In the military-industrial complex of Belarus over the past years, there have been noticeable changes. The military enterprises of the republic, in cooperation with foreign partners, began to produce several types of new products for themselves, including multiple rocket launchers, unmanned aerial vehicles, and light armored vehicles. Production of cruise missiles is at the development stage. But when promoting these products to foreign markets, Belarus will face fierce competition.
During the years of independence, the country not only preserved the legacy of the Soviet military-industrial complex, but also managed to turn it into a fairly modern industry. Due to the limited demand for military products from its own armed forces, the defense-industrial complex of Belarus is mainly export-oriented. In addition to the traditional sales market - Russia, the republic actively promotes defense products to the countries of the CIS, Asia and Africa. And although the state’s demand has been growing in recent years, the importance of exports for Belarusian military enterprises remains decisive. Moreover, in the conditions of the economic crisis, the defense industry is one of the few segments of the economy that can bring foreign currency earnings to the budget.
Over the past three years, the state, which controls almost the entire industry, has made significant adjustments to its development. As in Kazakhstan (the “Competence Seekers”), the impetus was the Ukrainian crisis, which vividly demonstrated the importance of the UAV, the MLRS and light armored vehicles. Belarus was never engaged in their production, so it had to be developed from scratch.
At the end of September, 2014, Alexander Lukashenko, at a meeting on the development of advanced defense systems, set the task of equipping the army with modern weapons. “The equipment should provide defense units, high mobility, controllability, the ability to conduct reconnaissance and deliver accurate fire strikes over long distances ... Nobody will sell you anything if you do not create it yourself ...” Western sources linked this statement to Lukashenko with events in Ukraine. According to them, the Belarusian leader intends to close the production of military products inside the country to the maximum so that in an emergency situation he can defend himself without looking at Russia.
The tasks of developing new types of weapons were formulated in the form of “complex system projects” (programs) in four areas: fire weapons, mobile weapons platforms, UAVs, combat geo-information systems. It was possible to achieve some success, albeit different in importance and level of localization. In the same place, where own production was absent, and Belarusian specialists did not have experience and competencies, they had to cooperate with foreign partners.
"Polonaise" and "Stork"
A good example is the production of the new heavy MLRS Polonaise, carried out jointly with China. Belarus had no experience in making rockets until recently.
9 last May MLRS were shown to the public. In the parade column along Pobediteley Avenue in Minsk, two launch vehicles and two transport-loading vehicles passed. During their passage, the commentator said that the Polonez is effective at a distance of 200 kilometers, which exceeds the most long-range Soviet MLRS Smerch, and can also hit up to eight targets simultaneously. The system is mounted on the Belarusian-made MZKT-7930 chassis, which is widely used in the Russian army.
According to experts, the Belarusian MLRS used a Chinese rocket A-200, which has similar characteristics (caliber - 301 mm, range of destruction - from 50 to 200 km). 17 of April of this year, speaking before the staff of the Minsk Mission Control Center, Alexander Lukashenko acknowledged that Polonez was created in collaboration with Chinese colleagues. In China, he said, “some components” were purchased, on the basis of which Belarusian specialists created a rocket with a range of 200 – 300 kilometers. The complex is manufactured by the Precision Electromechanical Plant located in Dzerzhinsk, near Minsk.
In developing its own cruise missiles, known as the “Stork”, Minsk was guided by the experience of Ukraine, whose defense industry is in its death state after breaking ties with the Russian Federation. In April, 2014, when visiting the 558 Aviation Repair Plant in Baranavichy, Lukashenko suggested using the crisis in Ukraine to borrow military technology and recapture cadres. In September of the same year, the Belarusian delegation visited the defense enterprises of Kiev, Lvov, Dnepropetrovsk, Chernigov and Zaporozhye, interested in anti-aircraft and tactical missiles and their components. At the Zaporozhye Motor Sich JSC, an agreement was reached on the creation of the production of small-size gas turbine engines for cruise missiles at the Orsha Aircraft Repair Plant.
At the same time, Ukrainians may well pass on to the Belarusians the production technology of the X-55 cruise missile, which in 80's was produced at the Kharkov Aviation Plant. The Ukrainian defense industry attempted to set up the production and supply for export of air, ground and ship-based missiles of similar characteristics as far back as 2005, after the first Orange Revolution. According to experts, the appearance of "Stork" can be expected already this year.
"Berkut", "Grief" and "Cayman"
The development of UAVs Belarus began to engage in the early 2010-x. The production of UAVs was organized by JSC "AGAT-control systems" in conjunction with the 558-m aircraft repair plant. On the basis of the developments of the Russian corporation "Irkut", the Belarusians launched the production of the light reconnaissance UAVs "Berkut-1" and "Berkut-2". The first one has a mass of 15 kilograms and can fly 15 kilometers at an altitude of 1000 meters. "Bercut-2" has more serious characteristics. With a mass of 50 kilograms, it is able to climb 3000 meters and act at a distance of up to 35 kilometers. The higher class is its own Belarusian model - “Griff-100”. This BLA of 165 kilograms carries 20 kilograms of payload and spends up to five hours in the air. Last April, it announced plans to release an export version of the “Vultures”, intended for countries in Asia and Africa.
The development of light wheeled armored vehicles became a new direction for Belarus. A light-armored Caiman vehicle was designed at the 140 Repair Works in Borisov, Minsk Region. In the short time allotted by the country's leadership to manufacture the product, it used the components of the Soviet wheeled armored vehicles to the maximum. As a result, the creation of a prototype took only four months.
The basis for the Caiman was the Soviet BRDM-2, from which the armored corps was borrowed. Part of the units was taken from the BTR-60. With its appearance, the Cayman is very similar to the BRDM, from which it was removed the tower and slightly modified the design of the hull. Unlike the Russian "Tiger" and other armored vehicles of a similar class, the Caiman has only two doors, which greatly slow down the landing and disembarkation. There is no new Belarusian armored car and loopholes for shooting from the inside. The traditionally weak point of the BRDM was the reservation, which, apparently, also inherited Cayman. Therefore, it is unlikely to compete with modern models of light armored vehicles.
The Belarusian version of the Russian “Tiger” looks more promising, it is called “Lis-SP” and is produced under a license at the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant. Its anti-tank version is equipped with its own Hornet missile system. In addition, several years ago, the media reported on the Belarus-developed Bars light armored car, but apparently it did not go into the series.
Of course, Russia remains the key partner of Belarus in the military-technical sphere. Despite the negative processes of the first post-Soviet decade, the defense-industrial complexes of the two countries maintained close ties. Military-technical cooperation between Moscow and Minsk is governed by the 2009 agreement of the year, which determines the procedure for mutual supplies of military equipment, their terms, rights and obligations of the parties. At present, the share of Belarus in the military order of Russia is about 15 percent. About a hundred Belarusian enterprises produce about 2000 names for 255 Russian defense companies. In our country, 940 enterprises supply around 4000 products and components for 70 Belarusian defense factories. Active cooperation has been established in the field of service, modernization and repair of Soviet-made military equipment.
The products of the Minsk Volat wheel tractor plant, created in 1954-m on the basis of MAZ and separated into separate production at the beginning of the 90-s, are the most significant for Russia. MZKT, in particular, makes wheel platforms for Iskander OTRK, Smerch and Tornado MLRS, C-300 and C-400 air defense missile systems, Tor and Buk wheeled versions, launchers and transporting and charging systems. machines of anti-ship complexes "Bastion", "Bal-E", "Club-M", as well as all mobile strategic missile systems: "Topol", "Topol-M", "Yars" and "Rubezh". Today, Russia's share in the MZKT revenue is about 80 percent, and the volume of orders allows you to load it up to 2018 year.
In connection with the strategic importance of MZKT, Moscow, even before the start of the Ukrainian crisis, actively offered Minsk to sell the plant. In March, the 2013 parties reached an agreement in principle to create a joint holding company, which was supposed to enter MZKT, but for three years they have not been able to bring the plan to life. In August, the President of Belarus’s 2015 declared that the republic was ready to give up the plant for no less than three billion dollars, which Moscow considered excessive. As a result, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev 2 of April offered to move the production of wheel platforms to KamAZ, which in June last year demonstrated its own heavy tractor project "Platform-O". The situation for Minsk is aggravated by the fact that the manufacturer of the air defense systems C-300, C-400 and C-500 - Almaz-Antey concern acquired the Bryansk Automobile Plant and plans to transfer the production of wheeled platforms for its complexes to it.
In response, the Belarusian side launched a PR campaign, regarding these plans of Russia as an attempt to pressure. In the materials inspired by Minsk, Moscow’s intentions in the fall of oil prices, the economic crisis and budget deficit were depicted as unrealistic. Nevertheless, MZKT in recent years has been actively developing civilian themes, and also seeks to master the Asian and African markets, promoting heavy wheeled tractors for transporting armored vehicles.
An important area of the bilateral military-technical cooperation is military optics and sighting systems. In particular, Peleng OJSC supplies sights for modernization to Russia tanks T-72, is developing a fire control system for the Chrysanthemum-S missile defense system. The subject of supplies of the Belarusian Optical and Mechanical Association are sighting systems for grenade launchers. BelOMO is also developing a scope for the Russian AK-12 assault rifle. Minsk Design Bureau "Display" supplies monitors for aircraft in the Russian Federation, adapted to a wide variety of operating conditions.
Losing is easy
Against the background of the general decline in the industry, which in the first quarter of this year made up 4,3 percent, the defense industry complex of Belarus shows good performance. According to the State Committee of the Military Industry, in January-May, the 2016 enterprise enterprises increased output by 8,4 by the same period last year. At the same time, return on sales was 34,4 percent, exports of goods and services increased by 31 percent. As a result, the net profit of the military sector of the economy in 1,6 times exceeded last year's figures.
So the reluctance of Minsk to sell defense and other industrial enterprises in Moscow is understandable. The new owner can set other tasks for them, completely reorienting to meet their needs. The same MZKT, for example, is needed by Russia to provide its own Armed Forces with heavy wheeled platforms, and not the Afro-Asian armies. Under the threat may be export contracts, bringing the treasury foreign exchange earnings. The possibilities of Minsk to maneuver in the foreign policy arena will also decrease, where military-technical cooperation has traditionally been an effective tool for solving any tasks.
But in an effort to preserve independence from Russia, there are also problems. Many large enterprises, such as MZKT or Peleng, work almost exclusively for Russian customers, and if relations between Minsk and Moscow deteriorate, this market is easy to lose. As for the same MZKT, this perspective is already seen quite clearly. The export potential of the Belarusian defense industry in Asia and Africa has rather limited prospects.
Over time, this situation will increasingly affect the combat effectiveness of the Belarusian armed forces. The resource of Soviet technology is exhausted, and equipping the army with new weapons and military equipment will require large expenditures. Master the production of most types of sophisticated military equipment, such as aviationDue to the limited economic potential, tanks, air defense systems, the republic is not able to, and today it is impossible to ensure defense capability without them. Therefore, the question of Belarus purchasing abroad or joint production of new defense systems will soon become relevant again.