Is Shoigu reversing Serdyukov’s military reform?

In recent weeks, some analysts have started to argue that the military reform promulgated by Anatoly Serdiukov over the last four years is being systematically rolled back by his successor. Given the unremittingly hostile coverage of Serdyukov and the decisions he made during his tenure, this is not surprising. This perception is further strengthened by the rhetoric and stream of decisions emanating from the Russian Ministry of Defense itself. As one analyst recently noted, “[Defense Minister] Shoigu’s three-month tenure consists of little more than examining and questioning every decision made by Serdiukov.” If you listen to the statements coming out of the MOD and the vast majority of the commentary in the Russian press, you would certainly have the impression that every change that Serdiukov enacted during his years in office has either already been overturned or will be reversed in the near future.

I want to correct this impression. What we have right now is a situation with a number of potentially negative developments, but no real indications that the key aspects of the reform are about to be reversed. It is true enough that Shoigu has reversed a number of Serdyukov’s decisions. But (with the exception of defense procurement, which I’ll address separately) these changes have largely focused on relatively peripheral issues such as military education and medicine. In the education sphere, Shoigu has restored the old training system that has top officers in school for a total of eight years during their careers instead of Serdiukov’s Western-style system of one stint in a military academy followed by short courses to gain skills needed for specific positions. This is certainly a blow to modernization, and may well lead to an excessive number of graduates coming out of the military academies without positions available for them. This outcome could lead to pressure to increase the number of officers in active service, which would be a big blow to the reform effort. So it may be worth watching the number of students being admitted to the newly reformed academies in the next year or two. Similarly, the shift in control over military training from the military branches to the recently reformed Main Combat Training Directorate will leave the branch headquarters with little to do. Aleksandr Golts is concerned that they will start getting involved in commanding the troops, which used to be their bailiwick but is now under the Unified Strategic Commands. Again, a potentially negative development, but not one that has happened yet.

The one critical area where bad things have already happened is in military procurement. I’m of the school of thought that believes that one of the main reasons that Serdiukov was removed is that his policies were threatening the income streams of key players in the defense industry. It is therefore not at all surprising that one of the Shoigu-led MOD’s early acts was to essentially take imports of military technology from foreign sources off the table. As I’ve already written, this will ease pressure on domestic defense industry to improve quality of production while keeping prices from spiraling out of control. As a result, the procurement of a new generation of military equipment in the quantities needed for the military is likely to be imperiled.

Other than in procurement policy, the key structural elements of the reform remain untouched. These include the shift to a three-tiered organizational structure for the military with the brigade as the key unit, the establishment of unified strategic commands that are designed to enhance inter-service cooperation, the reduction in the number of officers, and the goal of shifting away from conscription to a primarily contract-based manning structure over time. As long as they remain in place, the Russian military will remain on track to be transformed away from the Soviet mobilization army to a more modern, more mobile, and more unified military force. According to Golts, all of these elements have recently been affirmed by the country’s top political leadership and by top officials at the MOD. Golts further argues that the new defense plan recently presented to the president by Shoigu and new Chief of the General Staff Gerasimov, if it’s as comprehensive and thorough as described in the media, could only have been prepared under the direction of Serdiukov and Makarov. There simply has not been enough time to prepare anything serious in the three months since Serdiukov was fired.

It’s certainly possible, as Golts and other commentators have indicated, that Shoigu will come under increasing pressure from the old-school career generals to repeal those aspects of the reform that are, to me anyway, the core of transforming the military into a 21st century fighting force. Golts argues that because Shoigu has been made an army general, he will not be able to withstand the pressure to do whatever the generals want. An alternative (and not contradictory) argument, also made recently by Golts, is that Shoigu is likely to accede to the generals’ desires because he does not expect to the stay at the MOD for long and will therefore do whatever the generals ask of him. These are both possibilities. And the indications for the future of military reform, given Shoigu’s initial actions, are certainly not positive. But I have not yet seen anything definitive that would cause me to assume that Shoigu is going to reverse the structural aspects of the reform. I would therefore urge caution in reading any analyses that argue that Russian military reform is dead.

 

No more imports?

It seems that the new leadership team at the MOD has decided to stop using the threat of importing armaments from abroad to get Russian defense industry to improve the quality of its products. For a couple of years, this seemed to be a favorite tool for former Defense Minister Serdyukov, especially in his bid to improve the quality of Russian tanks and armored vehicles. I covered the topic on several occasions, in particular here and here. A recent report to the Military Industrial Commission’s Public Chamber also took up the question.

But just in the last week, there have been two indications that the MOD has turned away from imports and will return to the autarkic model of military procurement that has been more traditional for the country’s armed services. First, the commander of Russia’s Ground Forces announced that there will be no further orders of the Italian IVECO LMV65 armored vehicle, known in Russia as the Lynx. Under the previous regime at the MOD, an Oboronservis-owned plant in Voronezh was to produce these vehicles under license while undertaking an effort to use as many Russian components as possible. Just last July, the ministry had asked the government for permission to increase the order from 727 to 3000 vehicles. Now it appears that while existing contracts will be fulfilled, no more orders will be forthcoming and the ground forces will instead be equipped with the Russian-made Tigr vehicle, which is better armed but less well armored than the Lynx.

Just yesterday, Military-Industrial Commission Deputy Head Ivan Kharchenko called the Mistral deal absurd and argued that it has caused significant damage to the state and the Russian shipbuilding industry. Last month, the MOD announced that it is deferring plans to build the third and fourth Mistral ships in Russia, while continuing on with construction of the first two hulls in France. It seems that the only reason Russia has not canceled the contract altogether is that it would then be required to pay huge financial penalties to the French contractor.

All of this indicates that domestic defense industry has won its battle with the MOD over procurement policy. The conflict all along was between the real needs of the military for new equipment and the desire of defense industry to keep the money coming in regardless of whether or not it was able to provide the military with the equipment it needed in a timely manner. Instead, we may be returning to the old ways where the military is given little choice but to buy the equipment that the defense industry is producing, regardless of whether it fits the military’s needs. In some sectors, defense industry is well-positioned to fulfill the military’s needs. In others, imports seem to be the only solution, at least in the short to medium term. In a recent conversation, my colleague Ilya Kramnik noted that the An-26 light transport aircraft is soon to be retired, with no domestic replacements yet available. Neither the An-140T or the Il-112V are currently available, nor are they likely to be ready for serial production by 2016-17. In that case, Kramnik argues that the only possible replacements would be foreign planes such as the Alenia C-27J Spartan or the EADS CASA C-295. So the Russian military will have to consider the question of imports soon enough.

In the meantime, however, the defense industry’s defeat of Serdyukov reduces the likelihood that the military will get the equipment it needs. It will take time for the MOD to amass the political capital to fight back against the industry and its allies. The result will be that the industry will get its money, while the military will be promised new equipment that in many cases will not arrive on schedule. In a few years, the military’s situation will get even worse, while the MOD will have rebuilt some of its lost political capital. At that point the fight over imports versus domestic manufacture will resume  — but that won’t come for 3-4 years.

 

Taking armaments imports seriously, part 2

Yesterday, I discussed some of the findings of a report by Viktor Murakhovsky and Ruslan Aliev on the effectiveness of arms imports, international cooperation and technology transfer in Russia’s military industrial complex. Today, I conclude the discussion by looking at the parts of the report that examine specific examples of import deals, the risks of import dependence, and the report’s overall conclusions.

The report notes that the Russian procurement system has no way of determining the gaps in domestic procurement that have to be addressed through imports. It also has no way of choosing among alternative types of weapons systems when making foreign procurement decisions, given its lack of experience with open international tenders. Finally, it has little experience in formulating advantageous contracts with foreign defense firms through means such as offsets and joint R&D. Instead, decisions on imports are usually made because of the personal or political interests of key decision-makers in the MOD and at the highest levels of government. The report mentions a few examples:

  • Israeli UAVs that were purchased in 2009-10 are relatively outdated, have limited uses, and do not allow for the study and transfer of current technologies. This contradicts the stated purpose of the deal, which (in the words of former Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin were to transfer current technologies to our defense industry so that we can with their help develop our own prototypes of needed weapons and technology.”
  • IVECO LMV M65 “Lynx” armored vehicles, 10 of which were purchased in 2010 for testing. A contract to build 1775 of these armored vehicles at an Oboronservis/Iveco joint venture in Voronezh was signed in 2011, without any kind of open tender being conducted. Furthermore, it was signed before testing on the vehicles was completed and without a discussion of what role the vehicle would play in Russia’s military. According to the report, the likelihood that the plan to use 50% local components in the vehicles’ construction is very doubtful because many of the components belong to other foreign firms that have not agreed to license their production to Russian firms. The contract was signed without an open competition.
  • The Mistral amphibious assault ship has been criticized in Russia because Russia does not need such a ship, does not have the infrastructure to maintain the ship once it is built, and the government’s ability to finance  serial production is highly uncertain. The authors argue that there is no clarity on whether Russia will get useful technology, such as the SENIT 9  tactical combat information system and the SIC-21 battle group C2 system, as part of the deal. Other components, such as the power plant, come from European advances in civilian shipbuilding and could be acquired commercially for a Russian-built ship without any problems. The most attractive feature of the Mistral for the Russian Navy is its multifunctionality; it would be highly useful for the RFN to have a ship that can serve as an all-in-one barracks, HQ, hospital, helicopter carrier, and amphibious landing ship. But there are other options for these types of ships, and a tender could have led to a more advantageous deal.
  • The establishment of a training center in Mulino by the German Rheinmetall Defense Company is the one positive example of foreign procurement cited in the report. In this case, there are well-defined Russian subcontractors on board, the offsets are included in the contract, and Russian companies will benefit from the experience of technical integration by being involved in the project. (There’s no mention of open tenders here, though. I’m not sure why the authors don’t care about this factor in this one case — DPG)

The report’s final substantive section addresses the risks and benefits of dependence on imports of military technology. Risks include the possibility that the selling country will not be able or willing to supply needed parts or armaments in wartime and even blocking functionality of electronic systems and components should the purchasing side get involved in a conflict with an ally of the selling country. Excessive dependence on imports would also have negative consequences for domestic defense industry. However, if done right, imports would provide a number of benefits for Russia, including the ability to study and adopt the technical solutions used in foreign equipment, the ability to quickly fulfill the needs of the military in areas where domestic defense industry is weak, the possibility of establishing joint production of some types of equipment that could then be sold at a profit to third countries. The authors then spell out a number of factors that would allow Russia to have an effective system for importing military equipment. These include open tenders, offsets, requirements for tech transfer and local licensed production, the establishment of clear rules that apply to all decisions on import of foreign military equipment, guarantees that support for imported equipment would be provided regardless of future circumstances, and the depoliticization of future deals. They highlight three criteria for importing equipment: 1) it must be needed by the military, 2) it must not have suitable domestic analogs, and 3) it must not be critical for the military’s needs, reducing the risks of a breakdown in deliveries. Based on these criteria, the types of equipment that Russia might want to import in the near future include communications and navigation systems, aircraft engines, sniper equipment, and UAVs. France and Italy are listed as the most suitable partners, due to the qualifications of their defense enterprises and past experience in cooperation.

The report ends with a set of overall conclusions:

  • The military needs to import arms and equipment because of the prevalence of outdated equipment in the military and the defense industry’s inability to produce equipment of all types.
  • The import of military equipment carries significant risks for security and for the future of domestic defense industry.
  • The import of military equipment must be organized so that all decisions are made according to a single set of rules, with the involvement of both the state and domestic defense industry representatives. Tenders, offsets, and guarantees of support must be part of all contracts.
  • In most areas of military production, there is no need for imports. In some areas imports are needed in order to study foreign experience so as to improve future domestic production.
  • Tech transfer and joint production are of greatest interest for Russia.
  • Laws on the import of high tech components need to be simplified.
  • The MOD must take the needs of defense industry into account in formulating its procurement and import policies, in order to ensure that defense industry capabilities are maintained and improved.
  • Russian defense industry needs to be subjected to a technology audit in order to clearly formulate its problems and goals. This audit would help in formulating an import strategy.
  • All import contracts need to be audited to ensure that they are financially and technically sound. Doubtful contracts should be suspended.
  • Institutional imbalances between the MOD and defense industry need to be corrected.

 

 

Taking armaments imports seriously, part 1

The Military Industrial Commission’s Public Chamber is considering a report on the effectiveness of arms imports, international cooperation and technology transfer in Russia’s military industrial complex. The report is authored by Viktor Murakhovsky and Ruslan Aliev. The report addresses the history of Russian military imports, going back to World War I. It also looks at the comparative experience of other major military produces around the world, especially the US and France. It then plunges into the issues surrounding the Russian MOD’s recent forays into importing military technology, concluding with recommendations on how to make the process more effective. The entire report is quite long, 25 pages, so I’ll just focus on some of the highlights, including the conclusions and recommendations.

The history section has three conclusions, as follows:

  • Russia has always been an active importer of military hardware (including from the US during WWII and from Warsaw Pact countries throughout the post-war period).
  • Excessive dependence on imports at the start of the 20th century had a negative impact on national security and was one of the primary causes of Russia’s failures in World War I.
  • During the industrialization period, the wide use of various forms of import (including samples, equipment, and technologies) allowed for the rapid development of domestic defense industry. This positive example should be taken into account during the current “new industrialization” period.

The comparative section lists the following conclusions:

  • Military production around the world is becoming increasingly integrated, for both economic and political reasons.
  • At the same time, foreign states retain firm control over the transfer of military technologies and production.
  • Strong competition on the international arms market is partially caused by strong protectionist measures of leading states in military production.
  • States that conduct independent foreign and domestic policies (Russia, China, Latin America) are subject to even stricter export controls by the governments of these states.
  • Russia can derive practical benefit from following France’s example, both in terms of institutions and in terms of import policy.
  • The European market for arms suggests the benefits of using offsets that allow countries to import military technology on more advantageous terms.

The report’s discussion of the French example is interesting. The authors highlight the responsibility placed on the French Defense Ministry for supporting national defense industry and note that this is done primarily through Europe-wide cooperation in military R&D and high tech projects. They focus on the annually updated 30 year plan for military needs and future procurement, developed by the main directorate for armaments. The technical characteristics of new military technology is formulated by the defense industry council, which is headed by the defense minister and includes the heads of the major defense enterprises. They highlight how French efforts to use defense procurement to support national R&D and the country’s industrial base are close to what Russia needs.

The rest of the report focuses on Russia’s recent history of importing military technology, with the first section addressing the institutional structure for concluding import deals. They note that reform of the various structures responsible for military procurement have been undergoing reform for the last decade. The common thread is that until quite recently none of these structures were able to function. First Rosoboronzakaz, then the Military Industrial Commission, and then Rosoboronpostavka were all launched with great fanfare but failed to turn into agencies that could develop a full-fledged procurement policy or to conduct it. Between 2007 and 2010, a procurement system was created, with the exception of the development of mechanisms to formulate a long-term procurement policy (which would establish the role of imported equipment in the procurement plan). The lack of a long-term policy has meant that each import decision has been made based on political considerations, rather than an overall vision of the Russian military’s needs and the domestic defense industry’s gaps in fulfilling those needs.

Here are the report’s conclusions on this section:

  • Until 2000, there were no procedures in place for armaments procurement. The system remained incomplete through 2007.
  • In 2010, procurement and supervision over procurement were both concentrated at the MOD. Without a planning mechanism, decisions were made based primarily on political considerations. The imbalance of power in favor of the MOD led to a political crisis surrounding the fulfillment of the State Armaments Program for 2011-2020.
  • Importing various weapons systems is a completely acceptable scenario for Russia as long as the criteria are formulated in advance.
  • Existing import deals do not meet the needs of the military and do not match the interests of the state’s industrial and technological policies.
  • They key problem for the import of military equipment revolves around finding the optimal balance between the interests of the MOD and of defense industry.
  • This requires the reconstruction of the existing system of requirements planning and military strategy formulation at the MOD.
  • The government, probably through the Military Industrial Commission, should take on the role of analyzing the needs for future weapons systems and making decisions on whether to import them or produce them domestically.

Tomorrow, I will discuss the parts of the report that examine specific examples of import deals, the risks of import dependence, and the overall conclusions.

Predictions on future Russian air force procurement

In a post on his blog, Ilya Kramnik today made a set of predictions regarding upcoming procurement plans for the Russian air force. Here’s a translation:

Combat aircraft:

  • a second contract for 48 Su-35s in 2014 or 2015, with deliveries in 2016-20.
  • a second contract for 24-32  Su-30SMs for naval aviation in 2013-2014, with deliveries in 2015-18.
  • accepting the option on 16 more Su-34s, in addition to 124 already ordered, with deliveries through 2020. An additional large contract may be concluded after 2015, so that the air force has a total of 180-200 Su-34s by 2025.
  • a contract for 48-72 MiG-35s in 2014-15, with deliveries through 2020. Without such a contract, MiG may have to be shut down.
  • a second contract for 12-16 MiG-29Ks for naval aviation is also likely.
  • a contract for 32-40 Su-25SM(or TM)/UBMs, with deliveries in 2017-22.
  • two contracts for T-50 fifth-generation fighter jets. First one would be 8-12 aircraft for the Lipetsk combat training center. That contract is likely to be concluded in 2013, with deliveries in 2014-16. A second contract for 40-60 aircraft is likely to be concluded in 2015, with deliveries scheduled for 2016-22.

Transport and special aircraft:

  • Contract for 30-40 Il-76MD-90As in 2013, with deliveries in 2016-20.
  • Contract for 10 An-124-300s in 2015, with deliveries in 2018-22.
  • Contract for 30-40 An-70s in 2015, with deliveries in 2019-25.
  • 25-30 special purpose Tu-204/214s, with deliveries in 2015-25.
  • Contract for 100 multi-functional transport aircraft in 2015, with delivery of the first 30 in 2019-25.
  • Contract for 40 light transport aircraft in 2015, with deliveries in 2019-24. Strong possibility that these will be foreign aircraft, such as the Italian C-27J Spartan, assembled in Russia under license.

Kramnik further notes that the recent discussion of delays in fulfillment of the State Armaments Program will most likely affect the air force least and the navy the most. I tend to agree. The aircraft industry is in much better shape than the shipbuilding industry (or the tank/artillery industries, for that matter). And the Russian military is less likely to scale back its ambitions for the air force than it is for the navy, which has already largely been consigned to the role of a coastal protection force for the foreseeable future. A delay in the development and construction of new destroyers won’t really affect the functioning of the navy too much at this point (given its current set of missions), as long as it can get its corvettes and frigates more or less on time and the Borei strategic submarines still get built.

Aircraft sales do provide the largest part of the Russian defense industry’s export earnings, however. So the question that arises for me is whether the industry will have the capacity to build all these aircraft in the expected time frame. Here we should distinguish between MiG, which (as Kramnik indicates) is desperate for orders in the aftermath of losing the Indian MMRCA tender, and Sukhoi, which has lots of orders for both the Russian military and foreign customers. Will Sukhoi be able to build all those planes at the same time? Possibly, but it will depend to some extent on the company’s success in modernizing its production facilities.

Putin spells out national security strategy

As part of his campaign for the presidency, Vladimir Putin has been publishing a series of articles on various themes. Yesterday, he turned to national security and specifically the Russian military. Since the full text is available in English, I won’t spend much time describing what is in the article, but will just comment on some themes that caught my attention.

I have to say, of all the articles Putin has published as part of his electoral program, this one is one of the best. It’s not a terribly high standard, given that at least one of them was found to have been plagiarized from other sources, but still.

The first part of the article provides one of the best justifications I have seen for the military reform that the government undertook starting back in the fall of 2008. Had this statement been made this clearly and forcefully back then, I think Putin, Serdiukov and company might have had an easier time convincing the expert community that they knew what they were doing. (Back then, the reform was rolled out without a clear plan or explanation, which generated a lot of criticism.) I’ve been a fan of the main ideas behind the reform effort from the start, so I’m glad to see this all spelled out so clearly by Putin (or, more likely, his ghostwriter). Here are the key points justifying the reform:

But previous experience proved that the potential for developing the military system inherited from the Soviet Union had become depleted….

It was not possible to build up the military simply by adding personnel and equipment partly because it didn’t solve the inefficiency problem and partly because the country lacked both the human and financial resources. Most importantly, that system did not meet contemporary and long-term requirements. We could eventually have lost our entire military potential, and we could have lost our armed forces as an efficient mechanism.

There was only one way out. We had to build a new army. We had to establish a modern and mobile army which could maintain permanent combat readiness.

This is followed by an equally clear discussion of accomplishments to date. These primarily have to do with changes in organizational structure, including the transition from brigades to divisions and from military districts to unified strategic commands.

Procurement

The section on future tasks focuses primarily on procurement. The list of priorities is worth quoting:

Our number one priorities are nuclear forces, aerospace defence, military communications, intelligence and control, electronic warfare, drones, unmanned missile systems, modern transport aviation, individual combat protection gear, precision weapons and defence capabilities against such weapons.

In terms of specific platforms and weapons, the list for the next decade reads as follows:

Over 400 modern land and sea-based inter-continental ballistic missiles, 8 strategic ballistic missile submarines, about 20 multi-purpose submarines, over 50 surface warships, around 100 military spacecraft, over 600 modern aircraft including fifth generation fighter jets, more than 1,000 helicopters, 28 regimental kits of S-400 air defence systems, 38 battalion kits of Vityaz missile systems, 10 brigade kits of Iskander-M missile systems, over 2,300 modern tanks, about 2,000 self-propelled artillery systems and vehicles, and more than 17,000 military vehicles.

Parts of this are more believable than others. Given that the military still isn’t sure what tank it wants to build, the 2,300 modern tanks number is particularly unlikely. And I have doubts about 600 modern aircraft and 50 surface warships (unless we count patrol boats and the like). Targets for helicopters, submarines, air defense systems and missiles are more likely to be achieved.

The social dimension

The biggest problems with the reform effort to date have been with the social dimension of reform. This dimension is given an extensive amount of attention in the article. The increase in salaries that came into effect in January is expected to solve the recruitment problem. We shall see.

Putin also made a new proposal to create the Russian equivalent of a GI Bill for soldiers to help with admission to and payment for a university education. This could prove attractive to less wealthy families who otherwise would have little hope of paying the bribes that are often necessary to gain admission to a Russian university.

At the same time, it’s not encouraging that the fiction of a million man army is being maintained. According to the article, there are  220,000 officers and 186,000 contract soldiers and sergeants currently serving in the military. The total number of conscripts serving at present is 350,000. That means the total force is around 750,000, rather than one million. To put it another way, 25 percent of all billets in the Russian military are currently vacant, although this is not being acknowledged. That’s a big problem. The only way to solve it is to step up recruiting of contract soldiers. Again, we shall see if the higher salaries help with that. If it works, then the plan to have 700,000 professional soldiers in place might be achievable, though almost certainly not by the target date of 2017.

Then there’s the housing issue. Putin again makes promises that the issue will be solved, this time by 2014. That’s a year later than previous statements. The deadlines for providing apartments to all active and retired officers who are owed one have been pushed back year after year, so I wouldn’t hold my breath on this.

Dealing with defense industry

The last third of the article deals with new demands that the military and government are placing on Russian defense industry. There’s not much there that hasn’t already been said by various officials elsewhere over the last year. After starting with the usual statements on the importance of domestic defense industry and their modernization, Putin once again makes clear that the military is not going to just accept what they’re being sold. As he puts it, “It is unacceptable for the army to become a market for morale-sapping obsolescent weapons, technologies and research and development, especially if it is being paid for out of the public purse.”

Modernization is to come in a number of ways:

  • The acquisition of foreign technologies with the aim of improving domestic production in the future.
  • Providing greater financial predictability for defense industry by placing state defense orders for a 3-5 (or even 7) year period.
  • Increasing transparency and competition among defense industry companies.
  • Privatizing state-run defense industrial companies.
  • Creating synergies between the defense and civilian economic sectors in order to spur innovation.

The parts about privatization and competition are interesting, as they seem to contradict efforts made in the previous Putin presidency to nationalize many of these same companies through the creation of quasi-state owned sectoral holding companies.  Is this an implicit admission that the government made a mistake then?

All in all, some reasonable grand plans for Russian defense industry, but few specifics on how they might be carried out. And that can probably double as an assessment of the article as a whole. The vision is clearly there. But the question still remains: can the vision be implemented successfully given Russian realities? Or will corruption, the intransigence of the old guard, and just plain old inertia stymie this vision? The jury is still out on that question.

Popovkin provides more details on armaments program

Last week, Vladimir Popovkin gave a lengthy interview to VPK, in which he went into greater detail on a number of issues raised in his press conference the previous week (which was thoroughly covered here). Here are some highlights from the interview:

2010 procurement. The Russian military received the following equipment in 2010: 8 satellites, 23 airplanes, 37 helicopters, 19 air defense systems, 16 anti-aircraft radars, 6 missile launchers, 61 tanks, almost 400 armored vehicles, and 6500 automobiles. Specific types were not mentioned.

Missile and air defense systems. The military will procure 100 S-500 air defense systems and 56 battalions of S-400s (the standard deployment model is 8 launchers per battalion and 4 missiles per launcher) and equip 10 brigades with Iskander missiles by 2020.  Development of the S-500 will be completed by 2013, with deliveries to the armed forces scheduled to begin in 2015. (Note that he is quite explicit that this will be 56 battalions of S-400s (i.e. 448 units), not 56 units.

Nuclear missiles. A new liquid fueled ICBM will be developed to replace the SS-18 Satan. It will be MIRVed with 10 warheads and will be ready by 2018. Bulava testing is planned to be completed this year with the goal of commissioning the missile and the first and second Borei SSBNs by the end of the year.

Strategic Bombers. The technical parameters of the new strategic bomber (PAK DA) will be determined in the next 2-3 years. At that point, the military will make a decision about procurement. The requirements for the aircraft include  supersonic speeds, long range, stealth, and ability to use precision-guided munitions against both air and land targets.

Naval forces. A new 5th generation multi-purpose nuclear attack submarine is currently in design, as is a new destroyer. Both will be armed with versions of the  Klub missile. There are also plans to design a new ship-based supersonic missile system labeled “Tsirkon-S.”

The Mistral deal. Popovkin confirmed some aspects of the Mistral deal that I have previously reported in this blog, including that it will include SENIT-9 combat information system for each ship, though without a license. He also makes the most explicit statement I’ve seen about the reason why Russia is acquiring these ships: “It must be underlined that having the combat information system on board the Mistral turns it into a flagship/command ship.” He goes on to say that the Mistral will provide fire control for various forces in the open seas, including dividing targets among surface ships, submarines and aviation, all working on the same frequency. In other words, as I have written before, the Mistral is not being acquired for its amphibious assault capabilities, but to serve as a naval command ship for Russian forces.

Furthermore, Popovkin confirms that a secondary but significant aspect of the deal is the opportunity it provides to reconstruct domestic shipyards, which will improve their capabilities for both military and civilian shipbuilding.

Foreign imports. The production of Iveco LMV light armored vehicles in Russia under license will begin this year, with the first vehicles being completed in 2012. Eventually, the production will use 50 percent Russian domestic components.

Russia may purchase two samples each of  the French (??) Freccia infantry fighting vehicles and the Italian Centauro heavy armored vehicles for testing purposes. Other foreign purchases that are being made, including UAVs, large combat ships, sniper rifles, etc, are being made with the goal of transferring modern technologies to domestic defense industry in order to then develop these types of equipment at home in the future.

Electronic components remain the greatest problem for domestic defense industry. This will require a special subprogram of the State Armaments Program to rectify.

Financing. In the past, 70 percent of the financing for the 10 year program was left for the last five years. This time, the financing will be spread out evenly over the entire cycle.

There’s a lot of food for thought here. No real surprises, but a lot of detail to flesh out previously made statements on various procurement related topics. As with all such pronouncements, I expect many deadlines will slip, but it’s worthwhile for the moment to focus on the intentions of the MOD in its procurement decision-making.

UPDATE: As noted by a commenter, the Freccia is actually Italian. Popovkin is mistaken either about the type of IFV or the country of origin.

Hi-tech imports could revive defence sector

The following piece was written in August for Oxford Analytica. I haven’t updated it, but it’s probably still useful as a summary of Russian plans for foreign procurement as of a few months ago. I’ll follow up in a few days with a second post with more details on cooperation with NATO.

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SUBJECT: Shifts in the military’s procurement strategy from purely domestic to a mix of domestic production and purchases from abroad.

SIGNIFICANCE: The government is accelerating efforts to procure major military platforms from abroad, including from NATO countries. These acquisition plans show that the government has finally realised that the domestic defence industry is incapable of producing complex platforms in a timely manner, forcing it to turn to foreign sources to re-equip its ageing military.

ANALYSIS: The Russian military’s procurement strategy has recently undergone a fundamental revision. Whereas in the past, government policy called for the military to procure virtually all equipment domestically, there has recently been a well-publicised effort to purchase some major equipment from abroad.

Slow pace Much of the disappointment with the defence industry stems from the slow pace of construction for major platforms:

Air Force This has been particularly evident in the Air Force (VVS):

    • The VVS received no new aircraft between 1994 and 2003, and only three since then.
    • Planners staked the future on the acquisition of the T-50 fifth-generation fighter aircraft, which was first proposed in the late 1980s, with design finally beginning in 2002. The goal was to procure 150-200 T-50s by 2030, with India procuring at least another 200-250.
    • It took five years for the first prototype to be built. At the time, the VVS commander indicated that three such planes would be ready by 2009. Instead, the original prototype’s maiden flight did not take place until January 2010 because of various technical problems, the most serious of which concerned engine design.

    Current plans call for the plane to enter serial production in the next three to five years, with the VVS receiving the first planes in 2015. However, given the history of manufacturing delays, it is more likely to enter active service no earlier than 2018.   If this is the case, it will mean that Russia will be about 12-15 years behind the United States in fighter aircraft design, and about on par with China.

    Ground Forces and Navy Similar problems have plagued the Ground Forces and the Navy (VMF). The military recently cancelled procurement of the T-95 battle tank, which had been in development for over 20 years, because it was already obsolete before it had even entered production.

      The VMF began construction of its new Admiral Gorshkov frigate in 2006, with the goal of completing the first ship in 2009 and procuring 20 by 2015. Since then, construction of the Gorshkov has bogged down so that the first ship will not be ready until 2011 at the earliest.  It will be impossible for the VMF to get more than four or five of these ships by its 2015 target date, and this more modest goal is contingent on no further slippage in the schedule.

      Workmanship defects The poor state of Russia’s defence industry is the main reason behind the delays. The best workers — those left over from the Soviet years, when the industry was well funded and highly prestigious — have retired or are about to do so. Few good people went into the field in the 1990s, when there was virtually no financing and the industry came close to collapse. At the same time, because there was no money for equipment modernisation, industrial plants began to deteriorate. By the start of Vladimir Putin’s presidency, even the allocation of additional financing was not enough to counteract the decline in the defence industry’s ability to produce high-quality products.

      Defects in workmanship have had a major impact on the military’s ability to develop new systems and platforms:

      • In addition to problems with the T-50 engines, there have been significant difficulties with the new Lada-class diesel submarine. The St Petersburg, the first submarine of this class, spent six years in sea trials (after seven years of construction) while the builder sought to resolve defects in its power plant.
      • The Bulava sea-launched ballistic missile has suffered multiple test failures, with each failure coming because of construction flaws (not design flaws) in various parts of the missile.

      Workmanship problems are very difficult to resolve compared to design flaws, because of their tendency to pop up in different places on each unit and because they quite often occur on parts built by sub-contractors.

      Hi-tech deficiencies The defence industry’s problems extend beyond poor workmanship. While design bureaus and major builders at least have experience building major platforms such as fighter aircraft, tanks and submarines, they are hopelessly behind European and US manufacturers in their ability to produce modern electronics and advanced equipment. Russian arms suppliers are still able, at least to some extent, to manufacture equipment that they built in the Soviet era. However, such technologically advanced items as digital communications equipment, identification friend-or-foe systems and night vision technology require fundamentally new designs that the defence industry is simply not capable of producing on its own.

      Domestic procurement Nonetheless, the Russian military will continue to procure most major weapons and platforms domestically. This includes items such as:

      • missiles;
      • tanks;
      • aircraft; and
      • most ships.

      Some of these items, such as ballistic missiles, cannot be purchased from abroad because of the sensitive nature of the equipment.  In any case, the SS-26 (Iskander) theatre ballistic missile is considered effective.  For tanks, aircraft, and ships, slightly modernised late-Soviet designs will serve quite well now that the Russian government has decided that its military should be configured to fight in smaller regional conflicts, rather than a major frontal war against NATO or China.  Furthermore, some of these modernised Soviet designs, such as the S-400 air defence systems and the An-124 transport aircraft, are of excellent quality and utility.

      Given the amount of money now being invested into military modernisation, it is likely that many construction problems will be at least partially resolved in the next few years. If this is the case, it is likely that Russia will see increased domestic procurement of:

      • new aircraft (both the T-50 and Su-35BM);
      • new ships (Gorshkov frigates, various submarines);
      • T-90 tanks; and
      • various types of artillery.

      There is already some evidence of this trend: Russian officials have rolled back announced plans to procure armoured combat vehicles abroad, and will instead use Italian armor on vehicles built domestically.

      Purchases from abroad However, for certain types of equipment, the Russian military will have no choice but to go abroad. Russia would like to procure advanced electronic equipment and platforms where such equipment is integral.  Digital communications devices, guided munitions, and unmanned aerial vehicles are especially important in this regard, as the domestic defence industry largely lacks the capability to produce such equipment. True guided munitions are hindered by the archaic nature of GLONASS, the Russian equivalent to the US-designed GPS system.  Negotiations to purchase Mistral ships have largely focused on persuading France to include the electronics package that essentially runs the ship.  Russian officials would like to license production of two of the four ships in order to use the construction of the last two Mistral ships in Russia to revitalise Russian shipbuilding.

      CONCLUSION: The authorities hope that foreign procurement, especially if it includes licenses to produce the equipment in Russia, will help revive the domestic defence industry. The idea is that foreign purchases are a temporary measure designed to maintain Russia’s military capabilities while the defence industry is restored over the next 10-15 years. However, they are likely to run into difficulties receiving permission to purchase the most advanced technologies from NATO states.

      The Mistral sale: No reason to panic

      The recent news that the French government has agreed to sell one or more of its Mistral amphibious assault ships to Russia has led to virtual panic in some quarters. The cold warriors who have never quite gotten over the view that the Soviet Union Russia is hell-bent on threatening the rest of the world seem to believe that Russia will use these ships to attack (or at least threaten to attack) any neighboring states that dare to oppose it.  Here’s a typical statement (from Vlad Socor):

      NATO is being tested, with “its future at stake,” not so much in Afghanistan as the line recently went, but rather in Brussels itself and in the Alliance’s most influential capitals. The latest among these tests –one that the Alliance seems only determined to side-step– is over the proposed French naval modernization program for Russia. The program envisages selling one French Mistral-class warship –a state-of-the art, offensive power-projection capability– to Russia and licensing the construction of three or four ships of the same class in Russia, potentially usable in the Baltic and Black Sea.

      And a little later in the same article:

      Georgia remains a prime target of opportunity for Russia in the Black Sea basin at present. A Mistral-class ship would enable Russia to threaten amphibious and helicopter landings on Georgia’s sea coast, with far greater speed and effectiveness than those of Russia’s existing capabilities. Russia’s naval command publicly alluded to the Mistral’s potential use against Georgia when starting the talks with France for the sale. Paris has ignored Georgian officials’ appeals (EDM, September 18, November 2, December 2, 2009). Meanwhile, Georgia is an all-but disarmed country and (as a thwarted NATO aspirant) is not covered by any external security guarantees.

      There is a widespread assumption that these ships would be used in either the Black or Baltic Seas. This allows the writer to claim that the ships will increase the threat Russia poses to Georgia or the Baltic States. Most of this speculation is based on a single comment by Admiral Vysotsky, the Commander in Chief of the Russian Navy, about Russia being able to win the 2008 war with Georgia more quickly if it had the Mistral. He most likely said this in order to increase the navy’s chances of getting more procurement funding. The Russian navy would play a minor role in any conflict in the region (except with Turkey, god forbid). A future conflict with Georgia, just like the previous one, would primarily involve ground forces, with air force cover to the extent it’s still capable of that. The Navy would have a small role, with or without the Mistral — just enough to justify continued funding.

      Furthermore, I very much doubt that the Mistral ship(s) will be based in the Black Sea or the Baltic. All of the Russian reports I’ve seen on this assume that these ships will go to the two big fleets (Northern and Pacific). I share this belief, in part because of prestige factors — the Black Sea Fleet is a bit of a backwater, despite all the politics that swirl around it. The Baltic Fleet even more so. The Russian navy is not going to put its most modern (and one of its largest) ships in a backwater. Second, basing in the Black Sea will be tricky. The agreement with Ukraine prevents Russia from placing new ships in Sevastopol. It’s possible, of course, that Yanukovich will agree to allow this to happen, but I think he will seek to avoid needlessly antagonizing the anti-Russian part of the Ukrainian population and will not do this. This means that a Mistral-class ship would have to be based at Novorossiisk. This presents various logistical challenges — there isn’t very much space there now and the base expansion is not ready yet and won’t be for several more years. So even if Russia wanted to place a new Mistral-class ship in the Black Sea, it would be difficult for it to do so in the short term. And more than one is simply out of the question.

      A second concern for the cold warriors is that the Mistral would significantly increase the Russian Navy’s force projection capability. This is also based on the Vysotsky comment — the part about how with this ship, Russian troops could have gotten to Georgia more quickly. But Russia has plenty of domestically built amphibs — some of which were used in August 2008. The main constraint then (as Vysotsky noted) was the speed of the ships vs the distance from their bases in Sevastopol and Novorossiisk to the conflict area. By the time they got to Georgia, all that was left to do was to mop up. Is the Mistral that much faster than their existing ships? Its top speed is 18.8 knots. Ropuchas and Alligators can go 16-18 knots. So the talk about Russian troops being able to get to Georgia faster on the Mistral is just talk. They just don’t need the Mistral for the purpose of troop transport.

      There are three potential reasons for the purchase: 1) As a helo platform, 2) as a command ship (if they get some advanced electronics as part of the deal), 3) as means of rebuilding the domestic shipbuilding industry (if they get to build the other 3 under license). These are obviously not mutually exclusive. I have discussed reasons 2 and 3 before (here and here). Galrahn has an excellent discussion of reason 1. Basically, he argues, helicopters are a key part of Russian naval doctrine. They need new helicopter carriers and may be concerned that their domestic shipbuilding industry is not currently capable of building such a ship on its own. So they buy one from the French to improve this core capability and hope to also get a license to build more domestically so they can revive their shipbuilding industry.

      The last thing they want is to be dependent on foreign purchases for the long term. The Russian military’s culture is based on self-sufficiency. The admission that they have to buy a major ship from abroad, and from a NATO member no less, is deeply traumatic for top commanders and therefore something they hope to avoid having to do in the future. To say that this deal will open the floodgates to future NATO arms sales to Russia fundamentally misunderstands this point. Though from my point of view, the more NATO sells arms to Russia the better. Ideally, NATO would also buy certain kinds of arms from Russia. They still make really good machine guns, for example. If NATO states and Russia develop a relationship where they sell equipment to each other, they are much less likely to view each other with hostility and distrust. And this can only help increase stability in Europe.

      So, to summarize, the Mistral is likely to be based in the Pacific and/or Northern Fleets, where it is very unlikely to be a threat to Georgia or the Baltic States. Its purpose will not be to transport troops for amphibious landings, but to carry helicopters and/or to serve as a command center for naval task forces. And Russian leaders hope to use the newly established relationship with the French to revive their domestic shipbuilding, so they don’t have to buy ships from abroad in the future.

      Why is the Russian defense industry in such bad shape?

      In recent weeks, I have been writing about how the Russian defense industry has shown itself to be incapable of providing the military with high quality weapons, platforms and systems, despite the relatively abundance of financing for military procurement over the last few years. But why hasn’t the money been spent on modernizing plants and hiring experienced workers?

      An article in today’s NVO describes one source of problems for the industry. It argues that modernization of these kinds of plants can only be carried out with secure government funding. And it further notes that there is plenty of financing available for this. The problem is that while money for the coming calendar year is usually allocated in November, it doesn’t reach the intended recipient until the end of the third quarter (i.e. August-September). And not all recipients receive all of the sums they have been allocated.

      This uncertainty means that they cannot order new equipment until the money arrives. At this point, they are faced with a legal requirement to spend all allocated money in the current fiscal year (i.e. before December, as the fiscal and calendar years in Russia match). Since the complex (and often unique) equipment that is required for real modernization to occur needs several months to be designed and built, it cannot be ordered in August-September.

      But the money that is received must be spent on something, or else it will not only be lost, but the recipient is likely to receive a reduced allocation for the following year. So the money is spent on cheap standard equipment, which is not strictly needed for modernization, but at least the money isn’t going completely to waste. And the recipient can send in reports to the government stating that new technologies have been purchased, the percentage of new equipment at the factory has increased, etc. But in real terms, no actual modernization has occurred.

      The question of what this money is doing from November to August is left unanswered, though two options strongly suggest themselves — either there is corruption and the money is used to accrue interest for private individuals or there is bureaucratic incompetence in the administration and it just takes a long time for money to be transferred to the intended recipient. Most likely, both of these factors are at play.

      If this analysis is correct, the implication is that improvements in the state of the defense industry are impossible without changes in the financing process. The easiest path would be to relax the restriction that requires allocated financing to be used in the current year. That would allow recipients to order needed equipment whenever the money does arrive, without worrying about having their future allocations cut. This seems to be much more realistic than actually eliminating corruption or increasing administrative efficiency in the Russian government.

      (NOTE: I will be traveling for the next couple of weeks. Updates will resume sometime in early January. Happy holidays!)