New APCS-4 for the Army: Not et Made, But Already Bulging at the Seams. Why is so?

"Ukroboronprom" did not make efforts to break the deadlock on the issue of steel for the production of APCS-4. Pathetic assurances about the importance of APCS-4 manufacturing with 71-th armor – this is one thing. Reality is different.
Photo: Defense Express

Private enterprise “Lozova Forging-Mechanical Plant” delivered the first three casings for APCS-4 production of the new batch to Kharkov Machine Building Design Bureau (KMDB). But it turned out that they were defected. There are cracks on them. However, the unwelled and cracked armor is branded with the military representation of the Ministry of Defense, which is meant that these casings are OK. To be honest, it’s just some kind of sur…

Let me remind you that on the eve of the new year, the General Director of Ukroboronprom Aivaras Abromavicius said that together with the Ministry of Defense and with the support of the Government, they finally unblocked the contract under State guarantees for the supply of 45 APCS-4 for the Armed Forces. The first 12 APCS-4S have already been delivered, an advance payment of 125 million UAH was made to KMDB, and the Design Bureau, which was on the verge of bankruptcy, was saved by the efforts of Concern new team. And indeed due to the non-payment of wages, people ran away from there as from a sinking ship. It was also stated that all APCS-4, both ready and following, will be made with Ukrainian armor of the “71” grade.

However, the first new casings from “Lozova”, which were recently delivered to Kharkiv, have clearly marked signs of defects. This is low-quality welding, “non-penetration”, of armour, according to experts, that is, cavities under a thin layer of metal that can be easily pierced by enemy bullets. And also the cracks that are hiden under the paint. In addition, each of these iron semi-finished products will still need to be “finished with engineer file” with a colossal loss of time, so that it is possible to install nodes and aggregates by KMDB assembling teams.

The company Defense Express has received several photos that show all this, including the one where the military acceptance star is placed on the delivered casings near the casing number.

Photo: Defense Express

Against the background of this picture, I will note three points that require answers..

1. Why is the private enterprise overpaying for the production of such casings at the expense of the State?

After the first 12 APCS-4 of the ordered 45 vehicles (under the State Contract dated 2016 under State guarantees) were transferred to the 92nd Separate Mechanized Brigade, Aivaras Abromavicius called the price for each vehicle in an interview . This is UAH 33 million 600 thousand. So, if there is transparency, then I will add other details.

UAH 33 million 600 thousand is the price for KMDB under the Contract dated 28.12.2016. Since 2016 the private enterprise LFMP significantly raised the cost of its services on the manufacture of one APCS casing – from UAH 2.1 million to 3.2 million. Ukroboronprom transferred funds through KMDB to Lozova for the manufacture of APCS-4 casings considering the increased price of casings and components. However, the Ministry of Defense buys and will buy APCS in KMDB at the old price. Therefore, the legal profit on each APCS for KMDB was pinched.

Photo: Defense Express

Question: Why did State officials – Ukroboronprom and the Ministry of Defense – decide to reduce profits for a State-owned enterprise that is on the verge of bankruptcy, in favor of the interests of a private company? In fact, there is a subsidy of a private enterprise at the expense of KMDB and this contradicts the statements about CB saving.

It is also interesting whether the transfer to Lozova of about UAH 50 million is not a violation, when the salary arrears have not been repaid to KMDB staff?

2. Why has Lozova Remained a Monopoly in the Production of APCS-4 Casings for Years?

If 100 APCS-4 are produced annually, then it takes ten years to meet the needs of the army. Do you understand a piece of work? “Why do we buy APCS-3? Because we don’t have the enough quantity of APCS-4. Why do we buy various wheeled armored vehicles? Because we can’t get enough of either APCS-4 or APCS-3.” That’s what the Ministry of Defense explained to me about the diversity of our armored arsenal on wheels

Photo: Defense Express

Now everything rested on the pace and quality of casings manufacturing on Lozova once again. After the delivery of the first 12 armored fighting vehicle, the remaining 33 APCS-4 should be delivered to the Armed Forces by September 1, 2020. The expected rate of Lozova is 4 casings per month. And in our country there is no other place where it is possible to produce casings for APCS-4 by technology that is tied to the 71st armor. Thus, the state enterprise KMDB does not have the ability to temper a steel of grade 71, and the state enterprise “Malyshev Plant” does not have the ability to harden a large-size armor components (about 35 parts).

In order to avoid dependence on the sole company in Ukraine that hardens domestic steel and has a non-state form of ownership, previously a cycle of casings manufacturing from high-hardness armor that does not require hardening was created at the state enterprise “KMDB”. But – of abroad hardened armor. In this case, the technological cycle does not require the participation of a private LFMP. KMDB and Malyshev Plant already have all the equipment to at least double the number of APCS-4 that can be produced monthly. New semi-automatic machines are installed at KMBD, which allow for the welding of casings with a quality that is not worse than abroad one.

At the same time, the cost of APCS-4 casing made of imported armor, is cheaper than that of the 71st armor on Lozova. The difference in the selling price for one casing from LFMP and the casing of its own production from imported armor is more than UAH 350 thousand for the benefit of KMBD. In addition, the State enterprise for each case would additionally receive more than UAH 320 thousand on the payroll.

Photo: Defense Express

So how it is managed to dump everything in just one Lozova basket under these circumstances?

I was told: “You know, every APCS-4 casing made on Lozova with the 71st armor is a “cash cow”. It gives “milk” to everyone, it can’t be touched.” Of course, I don’t believe in such a primitive reality. Because we are fighting corruption on all fronts. But it is really strange that for six years no imported armor on APCS-4 – neither Belgian, nor Polish, nor Russian – is not caught on in our country.

Would you say that their quality is not the same? Long discussion. But why is the imported armor for “Oncill”, “Rosomak”, “Kozak” and three dozen other samples of armored vehicles is suitable, but for  APCS-4 – is not. Indeed, we have a cool APCS. Or maybe it’s not an APCSD which is the issue?

“Ukroboronprom” did not make efforts to break the deadlock on the issue of steel for the production of APCS-4. Pathetic assurances about the importance of APCS-4 manufacturing with 71-th armor – this is one thing. Reality is different. I will give statistics about APCS-4 casings made of 71st armor on LFMP. According to the data I have already provided in my publications, in 2011-12, 30 APCS-4 delivered to foreign customer were found to have cracks. Since 2014, during the operation of 127 APCS-4E and vehicles based on them, which were manufactured at LFMP and operated in military units of the AFU and NGU, 53 cases of casing defects in the form of cracks were recorded, 11 of them in 2018. In some cases, multiple cracks were observed. The main defects are cracks in the casing on the front armor plate on the upper part of the casing. For an example, see the figure where the number of such cracks on a particular machine is indicated.

Photo: Defense Express

And to avoid illusions about the support of the national armor manufacturer – there is such a detail. Melting of the 71st armor is performed at Azovstal Metallurgical Plant, PJSC. But these orders for metallurgists are non-core and of little interest. In the total volume of metal rolling of Azovstal order for our military is not more than 0.5%. But a lot of trouble. That’s why they don’t see any point in straining at Azovstal. Like, take what comes out of our machines, which are not really designed for the tolerances that designers need. Since we always have what we have.

3. Why the Corns are More Important Than IQ?

How did it happen that KMDB turned from a design bureau into a regular #assembly plant? This is a complete misunderstanding of its essence and tasks. Welders and assemblers who can be trained to assemble APCS in six months, unable to develop a new infantry fighting vehicle, complete the modernization of T-64, work out the kinks of “Krab” and “Bastion” projects, make a robotic platform out of APCS-4, evaluate, digest and adapt the property of “Nota”, implement the new projects with foreign customer – from “Fertini” and further. In these areas, there are potentially more profits for the State than from the corns of designers.

Fulfilling the contract with the Ministry of Defense for the supply of APCS-4 by KMDB does not mean that the Design Bureau should be killed as a think tank for armored competencies. But that’s what it’s coming to.

Photo: Defense Express

What’s Next?

Coustic tongues claim that the General Director of Ukroboronprom Aivaras Abromyavichus had meetings with the owner of LFMP, the former people’s Deputy and influential businessman Anatoly Girshfeld. It doesn’t matter when it was – or when UOP made the decision to manufacture APCS-4 casings only on Lozova. Or when the President visited Kharkiv, was surprised by the decline of our tank city and called on businessmen to help the “Defense Industry”. But is this the help you were talking about?

Therefore, now the General Director of Ukroboronprom, I think, has an urgent reason to meet again quickly with the owner of Lozova. And start correcting the situation. Or to assume full responsibility for the sabotage in the implementation of the State order.

Similar challenges are now facing the Ministry of Defense. Recently, there was a case that the military acceptance misled the leadership of the Ministry of Defense regarding the real state of the intelligence ship, which is manufactured under State guarantees at the enterprise “Kuznya on Rybalsky”. Representation Act 818 was fictitious. Does the history repeat itself, but already in Kharkiv?

How did it happen that the customer’s representative office did not see in what condition did the casings from Lozova come to KMDB? What has happened with the attention of Representation Management 85 Oleg Plyushakov or his subordinates, when they watched the production of new casings of future “fours”? Especially if you remember the pressure and excessive control with which  the 85th military acceptance held the “knockdown-dragout fight” against Finnish steel in the last year. Its Chairman Plushakov “protected” the State from “garbage” certified by NATO countries, but unexpectedly easily agreed to accept a frank deffects feom LFMP.

This all has a palpable taste of corruption. As, in fact, the acceptance itself in its current form looks like a corruption vestige and a corrosive stain on the reputation of the Ministry of Defense. It seems that the Military Department is in no hurry to clean up this “corrosion”. Taking this into account, it seems that the SIB has all the necessary grounds to carefully study the history of low-quality and random checks of military acceptance from Kharkiv.

And returning to the place and role of “Ukroboronprom” in rearming the army – in my understanding, is the main mission of the concern – I will say this. Attention to digitalization, transformation and communication is, of course, super. But Ukroboronprom’s slides and presentations about a good future will not replace the real leadership and control over the current processes. And this is dirt, sweat, and responsibility. Or is responsibility in the country no longer a trend? We’ll see. APCS-4 will again show who is worth and what …