Russian MoD prefers buying foreign-made weapons

Excerpt from report by privately owned Russian television channel REN TV on 27 September

[Presenter] During today’s military exercise near Chelyabinsk, Supreme Commander-in-Chief Dmitriy Medvedev announced that Russia would not cut its military spending, and those who do not agree may resign. One has already resigned. [Former Finance Minister] Aleksey Kudrin complained that the budget expenditure on the army was too big. One would think that now the army is going to buy the latest weapons on the market. But it became known today that the Russian Defence Ministry had refused to purchase Kalashnikov automatic rifles model 1974 because the weapons warehouses are full of them. There are already several million Kalashnikovs in the warehouses. With good care they can be stored for up to 20 years, which means that future soldiers, soldiers in 2031, may well be armed with automatic rifles model 1974. [passage omitted] Of course the AK-74 model was very successful, but this was a very long time ago, and progress has made ??even a very successful model obsolete.

[Correspondent] Russia’s main brand, the Kalashnikov rifle, seems to be heading towards its sunset. Apparently, they are trying to hide the news from Mikhail Timofeyevich [Kalashnikov]: the Defence Ministry is refusing to buy AK-74 as, ostensibly, there are too many of them in the warehouses. But the real reason is that the automatic rifle is obsolete.

[Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Strategy and Technology Analysis Centre] Our largest contracts for Kalashnikovs were signed with Libya and Venezuela, i.e. with countries that chose us not so much for the fighting qualities of our weapons, but also for political reasons. And maybe it is not surprising that, except for a small batch for the armed forces of Bhutan, and a small batch of Kalashnikov assault rifles for Kenya’s environmental forces, well, for Kenyan gamekeepers really, we do not see a queue of people wishing to buy Kalashnikov rifles in the beginning of the 21st century. [passage omitted]

[Correspondent] The Kalashnikov automatic rifle is not in great demand on the open market. These are automatic rifles of the new model 100 on Izhmash’s [Izhevskiy Mashzavod, Izhevsk machine plant] stands at international fairs. However, the new models are more complex, and even [Industry and Trade Minister] Viktor Khristenko, inspecting the new weapon, seems to have doubts whether the new Kalashnikov is as reliable as before. According to special-purpose unit Alfa servicemen, there is nothing fundamentally new even in the new automatic rifle. There is no replaceable barrel, or changeable stock. Alfa has repeatedly presented its claims to Izhmash about the quality of the weapon and its performance but to no avail. In order to fine-tune the automatic rifle and add various gadgets, an Alfa fighter spends up to 2,000 dollars of his own money because he values his life.

[Aleksey Filatov, vice-president of the international association of veterans of special-purpose unit Alfa] We asked them to make a bar there, a special holder, and special optics. There was no response. Although probably one can understand the plant workers when they say that if we order 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 rifles, they will make no profit.

[Correspondent] Izhmash already said that the AK-74 had long been discontinued, and plant manufactures automatic rifles model 100. By the end of the year they promise to show the AK-200.

[Viktor Baranets, military observer] Yes, designers are saying that by the end of 2011 they will show us a rifle on a new platform. But all this is, figuratively speaking, in the inkpot. All this is still intentions, all this is in the drawings. We still do not have a real new-generation automatic rifle.

[Correspondent] Designers are promising a new platform, improved ergonomics and accuracy of fire. Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry is preparing a test of various types of small arms, and foreign manufacturers have been invited. There is no guarantee that the Kalashnikov will win in this shootout.

Vyacheslav Guz, Tatiana Yeremina and Ilya Amelchenko for Ren TV.

[Presenter] Recent years’ trend shows that our money is not going into our own defence industry.

[Correspondent] In 2011 alone the Defence Ministry refused to buy attack helicopters K-50 Black Shark. Armoured trains Baykal and Amur were decommissioned. An announcement was made about the end of the military career of the legendary SVD, Dragunov’s sniper rifle. The Kalashnikov automatic rifle was made redundant.

A year earlier, the development of the tank T-95 was stopped, as well as purchases of BMPT, tank support fighting vehicles. At the same time the Russian army buys Israeli drones, British sniper rifles and French thermal imagers for tanks. A decision was made to buy Mistral helicopter carriers. The Germans will supply the Russian army with submarines and light armour for troops. Italian armoured vehicles Iveco are pushing aside Russian-made all-terrain vehicles Tigr.

[Presenter] The question is: why did the Defence Ministry buy so many obsolete automatic rifles?

[Vladislav Shurygin, military analyst] When all these reserves were made and weapons were stockpiled, we were preparing for a major war and thus created the so-called mobilization reserves for the part of the population who would be called up in the event of a major war, and for the duration of this war. Because it is very clear that as a result of, let’s say, an exchange of nuclear strikes, or as a result of massive bombings, a majority of plants will be destroyed in the early days, in the first days and weeks of the war.

[Presenter] Well, of course, in case of war, people will be handed sub-machine-guns and sent to the front. But will the reservists be able to shoot at the enemy at least once? After all, the armies of our potential adversaries have long developed tactics of suppression of infantry fire from a long distance, and Russia too, by the way.

[Igor Korotchenko, general director of the National Defence (Natsionalnaya Oborona) magazine] If we look at the state armaments programme until 2020, main emphasis is made on high-tech, precision-guided weapons. This concerns, for example, the re-armament of the strategic nuclear forces. This also applies to purchases of new guided aircraft missiles of various classes. And small arms occupy a rather modest place in the list of purchases.

[Presenter] So under modern warfare conditions, the AK-74 perhaps would be a useful weapon for guerrillas, as in Iraq or Afghanistan. No wonder it is so popular in the Middle East and Africa.

[Gennadiy Gudkov, deputy chairman of the State Duma Security Committee] The Kalashnikov automatic rifle, I emphasize once again, brought fame to Russia, but we must move on. After all, this is a weapon which was created in the 60-70s, was upgraded and done a great service not only for us. But we must move on.

Source: REN TV, Moscow, in Russian 1835 gmt 27 Sep 11

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