Tag Archives: OPK

SIPRI’s List

SIPRI’s completed work on its list of the world’s biggest arms producers for 2010.

The list includes 11 Russian companies — Almaz-Antey, OAK,  OSK, Vertolety Rossii, Sukhoy, Irkut, ODK, Sevmash,TRV (Tactical Missile Armaments), Uralvagonzavod, and Salyut.

SIPRI listed parents and subsidiaries this year because the data was available.  It also notes that many Russian companies might be in the top 100, but there’s insufficient financial reporting.  There isn’t enough data on Oboronprom, but its subsidiary Vertolety Rossii is here.  Similarly, it says there would be many Chinese and some Ukrainian and Kazakh firms on the list if their annual reports were public.  SIPRI relies on CAST for its numbers on Russian arms makers.

Interesting to note a big 2010 loss for OAK and a small one for Sevmash.  If you look back to the 2009 report, you’ll see most of OAK’s problem is MiG.

We might compare SIPRI’s work to Defense News’ list described here.  Unfortunately, DN’s page is no longer available.

The discrepancy between the two lists is a little surprising.

Not Enough Resources

Konstantin Makiyenko (photo: Radio Mayak / Kirill Kurganov)

Still parsing reaction to Prime Minister Putin’s manifesto on the army . . . there are lots of positive reviews and recapitulations.  But commentators who don’t exactly agree with Putin are far more interesting and illuminating.

One particularly fitting this description is Konstantin Makiyenko, who makes succinct, obvious, and bravely ventured points.

Makiyenko, Deputy Director of CAST, is by no means anti-regime.  He is, however, honest.  His observations appeared in Interfaks-AVN, and you can read them courtesy of VPK.name.

He concludes simply that Russia may not have the resources for the plan of major army and defense industry modernization Putin laid out in his campaign article:

“The Russian economic system, which, with oil prices at 100 dollars a barrel, provides only four percent GDP growth, isn’t capable of being the base for realizing the plans outlined.”

AVN says Makiyenko doesn’t exclude that, owing to insufficient budgetary resources, the Finance Ministry will have to work out plans for future cuts in spending on national defense.  But, at the same time, he apparently said Putin’s manifesto on the army wasn’t populist, and he has “no objection” to majority of the Premier’s proposals.

But Makiyenko lays down a sharp, if understated, critique of Putin’s stewardship of Russia’s defenses since 1999.  Agreeing that nuclear deterrence has been the only guarantee of Russia’s security, Makiyenko continues:

“In this relation, the current situation is in no way different from the state of affairs in the 1990s, when, as it’s justly noted in [Putin’s] article, ‘other weighty material arguments didn’t exist.'”

“. . . adequately evaluating the situation now, one has to admit that even today other ‘material arguments’ haven’t appeared for Russia during the last 12 years.”

“In this connection, the thought about how one should particularly attentively follow the appearance of new technical means, for example MD systems and long-range, precision non-nuclear means, capable of devaluing Russia’s nuclear deterrence potential, are very important.”

So, conventional weakness drives Russian objections to MD, one supposes.

AVN also indicated Makiyenko is skeptical of Putin’s call for public-private partnerships and more private capital investment in the OPK given that the once-and-future Supreme CINC nationalized first-class companies like Irkut and Saturn.

Putin and the Army (Part III)

Putin Tours Aircraft Plant in Komsomolsk-na-Amure

This could be called “Putin and the OPK.”  The last five pages — more than 40 percent — of the Prime Minister’s election manifesto are about Russia’s defense sector.  It’s turgid and hard to digest.  

Putin’s website has a translation of the entire article. 

The tone and language at the end of the article differ from the rest.  Since not much has been accomplished in the OPK, Putin speaks in prescriptions, exhortations, platitudes, and imperatives.  Everything is “should” and “must.”  The text is rambling and somewhat unfocused.

Putin gives many non-specific mentions of:

  • “forming S&T capabilities”
  • “developing critical technologies for producing competitive products”
  • “reequipping the RDT&E infrastructure”
  • “investing in training specialists” 
  • “placing the Gosoboronzakaz for three-five, even seven years”
  • “a single organ for controlling ‘defense’ contracts”
  • “fair and sufficient prices”
  • “promoting competition in state purchases”
  • “driving forces of innovation growth”
  • “exchanging S&T information among those who can use it”
  • “streamlining manufacturing processes”
  • “increasing the prestige of defense industry occupations”

Shibboleths without concrete, prioritized, and achievable objectives won’t help the OPK after the election.

Let’s look for more coherent buried messages. 

Putin says up front:

“. . . we also have to talk plainly about [the OPK’s] accumulated problems.  It’s a fact that domestic defense centers and enterprises have missed several modernization cycles in the last 30 years.”

“We must fully overcome this lag in the next decade.”

The once-and-future President takes pains to stress that Russia’s OPK and scientific base, not those of other countries, will rearm the country’s forces.  While military-technical cooperation with partners is fine, Putin says Russia can’t depend on foreign arms or abandon self-reliance.  To the contrary, it needs to increase and support its own military-technological and scientific independence.

He writes:

“I am convinced that no amount of ‘pin-point’ purchases of military and scientific equipment can replace the production of our own weapons; these purchases can only serve as a source of technology and knowledge.”

Still, he warns:

“To increase the country’s defense capability in reality, we need the most modern, best equipment in the world, and not ‘absorbed’ billions and trillions.  It’s unacceptable for the Army to become a market for pawning off obsolete types of armaments, technologies, and RDT&E paid for at government expense.”

So Putin steers a path between those who say Russia can only rely on domestic arms producers, and those who say Russia’s defense sector is too decrepit and corrupt to supply the Armed Forces, so the military has to shop abroad.  But he definitely leans more toward the former view.

The once-and-future President sets a high bar for the OPK, probably ridiculously high considering how neglected the defense sector has been for 20 years:

“The activities of defense industry enterprises should concentrate on the mass production of high-quality weapons with the highest performance characteristics to meet both current and projected defense challenges.  Moreover, it’s only the latest weapons and military equipment that will enable Russia to strengthen and expand its foothold in the world arms markets, where the winner is the one who can offer the most advanced designs.”

“Reacting to present threats and challenges alone means being doomed to the role of someone who is always playing catch-up.  We must do our best to gain a technological and organizational edge over any potential adversary.  Such a stringent requirement should become the key criterion for us as we set targets for the defense industry.”

“The defense industry is in no position to calmly try to catch up with the latest developments.  We must facilitate breakthroughs and become leading innovators and manufacturers.”

So again, however realistic this goal may or may not be, Putin places a priority on Russia’s ability to export weapons and earn dollars.

He is sure rebuilding defense industry won’t be a back-breaking, Soviet-type burden on the country.  Still, he cautions:

“We must not repeat our past mistakes here.  The huge resources invested in the renewal of the defense industry and in the rearmament program must facilitate the modernization of the entire Russian economy.”

Another high bar.  A civilian economy of free, competitive, and self-sustaining industries can take good advantage of defense sector technology spin-offs.  It’s less clear how defense industry investments can help lagging sectors of Russia’s civilian economy.

Putin ominously warns corruption in the national security sphere is tantamount to state treason.  It’ll be interesting to see how the OPK reacts, and if or how he effects this declaration.

Despite years of state-controlled integration, the PM somewhat oddly says defense industry should be open to larger numbers of private enterprises and contractors.

And he opines that OPK pay should be equivalent to new higher pay in the Armed Forces.  This is probably true but it’s another costly promise.

He concludes the entire article saying Russia cannot fall behind and become vulnerable even if it costs a lot.  But the goal, he claims, is an army and defense industry that strengthens rather than exhausts the national economy.

Putin is many days late and many rubles short in fixing the OPK’s problems.  They should have been addressed before the current state armaments program (GPV) was launched.  The GPV cart was placed before the OPK horse for political reasons.

It’ll be interesting to see if this article serves as any kind of blueprint for the years that Putin serves, once again, as Russia’s chief executive.

It’s also interesting to see Putin return to the weakness theme.  And how avoiding real or perceived weakness is such a powerful motivation for him:

“. . . we should not tempt anyone by allowing ourselves to be weak.”

To reiterate, Putin says what needs defending are Russia’s natural resources.

One’s reminded of his address the day after Beslan more than seven years ago.  He said:

“We showed weakness.”

“And the weak get beaten.”

“Some want to rip ‘juicy’ pieces off us, others to help them.”

It’s basically what Stalin concluded about industrialization 81 years ago almost to the day:

“To slacken the tempo would mean falling behind.  And those who fall behind get beaten.”

“One feature of the history of old Russia was the continual beatings she suffered because of her backwardness.” 

“They beat her because it was profitable and could be done with impunity.”

“They beat her, saying:  ‘You are abundant,’ so one can enrich oneself at your expense.”

What Putin says is not so different.

Putin and the Army (Part I)

Putin Flanked by Green Suits (photo: Konstantin Zavrazhin)

Candidate Vladimir Putin’s election manifesto on the military and national security appeared in today’s Rossiyskaya gazeta.  The rambling 6,500-word essay reads like most campaign literature — a series of feel-good sound bites with inconvenient facts, details, and background left out.

But let’s get at it.

Putin says the changing world presents risks of an unpredictable nature.  He insinuates that Russia should expect challenges to its sovereignty over its natural resources.  It can’t tempt others by weakness.  Strategic nuclear deterrence preserved Russia’s sovereignty in the difficult 1990s as it does today.

Putin continues his habit of excoriating the long-ago 1990s but largely ignoring what he did or didn’t do during the 2000s.

He points right off to the GPV’s 19 trillion rubles to modernize the Armed Forces, and the coming FTsP’s 3 trillion for the OPK.  And, he says, he’s convinced the country can afford these expenditures.

Putin then turns to the nature of future war.  He wants the military to “look over the horizon” at the nature of threats in 30-50 years to determine what the army will need.

Deterrence has worked, and Russia keeps its nuclear “powder” dry.  But Putin points to the mass introduction of long-range, precise conventional arms becoming decisive even in a global conflict.

Someone tell Putin this is not news.  But there’s more.

Putin reveals that space and information (or cyber) warfare may be decisive in the future.  Beyond this, he continues, new beam, geophysical, wave, genetic, and even psychophysical weapons may be developed.  Their effects may be comparable to nuclear weapons but more acceptable politically.  So, expect the role of nuclear weapons in deterring aggression to decline.

He then segues wildly to responding quickly and effectively to other new challenges, and how Russia’s ODKB partners will help stabilize the “Eurasian space.”

OK.

Putin proceeds to a long-winded explanation of how the army saved Russia in the terrible 1990s.  As mentioned earlier, he doesn’t have a lot to say about the eight years he was Supreme CINC.

Putin claims he rejected a proposal (he attributes to then General Staff Chief Kvashnin) to move SSBNs from the Pacific and consolidate them in the Northern Fleet.  He says permanent readiness units with contractees were formed on all strategic axes, and, he claims, they allowed Russia to “force Georgia to peace” in August 2008.

No mention that the large-scale introduction of contract service failed miserably during this time.  Also no mention of “winning” the Second Chechen War by ceding federal control of that republic to a brutal young warlord.

Putin rightly notes the Soviet Army’s mobilization model made no sense for Russia, and there was no alternative to building a New Army [starting in late 2008 when he was not president, and after things went so well for the army in Georgia].  He admits there were difficulties and mistakes in this process, but goes on to describe his view of what’s been done in the army.

Full-up permanent readiness brigades have replaced old cadre units.  “Non-core, auxiliary functions” have been moved out of the army to maximize time for training.  And effective Defense Ministry sub-units responsible for the military order have to guarantee the effective formation of technical requirements for the development and production of arms and equipment.

Yes, but that’s not happening yet.

Putin lists other changes in the Russian military.  C2 organs cut by 50 percent.  Four districts with air, air defense, and naval forces subordinate to them.  Seven large air bases established.  Twenty-eight airfields renovated, and 12 more set for this year.  The share of modern ICBMs increased from 13 to 25 percent.  Ten more regiments to be reequipped with Yars or Topol-M.  Putin says Russia has accepted its new strategic ALCM.  Dolgorukiy and Nevskiy will soon enter the fleet.  The Navy’s renewed its presence on the world’s oceans.

Then the Prime Minister turns to tasks for the next ten years — rearmament:  nuclear forces, VKO, comms, recce, C2, EW, UAVs and unmanned strike systems, transport aviation, individual soldier systems and protection, precision weapons and defense against them.  And he reemphasizes, new generation precision weapons need development and a larger place in Russia’s future doctrine.

Putin seems to say Russia’s happier with the capability of defeating any missile defense than trying to develop its own.  He again promises effective, asymmetrical steps to counter any U.S. MD.

Then, a ten-year acquisition laundry list from candidate Putin:

  • 400 ICBMs and SLBMs.
  • 8 Borey SSBNs.
  • About 20 multipurpose submarines.
  • More than 50 surface ships.
  • Nearly 100 military satellites.
  • More than 600 aircraft.
  • More than 1,000 helicopters.
  • 28 regimental sets of S-400.
  • 38 battalions of Vityaz SAMs.
  • 10 brigades of Iskander-M.
  • More than 2,300 tanks.
  • About 2,000 SP artillery systems.
  • 17,000 military vehicles.

The tanks are really surprising.  And the list doesn’t really even match the ten-year tasks Putin set out.

Look for the second half later.  It covers army social issues and the OPK.

A Fuller Picture of the GOZ

Yars ICBM (photo: RIA Novosti / Ilya Pitalev)

It’s been customary for some time to get press information on what the Russian military expects to acquire each year.  Rare, however, are occasions when we receive a report on what they procured to compare with the plan from the year before.

This year is one of those occasions.

Why is anybody’s guess.  But the release of this information — which came from the new armaments tsar First Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Sukhorukov — could be a Defense Ministry weapon in its running skirmish with the OPK.  Information on how the defense sector performed could bolster the ministry’s somewhat beleaguered position on what it buys, from whom, and for how much.

RIA Novosti covered Sukhorukov’s remarks on GOZ-2011 yesterday.

According to him, in 2011, the military received 30 Topol-M and Yars ICBMs, two special designation satellites, 21 aircraft, 82 helicopters, one proyekt 22380 Steregushchiy-class corvette, and 8,500 KamAZ and Ural vehicles.

The price for GOZ-2011 was about 550 billion rubles.

Now, for comparison, in mid-March, Lenta.ru recapped Defense Minister Serdyukov’s statement to RIA Novosti on 2011 procurement plans.  He said the military planned to obtain 36 ballistic missiles, two SSBNs, 20 strategic ALCMs, five satellites, 35 aircraft, 109 helicopters, three SSNs, one surface ship, and 21 SAM systems.  The media outlet itself noted the submarine plans sounded garbled since two SSBNs and an SSN were more likely.

So what was acquired very roughly approximates what was anticipated.  And these are just high-profile systems rather than an exhaustive list.  As indicated at the outset, it’s a fuller picture not a full one.  There could be an official assessment later of what percentage of GOZ-2011 was completed.   

Sukhorukov also said late last year a contract for Bulava SLBM production out to 2020 was signed, but no acceptance date for the missile or the first Borey-class SSBN was established.

He added that 84 contracts worth 42 billion (8 percent of the money) were not fulfilled, and the Yasen-class SSN schedule was not met.  And defect claims reached 7,100, up from 6,800 in 2010.

Special Steel

Yasen Rollout in June 2010

On Thursday, Argumenty nedeli published a short article citing a source claiming Russia’s specialty steel makers aren’t very interested in supplying metal for new submarines planned for the Navy.

Argumenty’s record is interesting.  Sometimes they go out on a limb and don’t quite get a story right; other times they nail it or catch the gist of what seems to be happening.  Can’t say which it is this time.  But the paper has a tradition of looking closely at different parts of defense industry.

The story maintains Sevmash is trying to scrape together the specialty steel needed for new boats, and is short of what it needs for Borey– and Yasen-class hulls.  The paper’s OPK source notes, of course, that those boats already launched were assembled from existing sections of older submarine classes.

The source concludes rather direly:

“If the issue of steel isn’t resolved, then you have to forget about further production of our missile-carrying submarines.”

He continues:

“. . . it’s unprofitable for suppliers to produce.  Their own cost is high, but the Defense Ministry is buying a miserly quantity and trying to drive down the price on the finished item and, accordingly, on the components.”

Argumenty ends its short piece by reminding readers about the conflict between the Defense Ministry and United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) on the one hand and Sevmash on the other over pricing and contracts which lasted most of 2011.

That year-long battle ended in mid-November when Prime Minister Putin supervised the signing of seven submarine contracts worth more than 280 billion rubles in Severodvinsk.  There aren’t precise details on what the deal covered except nuclear-powered submarines — the modernized proyekt 955 Borey and proyekt 885 Yasen (or 955A and Yasen-M).

If Argumenty’s story is accurate, it suggests future disputes over submarine production and profit margins for Sevmash’s sub-contractors and suppliers.  Perhaps Putin’s deal was only a temporary end to the government-industry conflict.

Will Serdyukov Go?

Pavel Baev

Back to a familiar topic . . . is it possible or likely Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov will resign or be dismissed from his post prior to the March 4 presidential election?  It is, of course, a topic that won’t quit.  At least not for the next two months. 

Pavel Baev discussed this with BFM.ru over the holiday. 
 
We looked at Baev’s view of Serdyukov’s reforms back in the spring.  He was neither sanguine about them nor forgiving of mistakes made.
 
We also looked earlier at a couple considerations of whether Serdyukov might leave or be forced out of the Defense Ministry. 
 
In August, Mikhail Rostovskiy thought Serdyukov’s position pretty secure, and this author postulated, with once-and-future president Vladimir Putin secure in the Kremlin again, Anatoliy Eduardovich might find relief from the defense portfolio in a job both cushier and more to his liking.
 
In April, Aleksey Makarkin also thought Serdyukov was pretty safe.
 
It’s obvious that the aftermath of the December 4 Duma elections changed a lot of things.
 
Now Oslo-based Professor Baev thinks Serdyukov could be sacrificed in the election run-up for nothing other than loyal performance of the tasks Putin set him to in February 2007.
 
Baev says Putin believes his regime faces an old-fashioned Cold War-style political threat.  Various Western “circles” (NATO, NGOs, CIA) think the regime’s exhausted itself.  Any possible replacement would be welcome to them.
 
Then we get to the essence of Baev’s argument — the fact that the Defense Minister has generated great dissatisfaction and irritation among Russia’s defense factory directors.  Without a serious go-between in the Military-Industrial Commission, Serdyukov’s become the focus of their ire.  They blame him and his subordinates for rejecting Russian weapons and equipment, and claim they’ve hurt Russia’s reputation as an arms exporter.
 
His case in point is the complaint from railcar and armor producer Uralvagonzavod during Putin’s December 15 “direct broadcast” Q and A with citizens.  A caller asked Putin to take Serdyukov and General Staff Chief Makarov by the neck, and replace the former with a “clearheaded Defense Minister.”
 

Baev’s interviewer asks whether Serdyukov will keep his current seat under Putin 2.0:

“. . . I think that the Defense Minister will be replaced even before the election.  The Armed Forces and military enterprises are a large and serious part of the electorate.  It was possible to extinguish accumulated irritation with the promise of money since after long promises they raised pay for officers, although not as substantially as was said.  It’s also possible to give money to OPK enterprises and sacrifice an unliked minister.”

But a resignation won’t be enough:

“I don’t think so because the problems have gone too far.  It’s hardly possible to put the protest mood just on one minister.  Everyone understands perfectly that it’s not the minister who started all this and carried all this out, no one suspects Serdyukov of being a confirmed reformer, having a program, or being a man motivated by a sense of his own mission.  He is a manager, an executive, and extremely stubborn, but he didn’t start this, and that’s clear.  And I don’t think Serdyukov will hold onto the minister’s chair.  The problems and conflicts have become so acute that it’s becoming costly to him.  I think they’ve had enough of him.”

Baev concludes that another civilian should take over the Defense Ministry, and continue separating its intertwined military and civilian functions.  He doubts Serdyukov’s replacement will reverse anything, but simply move forward on the problems reforms have created.

Serdyukov’s departure seems like more of a possibility now than before the Duma elections.  As Baev suggests, Putin could sacrifice his Defense Minister to appease his numerous unhappy defense industrial constituents.  Serdyukov’s fate may hinge on how badly Putin needs a boost for March 4. 

The Defense Minister’s 5-year anniversary comes next month and provides an opportunity for a change short of dismissal.  This author gets the impression Serdyukov’s energy for his difficult job has declined lately.

As for Uralvagonzavod, its workers are unlikely to quit sniping at the Defense Minister.  They, along with other military vehicle makers, have reportedly learned their defense order for 2012 has been drastically cut in favor of procurement in 3-5 years.

Serdyukov Year-Ender (Part I)

Serdyukov Watches Troops with President Medvedev

Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov gave a two-part interview to Rossiyskaya gazeta this week.  It covers some contentious issues, but the questions aren’t exactly hard-hitters, and there’s no follow-up on his answers.  Nevertheless, Serdyukov as always puts out a steady and consistent message on what he, the government, and military are trying to accomplish.  Much of the first part of his interview concerned this year’s GOZ problems and the Defense Ministry’s difficulties coming to terms with defense sector enterprises.

Serdyukov says he’s been occupied for two years with reaching agreement on prices, deadlines, and quality for arms and other military equipment.  But, he says, now producers have no reason to complain because they’re receiving 80-100 percent advance payments for their work.  Some contracts for ships, aircraft, and strategic missiles are long-term ones extending to 2017-2020.  He adds:

“The fact is we are completely forecasting the entire future activity of a company for many years to come.  This allows for planning for expenses and receipts, training personnel, introducing new technologies, reequipping the production base.”

Regarding the tussle over OPK prices, Serdyukov says he’s told enterprises to give the Defense Ministry their production cost [себестоимость], and the military department will make production profitable for them.  Producers can have a profit margin of 20-25 or even 30-35 percent, but, he says, component suppliers will be limited to a one-percent mark-up.

Many producers (Sevmash for one) blame their suppliers for their own high costs, but it seems likely that limiting sub-contractors to a 1 percent profit is a formula for failure.

But Serdyukov has one condition for profits of 30-35 percent over the cost of production:

“The difference [10 percent?] has to go toward the technical reequipping of the enterprise, the purchase of new technologies and licenses.  And this will lead to lower costs or improved technical characteristics and combat potential of this or that weapon in the future.”

Later Serdyukov noted the Defense Ministry will compensate producers for annual inflation but production cost and timeframe will remain fixed. 

Then questions turned to the issue of foreign weapons.  Serdyukov said the Defense Ministry can’t buy Russian arms that aren’t up to world standards in price and quality.  Russia, he said, is interested in foreign systems so it can understand where it lags or has already fallen behind.  He described cooperative ties with foreign producers, buying licenses, and organizing joint production of entire systems or components in Russia as a way to get domestic industry up to date.  Serdyukov said foreign characteristics and prices are always part of the discussion of price formation with OPK enterprises.

Serdyukov told RG he doesn’t believe the Russian defense sector’s potential has dissipated despite the economic and financial difficulties of the last 15 years.  But now, with a 10-year GPV in hand, Russia has to restore the volume of defense production to the level of the 1980s.

He said foreign purchases were mainly small numbers of samples for the Defense Ministry to investigate.  It bought Iveco armored vehicles for explosive testing, after which Russia proposed to produce them jointly with Italy in Voronezh.

Year Two

This blog completed its second year yesterday.  There were 288 posts in year two (a few less than last year).  Just a couple to go to reach 600 posts since December 10, 2009. 

One hopes the reading was half as worthwhile as the writing.  But frustration lingers.  It’s impossible to follow everything.  Adding Twitter provided a “release valve” for overflowing news.  Still there’s tension between posting short items and writing more detailed pieces drawing together many different sources. 

In 2011, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov and General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov had plenty of interviews, official appearances, and other public utterances to cover.  There were a large number of high-level personnel changes, retirements, and dismissals to report.

Serdyukov eased a little on cutting the officer corps.  The Defense Ministry readied its new higher pay system while scandal plagued the stopgap premium pay scheme.  Military housing remained a major headache as always.

Moscow hit a wall on manpower and had to accept undermanning.  After acknowledging there aren’t enough potential draftees, the military is starting over (yet again) with an effort to create professional enlisted and NCOs through contract service.

This year began with questions about the GPV’s feasibility, but devolved into immediate problems with GOZ-2011.  The Russians threw money at the OPK without looking at the defense sector’s (and the procurement bureaucracy’s) capability to turn financing into the kind of weapons and equipment the military requires.  Difficulties ramping up production of naval and missile systems occupied media attention.  The public debate over the relative merits of buying Russian or foreign weapons made several headlines.     

So where is Russia’s military?

To this observer, the Russian Armed Forces are improving and beginning serious rearmament.  But the hour is late.  Significant future problems could derail recent positive changes.  These include new and old, unsolved economic, budgetary, social, demographic, and possibly even political challenges.  Not to mention purely military obstacles to modernizing the army and navy.

Your visits and page views grew significantly in year two.  Page views are about 400 a day, 2,000+ a week, and 9,000-10,000 a month.  We’ll see if this is the ceiling for this rather specialized topic.

Your views, opinions, and arguments are always appreciated.  Those sharing or highlighting data and evidence on issues are particularly valuable.

First Get Some Rockets

Iskander

How do you rattle your rockets?  First get some rockets. 

President Dmitriy Medvedev’s address last week underscored the extent to which Russian foreign and defense policies are hampered by the condition of the OPK and its shortage of production capacity.

Medvedev’s description of Russian steps in response to U.S. and NATO missile defense in Europe certainly didn’t surprise anyone, though it may have forced them to conclude the U.S.-Russian “reset” is wearing thin.

To refresh the memory, the first four were (1) put the Kaliningrad BMEW radar into service; (2) reinforce the defense of SYaS with VVKO; (3) equip strategic ballistic missile warheads with capabilities to overcome MD; and (4) develop measures to disrupt MD command and control.

Then fifth, repeating several previous assertions to this effect, Medvedev said:

“If the enumerated measures are insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy in the country’s west and south modern strike weapons systems which guarantee the destruction of MD’s European component.  One such step will be deployment of the ‘Iskander’ missile system in the Kaliningrad special region.”

And, ultimately, of course, Medvedev also noted the dispute over MD could lead Russia to withdraw from new START.

Russianforces.org was first to write that Medvedev’s enumerated steps represented nothing more militarily than what Moscow already intends to do, with or without U.S. missile defense in Europe.

Kommersant recalled the difficulty of making threats with the Iskanders:

“The problem is by virtue of its limited range (several hundred kilometers) ‘Iskander’ missiles can only threaten [Russia’s] neighboring states, but in no way the U.S. MD system as a whole, and on this plane, they have little influence on the strategic balance as such.  Moreover, the Russian military has promised to begin deploying ‘Iskanders’ massively since 2007, but since then the deadlines for their delivery to the army has been postponed more than once.  The army now has a single brigade of ‘Iskanders’ – the 26th Neman [Brigade], which is deployed near Luga.  This is 12 launchers.  There is also a 630th Independent Battalion in the Southern Military District.  In GPV-2020, ten brigades more are promised.”

So, Iskander deployments, including probably in Kaliningrad, will happen anyway, regardless of MD, when Moscow is able to produce the missiles.

Interfaks-AVN quoted Ruslan Pukhov on the missile production capacity issue.  If Russia wants to deploy Iskander in Kaliningrad or Belarus or Krasnodar Kray as a response to European MD, then:

“. . . it’s essential to build a new factory to produce these missiles since the factory in Votkinsk can’t handle an extra mission.”

“Productivity suffers because of the great ‘heterogeneity’ of missiles [Iskander, Bulava, Topol-M, Yars].  Therefore, if we want our response to MD on our borders to be done expeditiously, and not delayed, we need a new factory.”

Vesti FM also covered his remarks:

“’Iskander’ is produced at the Votkinsk plant.  The ‘Bulava,’ and ‘Topol-M,’ and multi-headed ‘Yars,’ are also produced there.  Therefore, such heterogeneity in missiles leads to the fact that they are produced at an extremely low tempo.”

The 500-km Iskander (SS-26 / STONE), always advertised with significant capabilities to defeat MD, was accepted in 2006.  But the Russian Army didn’t  complete formation of the Western MD Iskander brigade or Southern MD battalion until the middle of last month, according to ITAR-TASS.  The army expects to get a full brigade of 12 launchers each year until 2020. 

But Iskanders still aren’t rolling off the line like sausages.  This spring Prime Minister Putin promised to double missile output, including from Votkinsk, starting in 2013, and pledged billions of rubles to support producers.  In early 2010, Kommersant wrote about Votkinsk overloaded with orders, trying to modernize shops to produce Iskander.

Votkinsk and Iskander are, by the way, not the only defense-industrial problem relative to countering MD.  Nezavisimaya gazeta pointed out VVKO will need lots of new S-400 and S-500 systems (and factories to produce them) to protect Russia’s SYaS.  But we digress . . . .

What do defense commentators think about Medvedev’s statement and Iskanders? 

Vladimir Dvorkin calls them a far-fetched threat:

“There are no scenarios in which they could be used.  If Russia used them in an initial preventative strike, then this would signify the beginning of a war with NATO on which Russia would never embark.”

Aleksey Arbatov says relatively short-range missiles don’t scare the Americans, but could spoil relations with Poland and Romania.

Aleksandr Golts says the slow pace of Iskander production makes it not a very serious threat.  He notes Putin’s restraint on threats over MD:

“Being a rational man, he perfectly understands that an attempt to create such a threat will get an immediate response, which, considering the West’s potential, will create a much bigger problem for Russia.  That is, there’ll be a repetition on another scale of the history with the deployment of Soviet medium-range missiles in Europe.”

One supposes rather than driving a wedge between the U.S. and MD-host countries, Russian threats might reaffirm the wisdom of having a tangible U.S. presence on their territory.

Lastly, Leonid Ivashov reacts to Medvedev’s reminder that Russia could withdraw from new START:

“When President Medvedev says that we will withdraw from SNV [START], the Americans just smile.  They know perfectly well the state of our defense-industrial complex.”