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Russia to spend $700 bln on new weapons

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
The Associated Press
Friday, March 18, 2011; 9:22 AM

MOSCOW -- President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday that Russia will spend the equivalent of $700 billion by 2020 to modernize the military's aging arsenals, but sternly warned arms industries against jacking up prices.

Medvedev said the new plan should re-equip the armed forces, which have mostly relied on Soviet-built weapons, but some analysts say that the ambitious program that envisages procurement of 600 new warplanes, 100 ships and 1,000 helicopters is unfeasible because of a steady decline of the nation's once-proud arms industry.

Medvedev, speaking at a meeting with the top military brass, harshly criticized domestic arms makers for failing to meet Russia's weapons orders last year and said that the culprits will be punished.

Medvedev didn't give details, but deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov said last month that arms companies produced only five of 11 military satellites that were supposed to be delivered last year.

He added that the price for new armaments "must be transparent and comprehensible."

Medvedev said that some arms makers offer a low price and then swell it after winning the tender, which he called unacceptable.

"We have the money, all we need is to establish order," he said.

Russian military officials long have complained that the nation's arms makers are offering slightly remodeled versions of Soviet-built weapons at artificially high prices.

The military's Land Forces commander, Gen. Alexander Postnikov, told lawmakers earlier this week that the latest Russian weapons fall behind their Western analogues even though they are now offered to the military at prices higher than in the West. As an example, Postnikov cited Russia's latest tank, the T-90, which he said was a re-styled version of the T-72 tank dating back to the 1970s, the Interfax news agency reported.

Analysts say that the nation's military industries have been badly crippled by the post-Soviet industrial meltdown, which prompted hundreds of subcontractors to stop production of weapons parts.

The nation's top weapons manufacturers were forced to launch their own production of components, limiting their efficiency. They also have continued to rely on obsolete equipment and aging workforce, which limited their ability to design new weapons

Corruption also has been named as a key factor that slows down military modernization.

"The shape of the military-industrial complex makes it unable to produce the required number of weapons," independent analyst Alexander Golts said in a commentary published by the weekly New Times.

The decline of Russia's arms industries has been highlighted by the troubled development of the prospective Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile intended to equip a new generation of the navy's nuclear submarines. The missile has failed in most of its tests over the past few years, raising doubts about about its future and leaving a newly commissioned nuclear submarine without weapons.

Russia's prospective stealth fighter first flew last year, nearly two decades after the maiden flight of the first prototype of the U.S. F-22 Raptor it was intended to match, and it still lacks new engines and equipment to become fully combat worthy.

And the much-touted GLONASS satellite navigation system, Russia's purported answer to the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, has been unable to reach its full capacity because of equipment flaws and other technical problems.

Russia has bought drones from Israel and reached a deal with France to buy amphibious assault ships, which officials say the local industries can't produce.

© 2011 The Associated Press