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Russian Military Planning A Rocket Volley At The Budget

Russian Military Planning A Rocket Volley At The Budget

13.01.2010 — Analysis

Yet another failed attempt to launch the intercontinental sea-based ballistic missile Bulava-30 caused upset among Russian industrialists. Military enterprises involved in the project are trying to pass the blame for the failure on subcontractors. Even unconfirmed information circulated by the media is being used. The RusBusinessNews observer established that the PR campaign is aimed at the distraction of the public interest from the systemic crisis in the defence industry. Which in turn would allow to continue spending the budget resources ineffectively. 

Analysis of the December flight of Bulava which scared people in Norway has turned into the anonymous comments about the source close to the committee conducting the inquiry. According to it, as published in the Vedomosti news paper, the failure was caused by "breakdown of the thrust control mechanism of the solid fuel engine made by the Perm RPA Iskra which gave a cause to be optimistic to the military and the industry and resulted in the decision to continue testing."

Initially, according to the source, in the summer 2010 a launch will be made from Dmitri Donskoy and later from Yuri Dolgorukiy which is planned to be armed with the new missile. In case of tests being successful (in which the newsmakers have virtually no doubt as the cause of failures is seen in the defects of the solid fuel engines and not in the design miscalculations) a launch from a submarine will be made. Signing the document confirming the end of tests and the establishment of batch production of Bulava should become the logical conclusion to the series of launches.

These revelations from the anonymous source have caused a sharp reaction from JSC RPA Iskra employees. Yuri Makarevich, the Head of Marketing Department of the enterprise, talking to the RusBusinessNews observer pointed out that he is tired of answering to every "stupid sneeze in the media". He claims that most of these publications have clearly been spin-doctored. The expert said, "Our enterprise has made practically entirely the first stage engines for Bulava and nozzle extensions for the second and third stages. The committee has checked them twenty times and came to the conclusion that there is nothing to blame the engine manufacturers for in the latter case. These documents are classified but I have seen them, I know what I am talking about. In previous cases the faults were not in the engines but in the control system. So all your questions should be directed to the missile designers". 

FSUE "NPO Automation", the company that designed the missile control system for Bulava, also does not see why they should take the blame for last failure. Lev Belsky, a Deputy Director General of the company, has made a very clear statement in regard to the phrase "the failure was caused by breakdown of the thrust control mechanism of the solid fuel engine": "There are many stupid things they write. This has nothing to do with the control system, and I am not telling you what it is to do with. No comment." 

RPA Iskra, according to the expert, enjoys a good reputation among professionals. The problem is in that the technology processes in the defence industry have not been updated for a long time and this affects the quality of the products. Mr Belsky stressed that "it applies to us as well. We have experienced all the marvels of the disintegration of the component supply system, quality control, and now we are having a hard time climbing out of the pit. You just have to outgrow this disease."

Experts are not hiding the fact that Russian military industrial complex is in the situation of a systemic crisis and that we should not expect fast returns from it. It is obvious that in the current situation in the economy in general designers would not be able to create competitive products of high quality. Missile manufacturers are growing concerned that the state consciously does not give support to science having imposed a higher value added tax on the knowledge intensive products than that on raw materials. In practice this means that it is more profitable for companies to sell silicon than a complex circuit board in which it is used. Accordingly, there are no high quality components manufactured domestically and the level of technological solutions is on a decline.

Belorussia serves as a constant reminder to the Russians, this is a country that does not have own raw materials which forces it to develop knowledge intensive products. The results are visible too - RPC Integral today is a large developer, manufacturer, and exporter of integrated circuits. The company actively cooperates with well known companies in Korea, China, India, Japan etc. The level of Belorussian products is good enough for Siemens who puts them in casings and then ship under own brand to the South-East Asia.

The interests of Russian defence industry are sometimes very far from missile building. Yuri Solomonov, the former Head of the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering (Bulava development general contractor), for instance, was involved in the construction of the monorail in Moscow. Unfortunately this did not help any the creation of the new weapons for Yuri Dolgorukiy and the two other Borei-class submarines being constructed.

Aleksandr Khramchikhin, the Manager of Analytics Department at the Institute of Political And Military Analysis, reckons that all the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering does is just spending the budget money. The Institute today is interested in the Bulava tests being continued which is why it is trying to get the idea across to the political leaders that the errors in the missile are purely production-based and do not have a systemic nature. But the real problem, the expert recons, is not in the engines but in the principle which is, "This shop does not know how to make marine missiles".

The expert, however, does not see any alternative to the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering except for the "half dead" OJSC "Academician V. P. Makeyev State Rocket Centre" and thus is sure that the Bulava tests will continue. Aleksandr Khramchikhin has a very pessimistic view of the continuation of launches of the obstinate missile.
He is simply dumb struck to hear of a simultaneous launch of several missiles from Yuri Dolgorukiy - "Volley launches are done very rarely in general as the risks are considerably increased. I do not know what it is that forces the officials in the Defence Ministry to carry out a volley launch of missiles with a rather bad track record. Maybe people have gone mad".

Production companies also advise against continuing the tests of Bulava. Ghennadiy Zykov, a Deputy Designer in Chief at OJSC RPA Iskra, while having signed the act of the committee has expressed an individual opinion that the "real cause of launch failures has to be established". 

Vladimir Terletski

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