Alexander Golts makes some excellent points on the reason’s behind the incompetence of Russian defense industry in his excellently-titled editorial in today’s Moscow Times. (“Russia’s Eternal Military-Industrial Kolkhoz”)
Some scattered highlights:
Medvedev exposed the biggest secret of Russia’s military complex: It does not produce any modern equipment but busies itself trying to “modernize” old airplanes, tanks and missiles that were designed way back in the 1970s and 1980s. This highly ineffective practice of updating and upgrading old designs is exactly what the president said needs to be stopped.
The “Zapad 2009” war games convinced the military leadership that despite claims of possessing weapons “that are unmatched by any other country,” Russia’s military-industrial complex is physically incapable of producing equipment with modern information support.
The reason for the ineffectiveness of Russia’s military-industrial complex is that it is not an industrial complex at all. It is actually thousands of scattered enterprises that are incorrectly classified as defense contractors — mostly to save jobs. Some of them haven’t produced anything for years. This situation made it impossible to implement full-scale serial production in the defense industry. The best that most contractors can do is to manufacture enough pieces of hardware to fill the piecemeal orders trickling down from the main production plants where the final, antiquated assembly process is carried out. That is why the price for parts continuously increases, but their quality does not.
Meanwhile, Pavel Podvig provides another example of the problems besieging the defense industry, this time in connection to the highly problematic Bulava SLBM.
It is understandable that the designers are having jitters about the upcoming launch – the missile failed in four of the last five tests. Moreover, it appears that there is no consistency in failures, so it is hard to know which system will be affected next.
At this point it is hard to tell what the future holds for the Bulava program. Even if it ends the current string of failed tests, the confidence in the missile would probably never be particularly high.