Making Sense of a Few Rumors About Russian Aircraft, Tanks, and Aircraft Carriers
Making Sense of a Few Rumors About Russian Aircraft, Tanks, and Aircraft Carriers by The Saker – UNZ Review
Russians are typically good at some things, and not so good at others. One of the things which Russian politicians are still terrible at, is avoiding self-inflicted PR disasters. Remember how Russian officials mismanaged the entire topic of “S-300s for Syria” (if not, then check out “part six” of this analysis)? Something similar is happening again, but this time with the procurement of new advanced and expensive weapons systems.
We have all seen the “Russia is canceling the Su-57!” and “Russia cannot afford the new Armata T-14 tank!” headlines. Pretty soon I expect to see something along the lines of “US sanctions force Putin to abandon the XXXX” (fill the blank with whatever weapon system you want). So is there any truth to any of that?
Well, yes and no.
Aircraft and main battle tanks
What is true is that Russian officials have been way too eager to declare that the Russian military will soon have many weapons systems much superior to anything produced in the West. Alas, these same officials rarely bothered explaining where, why, when and how many of these weapons systems actually would be deployed. That kind of ambiguous message makes it look like Russia is zig-zagging (again!). Perfect example: Russia deploys 4 Su-57s to Syria and then appears to more or less cancel or, at least, dramatically reduce the procurement of this weapons system. The reality is both much simpler and a little more complex. And to explain what is taking place we need to first understand the difference in military procurement in the West and in Russia.
In the West, the main goal of any procurement of any weapons system is the transfer of as much money as possible from the government to the pockets of the private individuals controlling the Military-Industrial Complex. Put differently, Western force planning (especially in the US) is not threat or mission-driven, but profit driven. And while some outrageously expensive weapons systems do get canceled (like the Boeing–Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche attack helicopter), other even more expensive and poorly designed ones remain funded (such as the F-35). This is the kind of situation only a fantastically corrupt country with no real threat to itself can afford. In contrast, Russia is far less corrupt and has potential enemies right across most of her borders.
Russian force planning is threat/mission driven. This means that before the Russian military decides that it needs X number of Su-57 or T-14s it has to make the case that there is a threat which only Su-57s and T-14s can counter (or, at least, that it makes more sense – human, economic or tactical – to use new systems)
During the Cold War, the general rule (there were exceptions, of course!) was that the US was typically the first side to deploy a new technology/capability which the Soviets then studied before developing a counter-capability once the strengths and weaknesses of the new US technologies/capabilities were fully understood. The price to pay for that method was that the Soviets were usually one step behind the US in deploying a new technology. The main advantage of this dynamic for the Soviets was that their weapons systems typically ended up being both cheaper and superior. A good example of this kind of dynamic is the development of the Su-27 in response to the US development of the F-15 or the development of the Akula-class SSN in response to the Los Angeles-class SSN by the USN.