Tag Archives: S-300

The Next China Deal

IA Regnum military observer Leonid Nersisyan recently took a stab at preparing Russian public opinion for the eventual sale of S-400 SAMs and Su-35S fighters to China.  A major arms deal with China should be expected, especially given Moscow’s turn further east in the wake of Western sanctions.

Nersisyan aims to refute usual complaints about exporting Russia’s most advanced weaponry to China, i.e. that Beijing will quickly copy and sell it more cheaply.  He dials back to the early 1990s.

The sale of S-300 SAMs began in 1993, amounting to something between 24 and 40 battalions of three variants.  Along the way, China developed a copy, the HQ-9, similar but less capable than the original in many performance parameters.  If it had been a really good knock off, Nersisyan argues, the HQ-9 would be found in many of the world’s armies, but it isn’t.

China's S-300, Whitewalls on a TEL?

China’s S-300, Whitewalls on a TEL?

The S-300 has grown old, and the money earned from China went into S-400 development and saved Almaz-Antey from bankruptcy at a time of little, if any, Russian military procurement.  Nersisyan concludes that:

“. . . the deal was successful — the system was copied (with deficiencies) only two decades after the first deliveries, when it had already grown old, and Russia had more modern analogues.”

Nersisyan points also to the Su-27 sale.  First Russia sold Beijing 24, then 200 kits for assembly in China.  But the Chinese stopped the transfer at 100, and began producing a copy, the J-11B.  However, its engine proved unreliable in comparison with Russia’s AL-31F, which the Chinese opted to buy for their domestic fighters.  Similarly, China bought nearly 100 Su-30 variants beginning in 2000 before producing a copy, the J-16, which also lacks a reliable engine. China’s difficulty, according to various reports, is manufacturing turbine blades and plates.

Neither the J-11B nor the J-16 is being produced in volume, and Russian aircraft remain the foundation of Chinese fighter aviation.

So, concludes Nersisyan, it will take China 20 years to copy the more complex S-400, while Russia is deploying the S-500.  Copying the generation 4++ Su-35S will be complicated by its more advanced thrust-vectored AL-41F1S engine, and Russia will be fielding the PAK FA / T-50 in the meantime.

Nersisyan writes that becoming a real competitor in the global arms market requires original RDT&E, not copying.  He sums up in three maxims:

  • Modern technologies don’t lend themselves to quick copying.
  • Copiers always lag behind.
  • The copy is often worse than the original.

What do others say about the threat of Chinese copying?

CAST’s Vasiliy Kashin agrees that fears are exaggerated because people don’t understand the obstacles to successful copying or that China’s military modernization is directed against the U.S. (something that, he adds, benefits Moscow).  He also blames much of the copying of Russian fighters on Ukrainian technical cooperation with China.

Vasiliy Sychev has written that S-400 and Su-35S sales to China will be straight sales without any technical or production licenses.  Moscow typically wants to sell more, and Beijing buy less, but the sides have worked toward the middle.  A new deal (or deals) will be for 2-4 SAM battalions and 24 fighters ($1.5 billion, or $60 million per).

Nor does Viktor Murakhovskiy see anything critical because Russian capabilities will be ahead of what China gets.

More Sinophobic, Aleksandr Khramchikhin says there’s an active and effective pro-China lobby in Moscow’s power ministries and OPK, and he believes Russia needs to understand it faces a grave threat from China.

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What’s It Cost?

S-400

S-400

A reader recently asked:

What’s the cost of one division of the S-400 for Russia and for foreign customers?

Let’s call it a battalion (дивизион).  We’ll start with exports (for which there is actually data).  And we proceed from what was paid for the S-300.

Russia’s planned sale of the S-300PMU1 to Iran reportedly involved the transfer of five “battalion sets” for $800 million.  Some sources said as much as $1-1.2 billion.   

Let’s guess the “battalion set” has three firing batteries, with two launchers per, for a total of 30 TELs, 120+ missiles, and all associated radars, fire control systems, and vehicles.

If $800 million is accurate, the price for one battalion was $160 million.  The price for one S-400 system, four missiles on a TEL, was roughly $27 million.

This isn’t unlike what the Chinese paid for the S-300 in the 1990s and 2000s.  According to Sinodefence.com, they bought battalions for between $25 and $60 million at different times under different contracts.

That done, we make the leap from the S-300 price to the S-400 price.

A couple years ago, Vedomosti drew the scarcely precise conclusion that the price of the S-400 will double the S-300’s price (and the S-500 double the S-400’s). 

So perhaps a “battalion set” or a battalion of the S-400 will go for $320 million.  That would be one full-up launch vehicle for $40-50 million.

The only other shred of information is the widely-reported Financial Times story saying, if the Russians added the S-400 to a $2 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the price of the sale would climb to $7 billion.  But lots of Russian reports say Moscow won’t be selling the S-400 abroad soon.  The military obviously hopes that’s true, so it can get first.

But not every customer is Iranian, not every one will have to pay a premium price, and not every customer is foreign.

Which brings the trickier question of what Russia’s Defense Ministry has to pay.  It’s simply impossible to guess.

Certainly a lot less than buyers abroad.  The military’s bought some S-400 systems so there is a going price.  OAO Concern PVO Almaz-Antey’s costs are a big question as is the level of profit the government is willing to tolerate.  

The government owns Almaz-Antey, so one part of government is selling to another.  It’s a prime example of angst over GOZ “price formation” in recent years.  There was a similar big-ticket dustup over submarine prices with Sevmash.  It’s something of a Mexican standoff.  The buyer doesn’t have other supplier alternatives.  And the seller may not be allowed to sell elsewhere. 

The Defense Ministry, the government don’t want to pay a lot and have the power to refuse and yet still receive goods.  The question is how many.  That’s ECON 101, friends.

If those buyers set their price below equilibrium, Almaz-Antey will provide a lower than desired quantity more slowly than the buyers want.   And Almaz might have other buyers as an option, an advantage Sevmash lacks.  So “price formation” for the S-400 is all about agreement on Almaz’s costs and an acceptable level of profit.  That agreement is apparently not smoothly worked out yet.

Ashurbeyli Interviewed (Part II)

The rest of former Almaz-Antey chief Igor Ashurbeyli’s interview with RIA Novosti . . .

Asked about the future of PVO, PRO, and VKO, Ashurbeyli says he sees the role of ground-based systems declining, and future “fire means” — after the S-500 — will be air-based.  Part of them, he claims, are already in RDT&E.

Returning more to the present, the former Almaz-Antey head says the Defense Ministry asks the impossible of weapons developers.  They have to sign contracts they know they can’t complete in the stipulated time frames, otherwise they’d have no work.

Ashurbeyli goes on to explain Almaz-Antey’s current production quandary.  The S-300 has been made only for export over the last 15 years.  One foreign order has just been filled, and only one remains.  So Ashurbeyli sees a gap between S-300 and S-400 production, and he predicts a decline in the factory’s operations in 2013 or even late 2012.

The lead-time for producing S-400 components is 24 months.  So, without budget advances today, there won’t be anything to produce in 2013.  In 2011, Ashurbeyli says, not a single supplementary S-400 production contract has been signed.

Ashurbeyli sounds a lot like former MIT head and solid-fuel ICBM maker Yuriy Solomonov who announced in early July that the 2011 state defense order is already broken.  Is it a coincidence both men were unseated from their general director and chief designer duties?

Ashurbeyli says:

“At the same time, the load on the plant today is far from full and the absence of contracts doesn’t allow for further renewing equipment and technology.  We have to understand that the S-400 is made on the very same equipment as the S-300.”

In response to another question, Ashurbeyli makes his case for consolidating the structure of aerospace defense industries.  He calls for a unified industrial corporation, a Concern VKO, to execute the Defense Ministry’s orders, and it’s needed, he continues, when a unified VKO is established [before 2012].  Organized like OAK or OSK, Concern VKO would bring in VKO-related weapons developers who aren’t part of Concern PVO Almaz-Antey. 

Ashurbeyli says this fall he’ll propose his view on how to integrate these enterprises and how to build the future VKO system to the country’s leadership.

So, where does this leave us?  If Ashurbeyli’s description is realistic, there’s no shortage of Almaz-Antey production capacity and no real need for new plants.  The problem is the lack of orders from the Defense Ministry.  For all the hype about increased defense spending and 20-trillion-ruble GPV 2011-2020, the absence of orders could be due to the military’s lack of cash or its difficulty arranging bank financing.  Or, despite Defense Minister Serdyukov’s talk about streamlining the GOZ, it could be that bureaucratic sclerosis (or corruption) is hindering the issuance of new contracts.

Government Credit for Two New Almaz-Antey Factories

In a 29 December interview on Vesti’s Rossiya-24 program, Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov addressed modernization, development, arms sales, and defense industry.  He said international demand for Russian air defense systems has led the government to take a decision to extend credit for Almaz-Antey to build two new factories.

As written in an earlier post about shortfalls in productive capacity in the OPK, this possibility has been under discussion since at least last February.

Military Parity picked up additional RIA Novosti coverage of Ivanov’s remarks:

“This year we decided on additional support to ‘Almaz-Antey’ and the allocation of credit for the construction of two more factories.”

Ivanov explained that most of Almaz-Antey’s production is going to satisfy the Russian Army’s requirements, and:

“Now they don’t have production capacity for large volume exports.  But this good, if it’s possible to call it that, is in great demand on the international market.”

A bit from the video . . . Ivanov’s interviewer asks about the state of military-technical cooperation (i.e. arms sales), and aviation’s role in it.  Ivanov says it got along “not badly” in 2010.  Arms sales exceeded $10 billion for the first time.  This, he says, attests to the competitiveness of, and demand for, Russian equipment, and so, in many areas, the defense sector isn’t doing badly.  Aviation represents more than a third of arms sales, or more than $4 billion.  He thinks military transport aviation sales have a good future, and, of course, buyers stand in line for Almaz-Antey’s PVO systems.  Thus, with internal and external demand, the need for two completely new factories.

Of course, saying they’ve decided for two factories is not the same as actually building them and starting new production lines.

Dollar’s Inevitable Collapse Threatens Russia

Segodnia.ru recently publicized a report entitled Armed Forces:  Year 2010, prepared by the Center for Strategic Assessments and Forecasts (TsSOiP or ЦСОиП).  It interviewed one of the report’s authors – retired Colonel and Doctor of Technical Sciences, Aleksandr Fomin – about the state of Russia’s military and threats to Russia.

How does one characterize Colonel Fomin?  In this interview, his thoughts range from a little far right to far left / neo-Marxist.  Yet he sounds like President Medvedev in 2009 calling for a new world financial order to break the dollar’s hold on the international economy.  But that resemblance disappears once he starts excoriating Russia’s elite — co-conspirator in U.S. domination of Russia.

He generally argues the dollar’s inevitable collapse will lead to conflict or war, for which Russia is poorly prepared.  His arguments will appeal to some, but they represent a somewhat simplistic view of international economics and finance.  The rest is a short geopolitical treatise we’ve heard many times about how Russia arrived in its current condition.

Take heart, however, the analytical report is more interesting and original, but it’s 40-odd pages, so some patience on your part will be required.

By way of foretaste, on with Fomin’s interview . . .

Asked simply what’s going on in the Russian Army, Fomin answers:

“There’s a myth that the incredible militarization of the country and rebirth of its military might almost to the level of the Soviet Union has happened in recent years.  This doesn’t correspond to reality – in reality, as the analysis shows, the Russian Armed Forces have degraded.”  

“If we look at the trend of general financing of the Armed Forces for the last 10 years , adjusted for inflation, then we get as a true expression of the financing volume are 4% increases per annum on average.  At such a growth rate, it’s possible only to offset depreciation, but not guarantee the development of the armaments system.  Now recall corruption, and you find that in reality the Armed Forces didn’t develop, but degraded.”

“Today, in the spirit of political correctness, it’s believed that Russia’s main military enemy is international terrorism. They’re ashamed to identify the U.S., NATO, and China as the real potential enemies.  But if we call things by their names, then today Russia is inferior to these probable enemies in the size of its Armed Forces by 20 times in the West and 35 times in the East.”

We’ll have to read his full report to figure out how he came up with these numbers. 

Fomin goes on to say that Russia’s nuclear weapons won’t save it either, since Moscow’s elite keep its money, and educates its children, in the West.  He concludes flatly:

“It is very probable that Russian nuclear weapons will never be employed.”

Next Fomin constructs his scenarios for future wars and threats to Russia:

“In the coming decades, and possibly, years the U.S. and EU’s problems with China will inevitably sharpen, the cause of them is the struggle for energy resources.  Iran, Pakistan and . . . Russia will be drawn into this confrontation.  They will start to use our country as a buffer in the military resolution of the China problem.”

The interviewer asks Fomin what threatens Russia externally, what geopolitical positions has it lost, which ones does it still hold?

“The main threat not just to Russia, but also the world as a whole comes from the virtual world financial system, based on the American dollar, which for a long time already hasn’t been supported by real assets and is held up only by U.S. military might, the potential of which allows them to oppose everyone else in the world.  But sooner or later this system will collapse, for internal reasons.  But however the collapse occurs, its agony (possibly the current financial crisis is the beginning of this agony) could plunge the world into the Third World War.”

“As already said above, today Russia is practically undefended.  Its political leadership, like the appanage princes of Rus in the 12th -13th centuries, are trying to hold off threats  by means of multibillion tribute payments allegedly into international reserves.  However, in Russia the easily accessible oil, could soon be gone:  according to expert evaluations, 30% of wells are already unprofitable.  Then Russia will simply be of no interest to the rest of the world . . . .”

“If we talk about Russia’s lost geopolitical positions, then of course – this is NATO’s expansion to the East, the reinforced U.S. role to Russia’s south (Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Georgia).  It’s possible to add the real threat of losing the Far East and Siberia to this.  They [NATO and U.S.] managed to spoil [Russia’s] relations with Ukraine, Belorussia, and Iran.”

Asked about the threat that Russia is becoming ensnared in U.S. “anti-Iran” policy, Fomin responds:

“. . . the U.S., economy of which is based on proliferating the dollar throughout the world and managing oil prices, has a very painful relationship to [Iran’s] nuclear energy development – to oil’s energy competitiveness.  Especially in the Near East.  In its relationship with Iran, Russia turns out to be hostage to its own financial system:  if the country holds its reserves in other countries’ hard currency, then it can’t oppose them on their main positions in the military-political sphere.  Some disagreements are possible, but there can’t be a lengthy tendency toward the complication of relations – in the case of a sharp worsening it would be easy to block hard currency accounts.”

“And, Russia for 20 years already has been unable to conduct an independent foreign policy, since it is tightly integrated into the world economic system dominated by the U.S.”

“Russia risks losing the remains of its authority among Muslim countries, after abrogating its earlier agreed supply of defensive weapons (in the first place, S-300 surface-to-air missile systems) to Iran.” 

Asked again about threats, Fomin says:

“External threats have been discussed above.  To this it’s possible to add that, as a result of the actions of the financial authorities of the G20 countries, the fundamental bases of the current crisis haven’t been eliminated.  Because of the fact that some paper (toxic assets) has been traded for others (newly printed dollars, euros, and pounds), the situation hasn’t changed principally.  The disease has been driven inside and its symptoms are still appearing to a lesser degree.  But it definitely will crawl outside again.  Therefore, the financial-economic crises will continue further.  Sooner or later the American dollar unsupported by real assets, as a world currency, must collapse.  Several types of dollar exist already now — for internal and external demand.  The Americans are trying to do everything possible meanwhile to ‘save face.’  Provoking situations to create the objective appearance of a reason for the collapse of the dollar are possible:  a terrorist attack on the U.S., war in the Near East, aggravation of the situation in the Far East.  A new world war which will be catastrophic for Russia as an extreme case.”

“Now about internal threats.  For clarity, in every case, we are distinguishing two understandings:  country and state.  It’s possible to love your country while being critical toward the state, which imagines itself as society’s management apparatus.”

“If we talk about the country as a whole, then the main internal threats are well-known:  complex demographic situation, a lopsided well-developed raw materials economy, low labor productivity, conditioned by the low wage level of labor, proliferation of narcotics, brain drain abroad, degradation of science, culture, education, health care, pensions, national defense, law and order, agricultural economy, neglected transportation and ecological problems, corruption.  In the coming decade, the aggravation of energy problems, connected with the exhaustion of easily accessible supplies of Russian oil.”

“But there is still one more serious problem which is the source of all the rest.  This is the multibillion outflow of capital from Russia, including into so-called international reserves (it’s simpler to say into the financial systems of Western countries).  It bleeds the entire economy, and doesn’t allow for moving off a dead stop in solving the majority of urgent problems.  If there were no capital outflow, many internal Russian threats would be eliminated in some time.”

Fomin goes on to argue that current capital outflow (legal and otherwise) is more burdensome and damaging to Russia’s economy than tribute paid to the Mongols centuries ago.  He says international reserves accumulated in 2010 could have plugged the gap in Russia’s pension fund.

Fomin now turns to internal threats to the state.  Number one is the populace’s increased protest activity.  He says the average Russian understands clearly that the state exists not to improve his welfare, but only the quality of life of 1 percent of Russians, without, of course, provoking large-scale protests from the other 99 percent. 

Among other threats, he cites hypertrophic centralization and underdeveloped local government, inflation caused by capital outflow, low wages, and unemployment all leading back to protest activity.

Fomin notes that Russia dropped to 154th (from 146th) on TI’s international corruption index this year.

He observes that the Russian government failed the test of August’s forest fires, causing a mortality spike equal to the number of men lost by the USSR in Afghanistan.  He calls Prime Minister Putin’s web cameras for monitoring the rebuilding of housing a symptom of the level of Russia’s corruption and ungovernability.

Fomin goes on to label major internal problems — education, health care, agriculture, housing, national defense, culture, science, ecology — the first four he notes are ‘national projects.’  Agriculture he puts on the level of military security in importance.  But rather than develop it, the country’s elite chooses to buy food abroad with oil and gas profits.  Agricultural imports support the livelihood of many middlemen in the process.

Fomin has one last assessment of Russia’s current elite class:

“At present, Russian state authorities and the so-called ‘elite’ view the country as a private firm working solely to get profits and the sooner, the better.  Profit is the main goal of the private firm.  It’s not for the realization of long-term goals.  Its main mission:  collect capital, send money abroad, make itself comfortable, and invest the money in a profitable business.” 

Makarov on Iran, Lasers, Deferments, and Bulava

Attending today’s OPK modernization meeting in Ramenskoye, General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov talked to the press, and said:

“A decision not to supply Iran with the S-300 was made, it, of course, falls under the sanctions.  The leadership made a decision to stop the supply process, we are fulfilling it.”   

He wouldn’t say the contract to supply them has been broken.  Apparently asked if the missiles could be provided in the future, Makarov said:

“We’ll see, this will depend on Iran’s conduct.”

Unnamed official sources put the price of the Iranian S-300 contract at hundreds of millions of dollars.

ITAR-TASS reiterated Defense Minister Serdyukov’s 20 August comment on providing Iran the S-300:

“We aren’t supplying anything.  There’s no decision on supplying them.”

Makarov’s comments coincided with President Medvedev’s ukaz implementing UNSCR 1929 from 9 June.  The ukaz expressly listed the S-300 as an item not to be transferred from Russia to Iran. 

Asked about Russia’s military laser program, Army General Makarov said development is on-going:

“Work on a combat laser goes on throughout the world, including here.”

He added that it was premature to talk about the characteristics of Russia’s laser system.

Answering another question, Makarov said student draft deferments won’t be abolished:

“The possibility of ending deferments for students is not being considered.  This issue is too socially significant.”

“There are many other measures which will allow us to resolve the situation [with the draft].”

He added that he expects Serdyukov to talk about the draft at Friday’s Defense Ministry collegium.

Asked if compulsory military service will be increased from 12 months, he said, “I don’t know if there’s sense in this.”

But Makarov went on to vent his frustration about conscription:

“Today not more than 13 percent of young people are called up, the rest aren’t called up for health reasons.  We need to understand what is happening .  It can’t be that only 13 percent of our young people are healthy.  Among people getting a deferment or exemption from the army on health grounds, 40 percent of them had documents either purchased or manufactured in some way.  In other words, there’s an issue, and we need to toughen monitoring in this area.”

Thirteen percent is really low.  And the corruption rate when it comes to health exams in commissariats is at least 40 percent.  We need to explore his numbers and math.  These are startling figures.

Makarov paid a little respect to Serdyukov’s fledgling effort to ‘humanize’ conscript service:

“A number of measures to reduce the load on prospective conscripts are being reviewed.”

Finally, press questions turned to the pending Bulava SLBM tests.  Makarov said:

“The missiles which we’re preparing to launch were produced from beginning to end under strict monitoring by military acceptance, the Defense Ministry, and the Military-Industrial Commission.  A great deal will depend on these launches.  If the launches are unsuccessful, then we have to shake up fundamentally the entire cycle of missile production.”

On the timing of the next Bulava test, Makarov contradicted Serdyukov’s last statement by saying:

“It’s doubtful this will happen in September.”

Kornukov’s VKO Concept

In Izvestiya yesterday, Dmitriy Litovkin wrote that today Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov will receive a new, large-scale concept for establishing Russia’s global aerospace defense system for his review. 

According to Litovkin, the concept’s drafters picked 9 August because it’s the 60th anniversary of the USSR Council of Ministers decision to create the Soviet strategic air defense system.  He adds that Izvestiya is the first to study this just now declassified seven-page document.  It called for Soviet designers to develop an air defense system for Moscow codenamed ‘Berkut,’ in an improbably short period of two and a half years.

Litovkin quotes former Air Forces CINC Anatoliy Kornukov:

“Today we’ve developed and given the Defense Ministry an analogous document, setting down goals and tasks in the area of developing the country’s VKO system – this is a draft of a presidential decree on establishing VKO.”

In this case, the ‘we’ is the Extradepartmental Expert Council for Air-Space Defense (VKO) Problems, which Kornukov chairs.

Of course, Kornukov is a well-known critic of the state of Russia’s current aerospace defenses, who also advises air defense system producer Almaz-Antey.  One might, therefore, logically conclude that Kornukov’s concept will accord with Almaz-Antey’s current plans.

Litovkin goes on to relate stories of Laventiy Beria’s and his son’s involvement in those early air defense development efforts, and the prize money offered to the designers and their teams.

He tells about the Soviet / Russian A-35 and A-135 nuclear-armed ABM interceptors made obsolete by the S-400.  The S-400 he describes as a direct successor to the S-300, but with modern electronics:

“The tactical-technical characteristics of the S-400 were confirmed in the course of large-scale exercises ‘Combat Commonwealth-2009’ and ‘West-2009.’  S-400 combat crews successfully destroyed targets analogous to modern and future air attack systems.  The correctness of the Defense Ministry’s decision on creating air-space defense brigades was confirmed at the same time.”

Litovkin quotes Almaz-Antey Chief Igor Ashurbeyli:

“In modern conditions even the S-400, if you go the way of endless modernization, will end up in a technical dead end.  The system is indisputably effective, it will be modernized in the future, but up to a certain reasonable limit.  Its combat potential will be raised, but it won’t go beyond the bounds of ‘conventional’ PVO-PRO systems.  Today we have the mission of covering the country from the greatest number of potential threats.  On the Defense Ministry’s order, we’ve started development of the fundamentally new S-500 system.”

As stated many times, Litovkin notes the S-500 is to complete development by 2015, but its characteristics haven’t been disclosed, beyond it having a new active X-band phased array radar.  Supplemental short- and medium-range SAMs (Morfey and Vityaz) will be developed.  The S-400, S-500, and these systems are supposed to cover ranges from 5 to 400 kilometers, at heights from 5 meters to near space.