Someone clearly has even less of a life than I do.
This blog has been limited to short blurbs taken from Interfax and the odd translation since its been up, mostly because I have better things to do than write opinion pieces or do any detail oriented pieces on the Russian military industrial sector even though as a hobby I spend a good 10 hours a week reading everything from VPK, to transcripts from press conferences given by people like Shamonov, to hunting down interesting tidbits on goszakaz.ru. Unfortunately, the open source analyst and blogger thing doesn’t put food on the table.
My political leanings have hopefully remained a mystery to my many readers (this site has received just shy of 50,000 unique visitors in the past year), but I dont have much love for the Russian liberal opposition mainly because I find most of the people at the forefront of it to be despicable human beings. This however does not make me a Putinite or a great lover of the often sclerotic two headed tandem that sits at the top of the Russian state today. I find myself agreeing with most of the ideas of Mark Adomanis whose blog I highly recommend to all my readers.
Anyway, yesterday Yuri Shevchuk from the fantastic band DDT really got in the face of Vladimir Putin on why the various municipal authorities in Russia have been cracking down/denying the Kasparov’s of the world permission to hold sanctioned protests. Shevchuk is a man I greatly respect both for his music and his bravery. During the 1st Chechen war he and his band actually went to Chechnya and performed for Russian troops and Chechen civilians alike — something no other Russian entertainers dared to do. Given the situation in 1996, this was no USO tour and was in some respects a borderline insane thing to do. The man is a patriot and while I don’t like his politics Russia does need more men like him. Anyway, because of his history it was no surprise really when he did what really no other Russian celebrity (or Ashton Kutcher for that matter whose recent trip to Russia with a US trade delegation was a farce) would do and that is confront Putin head on with a camera in the room. The looks on the faces of the other celebrities in the room were frankly priceless — a mix of shock, and pity for Mr. Shevchuk, but that’s not what makes this event worthy of our attention. What makes the whole thing worthy of our time is Putin’s civilized, heartfelt, levelheaded and positively logical response about his commitment to freedom of speech, the need for a true dictatorship of the law, the limits of executive power in a transition state, and how he can not interfere in every or even most local matters when local officials only pay lip service to free speech or the law. A proper summary of Putin’s position would take more time than I want to spend, and Putin does ramble on a bit in his unscripted response to Shevchuk, but the jist of it is when it comes to problems with permits and venues that’s for local government and the courts to sort out and not for the executive branch of the Russian state. There is no command from the Kremlin telling mayors “dont let these people march.” The opposition can still get permits to march — they just dont like the venues being offered them. Is Putin telling the truth or is this just one more malicious attempt at painting a picture of “good Czar, bad Boyars?” You judge. But what really makes this whole thing memorable is that Russian state television actually ran Shevchuk’s comments and Putin’s response.
Really what should stick with Russia observers about all this IMHO is what Putin perceives to be the limits of the Russian executive branch. Putin talks about the frail nature of Russian civil society, how every new bureaucrat or person with power wants to milk his new found power for every cent, and implies that the Russian executive cant change what is really a problem of Russian culture.
This my friends is free speech Russian style. It’s still embryonic, fragile and positively alien to Westerners, but this is not the Soviet Union or even some neo-Soviet Union as some might paint it. The “oppression” the Shevchuk’s of the world are complaining about today is having 2,500 police meeting them at every venue, but have these cops seriously injured, killed or maimed any protesters? Are there protesters doing hard labor is Siberia? No, this is not the bullet in the back of the head oppression of Stalin or the 15 years in a labor colony oppression of Brezhnev. This is largely a bureaucratic oppression. An oppression of forms and fines and bribes and Siloviki who on the one hand demand protection money and on the other rush to their deaths to save children at Beslan. It is a complex picture of a complex society. But when the only fight left to the freedom fighters is over venue laws — I think it’s safe to say the greatest battles are behind us.
DATELINE: MOSCOW May 24
The Russian Defense Ministry will train personnel to operate Israeli-made drones by the midsummer, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told Interfax-AVN.
“Personnel are being trained to operate Israeli drones. Once the training is over, we will create a drone center and define our requirements for drones. If our defense sector can produce such drones, we will buy them,” he said.
“Anyway, it is possible to assemble drones in Russia,” the minister observed.
Unofficial sources estimate the drone contract at $53 million.
Israel has supplied twelve drones, including the Bird-Eye 400 with a ten-kilometer range, I-View MK150 with a 100-kilometer range, and Searcher MK II with a range of 250-kilometers.
DATELINE: MOSCOW May 24
Two Gonets-M satellites will be launched in September and December 2010, Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems General Designer and Director Nikolai Testoyedov told Interfax- AVN.
“The Gonets-M launch plan has been updated for 2010. One satellite will be launched in September, and the other in December. Both satellites are ready,” he said.
Each Gonets-M will be put into orbit together with another two satellites from the Plesetsk spaceport in the Arkhangelsk region, Testoyedov said.
The decision to launch another two Gonets-M satellites in 2010 this year has been changed, he said.
“That is a unusual situation for Russia. We build satellites more rapidly than we can launch them, because spaceports have certain procedures to comply with. It is impossible to launch another two Gonets satellites right now, as the Defense Ministry and the Federal Space Agency will have to choose the launch date,” he said.
The satellites will add to the personal satellite communications system.
DATELINE: MOSCOW May 24
The Russian Defense Ministry plans to start producing modern armored vehicles based on international standards, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told Interfax-AVN.
“We are not considering the possible purchase of armored vehicles from Italy or some other country. We must produce such vehicles in Russia,” he said.
Russian experts have studied the production of armored vehicles in Italy and Germany. “Italy’s Iveko held a presentation of its products, armored vehicles, at my request. We very much want to start a similar production in Russia,” Serdyukov said.
Germany is the leading producer of armor, and “even Italian vehicles use armor made in Germany,” he said.
The Defense Ministry is closely monitoring new trends in the production of military hardware and putting an emphasis on the security servicemen and on reconnaissance, he said. “The necessity of armored vehicles has been proven in Afghanistan and Iraq, where explosions are frequent, and by our own experience,” the minister said.
All these reports of Russia buying Iveco’s in the press are grossly simplified BS folks. I dont think people are listening to anything Serdyukov is actually saying. The only way Iveco’s will be bought by the Russian MoD is if Iveco hands over complete ToT to Gaz or Kamaz on terms acceptable to the Russians or if they build a whole damn factory in Russia and even then it’s doubtful that the Russian MoD will just give up on the Tigr.
DATELINE: VORONEZH May 24
The Voronezh Chemical Machine Building Design Bureau has started experimental assembly of the new engine RD-0110R for the Soyuz 2-1 V rocket.
A number of cold-flow tests of the engine were done, and more tests are planned before the first firing trial, the company said.
The RD-0110R liquid-fuel engine of the first stage of the Soyuz 2-1 V will increase the rocket’s thrust and control during the initial ascent.
The Voronezh company is the designer and producer of liquid-fuel rocket engines. It was formed in 1941 and became a joint stock company in 2004. The Federal Property Management Agency is the only shareholder of the company.
DATELINE: MOSCOW May 24
Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko has supported a proposal by the General Staff to extend the spring conscription campaign until August 31.
“I disagree that a person who serves in the army losses one year.
He fulfills his civil duty and gains a rich life experience,” Fursenko told the press on Monday.
He also said that the defense and education ministries agree that no deferments should be granted to university students. “Those who have been admitted to universities will serve after graduation, and those who failed entrance exams will be drafted,” he said.
It is important that proper conditions are created in the armed forces for service, and that ex-servicemen must be guaranteed that they will receive a higher education after military service, he said. “The rest must be tackled in compliance with the law,” the minister said.
The General Staff’s deputy head, Vasily Smirnov, announced in late April that the conscription age should be increased from the current 27 to 30 years. As before, citizens will be drafted starting from age 18.
Also, a proposal was voiced that the number of universities, whose students can get a deferment from army service, be reduced.
DATELINE: MOSCOW May 24
Russia will deliver two Ilyushin Il-76MF military cargo planes to Jordan next year, a Russian defense industry source told Interfax-AVN on Monday.
“I am sure the planes will be supplied to Jordan in 2011,” he said.
The Tashkent Chkalov aviation plant will organize the maiden flights of both aircraft in late 2010 – early 2011.
“The first aircraft may be built and tested by the end of this year, while the second aircraft will be ready in 2011,” he said.
The first plane will have a small number of test flights, the source said.
The Perm Motor Plant has built PS-90A-76 engines for the first aircraft, and the second plane’s engines will be ready soon.
The contract was signed in August 2005 and is valued at about $100 million.
The Il-76MF is the modernized version of the Il-76MD. It carries modern avionics and new engines, PS-90A-76 with the 14.5-tonnes thrust.
The new plane has a larger lifting capacity of 60 tonnes (compared to 50 tonnes in the Il-76MD). An Il-76MF flew 6,200 kilometers carrying 40 tonnes during tests. The flight range with the 60-tonne payload is 4,200 kilometers, and the range increases to 8,500 kilometers with the standard payload of 20 tonnes.
The Ilyushin Company and the Tashkent aviation plant signed the contract on building two aircraft for Jordan in July 2007. The plan was initially to build the aircraft within two years, but slow test flights and certification of the plane delayed production.
DATELINE: MOSCOW May 24
The absence of uniform standards in military simulator construction slows the introduction of complex inter- service simulator systems in the Russian armed forces, R.E.T Kronshtadt General Director Yevgeny Komrakov said.
“The moment these standards are defined, life will become easier for us. Currently, technical specifications for each simulator system are provided by separate agencies, which do not view the problem in a broad context. As a result, from 20 to 50 visualization systems appear, as many as the number of databases on three-dimensional objects and mobile systems, and dozens of different solutions are offered on mobile simulator systems,” Komrakov told Interfax-AVN.
This practice complicates the switch from individual simulators to inter-service complex simulator systems, as practiced elsewhere in the world, he said.
“Most countries tend to create large and complex simulator systems, and soldiers and officers of the leading armies have been using them in training for a long time. But this does not mean we won’t be able to catch up quickly. Electronic technologies help to do this quickly and effectively,” Komrakov said.
Standardization and unification of military simulators will make it possible to combine them into sophisticated simulators, he said.