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22 Oct 2012

Wheels for wings

Air force of Belarus
Belarusian-Russian relations still depends on military strategic and geopolitical interests of Moscow in exchange for economic benefits and preferences for the Belarusian regime.

As President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko clearly stated on October 16 at a press conference for Russian regional media, Belarus intends to use Russia's support to accelerate technical modernization of the army.

"We almost have modernized and reformed our Army. Of course, it is not enough money to maintain and upgrade equipment. Here we hope for Russia." For her, our army is "very beneficial." NATO considers it "as the most prepared and strong in the post-Soviet space."

But also  the head of state acknowledged that alone Belarus can not protect itself.

It should be recalled that on September 21 in Gorki, sharing with reporters the details of their last meeting in Sochi with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko said that in accordance with to an agreement Belarus will get modern aircrafts from Russia to carry on duty at the Western border. Deliveries will be made within the framework of the strengthening of the regional defense system (EPC) of the two countries. For Belarus there is a certain need to update the fleet of combat aircraft of the Belarusian army due to the fact that many military aircraft now flying will end their resource in nearest future.

Experts believe that it could be a supply of the so-called Indian Su-30K. They were transferred from Moscow to Delhi in 1997-1999., in the first phase of the Indo-Russian deal to sell the Su-30MKI.

Due to the delayed start of serial production of aircrafts of this type India had agreed to a temporary supply of her 18 Su-30K (less advanced in its strike capabilities, but are similar in design and flight characteristics) for training pilots and technicians. They are to be replaced on the Su-30MKI after the development of industrial production of the latter, which was happened in 2007-2009.

As for the fate of the returned to the owner (Russian Aircraft Corporation "Irkut") Su-30K, after renovation and upgrade to the Su-30KN (capable of carrying a wide range of weapons of "air - surface"), they are to be put up for sale again. Expected revenue should reach 270-360 million USD. For comparison, the market value of the 18 new aircraft of this type is  over 1 billion USD.

To refurbish  the Su-30Ks “Irkut”  has chosen  558th Aircraft Repair Plant in Baranovichi. According to media reports, the choice in favor of the Belarusian company was made in order not to pay the Russian treasury of VAT 18% of the total cost of fighters, as provided for by the customs legislation in the case of reverse their import to the Russian Federation.

Among the potential buyers were Sudan, Ethiopia, Venezuela, Argentina and Vietnam. Later in this list was also included Belarus. And this version, given the special nature of the relations between Minsk and Moscow in the defense sector has been recognized by analysts one of the most likely.

However, towards the realization of this scenario from the beginning, there was a major obstacle - a high residual value even of used aircraft weapons (one Su-30KN pull at least 15 million USD) is too heavy for the Belarusian economy.

Moreover, as the source of the circles close to the leaders of Russia informs, Belarus will not be able to count on the credit of the Russian Ministry of Finance in case of an application for the purchase of fighter jets. If we talk about the possibility of donation to Minsk aircraft or non-monetary payments for them, then it strongly opposed by high-ranking officials of "Rosoboronexport". In this case they will lose their mediation percent.

In these circumstances, the authorities of Belarus could only hope for another gesture of good will on the part of the Kremlin, interested, as you know, in the strength of its western outpost.

With the return to the presidency of Vladimir Putin, who categorically rejects the nomination to Europe advanced position of the U.S. missile defense system, this scenario began to look more likely. Another reason is the increasing interest of the Russian leadership to strengthen the air force and air defense forces of Belarus, is relocation of Americans F-16s to Poland from Italy scheduled for 2013.

In addition to the above arguments, the positive impetus for Minsk to address the issue of the Su-30K, apparently gave the violation of the air border of the Union State of Belarus and Russia by a Swedish light aircraft on July 4, 2012

The story of "Indian" aircraft still remain unclear, at least a way of payment for transferred airplanes.

One of the most creative versions - giving the Russian side at no cost a plot of land to create the base area of tactical missiles "Iskander-M". However, more pragmatic experts believe that for the Su-30K Belarus will pay by counter delivery of defense products. And, most likely, it will be wheeled MZKT  trucks to accommodate the latest Russian weapons.

In favor of this option says that part of the story of Alexander Lukashenko's meeting with Putin, which dealt with Russia on equal participation of Belarusian companies to bid for placement of the state defense order of the Russian Federation. Up until now, Russia has the order in which the Belarusian box contents to the Russian military equipment, are considered to be of foreign origin. "We agreed that this should not be", - the president of Belarus.

There is every reason to believe that the discussion at such a high level, it was provoked by a recent article in the newspaper "Izvestia". It was reported that according to a tacit indication from the top of the Ministry of Defense reportedly intends to transfer its armed forces with heavy chassis manufactured by the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MZKT) to the Russian counterparts (Bryansk and Kama Automobile Plants).

These car plants without tenders should get most of the orders for special wheel chassis for complex "Iskander" and multiple launch rocket systems "Tornado." There are a few reasons for such a decision. The main thing is that the Russian authorities have decided to adopt a policy of technical independence from imported products.

However it is possible that this publication is largely a bluff, and intended to make the Belarusian leadership more amenable for the transmission of  control over number of leading enterprises in the domestic machine-building complex, including MAZ and MZKT to Russians.

In fact, the situation is that for the foreseeable future the Belarusian wheel chassis and tractors will remain the main transport base for a large part of the Russian ground mobile military equipment. These include: 8-axle all-wheel special wheeled chassis MZKT-79221, 4-wheel-drive axle wheel chassis MZKT-7930, 2, and 3-axis wheel-drive chassis MZKT-8021/8022 wheel, 3-wheel-axle wheeled chassis MZKT-69221.

So, MZKT-79221 (16x16 wheel formula) is designed for installation of launchers and transport machines Russian road-mobile missile systems of strategic purpose (PGRK) "Topol-M" and "Yars", which should be the basis of the strategic nuclear forces of Russia.

And on the MZKT-7930 (8x8) (which in the first place are going to replace the bases and Kamaz) today installed: launcher, transport and loading vehicle tactical missile systems (PTRC) "Iskander-M" and "Iskander-E"; combat and transport vehicles multiple launch rocket systems "Uragan-1" machines provide alerting strategic missile complex "Topol-M" and "Yars", radar air defense missile system S-400 launchers and transport and loading vehicle anti coastal missile complexes "Bastion", "Bal-E," "Club-M"; bridge layer TMM-6 "Track 2", etc.

To adapt all of these add to the other wheel base, need a lot of time and money and rich Russia - not excessive. As, by the admission of representatives of the Bryansk Automobile Plant, Minsk rapid transition from the chassis to the Russian will not work. Even if the final decision will be taken before the end of 2012, it is still required from 5 to 7 years to carry out development work, testing and revision of the chassis. A completion of an important phase of modernization of the Russian army is scheduled for 2020


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