Tag Archives: Mikhail Pogosyan

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 Military’s Most Authoritative

Russkiy reporter published its 2011 list of the 100 “most authoritative” Russian people — ten each in society, business, bureaucracy, academe, education, medicine, law, military, culture, and sports.

Avtoritetnyy, of course, isn’t just a cognate; it can mean influential, competent, trusted, reputable, respected, expert, etc.

You can read about last year’s picks in the military field here.  This year’s military list includes:

  • Deputy Defense Minister Anatoliy Antonov, for knowing how to talk to foreigners.
  • Western MD Commander, General-Colonel Arkadiy Bakhin, for housing officers.
  • Sukhoy test pilot Sergey Bogdan, for testing the fifth generation fighter.
  • General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov, for disbanding the “Arbat Military District.”
  • State Secretary, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov, for reforming military education.
  • President, General Director of RSK MiG, Chairman of the Board of Sukhoy, Mikhail Pogosyan, for developing the latest Russian weaponry.
  • Head of the Veteran-Military Chiefs Club, Marshal of the Soviet Union Sergey Sokolov, for 100 years in the ranks.
  • General Director, “Tactical Missile Armaments” Corporation, Boris Obnosov, for fast, accurate missiles.
  • Air Forces Senior Lieutenant Igor Sulim, for courage.
  • President, Academy of Military Sciences, Army General Makhmut Gareyev, for asserting the results of the Second World War.

It’s an interesting and eclectic list.  Clearly, many would dispute the names.  Some would say Pankov wrecked the military education system; others would say he implemented unavoidable reductions and consolidations.  Picking Makarov for breaking up the “Arbat Military District,” and sending more officers out to serve with the troops is also controversial, but he’s done something essential and long overdue.

Sokolov’s honored for his longevity. 

Obnosov’s interviewed in the lead article.  He talks about attracting and retaining young scientists and engineers in the defense sector, and about the OPK’s attempt to reach an understanding with the Defense Ministry on price formation.

Sulim’s a surprise, and a rather bold choice.

Only Makarov, Pogosyan, and Gareyev repeat from last year’s list.

RR picked Deputy Defense Minister, Army General Dmitriy Bulgakov as its goat of the year for the spate of deadly army arsenal explosions. 

The big “loser” Bulgakov’s in the same boat as some of the “winners.” 

He found himself in charge of a long-neglected and untenable situation, and he’s tried to fix it.  But many people will object and argue about his methods, the results, and consequences.

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.”

PAK FA Update

PAK FA (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksey Druzhinin)

RIA Novosti reports the second T-50 (PAK FA) testbed will begin flight tests before the end of the year, according to Sukhoy chief Mikhail Pogosyan.  He said the first testbed has performed 40 flights.  Sukhoy is satisfied with the course of testing which has gone faster than expected.

Pogosyan added that negotiations with India on its entry into the fifth generation fighter program should be completed this year.  Russia and India will roughly split the development expenses for one- and two-seat versions.  The PAK FA will start to enter the Russian inventory in 2015, and Indian forces around 2020.

The Military Elite

Vitaliy Shlykov (photo: Sergey Melikhov)

This is something sure to be overlooked, but it’s fun, interesting, and worth considering.

Every year Russkiy reporter selects its 100-person elite of Russia in various categories — artists, educators, journalists, doctors, businessmen, social activists, scholars, lawyers, bureaucrats, and military men.

The magazine touts its selections as people the country needs to know and listen to.  It calls them authoritative and influential people; they aren’t necessarily the most powerful or widely known.

It’s worth knowing who the magazine believes is influencing military thinking and men in uniform.  You read what many of them write on these very pages.  Picking only ten had to be hard.  One can think of dozens of others.

The article also has a short interview with one of the ten, Vitaliy ShlykovRusskiy reporter asked him what it means to be authoritative in the military, what society thinks of the military, and whether the military influences the authorities.  It’s worth reading.

Without further ado, the military elite are:

  • Makhmut Gareyev
  • Vladimir Dvorkin
  • Vladimir Shamanov
  • Vladimir Popovkin
  • Vitaliy Shlykov
  • Vladimir Bakin
  • Vladimir Boldyrev
  • Mikhail Pogosyan
  • Leonid Ivashov
  • Nikolay Makarov

Fifth Generation Fighter Update

On 26 April, ITAR-TASS reported what is now termed the ‘second phase’ engine for the fifth generation fighter could be ready in 5-6 years, according to NPO Saturn’s managing director Ilya Fedorov.  In his words:

“The RDT&E on the components for making the engine is now being conducted.  It is going on not just at Saturn.  Salyut and the Petersburg Factory named for Klimov are also conducting scientific-research work.”

Fedorov seemed confident the ‘second phase’ fifth generation engine could fly in 5-6 years, depending mostly on what decision the Defense Ministry makes.

Obviously, Saturn wants and needs the work now.

Sukhoy says the fifth generation fighter’s first test phase, consisting of six flights, was successfully completed.  The aircraft’s reliability and controls, engine operation, and other basic systems were tested at a range of speeds and altitudes.

ITAR-TASS reminds that engine signature reduction measures are supposed to provide the new fighter an unprecedentedly low level of radar, optical, and infrared detectability, allowing the plane to raise significantly its combat effectiveness against air and ground targets.

Recall that Saturn put its 117 or 117S engine–a modernized AL-31F like on the Su-35–on PAK FA as its ‘first phase’ engine.  Everything else is up for debate.  As previously written, the Defense Ministry could decide to forego a truly new engine for a while. 

Meanwhile, talk about future fighter engine work isn’t really helping sort out the competition between ODK/Saturn and Salyut, or the general shakeout in a Russian industry with many players and interested parties.

Early last month Sukhoy General Director Mikhail Pogosyan said the PAK FA would be commissioned with ‘first phase’ engines, and ‘second phase’ ones would require another 10-12 years of development.  He doesn’t sound like a fan of new engines, and obviously wants to get his airframes on the assembly line and out the factory doors.

Specifically, Pogosyan said:

“We need to determine how much financing there will be for the phase two engines, how many of them there will be, and many other issues need to be resolved.”