New Weaponry Acquisitions
Despite the general crisis besetting the defense industry, examples of highly advanced military technology continued to emerge from Russia's defense plants in the mid-1990s. The T-90 main battle tank, the most modern tank in the army arsenal, went into low-level production in 1993, based on a prototype designated as the T-88. The T-90 was developed by the Kartsev-Venediktov Design Bureau at the Vagonka Works in Nizhniy Tagil. Initially seen as an entirely new design, the production model is in fact based on the T-72BM, with some added features from the T-80 series. The T-90 features a new generation of armor on its hull and turret. Two variants, the T-90S and T-90E, have been identified as possible export models. Plans called for all earlier models to be replaced with T-90s by the end of 1997, subject to funding availability. By mid-1996 some 107 T-90s had gone into service in the Far Eastern Military District.
In the mid-1990s, the first priority for the air forces was the Su-T-60S multirole bomber, which had been designed to replace the Tu-22M and the Su-24 (see Force Structure, this ch.). The Su-T-60S is a long-range supersonic tactical/operational nuclear-capable bomber with built-in stealth technology developed by the Sukhoy Design Bureau. Although its development was officially secret, the Su-T-60S was reported to be in the prototype stage and ready for flight testing in mid-1996.
The second priority for the air forces was the Su-27IB tactical fighter-bomber being built for the Frontal Aviation Command. A naval aviation version was designated the Su-32FN. This side-by-side, two-seat aircraft was in serial production in the mid-1990s at the Sukhoy Chkalov Aircraft Plant in Novosibirsk. In its bomber mode, the Su-27IB was expected to be armed with the AA-11 Archer short-range air-to-air missile, and in its fighter mode with the AA-12 Adder mid-range, air-to-air, fire-and-forget missile.
Russia's submarine technology developed faster in the mid-1990s than Western experts had expected, as the fleet underwent reduction from its 1986 total of 186 vessels to ninety-nine. According to one intelligence estimate, more than half of the 1996 fleet was capable of moving undetected into Western sea-lanes. In mid-1996 the navy scheduled four submarines for production, including one upgraded addition to its existing fleet of Akula-class vessels and three of the new Severodvinsk class, which were expected to go into service in 2000. The Severodvinsk is a state-of-the art submarine that allegedly is so quiet that it eliminates the United States technical lead in this area, and it is armed with the new 650mm Shkval rocket that travels at 200 knots underwater.
The new modification of the SS-25 ICBM, the Topol M-2, is a three-stage, solid-fuel rocket designed to carry a single warhead. Scheduled to go into production in 1996, the Topol M-2 is a permitted modernization under START I terms; it can be deployed in a fixed silo or made mobile. Because it is earmarked for the elite strategic rocket forces as a replacement for missiles being destroyed under START I, the Topol is a high-priority project protected from cutbacks in the acquisitions budget.
Information about the funding of Russia's defense R&D programs remains hard to obtain because many such programs are secret. The official budget allocation of US$1.4 billion, even with the addition of the Security Council's supplemental funding in February 1996, seems extremely modest in an era of rapid technological advances. Most of the acquisition programs of the mid-1990s do not have known R&D follow-on programs; instead, they are products of R&D programs started in the early 1980s.
The MiG-MAPO 1.42 R&D program has been advertised as the Russian response to the United States Air Force's F-22 advanced tactical fighter (ATF) program. The MiG-MAPO 1.42, a single-seat, multirole stealth fighter, is projected to reach operational capability between 2005 and 2008. The air force R&D funds also reportedly have been shifted to a high-priority program to field highly accurate precision-guided munitions (PGM) in response to the United States success with that type of weapon in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. A shift of funds to the PGM program may further delay the MiG-MAPO 1.42 program.
Beginning in 1993, the defense industry had an influential spokesman at Yeltsin's side to lobby for improved support. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, long a top metallurgy industry executive in the Soviet era, was a forceful proponent of bolstering the existing complex with minimum privatization or conversion to civilian production. However, Soskovets, who was chiefly responsible for increasing Russia's defense budget by 3 trillion rubles in 1996, was dismissed unexpectedly in June 1996 when Yeltsin ousted most of the hard-liners from his inner circle in preparation for the second round of that year's presidential election.