amount to only 25 Il-38 and 15 Tu-142.  It says the Baltic Fleet has no ASW aircraft, and the Black Sea Fleet only four old Be-12 likely to be completely worn out by 2015.

The article notes that the Su-33, Su-25UTG trainer, multipurpose Ka-27 and Ka-29 combat-transport helicopters will remain in the air wing of heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser Fleet Admiral of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov.  There are reported plans to procure 26 MiG-29K fighters for Kuznetsov.

Here’s a nicely done, data-filled Russian language Wiki article on Russian Naval Aviation.

VMA lost something else recently.  A BMW-X5 used by VMA Chief, General-Colonel Igor Khozhin was stolen in Moscow on Friday, according to Interfaks.

ITAR-TASS also reported Friday that more than 80 RVSN aircraft — An-72, An-26, and Mi-8 helicopters — will also be going over to the VVS starting on 1 April.

What Will GPV 2011-2020 Buy?

Russian military procurement policy is an obvious focus of what you read here, and there’s lots to write about on this score lately – the GPV, defense budget, OPK modernization and innovation, etc.  It’s not possible to capture it all at once.  Here’s a start, and hopefully it will lead to broader insights later.

Writing for his latest project – the Center for the Analysis of the World Arms Trade (TsAMTO or ЦАМТО), Igor Korotchenko addressed what the new GPV might buy.  His article was picked up by VPK.name, and then a somewhat truncated version ran in Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye.  He uses the 22 trillion ruble figure rather than the 19 trillion for the armed forces specifically.  Not that it matters since it’s a wag at best anyway.

In his first broad swipe, Korotchenko forecasts that Russia will buy 500 new aircraft, 1,000 helicopters, and 200 air defense systems among other arms and equipment over the 2011-2020 period.  He admits, even with a fairly generous procurement budget [if approved and fully disbursed every year], it will be impossible to buy everything each service and branch will need after 20 years of very small-scale procurement.

And this is exactly, of course, the point that Popovkin’s deputy, General-Lieutenant Oleg Frolov was making when he argued for 36 trillion . . . .

So, they can’t have everything and will have to prioritize.  Korotchenko gives it a whack, maybe not satisfactory, but it’s a start:

  • Strategic nuclear forces;
  • Precision-guided weapons;
  • Automated command and control systems (ASU);
  • Aircraft;
  • Air and missile defense (PVO / PRO).

Korotchenko doesn’t talk specifics about his first two priorities. On the third, he calls for a unitary military C2 system to enable Russian netcentric warfare.  On aircraft, he somewhat surprisingly emphasizes transport aircraft to move Russia’s million-man army between strategic axes as needed.  And Korotchenko lists PVO / PRO without further commentary.

He supports efforts to overcome Russia’s lag in UAVs, ships, individual protective equipment and soldier systems, and armored vehicles through cooperation with Israel, France, Germany, and Italy.

Then Korotchenko turns back to aircraft, saying they are the thing that will indicate what kind of armed forces Russia will have in 2020.  Based on what’s been said publicly, he counts:

  • An-124 Ruslan — 20
  • An-70 — 50
  • Il-476 — 50
  • Il-112B — ??
  • Su-35S — 48  
  • Su-27SM — 12
  • Su-30MK2 — 4
  • PAK FA — 60
  • Su-34 — 32, possibly 60-80 more
  • Su-25UBM / Su-25TM — 10, possibly 20 more
  • MiG-35 — 30
  • MiG-29SMT / MiG-29UB — 20-30
  • MiG-29K / MiG-29KUB –26, possibly 22 more
  • Yak-130UBS — 120
  • New airborne early warning aircraft — 2-3
  • Be-200PS — 8-10

In all, he summarizes, about 500-600 aircraft by 2020.

Korotchenko doesn’t talk money, so we’ll have to think about what this would cost.  In terms of what’s covered, he’s only talked only about RVSN and Air Forces’ requirements.  You can be sure the Ground Troops, Navy, VDV, and Space Troops have their own lists.  Maybe Korotchenko will address them.

Beyond what they say they need, there are two issues.  Can they buy it all, or at least how much of it?  And, second, can the OPK produce it?  Korotchenko doesn’t get us too far into any of this.