Sunday, May 9, 2010

The interview with S-400's chief designer.

“The thought of Russian engineer works more rapidly than the thought of Russian bureaucrat”
The Director-General of GSKB “Almaz- Antey” Igor Ashurbeyli about the rocket business

Recently the views of the officials, servicemen and economists on Russian military-industrial complex were split. Sometimes they call it 'the main locomotive' of the development of advanced technologies, sometimes – 'the main brake' of this development. How locomotive and brake go together in its most highly technological branches - creation of air defense systems? Also,   who is behind whom   in reality and how all this is going at the end? About all this the general director of joint stock company “main system design bureau “Almaz- Antey” Igor Ashurbeli spoke to 'Kommersant'.

- What is the primary task and the basic ideology of the concern “Almaz- Antaey” now?

- Well, I can say only about the design branch – GSKB “Almaz- Antaey”. We already grew from the pure air defense, and our future is with the aerospace defense. We overgrew the height of 30 km, which was our upper threshold (ceiling of   the existing anti-aircraft missiles lethal area). Therefore our strategy is: to go from air defense through the antimissile defense to the defense of aerospace.

This task is formulated for the first time in the new Russian military doctrine, which affirmed the President (Dmitriy Medvedev it made this in February, this year). Thus far even the term itself “aerospace defense” ([VKO]) caused the bitter disputes, nonacceptance. Everybody understood, that this will change entire structure and branches of services. It will occur indeed at some moment in the future. And here in the new military doctrine for the first time it is explicitly prescribed, that is necessary the creation of Russian    aerospace defense system.

- Now many things indicate at the different levels that the military industrial complex, and its management must be changed. What your estimation of [GSKB] “Almaz- Antey”  administration? What  new approaches are needed?

- Of course new approaches are required, because the level of the developed technology itself  dictates the new level of control. And it, correspondingly, requires another level of management, where the brains are differently sharpened - both technically and economically,   and, most importantly, informationly. Because such serious massifs of information, which require working for making of administrative decisions, they cannot already be mastered without the use of IT- technologies. The first thing required for an improvement in the quality of control, is introduction of contemporary information systems. Therefore in “Almaz-Antey” the control of the information technologies and corresponding scientific research department in “the stem”, were created, and they are called   to implement urgently IT-technologies on all levels i.e., from the designer to the global level of decision making.
Especially this is important because our plants re located in 19 cities of Russia and there is a question of the protection of communication channels for the exchange of information between the co-executors and the developers. And one additional problem: earlier  each developer had the experimental autonomous plant. But today we will not be able to compete on the World Market, having such mastodons, they become obsolete forms.
It is necessary to solve a question of the immediately implementation of the design solution to the production located in other city generally. In that case the documentation would be transferred directly to the machine tool so that we would become more exterritorial. To remove that Iron Curtain, which was not only around the USSR, but also inside the defense- industrial complex of the USSR, and then also Russia, where each enterprise exist as an independent 'principality'. Now the time of larger openness in the transactions not only at the level of the administrative solutions, but also the technical, technological, design.

- When all this plans can be executed fully?

- Never. However, life is always developed further. We will make one additional step, and it will be developed further… We now overtake, unfortunately, yes… One should recognize that the thought of Russian engineer works more rapidly than the thought of Russian bureaucrat, including me of course…   and all  “Almaz” management. Therefore we only overtake the engineers therefore there are deficiencies precisely in how today management follows after the new technologies.

- Management does not manage, but you merge to “Almaz” newer and newer important enterprises. Why?

- Are joined four enterprises: Joint stock company “scientific research electromechanical institute” ([NIEMI]), joint stock company “Moscow Research Institute of instrument automation”, joint stock company “the Research Institute of radio devices building” and joint stock company “Moscow Research Institute of radio electronics “Altair "". All associations, entire thematics - are remained, what really occurs is the grow of the  head developer for solution of prospective problems [VKO]. The anti-aircraft system S -400 - it already in serial production and thus is little interesting for us. We will introduce there an additional couple of rockets, and that's all. But the cosmic space defence [VKO] needs a new strong team.   these four enterprises have excellent scientific personnel, but, to my great regret, there are no prospective developments - they are occupied by the modernization of those of already existing, and this is scientific and technical blind alley. Our purpose is - to load them with   tasks in the development of the prospective systems.
But to hold five developers with five bookkeepings, five regime services, five financial services, five guarding services and all this in Moscow is simply foolish. Therefore the discussion deals with the purely pragmatic things, including   the building of new housing in Moscow on the Leningrad av., 80, where the united scientific and technical association will be placed. Synergetic effect is achieved, because we will conduct reductions to 30% of administration personnel… Well, imagine again: early they had five services of chief engineer, five services on the maintenance of canalization, and entire- entire rest… Now we do not fire any developer, but an organization change will occur in the course of several months so   every thing will be aimed at the final result.
Indeed the old system made it possible to obtain pleasure from the process itself – it was an infinite development of something within the framework of the individual design bureaus, which, each by itself, were not aimed at the final production. Today we want to build the rule of the final products, which become the object of sale. Not mention if it's for the RF Ministry of Defense or for the foreign customer, but the final products will be the standard of the developments effectiveness  . Indeed the criteria of the perfection of technology must be not only scientific and technical, but also financial.

The antiaircraft missile systems “Morpheus”, “Vityaz”, “Favorite”, S -400, S -500, the automated control system of aviation and PVO, the modernization of A -135 Moscow antimissile system, “Tor” or his symbiosis with “Pantsir”… These are still beautiful scientific and technical tasks for the future associations. Because with entire respect for old generation today all this (stagnation in the thematics, the absence of new orders and developments)  is the brake on the development. If we have in [GSKB] the team middle age of 46 years, then we will now merge, for example, NIEMI, where the middle age is  59 years. And what we can do with this?

But dissatisfaction… People always fear changes, always they feel anxiety: what will be tomorrow, and whether we will be fired'? And those administrative structures   , which   understand, that will lose their places, and possibly, something unpleasant  will be revealed  , it is naturally  introduce destructive element, play on   people's emotions, on their patriotism to the names of their firms. Even   the change of   the dislocation can make confuse: 'we will have to drive to another metro station'! This is simple the use of such  ' technologies' for the excitation of situation – for not to allow merging. In realty the merging is accepted by the government and will be executed anyway.

- You said that system S -400 - is already in  the serial production, which perhaps   is not so interesting for you. Although it is your primary order from the state. When S -400 does obtain the promised long-range missile?

- Well, in the first place, I said always openly that there were never any problems with this missile. Simply we cannot tell all about the term, stages of tests etc. You must understand, that the system must be tested in the work on different points, heights, types of targets and so on… The money is necessary, in order to prepare the missiles  for the work on each such specific point. I.e., there were no any failures and difficulties of scientific and technical nature, connected with the long-range rocket. It underwent its tests to planned order in accordance with the documents of Defense Ministry, on the basis of that financing, which is ensured to us by the ministry. Therefore the testing of this rocket was continuing as about three years -   combat work was tested against approximately one-and-a-half ten different targets.
Now this work is finished - on December 26, 2009 they have completed the preliminary tests. And the missiles were prepared to official tests. In the third quarter of 2010 we must complete the tests with the combat launchings and start  the series production in the fourth quarter.
We look with the bewilderment at the bacchanalia of rumors and slander around this, when the working process just continues. And there are no any “sinusoids” in it as, unfortunately, with Bulava missiles. There were no any failure tests, which bring into question the design solutions. The missile is alive, it shoots. It was moreover, developed even from the 1990's, and the long period despite the limited financing,   we   managed the project and even modernized the electronics and changed the whole design. It's without the additional money from the Ministry of Defense. Without these efforts the project would not survive. I hope with the help of God   that till   this year end the long-range rocket will be in   serial production.
In the Soviet times the developer was preparing documentation, further the state was separating money to the technical re-equipping of production, money for the preparation for the series production etc.   Only after all preparation the documentation was transferred to the plants and the initial party was manufactured.   The first one-two models were supplied to the training center, the following models - for the experimental combat operation. On the contrary in our case with S -400 we did not take even a cent from the state for technical re-equipping. Nor the training facility  was made recently, although earlier (in Soviet time) there were   a valuable air defense battalion. So now, the combat crews did not get training in the training centers, but have obtained the skills directly in the troops, and they learned on the base of those two battalions, which today stand on service.   Those soldiers, which worked on them, are certainly deserving rewards. The same rewards would be given to the cooperation of the plants, which managed to manufacture these several battalions for the Russian army and to prepare them  literally "on the knee", without money, with gap of 18 years after the last S-300 manufacturing, on the same equipment and with the same people.

- So, what will be the rates of further delivered  S -400? Two battalions already exist…

- Yes, the third will be in near days. But generally, this is depended on how they order. In this year we expect the delivery of two battalions, in the next year - four,   in 2012 we do not know yet because no   agreement was signed. I.e., today we can said, that we already lost three months of 2012, because the technological cycle of the production of system is 24 months. Accordingly, if on April 1 we will not obtain some money in advance, then in 24 months we will not give out a battalion. Battalions must be laid at the plants already today for obtain them in the first quarter of 2012. And today I have no confidence, whether the agreements will be finalized this year or no. It's despite this is written in the state program of armaments, which is a state rule.

- There is lack of agreements for S -400, and despite this they require a new product - S -500? What weapon it will be?   Whether  it will possess truly antimissile abilities?

- Everything that  is possible to say about this, was already said by generals, which published the information about the complex S -500. We can nothing add. This is the mobile complex of antimissile defense with good distances and heights, which is purposed to “clone” the possibilities of the current antimissile system in the mobile version. Today the only   Russian antimissile system       is the defense system of Moscow and Moscow industrial region.  Its combat readiness has some problems - let us formulate it so. It's including the factor of age, and the factor of element base, the vitality, the time of the interceptors' delivery  to the launchers.  
 Therefore our task now is to set   the framework for “Triumfator- M” system. This is   S -500 - the mobile ABM system, which must be created by 2015. The system will solve the ABM problems in mobile version. It's not stationary   but it will have the capability to  advance in any   direction, which is most important at any given time.

- The  Air Force commander  colonel general Alexander Zelin   openly expressed dissatisfaction with the fact, how quick program S-500  moves. can You comment this? What he was dissatisfacted with?

- After this event  the central board was conducted the extended conference in AF, where the developers “of Almaz” including me spoke with the reports. There the representatives of military institutes were presented too, entire generals and entire key personnel AF, which refer to this theme. As a result the sides came to the mutual agreement: the work on S -500 is conducted strictly in accordance with the order of the Ministry of Defense, and no claims the Ministry of Defense has for this system  today. The early claims were, rather, misunderstanding.

- In what status of the 'Vityaz" new antiaircraft missile system program  ”?

- Its History is very simple. We could not persuade the management of the country until 2000 - about the fact that the new contemporary complex of medium distance in Russia is needed, since more than 50 S -300PS complexes simply cease to exist till 2015 because of reaching  their service time. Replacement was necessary. They did not   hear. After this, we won the international tender in South Korea, ahead of Americans and French. Then we have concluded with   big   complexities the export contract for joint development of   medium distance complex - KM-SAM. We learned to work with the imported element base  . there We placed successfully already two locators and   now supply the third one. the shootings with their rockets at their targets has already been conducted In Korea.
Before the sending we invited the management of the Ministry of Defense   they saw the acting South Korean model, and  ordered the work on the system for the Russian army - with different appearance and other, improved tactical-technical characteristics. This work is conducted since 2007 within the record periods. The problem for us was: in five years to prepare the new technology from zero. Such problems were solved in five years only in Stalin's times, when “Almaz” (then KB -1) in five years has made the first Moscow  air defense systems S -25  . Now The work on design documentation is on the way. The next year - prototype, and in 2013 we must complete the State tests.

- Whether  the complexes of army air-defense S -300VM has any prospects?

- They were not sold  for the export. Ones  the part of the complex was purchased  by Americans for reconnaissance purposes. We prefer to speak as follow: the world already voted for S -300P with dollar. There were sold tens of systems S -300P, S -300PM, Favorite - on total $4 billion”. The advantage of these systems became obvious, because the nature of war changed. S -300V was intended   for defense of the columns, which expected be send to the breakthrough to the English Channel. The situation had been changed long ago, and now we do not want   to attack. So the necessity for this technology fell, because it was not capable of fully fulfilling combat mission in the protection of stationary objects. But stationary point PVO now is actual to develop. S -300VM was produced the last time, in my opinion, at the beginning of the 1990's, since then the productions of this system have been stopped.

- But there were conversations about selling them to Venezuela?

- Well, as to you to here say… it is possible to conclude contract, but it is still necessary to fulfill it. Why it is simpler with the S -300system ? Because, when in you has already been located abroad ten battalions, this means - money from their modernization, from their post-warranty maintenance, and from their repair- service maintenance… And when its entire cooperation of plants obtains this financing, it lives further. And the same manufacturing cooperation is involved in  S -400production. Since 1991 it did not interrupt its serial production,   - due to the export  . And it will further live, since the first batchs (of S-400) is already delivered. Imagine   if we supply one-two battalions of S -300V in this situation… To note: the manufacturing cooperation- on them did not work already   20 years. And then how   to contain these one-two battalions   in order to fulfill international obligations  ?

- What about complexes “Buk” and “Tor”, which were sold abroad in abundance?

- I would answer very briefly although a little roughly. I deal with new technology, I deal with promising developments, and I think about sale of promising developments. “Tor” and “Buk” -   are proved systems, which are in the serial production. Therefore this is a question “Rosoboroneksport”: if there are buyers - they will be sold by the serial plants. But this is located out of the sphere of my scope   as a lead developer, I think only about the future, but not about the past.

- Whether the world did already 'vote' with dollar for your new S -400  ?

- If we speak about S -400, then the volume of the demands, a quantity of countries and a quantity of battalions, which they ask to sell, exceed until today the production capacities   of our industrial    cooperation. Let us say honestly, we thus far cannot produce in time even what they want, so too early to think about the prospects. But S -400 export -      is a political question, first of all. For us the armament of Russian army is our priority, and if these priorities will be reinforced by new orders of our   Ministry of Defense, then we will fulfill   them first of all. If not  - we are ready to fulfill our foreign contracts.

The Interview was taken by Ivan Konovalov

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