Will Russia develop its own fifth-generation fighter? Probably not

The technical condition of Russia's armed forces is far from being perfect. The few samples of new military equipment produced by the Russian defense establishment are either exported or the amount of new military supplies to the national armed forces are scarce. That is why Russia's armed forces are less and worse equipped when compared with the armies of NATO countries.

The problem is connected with insufficient financing for the development of new military technology. Fifth-generation fighters should be mentioned here. Earlier, Russia planned to develop a new fighter by 2008-2009; the development will cost $1.5 billion. At the same time, the USA is actively developing a similar project named the F-35. Up to $23 billion is to be spent on the model’s designing. About $200 billion will be required to launch the new model into production and purchase 3,000 fighters. The showings demonstrate that the US air force will surely have a new fighter in several years.

Two Russian companies, MiG and the Sukhoi aircraft military and industrial complex, are striving for the right to develop a fifth generation fighter. The media have already mentioned that ex-vice-premier and incumbent minister for science and industry Ilya Klebanov is the person to lobby on behalf of the interests of the Sukhoi aircraft military and industrial complex. That is why experts considered Sukhoi to be preferred. However, the company’s chances of wining the tender were reduced after Klebanov’s resignation. Several news agencies report that Russia may give up the project for the creation of fifth-generation fighters. It is more likely that Russia’s air fleet will be thoroughly modernized in order to be adjusted to the fifth generation models. The measure is cheaper and quicker than the creation of a new plane.

It is quite natural that the interests of different lobby groups run into each other concerning development of new military equipment. The same occurs everywhere, not only in Russia. What is more important is that the development and production of new military equipment should not damage the interests of the state. Moreover, the best company is to win the tender, regardless of the fact what governmental positions the companies’ representatives occupy.

Certainly, much depends upon state officials in the USA, Russia, and other countries. However, their choices are not always justified. The advantages of planes produced by MiG and Sukhoi should be estimated by specialists only.

Nowadays, even the construction of already developed planes causes much dispute. The construction of two torpedo-boat destroyers for China can be mentioned here. It had been originally planned that Severnaya Verf (Northern shipyard) enterprise situated in St.Petersburg would get the order. However, when a tender was held by the interdepartmental commission headed by Ilya Klebanov, the order was given to the Baltic plant, located in St.Petersburg as well. Representatives of Severnaya Verf were very upset with the decision. The resonance of the case was very great. For this very reason, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov issued an instruction to hand the order for construction of two torpedo-boat destroyers over to Severnaya Verf again. The owners of the Baltic plant decided not to give up and started purchasing Severnaya Verf’s shares. Their actions can be understood, as the sum of the contract to be signed with China makes up $1.4 billion. While the struggle for the contract is going on, nothing is being produced. The Chinese may become displeased with this fact. If the situation develops further, China may prefer some other country to purchase items from next time.

Today’s situation in the domestic defense establishment is really very complicated. US companies started offering their services to India, which has always been a traditional partner of the Russian defense establishment. The USA has more opportunities to defend its interests than Russia. This means that Russian companies may suffer greatly in the struggle for the distribution of exports.

Problems of Russia’s defense establishment and modernization of the army are really very serious, and they cannot be settled at once. It is important that the government does not ignore these problems. The programs we have designed for reforming of the army and military industrial establishment meet Russia’s actual opportunities. It is more important now to implement these programs, otherwise we will soon have no defense establishment at all, not to mention any reforms.

Vasily Bubnov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/03/25/38751.html

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