Recently, a large-scale exhibition “Weapons and Security-2019” was completed in the capital, where new products of the domestic defense industry were shown. Sergiy Zgurets, Director of the Information and Consulting Company Defense Express, told Apostrophe about which of these novelties may soon appear in the Army, the expediency of building a Ukrainian Corvette, as well as the further development of the peace settlement process in the Donbas.
– Last week, the annual international exhibition “Weapons and Security – 2019″was held in Kiev. What are your impressions of what you saw?
– The exhibition was interesting because the pool of foreign companies, in particular, American, Polish and Turkish ones were increased. All of them expect to find partners on Ukrainian market or enter it with their products. Understanding that our army is being rebuilt has finally created the interest of foreign structures in the Ukrainian market. On the other hand, this is not very happy for representatives of Ukrainian State, and even more so of private companies, who understand that the budget is not infinite, and therefore they have no interest in selling products of foreign players here.
– What new types of weapons have you noted for yourself?
– In the field of rocket artillery, we are lagging behind Russian multiple launch systems, which, due to changes in rocket fuel, provide a greater range of 20 km defeats in comparison, for example, with the usual “Grad”. Personally, I was interested in a sample that stood on the stand of Yuzhnoye Design Office – missile projectile “Tayfun-1”. There are three modifications – “Tayfun-1”, “Tayfun-2” and “Tayfun-3”. So, “Tayfun-1” is the modernization of MLRS “Grad”, “Tayfun-2” is the modernization of MLRS “Uragan”, and “Tayfun-3” is similar to the project “Vilkha”, which is implemented by the Kyiv SDB “Luch”. “Tayfun-1” is able to hit targets 20 km further than the “Grad”. That is, it is an increase in the range of MLRS.
All these projects are offered to the Ukrainian Army by the Yuzhnoye Design Office. But the most important thing is the automation of combat control. Such samples were presented in fragments. So, at the stand of the same Yuzhnoye Design Office, there was a control system for complex “Grom-2” No one paid attention to it, although this system is offered as part of the IT-artillery project. This is the creation of software that can turn individual weapons of destruction into strike and intelligence systems. We are developing this area, but I hope that it will develop much more actively. The question is whether the new leadership of the country and the Ministry of Defense are ready to implement these developments as soon as possible.
– Is it ready?
– This is a difficult question. Now there are processes related to the formation of a new defense review. We should get it in November. It will formulate new threats and challenges. Based on new threats, we should change the State program for the development of weapons and create a new image of the Armed Forces. However, these new realities will be formulated later than the new budget is set.
– For the first time, the cruise missile system “Neptun” developed by Kyiv SDB “Luch” was shown at the exhibition. Is the new leadership of the country ready to develop missile programs, as its predecessors did?
– The end of the year is approaching, when there is a financial resource that can be used. On the one hand, this money can be used for the purchase of radar stations and products of SDB “Luch”. Or for the purchase of the US Javelin. But I am sure that the new leadership of the Ministry of Defense, fearing the accusations of not using money for defense needs, will direct a significant part of these funds to finance of missile programs that can be guaranteed to be demonstrated as a complete product. These are anti-tank guided missiles “Stugna” and “Korsar”, work on the project “Neptune” and “Vilkha”. Therefore, I think that SDB “Luch” will receive enough funds to enter for the State tests “Neptune” this year.
– If all goes well, when can we predict the appearance of the complex “Neptun” in the Army?
– “Neptun” will be offered as a mobile coastal defense system to enhance the potential of the Naval forces. I think that in an optimistic scenario, if the tests are completed this year, then from the end of next year, it can get into the Army.
– Neptune is also being developed as an air- and sea-based complex. What are the prospects in this direction?
– I think that the most likely continuation is the option of sea-based missile boats “Lan”. But the completion of this project should not be expected before 2 years. The aviation component can also be expected in 2-3 years.
– This year, missile “Vilkha-M” with an extended range was tested. When should we expect this system to appear in the Army?
– Missiles “Vilkha” (launch range up to 70 km, – “Apostrophe”) and “Vilkha-R” (with a cluster warhead, – “Apostrophe”) are already being purchased. They replace regular 300-mm shells for MLRS “Smerch”. Missiles “Vilkha-M” (with an extended range of up to 130 km, “Apostrophe”) will also be purchased in the new year. At the same time, the artillery batteries that will use “Vilkha-M” will be determined. But all this should be accompanied by an improvement in our intelligence capabilities. With long-range weapons, we should have tools that collect information at these distances. Unmanned battlefield systems will not help here. We need more advanced systems, such as Turkish Bayraktar.
– By the way, we also saw the Bayraktar drone at the exhibition.
– … I personally welcome the cooperation with the Turks. This is an interesting window of technological opportunities that are more accessible than cooperation, for example, with European companies.
– Back to the Navy Forces. A month ago, Ukraine started talking about the resumption of the State Target Defense Program for the construction of ships of class “Corvette” under the project 58250…
– This is also a difficult question… I understand the economic logic somewhere. The Corvette project is at a stage where it is more expensive to abandon its completion than to complete it. If we do not do this, we will lose the experience that could be used for other projects. In addition, it is necessary to provide the shipbuilding industry with financial injections and return some of the competencies that were lost. Sailors convince me that we need a Corvette. But it is planned to build four such ships, at a cost of $250 million each. That is, they will cost about $1 billion in total. This is a sky-high amount. And then I start to think, and what efforts will Russia make to sink such a Corvette in the event of a naval conflict? If we say that the number of cruise missiles that Russia can release in the first shot is twice the number of channels for tracking our air defense systems, then we begin to understand that we will not be able to cover our Corvette, which means that if we start fighting, we will lose it. That is, the risk of being sunk in the closed waters of the Black Sea for this ship is very high. So it turns out that we need a Corvette, rather, from a professional point of view, but not as a combat unit. In other words, this project has a cost, but no value. Although I suspect that after the release of this interview, there will be other comments on this issue.
– Then what’s the way out?
– When we talk about protecting our water area, we must rely on missiles that can cause destruction to Russian bases – and this option is more appropriate than a construction of a Corvette.
– This is again a rocket complex “Neptun”?
– Including it. But in such discussions, we are sleepwalking into comparison of combat capabilities. And we will always concede to Russia in this respect, especially if we start to practice linear logic. Building of 4 corvettes for one billion dollars is just the same linear logic. We need to look for ways in which we can inflict such harm on the aggressor that further offensive actions will be impossible. This is not even the creation of new weapons, but of new approaches that would minimize Russian threats.
On the other hand, if Russia is drawn into a war, we estimate that it will be a war up to the English channel. With our potential, we will not be able to contain Russia. But the war is the last argument when the Kremlin realizes that they can’t do anything. Now Russia’s strategy is the collapse of NATO, the European Union and Ukrainian stability from within. Therefore, the threat of a Russian landing on the Ukrainian Black Sea coast is more hypothetical than, for example, the deterioration of relations with Ukraine on the part of European countries, the threat of sanctions lifting against Russia and other challenges that are formed against a political background.
– Has the situation at the international level worsened for us?
– Of course, from the point of view of international trends, it has worsened for us.
– Recently, we have started trying to resolve the situation in the Donbas. We agree to the implementation of the “Steinmeier formula” and talk about the withdrawal of Armed Forces in certain areas. Then the situation changes and we are already saying that it is impossible to withdraw while the attacks continue. Does this uncertainty affect the mood of fighters on the front line?
– The situation is not easy for the army. In any case, the military will carry out tasks, because they do not have other job descriptions. But this also imposes responsibility on the political leadership. That is, the situation “we leave, and then return”, is not clear for the military. The army is not an accordion that can be stretched, but then compress. We will not agree with the aggressor, and therefore the withdrawal of Armed Forces is not an option that is supported unanimously in the Army.
– What is the future of these processes?
– The Russian side raises the bar of demands, and then looks at the reaction of our political leadership, expecting that they will not stand up to nerves. This is a vivid manifestation of the hybrid wars. Putin needs all of Ukraine, and the fate of Donetsk and Luhansk is seen in the Kremlin only as an option to achieve this strategic goal.