Astana seeks to produce modern weapons independently
March 14 Kazakhstan launched the construction of the country's first cartridge factory, which should provide the army with the most demanded types of ammunition for rifle fire. arms. Despite the economic crisis, the republic is actively developing the defense-industrial complex, trying to at least partially provide the armed forces with its own products.
The development of the defense industry is also stimulated by the growing conflict in the Middle East and the former Soviet Union, which, according to Astana, is a potential threat.
Until the last Soviet patron
The Minister of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan (RK) Imangali Tasmagambetov personally started the construction of the cartridge plant. The site is located in Karaganda on the territory of the special economic zone "Saryarka". The press release of the defense department explains that the plant is being created "to ensure the necessary level of national security, as well as taking into account the reduction of the available stock of small arms ammunition." The most popular types of ammunition for small arms in the republics of the former USSR are outlined for production: 5,45x39, 7,62x54, 9X18, 9x19 millimeters. Thanks to the new enterprise, Kazakhstan expects not only to cover domestic needs for the cartridges of these calibers, but also to set up export.
The assertion that the construction of the plant is associated with a decrease in available reserves is not entirely true. In February, the upper house of parliament approved the donation of five million cartridges to neighboring Kyrgyzstan, which are expiring. If the Kazakh army, which is not at war with anyone, did not manage to shoot them at the test sites, it means that there has not yet been a shortage. The deficit could be compensated for through purchases in Russia. The real reason for the construction of the plant is that Kazakhstan wants to become independent of its northern neighbor in such a sensitive area as ammunition, stimulating the development of its own defense and metallurgy. Only the consumption of brass after commissioning the plant is projected to be around 300 tons per year. The use of local raw materials and materials, as emphasized in the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan, will ensure independence from external suppliers.
The Canadian company Waterbury Farrel will supply production equipment for the plant; its capacity after commissioning will be 30 million cartridges per year. It is planned to complete construction by the end of 2017. That is, after two years, the republic will be able to independently supply itself with cartridges. At the same time, a huge amount of Soviet-made ammunition will remain in the warehouses of the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan. Only millimeters of 5,45X39 cartridges, as noted at recent Senate hearings, Kazakhstan has more than a billion.
Armored vehicles with a sight to China
The events of two years ago in the Crimea, the rapid actions of the special forces units sharply increased in the CIS countries interest in light wheeled armored vehicles. Kazakhstan went a proven way and created the production of armored wheeled vehicles with the South African company Paramount Group. The Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering joint venture has been producing three types of armored vehicles: Marauder, Maverick and Mbombe, which received the names Arlan, Nomad and Barys in Kazakhstan.
"Arlan" is an armored vehicle with a mass of 13 and a carrying capacity of five tons with a wheel formula 4х4. Accommodates two crew members and eight paratroopers. Hull reservation provides mine and ballistic protection for the STANAG 4569 3 level. The maximum speed on the highway - 120 kilometers per hour, power reserve - 700 kilometers. On tests in Kazakhstan, according to local sources, “Arlan” withstood an explosion of eight kilograms of TNT, shelling from a Kalashnikov assault rifle of 5,45 caliber and 7,62 millimeter from a distance of 50 meters, from the SVD - from 100 meters. Actually, Kazakhstan is only the body. Engines and bridges for Arlan will supply Russian KamAZ. In the future, it is planned to bring the share of its own components to 40 percent. The cost of the car is not called, the original armored car costs about half a million dollars. Production plans include the release of 120 machines per year.
The company was started with the expectation of export. The license agreement provides for the possibility of delivery to 12 countries, including Russia and China. At the end of January, during the visit of Imangali Tasmagambetov to Jordan, an agreement was signed on the supply of Arlans to the armed forces of the 50 kingdom. For an industry that has barely deployed assembly production, this contract, if executed, will be a great success. Initially, Astana, apparently, was counting on the Russian market. But in the current conditions, Moscow is unlikely to buy Arlans. The anti-crisis plan for the 2016 year provides for the purchase of own-made armored vehicles. Moreover, having been burned by cooperation with Ukraine, the placement of military orders abroad — even in allied states, it would seem — is not enthusiastic for Russia.
With the release of "Nomad" and "Barys" certainty less. "Nomad" is intended for the police. "Barys" is more suitable for equipping army units. It is supposed to be released in two versions: 6x6 and 8x8. The six-wheeled version differs from the “Arlan” by almost twice the weight (22,5 tons) and increased capacity. In addition to the commander, driver and gunner, Barys is designed for eight full-armed paratroopers. Equipping these vehicles to the army and police will require large expenditures of the budget, which is going through hard times because of falling oil prices. “Barys” essentially represents the modern version of the BTR, but the Soviet BTR-60, -70 and -80, which are currently in service, are not in a position to replace them, which is well understood in the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan. It is not by chance that a press release published about the release of “Barys” states that its production can be adjusted if there is a need for ground forces for this type of equipment.
Exporting optics is not yet viewed.
In recent years, Kazakhstan has begun to develop fundamentally new segments of the military industry. In April, 2011, the largest national defense holding company Kazakhstan Engineering, the Turkish company ASELSAN, and the Turkish Defense Industry Committee set up a joint venture in which the founders received a percentage of shares of 50, 49 and 1, respectively. It is focused on the production of night and day vision devices, thermal imagers, optical sights, and other products of similar subjects. Since there was no such high-tech production in Kazakhstan before, it can be assumed that the share of its own components in optical devices will be modest.
In contrast to the assembly production of armored vehicles, where there are already prototypes and even the first deliveries are planned for our own army and for export, little is known about Astana’s success in the production of military optics. The export of instruments manufactured by Kazakhstan ASELSAN Engineering was discussed during a recent visit by Imangali Tasmagambetov to Jordan, but no specific contracts were signed. In December, 2015 reported that this year the company plans to start producing infrared lenses for thermal imagers using nanotechnology. The CIS countries and Turkey are considered as promising markets for them. However, Russian customers cannot be counted on, since in the conditions of the conflict with Ankara, Moscow is unlikely to go for the purchase of Turkish military-industrial complex products assembled in Kazakhstan.
A similar situation with the production of military electronics. In June, 2011-th Kazakhstan Engineering and the Spanish company Indra Sistemas SA created a joint venture in which Astana received 49 percent. It was supposed to establish the production of radar, EW systems, intelligence and other military electronics. However, nothing is known about success in this direction. The main supplier of communications for the Kazakh army is still the Alma-Ata plant named after SM Kirov. According to the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan, over the past five years, the company has supplied the armed forces of the republic with more than 100 mobile communications equipment, of which more than 40 - in 2015. The same plant last year provided the modernization of the command-staff machines P-142H1 on the basis of KamAZ, developing for them intercom and switching equipment.
Attempts to create assembly plants are being undertaken by Astana in the aircraft industry. In December, the joint venture Eurocopter Kazakhstan Engineering was established by 2010 in collaboration with Airbus Helicopters. According to plans, its performance was to make 10 – 12 EC-145 helicopters per year, assembled from vehicle kits. However, mastering the assembly was not easy. The number of helicopters delivered by the SC RK is still calculated in units, the transfer of each vehicle becomes an event. At the end of 2012, the Kazakh side discussed with the "Helicopters of Russia" the possibility of organizing the Ka-226T assembly production in the Republic at the Aircraft Repair Plant No. 405 in Almaty. The needs of the domestic market were estimated at 200 – 250 machines, whereas in the republic at that time only 100 of such helicopters were operated. But further discussions did not go.
The achievements of the Kazakhstani military-industrial complex in military shipbuilding are more noticeable, for which there are objective reasons. In the Great Patriotic War, several large arms manufacturing enterprises were evacuated here for the Soviet Navy. After the collapse of the USSR, they were partially redesigned for civilian products and mastered a new type of activity - the construction of small military vessels. Controlling the vast sector of the Caspian Sea, rich in hydrocarbon reserves and fish, Kazakhstan needs its own patrol navy.
Two enterprises of the city of Uralsk are engaged in military shipbuilding - the Zenit plant and the Gidropribor scientific research institute. The first in two and a half decades 23 ship built from 13 to 250 tons. "Gidropribor" produces speedboats with a displacement of up to 70 tons. In February 2016, Kazakhstan Engineering announced the upcoming modernization of Zenit, which will allow it to build ships up to 600 tons of deadweight.
Military for internal needs
The geography of military-technical cooperation of Kazakhstan suggests that, despite the membership in the CSTO and the EAEU, Astana is focused on joint development with leading defense enterprises of Turkey, the European Union and South Africa. Moreover, this tendency manifested itself long before the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, which aroused concerns among the leadership of the republic and part of the titular nation that North Kazakhstan inhabited by Russian and Russian-speaking peoples could repeat the fate of Crimea. The main reason for focusing on cooperation with foreign defense companies is the desire to pursue a multi-vector foreign policy, as well as access to modern military technology in order to establish their own production and export supplies in the future.
On this road, Kazakhstan faced numerous difficulties related to the narrowness of the domestic market, the lack of a production base, the necessary competencies and qualified personnel. In economic terms, small-scale assembly production of military equipment is unprofitable. Therefore, the calculation was on the markets of Russia and other EAEU countries. But with Western sanctions and the conflict with Ankara, the prospects for the purchase by Moscow of military equipment, which is a product of the European or Turkish military-industrial complex under the Kazakhstani brand, are close to zero. It is not by chance that Astana is actively trying to establish the export of defense products to countries in the Middle East. But there are military-technical ties that have developed over decades and it is very difficult to enter this market.
In the Soviet military industrial complex, the bulk of workers and engineers were traditionally Slavs. It was precisely the need for building and providing personnel for new enterprises that largely explained the influx of the European population into the territory of the Kazakh SSR in the post-war years. However, in the quarter of a century that has passed since independence, the republic lost half of its Russian population and many competencies in machine building and other industries have simply been lost. As a result, it is difficult today to find qualified personnel for military enterprises. They are trying to solve the problem by training students in Western technological universities under the Bolashak program, whose participants are almost exclusively Kazakhs. But such an approach implies a transition to Western technical standards, which takes time and corresponding competencies.
Certain successes achieved in the military industry in recent years do not allow us to speak of the presence of a developed defense industry in Kazakhstan. If you do not succeed in entering foreign markets and establish export of defense products, chances are high that new enterprises will remain small-scale assembly production for domestic needs.