Tag Archives: Almaz-Antey

Ashurbeyli Interviewed (Part I)

Igor Ashurbeyli (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatakov)

Former Almaz-Antey General Director Igor Ashurbeyli gave RIA Novosti a long interview published on Monday.  Ashurbeyli was replaced at Almaz-Antey in early 2011, and he’s now a co-chair of the “Extradepartmental Expert Council on Aerospace Defense.”

He’s an accessible figure, having had extended sessions with the media in 2010 and 2009.  And his view of things has been pretty consistent.

This most recent Ashurbeyli interview spawned a number of sound bites saying that the former lead designer (among other things): 

  • called for establishing an overarching VKO industrial concern; 
  • offered the S-500 for European missile defense; and
  • said S-300 production has ended.

He actually had a lot more to say that might be worth a look.

Asked about Moscow’s anti-missile defense, Ashurbeyli replied that the service life of some Russian strategic interceptor missiles expired, while others [53T6 or Gazelle missiles] had their nuclear warheads removed per the decision of former President Yeltsin. 

Then Ashurbeyli gets to his point — the need for a new anti-missile defense (PRO) led to work on the mobile S-500 system.  Under the contract, it’s supposed to be accepted into the arsenal in 2015.  A schematic draft is complete, and technical design is being conducted.

On air defense, he says the S-300 and S-400 cover Moscow, but the service life of S-300PS systems will expire in the next year or two, and the new Vityaz system won’t be ready to take its place in the PVO network.

Ashurbeyli adds that Vityaz is expected in 2014-2015, but delays are possible due to problems with the new missile.

But, insists the former Almaz-Antey chief, there have never been any technical problem with the long-range missile for the S-400.  He says the problems have involved financing, preparing prototypes, and targets.  More targets and an updated target complex were needed.  And he foresees possibly the same problems with Vityaz testing.

Ashurbeyli tells his interviewer Vityaz, unlike the S-400, has just one base missile.  It will cover the same missions as the S-300PS and S-300PM.  The latter were last manufactured in 1994, and several dozen of the “freshest” will still have life for the next 7-10 years.  Most were updated to the Favorit (S-300PMU2) level but they aren’t new.  So, Ashurbeyli concludes, Russia needs to produce enough Vityaz to replace fully its S-300PS and S-300PM inventory.

The interviewer says relatively less has been written about Morfey.  Ashurbeyli obliges.  Morfey, he says, is a super short-range system and part of Russia’s echeloned defense.  While Vityaz is a medium-range system, and Pantsir and Tor are short-range weapons, Morfey is super short-range.  If developed as envisioned, Morfey will be unique.  It will have an omnidirectional cupola-type radar instead of a rotating one.

In sum, Ashurbeyli believes Morfey, Vityaz, S-400, and S-500 will be sufficient for the ground-based component of VKO for 20-25 years.  The tasks for Morfey and Vityaz were set in 2007 when the VPK decided to develop a single fifth generation surface-to-air PVO-PRO system.  The more complex S-500, he notes, will be longer in development.

More later.

News on New Almaz-Antey Plants

According to TsAMTO, the press-service of OAO Concern PVO ‘Almaz-Antey’ says the firm will sell supplemental stock this month, and some of the extra working capital will be used to finance construction of two new surface-to-air missile assembly plants.  Hat tip to VPK.name for highlighting the story.

Specifically, Almaz-Antey intends to spend more than 3.5 billion rubles to finance the new factories.  Four and a half billion rubles in federal budget money was already allocated to this effort in 2010 in exchange for additional government shares in the company.  And Almaz-Antey is also using government-backed credit in the expansion. 

The assembly facilities will be in Nizhniy Novgorod and Kirov.  They are supposed to be complete in 2015.

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.

Aerospace Defense Troops

Svpressa.ru’s Sergey Ishchenko published an interesting piece on VKO late last Friday.  He wrote that Space Troops Commander, General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko recently reported to the Federation Council on the creation of VKO, making it clear that Ostapenko’s branch, as reported earlier and elsewhere, will be the basis of Russia’s unified VKO due to stand up by 1 December.

Ishchenko makes these additional points:

  • The long-range missile for the S-400 is still in testing.
  • He doubts the S-500 will be delivered in 2015.
  • His interviewee believes the new Aerospace Defense Troops will get all or some of Russia’s SAM force from the VVS.
  • The interviewee thinks the S-500 is on schedule.

Ishchenko says the debate over the lead for VKO didn’t necessarily center on what’s best to protect Russia’s security, but rather on who would receive new resources and general officer billets.

The Air Forces argued they were best suited to lead it, but the Space Troops apparently argued persuasively that they were better prepared to handle Russia’s future transatmospheric threats.

Now, a quick editorial aside from Ishchenko’s narrative . . . this decision is probably a good thing for the Air Forces, which already have their hands full and don’t need more missions.  They stand to lose only some part of the surface-to-air missile business (which hasn’t always been a core mission for them anyway).  And the VVS will benefit by concentrating on their most important tasks.

But back to Ishchenko . . . he provides a fine review of the USSR’s space weapons and space defense efforts, which, arguably, met or exceeded those of the United States.  He notes President Yeltsin’s 1993 decree on creating VKO, for which no one moved so much as a finger, at least partially because of the country’s economic and budgetary predicament at that time. 

Then Ishchenko gets more interesting.  He details the danger posed to Russia by U.S. “noncontact” wars in Iraq (sic), Yugoslavia, and Libya.  These, however, are really wars of the past rather than the future, he says.  Ishchenko moves on to the threat of Prompt Global Strike.

He talks about a hypersonic bomber cruising at Mach 5-7 speeds and altitudes up to 30,000 meters, beyond the reach of Russia’s current SAMs.  Of course, IOC isn’t before 2025, but Moscow needs to start thinking today about how to counter it.  Meanwhile, the state-of-the-art Russian SAM, the S-400, is barely fielded and its extended range missile is still being tested.  Its successor, the S-500, is supposed to be ready in 2015, but Ishchenko is skeptical.

The end of Ishchenko’s article is a brief interview with the chief editor of the journal Vozdushno-kosmicheskaya oborona, Mikhail Khodarenok.  Khodarenok’s a retired colonel, professional air defender, graduate of the General Staff Academy, and former staffer of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate (GOU).  In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was an outstanding military journalist for Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, but by 2003 or 2004, he left for VKO and Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer, both wholly owned by air defense system designer Almaz-Antey.

Ishchenko asks what Khodarenok knows about the process of creating the Aerospace Defense Troops.  The latter hems about not having access to secret directives and documents before concluding:

“But I can say that much has already been determined.  In particular, it’s decided that Space Troops will be the basis of VKO.  Although there were other proposals.  The Air Forces, in particular, proposed taking their service as the basis.”

Asked about this tug-of-war for VKO within the Defense Ministry, he says:

“And this is a beloved Russian pasttime.  In our Armed Forces, they are constantly getting rid of something or resubordinating.  What happened, for example, with army aviation.  In my memory, five times it was given to the Air Forces, then returned to the Ground Troops.  Usually then five years of complete confusion.  Billions lost.  And it all begins again.”

Asked what will be in VKO:

“The basis is the Space Troops.  Evidently, the surface-to-air missile troops (ZRV) will be transferred to them from the VVS.  Fully or partially.  This isn’t determined yet.”

Finally, asked whether Almaz-Antey General Director Igor Ashurbeyli was replaced because of problems with the S-400’s long-range missile or issues in the S-500’s development, Khodarenok says:

“Ashurbeyli’s resignation was not connected with engineering problems in any way.  Neither with difficulties on the S-500, nor on the S-400.”

“I have my suppositions on this score.  But I don’t want to share them.  I repeat:  the most important thing is that the S-500’s development is on schedule.  And this system really will very much help the country’s aerospace defense.”

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.

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.

Is Alarm About Aerospace Defense Warranted?

In today’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Viktor Litovkin tries to reconcile Kornukov’s and Sitnov’s extremely pessimistic views on the state and future of Russian aerospace defense with the optimistic ones of Colonel Sigalov, whom Ekho Moskvy interviewed on Saturday.  He’s commander of the 5th VKO Brigade based in Moscow Oblast, responsible for defending the capital.

Litovkin notes the retired generals’ roles as defense industry lobbyists, their defense of business interests, and efforts to acquire new orders.  And for his part, the colonel could never imagine or admit a chance that his troops won’t be able to carry out their missions.  What kind of commander would he be?

But the situation in the realm of air defense, and even more in anti-missile defense, is very complicated.  Yes, the troops of Sigalov’s brigade are ready to open fire on air-breathing enemy forces with 10 minutes warning.  But repulsing strikes from space is much more complex.  The troops simply lack the weapons systems to do it.  And this threat doesn’t exist yet.

So is there a contradiction or not?  Litovkin reminds that military men judge not just the current potential of probable enemies, but their ‘technical-technological possibilities’ as well.  And these are alarming.  According to Litovkin, many leading countries are working on ‘the problems of space weapons’ (although he mentions just China’s ASAT capability and the U.S. X-37B orbiter). 

And Russia has no response yet beyond the much talked about S-500 system, which, says Litovkin, lives now on paper only, and two (and maybe six more by some time in 2011) S-400 battalions around Moscow.  Litovkin claims the Defense Ministry will not order more S-400s after that.  Recall Almaz-Antey chief Ashurbeyli complaining on 30 April that the Defense Ministry has not signed contracts for S-400 production in 2012.

Litovkin says this might have caused genuine alarm in the two retired generals.  He speculates there could be more delays in producing missiles for the S-400 as well as for the S-500, which will need to operate against targets in near space.  Finally, he notes that, although the military doctrine contains an understanding of VKO, there’s still no Defense Ministry organization responsible for it.

On balance, it sounds like Litovkin believes Kornukov’s and Sitnov’s concerns are genuine, rather than commercially motivated.

Yuriy Gavrilov, writing in Rossiyskaya gazeta, concludes that recent talk about VKO means that Russia has to take immediate measures, or allow the distance between itself and the U.S. to increase each year.  He gives a little useful history.  Yeltsin’s 1993 decree said to create VKO, but the establishment of OSK VKO and VKO brigades amounted to little beyond changing the names of existing units, without changing their command, control, subordination, or weapons systems. 

Kornukov mentioned VKO relies on S-300s, MiG-29s, and Su-27s, and the few deployed S-400s, which still need work and rely on a single suitable missile.  All of which means, while waiting for the S-500, Russia has no real system for intercepting medium- and short-range ballistic missiles at an altitude up to 200 kilometers, or hypersonic cruise missiles.

Gavrilov quotes Sitnov:

“To develop modern systems that cover air and space, to develop new satellites for reconnaissance, and comms relay, missile attack warning, a super-modern component base, new materials, powders, new developments in the area of command and control are required.”

But that’s not all.  Gavrilov says VKO also needs one master, but aviation and PVO belong to the Air Forces, while anti-missile defense, missile attack warning systems, and control of Russia’s orbital grouping belong to the Space Troops.  Kornukov and Sitnov argue for giving it all to the VVS.

And Gavrilov says time is short.  By 2030, hypersonic and air-space vehicles, sixth generation UAVs, as well as weapons ‘based on new physical principles’ will already be in foreign inventories.

When Will the Air Forces Get More S-400s?

First S-400 Battalion on Duty in 2007 (photo: Leonid Yakutin)

On 9 February, RIA Novosti quoted Air Forces CINC Aleksandr Zelin:

“All that has been planned and must be supplied in the coming years, has been agreed with Almaz-Antey, will be fulfilled on time.  The S-400 antiaircraft missile system is fully entering the Air Forces’ weapons inventory.  The shift in the schedule for its supply has some organizational but mainly a technical character.”

Reminding the press that he’s member of the Almaz-Antey board of directors, Zelin said, “At the last session, we talked over all issues connected with planned supplies of the S-400 to the Air Forces.”

It sounds like Zelin is admitting the S-400 has been delayed, and the reasons are technical in nature.  Maybe there’s been some problem in the S-400’s operations or capabilities. 

So where does the S-400 stand?  Two battalions were fielded at Elektrostal near Moscow in 2007 and 2008, and Air Forces spokesmen have said repeatedly that 5 additional battalions will be delivered this year. The State Armaments Program, 2007-2015, called for 18 battalions by 2015.  But, as Mikhail Rastopshin has said, 18 battalions don’t cover Russia’s main administrative and industrial centers or support its strategic nuclear forces. 

In the midst of his late November criticism of Russian defense industry’s inability to provide the VVS with the UAVs it needs, Zelin also said Russian needs a second factory to produce the S-400 Triumf and other future air defense systems.  According to him, Almaz-Antey cannot fully satisfy the country’s demand for S-400 systems.  Not sounding too sure, he added that, “In 2010, we need to receive another five battalions, but everything depends on the industry and financing.”

Commenting on the S-400 tests at Ashuluk, Zelin said he was satisfied with the results, but the tactical-technical characteristics in the system are “still less than we wanted.”  He may be referring to lingering, well-known problems with the S-400’s long-range missiles.

VVS CINC General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin

Zelin went on to criticize the pace of development of the next generation S-500:

“Development of this system doesn’t satisfy me.  We would like for the existing potential in the Almaz-Antey concern to be doubled or even tripled.”

He said he planned to raise the S-500 development issue at the December board meeting.

More recently, on 28 January, Rosoboroneksport General Director Isaykin indicated that, although he has foreign orders for the S-400, Russia’s requirements would be met first.

On 17 September, Almaz General Director Ashurbeyli told ITAR-TASS that the S-500 would need 4-5 years to complete.  On possible S-400 export orders, he said he could only say two countries had signed large agreements for more than 10 battalions, but contracts remained to be finalized.  But Zelin made another statement this day that the system would go first to Russia’s armed forces.

So to recap.  The S-400 supply schedule has shifted for technical reasons.  The VVS hasn’t gotten a battalion since 2008.  Zelin admits he’s not fully happy with the S-400’s capabilities.  He says everything depends on the manufacturer, with whom he’s unhappy.  Meanwhile, foreign customers are already lined up for the S-400 that Russia can’t get and Almaz-Antey is marching off on the new S-500.