Russia to buy more weapons from the West?

bobbymike

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From Strategy Page:

Russians Admit Their Stuff Sucks
by James Dunnigan
October 21, 2010
The recent Russian decision to buy four Mistral amphibious assault ships from France is just the beginning. According to the Russian Defense Minister, Russia will seek more Western weapons and military equipment. Russia is planning to spend over $600 billion in the next decade to replace aging Cold War gear. The Defense Ministry insists that the Mistral deal is but the first of many. Russia already has a deal with Israel, to build a factory in Russia to build Israeli UAVs under license. This arrangement may be aborted because the Israelis apparently expect Russia to stop selling advanced weapons to Syria and Iran in return for Russo-Israeli cooperation in building weapons for Russian forces.

Russia is going to the West for military gear because Russian defense industries do not produce high quality stuff. This is a difficult admission to make, but it's what the Russian Defense Minister said (and a lot of Russian military personnel believe.) While Russia is still a major supplier of arms, they produce the same old Cold War era stuff. It's cheap and reliable. But for reequipping the Russian armed forces, the Russian brass want the best. That means going to the West. This was unthinkable during the Cold War, and for two decades thereafter. But now, times have changed.

Meanwhile, Russian defense firms are fully booked, and are unable to deliver some items for long periods because of backorders. The defense industry employs nearly three million people and accounts for about 20 percent of industrial jobs in Russia. At the end of the Cold War in 1991, defense related production was more than three times what it is now. It was the large size of the defense industry that played a major role in bankrupting the Soviet Union. The Russians were never quite sure (cost accounting not being a communist favorite) what proportion of their GDP was devoted to military spending, but it is estimated that it was over 20 percent. That was more than four times the figure for Western nations.

So in the last two decades, the Russian weapons industries depended heavily on exports. Russian arms export sales are stuck at about $8 billion a year, mainly because of problems with the two largest customers; China and India. Russian arms exports had been growing rapidly during the last decade. In 2005 Russian arms exporters had already booked orders for six billion dollars worth of sales per year through 2008. In 2004, Russian arms sales were $5.6 billion, and that went to $6 billion in 2005 and $7 billion in 2006. Russian arms sales were only $4.3 billion in 2003, and ballooned as the economies of their two biggest customers (India and China) grew larger. That, and the escalating price of oil (driven largely by increased demand from China and India), sent international arms sales from $29 billion in 2003, to over $60 billion six years later. Oil rich countries, particularly those in the Persian Gulf, as eager to buy more weapons, with which to defend their assets.

The United States and Russia are the largest exporters of weapons, together accounting for about 70 percent of world sales. Traditionally, the U.S. sold nearly three times as much as Russia, and that ratio seems to be more than holding. The U.S. sells higher priced weapons with a reputation for being the best available. Because of all the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, American weapons also have the valuable "combat proven" label.

There has been more effort by the Russians to not just sell on price, but also on service and warranties. Most of the cost of a new weapon comes during the lifetime (often a decade or more) of use. In the past, Russia had a bad reputation for support, and lost a lot of those "after-market" sales of maintenance services and spare parts. The U.S. was much better in that respect, but much more expensive. Now the Russians not only have the price advantage (often half, or less, the cost of equivalent American weapons), but an improving reputation for providing good service. The Russians are also selling more high tech, and expensive, warships. For many years, warplanes comprised about two thirds of Russian sales, but now, about half the sales are for warships. But Russian defense firms have not been able to catch up with the West, and especially the United States, in the highest tech department.

Over the last decade, about 40 percent of Russian arms exports went to China. But that is now gone because Russian manufacturers got fed up with how the Chinese stole Russian technology. The Chinese have been quite brazen of late, as they copy Russian military equipment, and then produce their own versions without paying for the technology. Worse, the Chinese are now offering to export these copies. The Russians are trying to work out licensing deals with the Chinese, but are not finding much interest. The Chinese say their generals are angry over how Russia sells technology to potential Chinese enemies, like India. The Russians don't understand that, as they have been selling weapons to India for decades. Russia fears that the Chinese have just decided that they don't need to buy Russian technology, or equipment, any more, and can just steal what they need. Then again, all this could just be a lot of posturing, as the Chinese negotiate to get the best deal they can for Russian military technology. It is cheaper to build under license, because that way you get technical assistance from the developer of the technology.

India is unhappy with Russian sloppiness in handling large projects, like refurbishing an unfinished Cold War era carrier. This project has been a financial disaster for India. Worse yet, India is buying more Western (Israeli, European and American) weapons, and notes the differences in performance and service.

If Russia cannot change a lot of old habits real quick, their flourishing arms export business is going to slide back into the cellar. But meanwhile, Western manufacturers are eager to sell to Russia, a country that for nearly a century was considered the enemy. Russia considers about ten percent of their weapons to be world class, and it may be their belief that working with Western arms makers may increase that percentage.
 

Demon Lord Razgriz

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I read about this on Defense News about a month ago, and honestly I have to agree with the Russians. Other than their Tanks & Fighter Aircrafts, their stuff sucks compared to top of the line Western weapons. :/ Hopefully if the Russians can get their stuff uptodate with an infusion of Western tech, they'll be more competitive.
 

Triton

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The subject title is a little misleading. Russia isn't interested in buying completed weapon systems from the West. Russia is interested in technology transfer to update its factories and manufacturing methods by licensing Western designs, such as the French Mistral. After the four Mistrals are completed, the modernized shipyard could be used to manufacture updated Russian ship designs to current West quality standards.
 

SOC

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Demon Lord Razgriz said:
I read about this on Defense News about a month ago, and honestly I have to agree with the Russians. Other than their Tanks & Fighter Aircrafts, their stuff sucks compared to top of the line Western weapons. :/

Uh, what? Ever heard of pretty much any Russian SAM system fielded after 1980? Air launched missiles, the Tu-160, the An-124, the Kirov CGN, the Akula SSN...Russia did and does do a lot of things very, very well.
 

JFC Fuller

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SOC said:
Demon Lord Razgriz said:
I read about this on Defense News about a month ago, and honestly I have to agree with the Russians. Other than their Tanks & Fighter Aircrafts, their stuff sucks compared to top of the line Western weapons. :/

Uh, what? Ever heard of pretty much any Russian SAM system fielded after 1980? Air launched missiles, the Tu-160, the An-124, the Kirov CGN, the Akula SSN...Russia did and does do a lot of things very, very well.

With the exception of the Kirov* you are kind of right. The missile systems are pretty good, but the land vehicles and surface ships are awful. Even with the missile programmes there is very serious concerns over the quality control of the production phase (exemplified by Bulava) and the ageing of the R&D staff resulting from chronic underinvestment and a general brain drain from Russia (also exemplified by Bulava).

*The Kirov class is one of the most overrated ships in naval history, with the exception of the massive ASuW missile battery it offers little that the Arleigh Burke class does not have on less than half the displacement and with much greater reliability and much lower costs.
 

SOC

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I don't really buy Bulava as a reason to indict the entire missile industry. Topol-M and RS-24 work just fine. Bulava seems to be a flawed design that they just haven't sorted out yet. They're stuck with having to make it work rather than being able t okill it and start with a clean sheet of paper design.
 

TinWing

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Wow. There are a lot of stereotypes put forward in that article, not to mention outright disinformation.

For instance, do we really know the details of licensing agreements between Russia and China? What constitutes a "copy" as opposed to license production? Similarly, what agreements and laws govern the "intellectual property" of the Soviet era?

It's also worth noting that the Soviet had completely different notions than the West when it came to technology. Sure, during the Cold War, we liked to accuse the Soviets of copying just about everything, but after "the wall fell," we came to realize that the Soviets were marching to a completely different drummer. As I kid I was shocked to read about utterly bizarre Soviet practices in shipbuilding and aerospace.

I personally don't think that the current Russian leadership is simply buying Western hardware for nefarious purposes, or for surreptitious technology transfer, but because many Russian industrial sectors are in shambles from decades of inactivity - or never existed to begin with. In terms of shipbuilding, the Soviets always had to rely and Finland, and even Poland, for certain types. Why is it any surprise that two decades later, the current Russian leadership is buying French built ships? If Russian needs to buy a pair of helicopter carriers, it's simply cheaper and quicker to import a proven design, and given the size of the order, it does even make sense to build domestically.

As far as the carrier refurbishment for India, it's worth noting that all Soviet era carriers were built in the Ukraine and the plans disappeared after the break up of the Soviet Union. Maybe they are in a vault somewhere, but it's equally likely that they were burnt by vagrants at the abandoned shipyard. So between the unrealistic price of the contract, years of negotiations before starting work, the missing plans, Russian inflation and a shortage of skilled workers due to the building boom in Moscow, it isn't hard to see why the project has been a disaster. It didn't help that the ship had a massive engineer room fire and had been laid up in an unmaintained condition for years. Do really need to add that Soviet shipbuilding practices were utterly bizarre to begin with?
 

Triton

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Is it possible that Russia has access to other products in the DCNS product portfolio? Perhaps another STX France and United Shipbuilding Corporation work sharing arrangement? A Russian aircraft carrier based on the Deuxième porte-avions français (PA-2) design? Or access to other products and technology in development by DCNS?
 

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