Before becoming the Deputy Minister of Mechanical Engineering and Defense Industry of the USSR in 1980 – 1991, 14 worked for years at the Yakov Sverdlov Plant in the city of Dzerzhinsk in the Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod) region. The role of this plant in ensuring the country's defense capability has been and remains high. Suffice it to say that the company during the Great Patriotic War produced 25 percent of all ammunition supplied to the Red Army. Here Puzyrev went from master technologist to deputy chief engineer, so he knows almost everything about these products.
- What is the role of ammunition in solving military tasks?
- It is not an exaggeration to say that all types of weapons are guns, Tanks, planes, ships without ammunition remain just beautiful targets for the enemy. After all, the target strikes ammunition, and the rest of the weapons are only a means of delivery. In no case do I belittle the role of weapons, but even ultramodern models can fulfill the task only with the use of weapons. My philosophy is as follows: weapons and ammunition are a single whole and the absence or deficiency of one negates the significance of the other.
The whole course of the Great Patriotic War speaks of the invaluable role of ammunition. In the 1941, the Red Army had all the necessary weapon, and there was not enough ammunition - the Germans bombed the warehouses in the first days of the war, 40 percent of the factories were in the occupation zone. We had nothing to shoot - neither cartridges, nor shells. For example, only three shells per day were supposed to be on the cannon. So we started the war.
Each ammunition plant produced products almost until the arrival of the Germans, and only three days before the expected occupation, the equipment was completely dismantled, loaded into trains, and together with the workers and their families were sent to the Urals or beyond. Everything that could not be loaded and removed was blown up on the spot. And there was no case for the Germans to be able to use our factories for their intended purpose. They got empty production buildings or even ruins.
But in the first half of 1943-th industry already provided the army with the necessary amount of ammunition. From this moment begins the turning point in the war, and then the path to victory. By the way, to understand the role of ammunition, you need to know that during the war 50 percent metal was used to make them. By the 1944 – 1945 years, we not only fully satisfied the needs of the active army, but also managed to create reserves in the warehouses of the Far East and Transbaikalia for the rapid defeat of Japan.
- What did industry look like at the peak of the Soviet power?
- This period was the most significant in the development of the industry. The tense situation, the likelihood of military conflict forced the state leadership to pay special attention to it. And after the war, it carefully studied the experience of hostilities and, realizing the importance of the industry, decided to modernize it. On the basis of the plants began to create research institutes (SRI). They appeared 15, and before the war there were only five. At the same time, four sites were built to test almost all types of ammunition and weapons. Polygons are preserved today. Also, the Soviet government established four design institutes where work was carried out in the interests of research institutes and enterprises. To carry out fundamental research in the field of high-energy materials, explosion physics, the processes of burning powders and solid rocket fuels, institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR were involved. Now these institutions practically do not work for the defense industry.
As a result of the targeted policies of the party and government, the level of military equipment grew rapidly. So, for the post-war period until 1985, we managed to update the entire ammunition load of the army three or four times fleet. We have created such a military potential that the armies of the rest of the world find themselves in the role of catching up. At this time, Dmitry Fedorovich Ustinov was at the helm of the defense complex.
By the 90 years, our industry has achieved impressive results. Highly mechanized and automated lines for the production of shells of all types of ammunition, explosive devices, equipment and assembly of products were created and mastered. In highly dangerous chemical industries, that is, explosives, gunpowder, solid rocket fuel, pyrotechnic compositions, automated workshops with remote control, technological process and the complete withdrawal of people from dangerous areas appeared. In our research institute Dzerzhinsk, for the development and manufacture of automatic control systems (ACS), an automation department was allocated and an experimental plant was built for the production of ACS.
Of course, the search for an industry management model was not easy. After 1946, enterprises many times changed the departmental affiliation along such a chain: the Ministry of Agricultural Engineering - the Ministry of Defense Industry - the newly created Ministry of General Engineering - the Ministry of Defense - economic councils - again the Ministry of Defense Industry. In November, 1967 appeared a special government agency for the production of ammunition - the Ministry of Engineering of the USSR. The Council of Ministers, by its creation, emphasized the exceptional importance of work in the field of ammunition on a modern scientific basis.
The head of the new department was appointed Vyacheslav Vasilyevich Bakhirev. He graduated from Moscow State University 1941 of the year, went from design engineer to director of Kovrovsky Plant No. 2 named after V. A. Degtyarev, and in 1965 – 1967 he worked as first deputy minister of the defense industry of the USSR. This is due to his talent, high responsibility for the assigned task and understanding of the state importance of ammunition for the country's defense capability, our industry was recognized as one of the most important, determining the power of the Motherland.
As for me, for six years I was the director of a large factory in Chapaevsk for the production of explosives and ammunition equipment. Then I was appointed head of the main department of the Ministry of Mechanical Engineering for the production of explosives, equipment and assembly of ammunition. In this capacity, he oversaw 18 plants and three research institutes. And when I became a deputy minister, I was in charge of 30 plants and five research institutes.
- Now it is often claimed that the private owner is more effective than the state director. Do you agree with this statement?
- No private owner can ever be compared with a state leader, because he is motivated only by his own interest and profit. And the state set before us a task that we simply had no right not to solve. We had a huge burden of responsibility to the country. Especially in such an important sector as ammunition, on which the defense capability of the state depends. Not a single leader, if he were at least seven spans in his forehead, could single-handedly solve enormous tasks. But then the most powerful Soviet party-state system operated, all issues were resolved in a comprehensive manner. As a factory director, I relied on state and party bodies. Everything worked like a clock, clearly and harmoniously.
In addition, the director of a Soviet enterprise was to be responsible for social issues, no less, and even more so, than for production. We resettled people in good-quality houses from barracks built during the war during the evacuation of defense factories from west to east and the construction of new defense enterprises, provided with kindergartens. In 70, the kindergarten problem was completely resolved. Due to the construction of new schools, they made single-shift studies. Practically at all the factories, pioneer camps, sanatoriums, sports halls and stadiums appeared. All social sphere lay on the head. Thus, the scope of responsibilities of the Soviet director was immeasurably greater than any current top manager, and we coped.
- There is an opinion that the military-industrial complex lay a ruinous burden on the country's economy. What do you think?
- Not everyone knows that military-industrial complex enterprises engaged in the release of civilian products in huge volumes. There was an iron rule: an enterprise must produce consumer goods (consumer goods) for at least one ruble per ruble. That is, the salary of workers of the complex was fully covered by civil production. Nearly a million people worked in our industry. For one ruble of wages, we produced 1,6 rubles for consumer goods. Considering the fact that the salary in the military industrial complex was higher than the national average, you can imagine the enormous volumes we created civilian products, the highest, often world-class.
- How do you feel about the ever-increasing purchases of military equipment abroad?
- Another iron rule of the Soviet gunsmiths stated: it is forbidden to buy ammunition and equipment for industry from foreigners. At each factory there was a shop of non-standard equipment, in which about 500 people worked. They designed and created all the necessary technological equipment. I think this is the wisest decision. After all, the import of technology for the defense industry leads to dependence, which is fraught with dangerous consequences. Russian products in caliber do not fit with NATO, which means we will have to buy all the weapons from our sworn friends who, in the event of a conflict, will not slow down to stop deliveries. In addition, exports can significantly increase the revenue side of the country's budget. Today, Russia supplies a lot of ammunition abroad. About 50 countries in the world buy our products, in particular the Arab countries, India, Vietnam, Korea and others.
- What is the state of the industry today?
- Critical. Of the 150 ammunition enterprises, only 19 factories and one institute (Kazansky), which are now part of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia, remained state-owned. Federal state unitary enterprises (FSUE) and science transferred to Rostec. This means that they will be corporatized, that is, they may fall into private hands, be subject to sale or even speculation. That is, there will be practically the elimination of the complex and the destruction of science.
Part of the enterprises, especially the "mechanics" (those that produce shells, bombs), passed into the legal status of the LLC. I will give one example. After the privatization of the Vysokogorsky Mechanical Plant, where the shells of many types of shells were manufactured, 40 limited liability companies were formed, which are now renting production space for warehouse space, but do not produce anything themselves.
As a result of such pseudo-transformations, there appeared a shortage of capacities for the production of ammunition cases. There are only two state-owned plants for the production of explosives. While in 1988 – 1989, we produced two million tons of explosives for civilian industries, such as mining, today the volume is only 230 thousand tons.
The power of any army is determined not only by the latest military equipment, but also by the ability to produce modern ammunition. The leadership of the Russian Federation should be concerned not with the dressing of our army in a new form, made according to sketches of famous designers, but with the state of the defense industry, otherwise the army is suitable only for parades. In 1905, we lost to Japan due to the lack of ammunition, in 1941, to a large extent, for the same reason, Hitler approached Moscow. Unfortunately, история teaches nothing.
The country's development experience since the time of Peter I shows that ammunition factories should only be state-owned, for government orders are very sensitive to the international situation. The private owner will not be able to maintain power without significant costs, he always has problems of credits, interest, profit rates, markets and other things that are far from defense tasks. In addition, due to the reduction of the state order for military products in peacetime, the government should take care of placing civilian products at defense enterprises, protect them from possible imports, and provide financial support for their creation and improvement.
I believe that in peacetime the volume of state order for the main products should be no more than 30 – 40 percent, and the rest of the volume of production should be filled with peaceful products. We, veterans of the ammunition industry, are fighting to preserve its traditions to the best of our ability. This is the essence of the activities of the Regional Public Organization of war veterans and the labor of the ammunition industry.
- How do you see ways out of the crisis and the revival of the defense industry?
- It is necessary to unite enterprises of the military-industrial complex under one wing, which are now divided into many departments, concerns, holdings, and associations without clearly defined and unequivocal powers, and, consequently, responsibility. It is time to create a unified state body for the management of defense enterprises. They could be the revived Ministry of Defense Industry (MOP), which would oversee two main areas - the development, development and production, firstly, of conventional weapons, secondly, all types of ammunition, explosives, means of initiation, pyrotechnics, gunpowder, solid rocket fuel.
The responsibilities of the MOPA should also include conducting research and development on the instructions of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, building production facilities, organizing production and executing government orders of the military department and other security agencies, put all responsibility for its actions on it.
As for the ammunition industry, it is necessary to make its basis the federal state-owned enterprises (PCF), now included in the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Another part of the foundation of the MOP should be federal state unitary enterprises, now given to Rostec. It is also required to involve enterprises that are in commercial structures, all these endless companies, limited liability companies, joint-stock companies, and others in the production of ammunition. Their main purpose is to create and maintain mobilization capacities for launching in a threatened period through budgetary allocations.
The next task is to return research, research, production and development organizations to the Ministry of Defense Industry, to resume funding basic scientific research on the subject of defense in the institutes of the Academy of Sciences, universities and other scientific and educational institutions. It must be remembered that without the revival of applied and fundamental science, truly breakthrough solutions are impossible.
To eradicate the vicious practice of appointing the heads of factories and research institutes of specialists in financial flows and other incompetent people. Of course, pay special attention to personnel. Today, as a result of almost 20-year break in the influx of young people there is an acute shortage of specialists. In this regard, in order to ensure stable provision of highly qualified engineering and scientific personnel in the field of ammunition and special chemistry, full training should be restored at such universities as St. Petersburg Institute of Technology, Baltic State Technical University (“Voenmekh”) to them. Ustinova, Russian University of Chemical Technology Mendeleev, MSTU. Bauman, Moscow State University of Ecology, Kazan National Research University, Samara State Technological University, Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk Polytechnic Institutes, and others.
Training to carry out at the expense of budgetary funds. After graduation, a graduate should be sent to work in industrial enterprises, research and production associations, research institutes, design bureau and other structures of the defense industry for a period of three to five years. For the training of specialists with secondary technical education and professional workers to restore the work of vocational schools and vocational schools.
Now, more than ever, the slogan “Personnel decide everything” is relevant. The loss and non-fulfillment of highly qualified personnel means the loss of invaluable practical experience gained over decades, since it is not stored in books or on a computer hard drive, but in human memory.