The Russian defense industry manufactures poor quality arms for ground forces. NATO and China produce better quality hardware, the commander of Russian ground troops Alexander Postnikov said.
"The combat vehicle arsenal, artillery systems and small arms produced by the domestic defense industry fall behind NATO and even Chinese arms," the official stated.
Postnikov particularly cracked down on the Russian T-90 tank, which, as he said, "was a 17th modification of the Soviet T-72 tank produced since 1973. According to the official, a tank like that currently costs 118 million rubles ($4 million). "It would be easier for us to purchase three Leopards from Germany for this money," he said.
He did not explain, though, why India prefers to buy one Russian T-90 tank instead of three German Leopards. India plans to use T-90s to replace its outdated T-72 and T-55 tanks. Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan also signed contracts with Russia for the delivery of such machines, but Mr. Postnikov disregarded that too.
There are other interesting aspects to the story. According to media reports, in 2010, one T-90 tank was valued at 70 million rubles ($2.3 million). Therefore, it is not clear how the cost increased more than 1.7 times in less than a year.
Here is another aspect. Cheapest and oldest Leopards cost not less than 70 million rubles as of 2009. As for Leopard 2A6, the cost of this machine is 172.2 million rubles ($5.7 million).
It is worthy of note than 80 countries of the world purchase arms from Russia today. The volume of Russian arms sales grows every year by $600 million. However, according to Mr. Postnikov, all these countries buy outdated and extremely expensive hardware. Moreover, Russia's arms sales in 2010 were evaluated at $10 billion vs. $8.8 billion earned in 2009, Rosoboronexport said.
Do the governments of 80 countries purchase Russian arms to cause damage to their own detriment? Nevertheless, it is not the first time, when officials from the Russian Defense Ministry express negative remarks about the quality of domestic military hardware.
It was particularly said, for instance, that Russia would launch the license production of Italian Iveco Lynx armored vehicles in 2011. No one could prove, though, that Russian analogues of those vehicles are worse.
Vladimir Popovkin, first deputy defense minister, complained of the poor state of affairs in the development of Russian unmanned aircraft. Russia spent five billion rubles for the purpose, but failed to achieve any progress, the official claimed.
Alexander Postnikov, the commander of the Russian ground forces, said in September of 2010 that his troops had completed test flights of 22 Russian drones. The designers achieved impressive progress, Postnikov said and added that some drones could be put into service soon.
These are contradictory statements, but it seems that Russia is not going to refuse from purchasing the drones of Israeli production.
The most controversial statement was released by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov in December of 2010. He stated that Russia could replace its iconic Kalashnikovs and SVD rifles with foreign analogues.
Vladislav Shurygin, a military expert:
"Those saying that the production of the Russian defense industry is worse and more expensive than Western and even Chinese analogues need to have their heads examined. Such remarks can bury all our defense contracts, so they are voiced by those who should be considered as enemies of their own country.
"As for the condition of the national defense industry, it is a very complicated one indeed. Russia has been living on the Soviet legacy during the recent 20 years. We have not been investing anything in the modernization of our defense industry. As a result, one can hear some people saying that Russia is incapable of building high-quality arms. However, T-90 tanks are not outdated. This vehicle operates perfectly under the conditions of the Russian climate. No one can give guarantees that foreign tanks will do well in low temperatures.
"As for the quality, it has decreased too. For example, the quality of armor that is produced today is lower than the quality of Soviet armor produced during the 1980s. Russia lost many technologies during the period of so-called democratic reforms.
"If we start to purchase hardware from abroad, we will go back to the level of the 19th century. We will not be able to defend our national interest," the expert said.
Nikolai Novichkov, editor-in-chief of Arms-Tass news agency:
"I believe that Postnikov has a point. President Medvedev stated several days ago that there were no qualified engineers left in the country. Instead, we have the multi-million-strong army of managers and lawyers, he said. One should think about that when analyzing the situation in the Russian defense industry. Many employees working at our defense enterprises are in their fifties and sixties. Young people do not go to work in the defense industry, because they pay about 15,000 rubles there ($500) a month. If someone comes to work there, they soon leave to work as managers to get more money," Novichkov said.