Procurement: Ukraine Has A Secret Weapon


September 17, 2014: One of the generally unmentioned side effects of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is the damage done to Russian weapons production because of their dependence on Ukraine. Although only 4.4 percent of Russian imports are from Ukraine many of those imports are crucial for the Russian armaments industry and the current modernization program for the Russian armed forces.

These industrial links date back to Soviet times and many remained active after the USRR collapsed in 1991. In many areas Russian arms producers, and users, are highly dependent on Ukrainian industry and most of these items cannot be quickly or cheaply replaced by Russian made substitutes. This is mainly due to insufficient production capacity of Russian industries. The most severe shortages occur in key areas. Prominent examples include IBCMs, air-to-air missiles, aviation and engines for warships.

For example over 50 percent of the Russian nuclear arsenal, including 80 percent of some Russian IBCMs, like the R-36M (SS-16 Satan), were dependent on Ukrainian components.  These missiles were produced and serviced in Ukraine. Even some newer designs like the RS-18B (SS-19) and the mobile RS-12M (Topol or SS-25) are manufactured in Russia but their guidance systems come from Ukraine. Another example is the documentation and guidance systems of the SS-18 ICBM, as well as the maintenance of these items. This situation poses a serious threat to both the effectiveness and operational capacity of the Russian nuclear arsenal.

Then there are the Ukrainian made guidance systems used in Russian air-to-air missiles. This includes the infrared (heat seeking) guidance systems for short-range R-73 and medium-range R-27T. These missiles are the main armament for MiG-29, Su-27, Su-30 and Su-35 fighters.

The Su-27/30 aircraft contain a lot of Ukrainian components (hydraulic systems, electrical and electronic systems) as well as breaking parachutes. Those components are also produced in Russia but not enough of them to meet the current needs. This dependence on Ukrainian components has an impact on Russian warplane exports. Some of the existing export deals will be seriously jeopardized without Ukrainian components. If the Russians lose access to Ukrainian production their only choice would be to delay deliveries to the Russian air force in order to service the signed export contracts.

One of the most important Ukrainian aviation suppliers is Motor Sich produces many of the new engines (and modernizes old ones) for the Mi-8/17 transport helicopters and Ka-50/52, Mi-28 and Mi24/35 attack helicopters. Despite the considerable effort the Russian industry has been not able to produce more sufficient helicopter engines for planned aircraft production over the next three years. Without Ukrainian engines Russia will be unable to produce the number of new helicopters for their own forces and export orders. They will also be unable to refurbish older engines to keep existing helicopters operational.

Another area where Russians have troubles is military shipbuilding. Russia simply lacks construction facilities so their shipbuilders alone cannot carry out the ambitious plans for replacing all the aging Cold War era ships with new designs. Meanwhile, Ukraine has three shipyards in Mykolayiv along with more yards in Kherson, Kerch and Sevastopol. The last two have already been seized by Russia, something Ukraine is very angry about.

In Mykolayiv, there is also Zorya-Mashproekt, the largest firm designing and manufacturing gas turbine engines for Russian existing and planned warships. Their engines are used at majority ships of the Russian Navy. Russia has failed to organize the production of such gas turbines so reliability of their fleet is threatened.

A lot of Russian combat vehicles are using Ukrainian components for fire control, laser warning and other complex electronic and optical systems. Even if the Russian industry has alternative sources, getting them up to speed will take time.

The Russians are already feeling the effects of being cut off from their Ukrainian defense suppliers. Although they seized over a dozen factories in Crimea, including three large shipyards, it’s still not enough for their needs.  Without cooperation from Ukrainian suppliers Russian military modernization and export plans are in big trouble. The situation is so desperate that the Russians are considering buying the needed components from China, which has long been manufacturing illegal (unauthorized) copies of these items for the illegal copies of Russian aircraft and missiles they also build. -- Przemys&&22;aw Juraszek




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