Russia Chooses Its Future Armament
Reporter for Kommersant Daily Special to the Russia&CIS Observer
The Russian government’s Military-Industrial Commission approved the new State Armaments Program at the beginning of June, defining military priorities for 2007-2015. A primary difference of this program is the fact that Russia’s armed forces will have enough funds for large-scale rearmament for the first time in the post-Soviet history. Over $180 billion – a record amount for the Russian budget – will be allocated for the program. These funds will be used for purchases of equipment developed during the past 15 years. Nonetheless, the announced plans were criticized by manufacturers, since this program gives priority to purchases while significantly reducing funding for the development of new weapons.
Sergey Ivanov – the Russian vice premier, minister of defense and the head of the commission – stated at the meeting’s opening: "In creating the project for a new armament program, the strategy is to reallocate funding towards significant purchases of arms and military equipment. Of the total funds, 63% will be used for this purpose."
Previously, the acquisition numbers were significantly less: 42% in the current year, and 48% in the project for 2007. On average, development, purchase, modernization and maintenance costs will amount to $20 billion per year. For comparison, these expenses will amount to $10 billion this year, and $11 billion in 2007.
The two previous Russian armament plans (from 1995 to 2005, and 2000 to 2010) involved first of all the repair of older Soviet equipment and financing of new arms development. "As a result, the necessary scientific and technical backlog was created that allowed us to initiate a re-equipping of the army with new arms," Ivanov noted. He added that series purchases will be conducted not on a basis of individual components systems and equipment, but with complete systems/kits necessary for battalion and squadron outfitting.
High-ranking officials of the Russian Ministry of Defense previously stated that that series purchases will start only after 2010. When the time came to include these purchases in the actual arms program, the government experienced serious problems with the distribution of funding. As a result, new programs that had to be approved in 2005 were delayed by a year; its duration was reduced to 9 years instead of 10.
According to Vladislav Putilin, the deputy chairman of the Military-Industrial Commission, the Russian State Armaments Program for 2007-2015 covers more than 200 units and regiments. The armed forces will receive about 3,000 new weapons and components and more than 5,000 modernized weapons units.
Air Force and Air Defense Forces will receive over 1,000 new aircraft, for the most part modernized Sukhoi Su-34 bombers. In addition, the modernization of Su-27 and MiG-29 fighters will be conducted, as well as production of the Yak-130 combat trainer aircraft. After 2010, the first series deliveries of the T-50 fifth-generation fighter (currently being developed by the Sukhoi Holding) and a medium fighter based on the MiG-29OVT demonstrator will start. Military transport aviation will receive lightweight Ilyushin Il-112V aircraft, along with the MTA medium airlifter to be jointly developed with India and heavyweight Il-76MF transports.
Following the commission session’s completion, Putilin stated that the Russian Air Force will probably not purchase the Ukrainian-Russian Antonov An-70 medium military transport. "No definite decision regarding this project has yet been taken, but any decision will be reflected in 2007-2015 armaments program," he said.
Strategic Missile Forces will receive more than 50 mobile and silo-based Topol-M missile systems. Space forces will begin purchases of Angara launch vehicles, new Persona space optical surveillance systems, Meridian communication satellites and Faza geostationary satellites for detection of strategic and tactical aircraft, while work will move forward on future winged spacecraft concepts and hypersonic reconnaissance aircraft.
Land and airborne forces will have over 300 battalions and several missile brigades rearmed. According to Russian experts, each missile brigade will have up to 18 Iskander tactical missile systems. The Navy will receive several dozen surface ships and submarines, including five Project 955 Borey nuclear-powered strategic ballistic missile submarines equipped with new Bulava-30 ballistic missiles, two Project 885 Yasen nuclear-powered multipurpose submarines, six Project 677 Lada diesel-electric submarines, three Project 22350 multipurpose frigates and five Project 20380 corvettes.
Between the industry and the military
At the same time, the 2006-2015 program does not cover the development of a number of weapons systems in Russia. In particular, no aircraft carriers are planned for construction. "The issue of our naval air carrier fleet will be decided upon after 2009. I cannot say how many will we have after 2015," Putilin said. Production of Su-33 naval fighters is not planned for the same reason.
Development of new heavy liquid-fueled ballistic missiles, over 100 tons in weight and capable of carrying up to 10 nuclear warheads, is not covered by the program either. This project was proposed by the Reutov NPO Mash and the Makeev Design Bureau. Only light Topol-M and Bulava-30 missiles with six nuclear warheads will be produced. "Until 2012, the question of developing a new heavy ballistic missile is not urgent," Ivanov said prior to the Military-Industrial Commission’s session. "Around 2009, we will assess the prospects through 2030, and then we will decide upon the outlook of these missiles."
Finally, unmanned aerial vehicles will not appear in Russia during the next nine years. UAV projects were proposed by the Irkut/Yakovlev team and Sukhoi. Such systems are being rapidly developed abroad; however, only mediocre funding was allocated for the Russian UAV program, insufficient even for full-scale experimental work. According to Russian experts, such an approach to UAV development demonstrated by the country’s Ministry of Defense is catastrophic. Russia already is hopelessly behind the U.S., Europe and Israel in this field. The decision to abandon full-scale activity on combat UAVs demonstrates that Russia military officials do not understand the necessity of these systems, and do not want to pay attention to obvious trends in military development.
Due to these reasons, discussion of the state arms program, already coordinated with all core ministries, was very difficult at the Military-Industrial Commission level. Heads of the largest defense companies were invited, and, naturally, each intended to secure maximum financing for their enterprise, although all parameters of the program were already coordinated. Disputes between representatives of the industry and the military, having prevented the arms program from being accepted for a year, occurred once again.
The Ministry of Defense’s position, explained by General Yuri Baluevsky, head of the General Staff, involved minimizing the range of purchased equipment, prioritizing the nuclear deterrence forces, reducing development of new armament to a minimum and purchasing already-developed equipment. Representatives of the defense industry, on the other hand, while not denying the need for large-scale purchases, offered to continue the development of prospective armaments.
All these discrepancies had to be solved by committee head Ivanov. In the end, he proposed to approve the program in general but leave the possibility to amending and complementing its separate points after presidential approval. The program is to be sent to the Russian head of state in mid-July. During this month, the Ministry of Defense will have to refine the program and coordinate the most serious issues.