Russian Defense Industry Won’t Get a Drachma

It is known perfectly well, Russia’s defense industry pinned great hopes on the visit of India’s Minister of Defense George Fernandes to Russia. However, the hopes didn’t come true: George Fernandes concluded not a single contract in Russia. Right before the visit of the Indian minister of defense to Moscow, the Russian mass media declared that he would certainly conclude contracts for license production of the Amur-1650 submarines and for supplies of the Smerch long-range rocket system. Instead, both parties only concluded an intergovernmental protocol on development of bipartite military and technical cooperation.

However, as it turns out, the situation is not at all hopeless for the Russian defense industry. It is an open secret already that brains have become unbelievably cheap as a result of the economic reforms in Russia. It’s incredible, but R and D work in Russia is one of the world’s cheapest! What is more, licenses for unique developments in the sphere of rocket production, shooting weapon production, aviation, etc. are often sold to foreigners for next to nothing. India also decided to develop new generation weapons in Russia at a low price.

The document concluded between Russia and India contains several interesting items. For instance, India plans to participate in “joint development of a plane of the fifth generation.” What is more, George Fernandes discussed the plan not only with Russian officials, but also with the directors of the Sukhoi, Russia’s aircraft military and industrial complex.

To tell the truth, nowadays Russia is happy enough to have even this kind of cooperation. However, it is actually very important for Russia that the Indian side is supposed to finance the program almost completely; at the same time, Russia would like to get an opportunity to use the newly developed plane as well. The situation is rather problematic, as such large-scale developments were never carried out in Russia with participation of some foreign state. High-ranking officials in the Russian Ministry of Defense are breaking the brains over the problem of keeping the state secret during the planned joint development of a new plane. It seems that India is already tired of purchasing Russia’s old military developments. It is unlikely that weapons developed in the 1970s will be still popular within many years. And although the Russian defense budget has been increased, the country still has no money for development of new kinds of weapons.

The very object that is to be developed, a fighter of the fifth generation, is only an abstract technological term so far. It is believed that four generations of warplanes were developed in the country after WWII. At the same time, several technological solutions developed at the end of the past century can be rightfully considered separate elements of this “ideal flying killer” of the next generation.

Aviation theorists say that fighters of the fifth generation must have cruising supersonic speed, are to be undetectable by radars in the radio frequency region (Stealth technology), must be capable of attacking many targets at once; they are also to be super-maneuvering and must have a wide range of other characteristics that are supposed to improve the battle capacities. There is only one plane of this class in the world; it is America’s F-22 Raptor. However, American developers themselves and military men say that the fighter doesn’t completely satisfy all the above mentioned requirements. Currently, the USA is working on development of a new light fighter of the fifth generation code named F-35.

It is to be mentioned that the USSR started development of a fighter of the fifth generation almost at the same very period as the USA, in the mid 1980s. However the works were suspended and blocked for an uncertain period because of the breakup of the Soviet Union and the subsequent economic reforms. Only in 1997 the Sukhoi aircraft military and industrial complex had an opportunity to test its own prototype of a plane of the fifth generation, S-37 (it was later renamed in Su-47). The first flight of a similar model developed in the MiG corporation, the multi-functional front-line fifth-generation fighter, took place in 2000. As a result of some strange competitive intrigues, it was the Sukhoi enterprise that got a grant for development of a fifth-generation fighter. It is supposed that test flights of this new machine will begin in 2006, and series production will start in 2010.

However, this program is just partially financed by the government. The authorities had promised to appropriate 1.5 billion dollars for development of a new fighter, but later this promise was forgotten. The sum was meant for production of only four test prototypes of the new model; the whole of the program costs five times more. A production program designed for production of 500 fighters at the approximate cost of 50 million dollars each supposes that Russia must invest 25 billion dollars, the sum is quite unfeasible for Russia. Just compare: America’s F-22 program cost 22 billion dollars. For this very reason, cooperation with India in development of a fifth-generation fighter would make the program feasible.

Ahtyam Ahtyrov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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