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New Weaponry Acquisitions

Despite the general crisis besetting the defense industry, examples of highly advanced military technology continued to emerge from Russia's defense plants in the mid-1990s. The T-90 main battle tank, the most modern tank in the army arsenal, went into low-level production in 1993, based on a prototype designated as the T-88. The T-90 was developed by the Kartsev-Venediktov Design Bureau at the Vagonka Works in Nizhniy Tagil. Initially seen as an entirely new design, the production model is in fact based on the T-72BM, with some added features from the T-80 series. The T-90 features a new generation of armor on its hull and turret. Two variants, the T-90S and T-90E, have been identified as possible export models. Plans called for all earlier models to be replaced with T-90s by the end of 1997, subject to funding availability. By mid-1996 some 107 T-90s had gone into service in the Far Eastern Military District.

In the mid-1990s, the first priority for the air forces was the Su-T-60S multirole bomber, which had been designed to replace the Tu-22M and the Su-24 (see Force Structure, this ch.). The Su-T-60S is a long-range supersonic tactical/operational nuclear-capable bomber with built-in stealth technology developed by the Sukhoy Design Bureau. Although its development was officially secret, the Su-T-60S was reported to be in the prototype stage and ready for flight testing in mid-1996.

The second priority for the air forces was the Su-27IB tactical fighter-bomber being built for the Frontal Aviation Command. A naval aviation version was designated the Su-32FN. This side-by-side, two-seat aircraft was in serial production in the mid-1990s at the Sukhoy Chkalov Aircraft Plant in Novosibirsk. In its bomber mode, the Su-27IB was expected to be armed with the AA-11 Archer short-range air-to-air missile, and in its fighter mode with the AA-12 Adder mid-range, air-to-air, fire-and-forget missile.

Russia's submarine technology developed faster in the mid-1990s than Western experts had expected, as the fleet underwent reduction from its 1986 total of 186 vessels to ninety-nine. According to one intelligence estimate, more than half of the 1996 fleet was capable of moving undetected into Western sea-lanes. In mid-1996 the navy scheduled four submarines for production, including one upgraded addition to its existing fleet of Akula-class vessels and three of the new Severodvinsk class, which were expected to go into service in 2000. The Severodvinsk is a state-of-the art submarine that allegedly is so quiet that it eliminates the United States technical lead in this area, and it is armed with the new 650mm Shkval rocket that travels at 200 knots underwater.

The new modification of the SS-25 ICBM, the Topol M-2, is a three-stage, solid-fuel rocket designed to carry a single warhead. Scheduled to go into production in 1996, the Topol M-2 is a permitted modernization under START I terms; it can be deployed in a fixed silo or made mobile. Because it is earmarked for the elite strategic rocket forces as a replacement for missiles being destroyed under START I, the Topol is a high-priority project protected from cutbacks in the acquisitions budget.

Information about the funding of Russia's defense R&D programs remains hard to obtain because many such programs are secret. The official budget allocation of US$1.4 billion, even with the addition of the Security Council's supplemental funding in February 1996, seems extremely modest in an era of rapid technological advances. Most of the acquisition programs of the mid-1990s do not have known R&D follow-on programs; instead, they are products of R&D programs started in the early 1980s.

The MiG-MAPO 1.42 R&D program has been advertised as the Russian response to the United States Air Force's F-22 advanced tactical fighter (ATF) program. The MiG-MAPO 1.42, a single-seat, multirole stealth fighter, is projected to reach operational capability between 2005 and 2008. The air force R&D funds also reportedly have been shifted to a high-priority program to field highly accurate precision-guided munitions (PGM) in response to the United States success with that type of weapon in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. A shift of funds to the PGM program may further delay the MiG-MAPO 1.42 program.

Beginning in 1993, the defense industry had an influential spokesman at Yeltsin's side to lobby for improved support. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, long a top metallurgy industry executive in the Soviet era, was a forceful proponent of bolstering the existing complex with minimum privatization or conversion to civilian production. However, Soskovets, who was chiefly responsible for increasing Russia's defense budget by 3 trillion rubles in 1996, was dismissed unexpectedly in June 1996 when Yeltsin ousted most of the hard-liners from his inner circle in preparation for the second round of that year's presidential election.

Foreign Arms Sales

In the first half of 1996, defense planners appeared to favor delaying privatization and civilianization and letting the MIC do what it does best: make weapons. Instead of depending upon Russia's armed forces as the customer, Soskovets intensified his pursuit of the international arms market in an attempt to improve the industry's earnings. Russia offered military hardware both for sale as a means to raise capital and in barter arrangements to repay international debts. In April 1996, the State Corporation for Export and Import of Armaments (Rosvooruzheniye) reported fifty-one countries as current customers, with the largest sales totals involving China, India, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Together with lesser customers Algeria, Cuba, Kuwait, Malaysia, Turkey, and Vietnam, those countries accounted for 75 percent of arms sales in early 1996. Arms exports were being produced at more than 500 enterprises in Russia and more than 1,200 enterprises in ten other CIS nations having production-sharing agreements with Russia.

Arms sales and military technology transfers to China expanded rapidly in the mid-1990s, although many defense authorities had strong reservations about sharing advanced technology with such an unpredictable neighbor. For China, Russia is a source of sophisticated, reasonably priced armaments unavailable from the West. For Russia, China is another source of hard currency (see Glossary). Among China's key purchases in recent years were Su-27 fighter-bombers, MiG-31 fighters, heavy transport aircraft, T-72 tanks, and S-300 antiaircraft missile launchers. In 1994 and 1995 agreements, China bought a total of ten Kilo-class diesel submarines, the first four of which cost US$1 billion altogether. Russia received repeated warnings from the United States about the dangers of enhancing China's military capabilities. Such a warning came in May 1996 against the sale of technology for SS-18 ICBMs, which China had requested ostensibly for its space program.

Russia has agreed to repay part of its trade debt to Finland with its modern SA-11 air defense missile system in a deal worth US$400 million. The SA-11 is an army-level, mobile, low- to medium-altitude, surface-to-air missile system that went into serial production in 1979. The SA-11 can successfully engage any aircraft at altitudes from fifteen to 22,000 meters at a range of up to 35,000 meters using its tracking and engagement radar system. It has an on-board identification friend-or-foe (IFF) system and an electronic countermeasures suite. Experts predicted that Finland would employ the SA-11 as its national air defense system. The SA-11 also is in service in India, Poland, Syria, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Montenegro and Serbia), and several former Soviet republics.

In yet another debt reduction arrangement, Russia is furnishing Hungary 200 BTR-80 wheeled armored personnel carriers (APCs) as replacements for the thirty-year-old Hungarian-manufactured FUG APC. The BTR-80 is a modern, lightly armored vehicle with a diesel power plant. It is manufactured at the Gorkiy Automobile Factory in Nizhniy Novgorod and has been in service since the early 1980s. The BTR-80 is a lightly armored amphibious vehicle with a collective chemical-biological-radiological (CBR) protective system. Operated by a crew of three, the vehicle can carry a squad of seven infantry troops.

In the mid-1990s, the Russian defense industry was anticipating the end of the arms embargo against Serbia as an opportunity to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. Russia's long association with the Serbs has established a traditional Russian arms market in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Montenegro and Serbia). However, in the aftermath of an extremely expensive economic embargo, it is not clear that the Ministry of Defense of Yugoslavia has the funds to purchase large quantities of Russian military matériel.

Russia is aggressively promoting its combat aircraft in the East Asian arms market. Russia and India signed a defense agreement in November 1994 during a state visit by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. This agreement marked the end of the strained relations that had resulted from India's loss of access to generous Soviet credit terms and low prices when cash-strapped Russia demanded hard currency (see Glossary) after the fall of the Soviet Union (see Other Asian States, ch. 8). During a related visit to India in March 1995, First Deputy Minister of Defense Andrey Kokoshin made a sale of ten MiG-29 aircraft for US$200 million. At the time, Kokoshin asserted that this and future defense deals with India would save several hundred thousand jobs in the Russian defense sector.

India and Russia have a tradition of cooperation in armaments that began in the 1960s; in the mid-1990s, India needed new equipment from Russia to modernize its armed forces in view of ongoing arms imports by traditional enemy Pakistan and persistent suspicion of neighboring China. In early 1996, India and Russia signed a treaty of military technical cooperation, estimated to be worth US$3.5 billion through the expiration date of 2003. Among key purchases are Russian technology for armored vehicles, artillery, and naval systems in addition to aircraft. In early 1996, experts estimated that as much as 70 percent of India's armaments had been purchased from Russia.

In early 1996, MIC chairman Pak astounded the United States Army by marketing the Russian SA-12 surface-to-air missile system in the UAE in direct competition with the United States Army's Patriot system. He directed Rosvooruzheniye to offer the UAE the highest-quality Russian strategic air defense system, the SA-12 Gladiator, as an alternative to the Patriot at half the cost. The offer also included forgiveness of some of Russia's debt to the UAE.

Data as of July 1996

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