Tag Archives: Viktor Myasnikov

GLONASS as Dolgostroy

Viktor Myasnikov authored an interesting piece in the 17 December Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye regarding the loss of three GLONASS-M satellites in the Pacific on 5 December. 

Myasnikov said the ten-year Federal Targeted Program (FTsP or ФЦП) “Global Navigation System” has spent $4.7 billion since 2001, but GLONASS has confirmed its status as a ‘long unfinished work’ [dolgostroy or долгострой] in space.

Myasnikov pointed out Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s long personal interest in the system’s restoration, and Putin’s description of it as a sine qua non for development and deployment of modern precision weapons systems.  Myasnikov noted the government’s intention to invest 48 billion rubles in space and ground infrastructure for GLONASS in 2010-2011.

He said the 3 ill-fated GLONASS-M and now-delayed GLONASS-K, originally intended for launch on 28 December, were supposed to bring GLONASS to a complete constellation of 24 satellites and full global coverage. 

President Dmitriy Medvedev had just promised that the GLONASS grouping would be fully formed before the end of 2010, and its large-scale use would begin in the next two years.

After the 5 December failure, Medvedev ordered an investigation of GLONASS, its financing, and who might be responsible for the 5 December mishap.

Myasnikov also explored the insurance scheme for the 5 December launch.  It turns out insurance was provided by the ‘Sputnik’ Insurance Center, which just happens to be run by the sons of current and former deputy chiefs of Roskosmos.  ‘Sputnik’ has assured everyone that the GLONASS loss was reliably reinsured, but it provided no specifics.  Roskosmos Chief Anatoliy Perminov, however, said the launch was partially insured, and a settlement will be collected but only after a long and drawn-out process.

Myasnikov spends some time discussing possible causes of the 5 December accident which largely boil down to an upper stage improperly fueled with too much liquid oxygen.  He concludes that, while a couple scapegoats might be found at RKK ‘Energiya,’ no one associated with GLONASS at Roskosmos is worried about his job.

And so he recaps where this leaves GLONASS.

By 2008, GLONASS reached 18 satellites and complete coverage of Russia.  A fully deployed GLONASS of 24 spacecraft should have covered the planet by the end of 2009.

Russia counted on a service life of 7 years, but the satellites are only lasting 3-1/2 to 5 years, so the system couldn’t be completed.  The system officially has 20 operational, and another 5 are held as “being studied by the General Designer.”  The oldest satellite is 71.7 months old, one is 60 months, and two are 47.4 months.

So, Myasnikov concludes, even if 6 satellites are orbited, a complete system will likely need 8 over the next two years, leaving GLONASS a ‘long unfinished work.’  GLONASS-K is coming, and it’s supposed to have a 10-year service life.

Then he turns to the global positioning system market.  GLONASS has only a 1 percent share of a $60-70 billion market.  In the future, if Russia captured 15 percent, this would be $9-10 billion annually, more than Russian arms sales.  But it isn’t likely.

In 2014, the European ‘Galileo’ system will begin operations.  This will be a serious competitor for GLONASS.  And the Chinese ‘Compas’ will be fully deployed by 2020.  And GPS is already moving to the next level – 48 satellites and 0.9 meter accuracy.

Myasnikov sums up:

“Russian cosmonautics is living through a serious crisis.  It has turned from high technology, science-intensive sector into simply capital-intensive.  Global scientific projects lead to project-mongering, while plans for real earth and space research are regularly delayed.  Almost nothing new is being created.  To replace some multibillion projects come others which cause even greater enthusiasm among the budget recipients.  The reusable ‘Angara’ has already been in development for ten years, cosmodrome ‘Svobodnyy’ is first closed, then opened.  So GLONASS is just the tip of the crisis iceberg.”

“In four months, the country will proudly note the 50th anniversary of Yuriy Gagarin’s flight.  But what’s being done now that we’ll proudly note after the next 50 years?  Certainly not GLONASS in a halo of lies.”

Ten Pantsir-S1s for Russia, or for UAE or Syria?

We all miss things, right?

In Friday’s NVO, Viktor Myasnikov published an insightful article on Pantsir-S1.  He hints that maybe the ten Pantsir-S1s ceremoniously delivered to the VVS aren’t actually for Russia’s VVS.  More interestingly, he provides numbers on the quantity really needed to rearm the Russian Armed Forces by 2020—500 for the VVS and 500 for the Ground Troops’ VPVO.

“‘Pantsir’ is one of the most talked about combat vehicles of the last 20 years.  Everything about it’s been heard, many have seen it at exhibitions, but it only began to come to the troops in recent days.  In the long years of design work (which began in 1990), testing, and disrupted contracts, ‘Pantsir’ received the honorary epithet ‘longsuffering.’”

“Now they’re talking about it again in superlative terms.  One could get the impression this is some panacea against all means of aerospace attack.  Actually, this is a close-range—up to 20 km—air defense system.  It exceeds hand-held ‘Igla’ and ‘Strela’ SAMs, but doesn’t approach the level of ‘Tor.’  And ‘Pantsir’s’ place in the order of battle has been designated perfectly concretely—it will replace ‘Tunguska,’ which in its time replaced ‘Shilka.’  True, it will really only replace ‘Tunguska’ when it gets on a tracked chassis.  For now this is a wheeled rear area variant designated to cover important targets—airfields, bases, air defense positions . . .”

“Initially ‘Pantsir’ was planned for tracked transport in as much as it needed to take the place of ‘Tunguska’ in tank columns to cover them against helicopters and other low flying enemy aircraft.  But the concept began to change due to underfinancing.  And a cheaper variant ‘Pantsir’ put on wheels, became positional as the last line of air defense for rear area targets.”

“The uniqueness of ‘Pantsir’ in the arms market is guaranteed by the fact that U.S., NATO, and Israeli armed forces are not threatened by cruise missiles, planned munitions and UAVs of the potential enemy [many would differ with this assertion].  It [Russia?  Arab states?] doesn’t have them in the necessary amount and won’t have them in the coming years.”

“In accordance with the State Program of Armaments to 2015 it’s planned to deliver 20 of such systems to the RF Armed Forces.  10 have already been received.”

“At the same time the Russian Air Forces’ demand is specified as a minimum of 100 systems of this type.  Incidentally, other specialists believe it’s essential to buy 200-250 systems by 2015 and 400-500 by 2020.  Besides that, the Ground Troops could buy 500-600 vehicles by 2020 for replacing ‘Tunguskas.’  They certainly could, of course, they could, but who will provide them?”

“Besides this, there’s no trusting official announcements that all overdue export contracts for the supply of ‘Pantsirs’ to the UAE and Syria have been fulfilled [actually it’s pretty clear supplies are just starting].  Therefore it’s strange that 10 vehicles suddenly turn out to be withdrawn from the export orders.  Suspicions immediately arise that the buyer has refused them or not accepted them due to complaints about quality.  Meanwhile, some anonymous sources from Tula defense industrial enterprises maintain that everything’s normal with the quality, but the vehicles are just taking a pre-sales run on normal asphalt road conditions.  After the [9 May Victory Day] parade the ‘Pantsirs’ will be repainted desert camouflage and handed over to the foreign buyer.  There’s no need to show them to anyone until the next parade.”

“There are suspicions that the ‘KamAZes’ for these ‘Pantsirs’ are not quite serial models.  ‘Cause in their build-out they are too close to the one in which Vladimir Chagin wins ‘Dakar.’  Would it make sense to have imported turbocharged engines on them?  Such capability of automotive equipment for covering stationary S-400 SAMs is a little unnecessary.  But it’s exactly right for the Middle Eastern or North African desert.”

“But there is another side to this.  It’s been announced that these 10 ‘Pantsirs’ will participate in joint exercises of Russia, Belorussia and Kazakhstan.  And also before the handover to the troops at the ‘Shcheglovskiy val’ enterprise an archpriest blessed them.  Such a ritual wouldn’t be arranged for a buyer from a Muslim state.”