The technical abilities of the flying tank surprised Defense Minister of Russia, Sergei Ivanov
In the capacity of a newly appointed vice-prime minister, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov is not going to supervise individual security agencies and branches of the armed forces. He is not going to set up any additional organizations either. He intends to coordinate functions of the military-industrial complex as a whole. “I do realize a full extent of responsibility I am going to take up upon myself but the job has to be done anyway,” said Mr. Ivanov. As regards support of the military-industrial complex, the vice-prime minister is going to set a personal example. On Tuesday this week he tested a tank literally from the inside on a testing ground in Nizhny Tagil.
Mr. Ivanov pointed out that no new structures would be formed for his new position in the government. “I may be appointed head of the military-industrial commission under the government,” said he. Sources in the government believe that Mr. Ivanov will be a link in the executive chain of command with regard to two agencies responsible for state defense orders. The agencies in question are the Federal Service for Defense Orders (headed by Andrei Belyaninov, former head of the state-run Rosoboronexport) and the Agency for Industry (headed by the former vice-prime minister Boris Aleshin). Besides, Mr. Ivanov is going to coordinate the sector using a wide range of authority of the government apparatus.
Mr. Ivanov was speaking about his new duties on Tuesday in Nizhny Tagil where to he arrived on his first trip in the capacity of a vice-prime minister. Mr. Ivanov spent a few hours on the testing ground of the Nizhny Tagil Institute of Materials Testing. He was shown around the facility and briefed on specs of the basic Russian army tanks e.g. T-70, T-80, and T-90. A short demonstration of equipment capabilities (maneuvering across an obstacle course, shooting exercises) was not enough for the vice-prime minister. Soon he climbed into the T-90 to take part in another round of the demonstration exercises. The tank crossed an AT ditch, rolled over the hill and moved through the post obstacle belt. The tank's crew did not perform a T-90 trademark stunt, though. The defense minister was on board and therefore the crew did not put the engine in high gear to take a leap off the springboard.
The 46-ton tank has been dubbed a “flying tank” by foreign military experts.
“My knowledge of this tank is largely theoretical. Today I took the opportunity of getting to know it better during the test run,” said Mr. Ivanov. “It is very important to me since the Defense Ministry will purchase 31 tanks of this type. As regards the number of tanks to be purchased, some may find it ridiculous but I tell you this: we have never purchased such a quantity of new tanks during all those years since the collapse of the Soviet Union,” added he.
Uralvagonzavod is virtually Russia's only tank manufacturer that it still up and running. However, the share of the state defense orders for the plant has dropped from 70% to 5% by 2004. The plant survived only because of export revenues from the orders placed by India. It was not until the last year that the Russian army purchased 14 tanks for the first time. Actually, the new batch of T-90s is an attempt to maintain expertise and technologies required for the production of such equipment.
“This batch will keep the assembly line rolling,” said the first deputy director of the Federal Service for Defense Orders Sergei Mayev. “We are planning to purchase a larger bath of tanks in 2007,” added he. Russian Defense Minister Ivanov also said that the Defense Ministry was planning to launch a large-scale modernization program for tanks used by the army.
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