“The Beast” Bottoms Out

As humorous to the surrounding spectators watching President Obama’s armored limousine “get stuck” on a speed bump while leaving the US Embassy after a visit to Dublin, it was a potential nightmare to Secret Service members.  As much as I’ve tried to study and learn how a proper escort mission is run, when I watched the video for the first time I was left guessing for alternative options.  Having a halted motorcade is always dangerous once exposed.  Once a door is open, exposure to potential biological and chemical fumes render the limousines NBC protection useless.

All preparations are taken care of.  Alternative routes are secured.  Local Police and other counter-terrorist teams have blocked roadways to make a clear shot to the airport, and hospital for worse case scenario.  Sharpshooters are in position.  All logistical vehicles are ready, including ambulance.  The “clear” order is given and the motorcade proceeds with lead vehicles advancing first.  Then the unexpected happens.  Not a gunshot fired, not a grenade thrown, not an IED threat detected ahead.  No, none of that, but a pesky slope of asphalt.

The armored limousine, known as “The Beast” acted the way it was designed to do.  It counteracted the slope and provided the vehicle to remain level.  This is good at high speeds, in terms of evasive maneuvers, but at such a slow speed, you will get what we saw in Ireland.  The weight of the vehicle is classified, as with everything involved in it’s total design, but hat we know is that if it were to hit that speed bump at 60 mph, the limo would have kept the President and family safe and not flailing around inside.

As honored as I would be to escort the President of the United States, what do you do in this situation?  That is why we have back up plan after back up plan, and if those back plans fail, you move on to the next back up plan.  I’m glad it happened in Dublin, and not Islamabad.  I guess we can call it, “the Dublin lesson.”

“A Fifth of Russia’s Defense Budget Stolen”

Corruption is a big problem in the Russian military even in the post-Cold War era.  It’s haunted them even in the Soviet era.  They are now claiming that a fifth of their defense budget was lost to corruption.  With Putin promising to continue to boost the defense budget over the next decade to provide the Russian forces with new submarines, nuclear missiles, and aircraft, they better get this under control.  With the equipment we saw them use during the 2008 Georgian invasion, some new gear is noticeably needed.

“Huge money is being stolen – practically every fifth rouble and the troops are still getting poor quality equipment and arms,” chief military prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky told Russia’s official gazette, Rossiiskaya Gazeta. “Every year more and more money is set aside for defense but the successes are not great,” he said, adding that kickbacks and fictitious contracts were being used to defraud the state.

It is also, not just the defense industry that suffers from corruption.  In 2010 it was reported that 50% of Russia’s GDP was faced with ties to corruption.

“In just a year since July 2009, the report looked at 6,500 cases of people who complained about having to pay up. It even came up with the prices for services rendered and the cost for getting a job in the police or a favourable sentence in the courts.

The lawyers’ association found that in education and health care corruption represents between 40 and 80 per cent of activities. For instance, it said that Russians know that decent medical care in a public hospital requires “additional fees” that are determined by bargaining with nurses. A university degree from a good university can cost US$ 500, whilst a single exam might cost as low as US$ 20, sources told AsiaNews

Russia’s security agencies, the so-called siloviki (силовики́), i.e. the top officials at the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), the Interior Ministry or the Federal Narcotics Control Service, are top of the class in the corruption department. Some of officials in these agencies can take home up to US$ 20,000 per month by providing “assistance” in unlawful activities. Just below them come prosecutors who can make an extra US$ 10,000 a month. Then there are traffic inspectors who can take home up to US$ 5,000 in extra salary and judges, who can get up to US$ 3,000.

But this is not all. All of these positions can be had for a price. Positions in government departments and the police can be bought. An assistant district prosecutor post can cost € 7,800 (US$ 10,000), whilst a position as an inspector in the traffic police can reach € 40,000 (US$ 50,000).

According to the InoPressa agency and French daily Le Monde, an average bribe doubled in value to 1,500 € (US$ 1,900) since the start of the year.

None of this is new. As far back as 2005, another study suggested that half of Russia’s GDP ended up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

Despite official Kremlin announcements that the government would take on corruption, the new study simply shows that things have not changed. This explains why Russia ranks 146th (out of 180 countries) on Transparency International’s Corruptions Perceptions Index (CPI).

In case you were wondering, red is bad

…More Russian Gunships, Tovarishch

Mi-35 orders and exports underway

Russian attack helicopter designs had just reached an all-time high before the collapse of the Soviet Union.  After viewing the success of Western designs such as the AH-1 Cobra, the oncoming AH-64 Apache, and other European designs, they followed suite with some extremely competitive gunships.  But when the collapse occurred, funding for production and upgrades nearly ceased.  The Mi-24 was already in service and one of the most feared gunships on the battlefield.  It was fast, quiet, and flew just above the tree line surprising the enemy while unleashing its arsenal.  Widely exported to countries sympathetic to the USSR, but also many oil rich Middle Eastern nations and Asia.  The collapse nearly suffocated production lines for spare parts, upgrades, and research development.

In the last decade money began to flow back into the Russian defense industry(getting back to 70s standards).  In 2007, a joint-stock company formed under the name, Russian Helicopters.  Russian Helicopters came up with a great idea of combining some of the main Russian helicopter manufacturers, including Mil design, who produces the Mi-24, and Kamov among others.  This has brought up large amounts of funding for future productions and upgrades.  The Mi-24 is now back being a competitive export again, under the version, Mi-35.  The “Hind” as it is known, is a 12 ton gunship armed with cannon, guided, and unguided rockets.  It can hold up to eight armed troops in the back, although the cargo space is usually used for munitions.  The design itself was originally based on the larger transport helicopter, Mi-8.  With a top speed of 208 mph, it relies on its speed to ambush enemy targets.  We witnessed this in Afghanistan during the 1980s.  The Mujahideen feared it because its ability to swoop over a mountain side silently diving down into a valley.  It wasn’t until US supplied SAMs did it force them to fly higher, reducing their “stealthy” approach and overall effectiveness.

Orders outside Russia for the Mi-35 have been placed in Brazil (12), Saudi Arabia (150), Azerbaijan (24), and Venezuela (10) with more expected.  The low-cost of the Mi-35, around $15 million per unit, have made it more attractive than Western designs.  The upgrades are good as well.  Mi-35(M) has a been upgraded with a better engine and electronics, giving it the ability to fight in the dark.  The jungles of Brazil will be suited for this added fixture along with the ability to transport soldiers up the tributaries to battle narco gangsters.  The Hind will be hanging around for a while.

Mi-28N will compete with Western gunships on the market

In the 1980s, the Russians began seeing how effective designs such as the American AH-1 were.  Instead of a transport helicopter mixed in with attack capabilities, they went with a dedicated gunship.  A more sleek frame, the Mi-28 was that upgrade.  This new design gave the Russians the ability to match what the US had just developed in the AH-64.  Though avionics and all-weather combat capability would be limited as to their American counterpart, the Russians were heading in the right direction.  With the defense cuts in the 90s, the “Havoc” saw itself starving of the needed upgrades to compete on the market.  This slow growth in the 90s did get progress done.  The Mi-28 was eventually upgraded to Mi-28N, meaning a all-weather combat effectiveness and the ability to play rocket-tag in the dark of night.  This was the necessary addition to compete with Western helicopters in Europe and America.

With deliveries first being made to the Russian Army in 2006, 24 are now in service (it may be one short of that due to a recent crash resulting in the death of one pilot).  Russia plans to continue to stock its fleet with M-28N’s over the next few years, totally replacing the Mi-24.  Venezuela is currently the only other nation with orders for the Havoc (10).  It’s cost is attractive as well at under $20 million.  With profits coming in from the Mi-35M exports, the Russians will be able to quickly procure more Mi-28’s.  I expect many more orders for this helicopter.

Another Russian gunship program that has risen from a coma, is the Ka-50/52.  The Kamov helicopter has two designs.  The Ka-50 is a single seat operated gunship, allowing the pilot to operate as both navigator and gunner.  Ka-52, being the two seat version, allowing responsibilities to be shared amongst two navigators.  The design also features a typical Kamov trait.  Coaxial designed rotors allow the helicopter to hover much easier and steadier, especially in heavy winds or landing on ships.  This feature can also damn the attack helicopter as it turns and climbs in combat manuevers at high rates of speed.  The possibility of rotor collisions increase under these extreme conditions.  During the fund starved 90s, the Israelis came to the aid of Kamov.  The Israeli’s  tried to improve on the design, but it was canceled due to the success of the American AH-1 Super Cobra.

Ka-50/52 under production for the Russian Air Force

The Ka-50 was eventually purchased and delivered to the Russian Air Force in 2006.  With 15 being the single seat Ka-50, and 10 being the two-seat Ka-52.  It has a limited operational history, with use in Chechnya in 2000.  These however were production models at the time.  The gunship packs a heavy punch and is faster than the Mi-24.  The Indian Air Force has ordered Ka-50/52s along with Mi-28s in 2008.  The deal did not go through and India stuck with just the Mi-28N and American AH-64Ds.  They will play around with the two and decide which route they would like to take.

The orders for Ka-50/52 are still coming in from the Russian Air Force as of now, with production underway.  The Russians seem to know what they want out of this gunship.  I don’t understand why considering the promising future of the Havoc.  The coaxial rotor system seems awesome for maritime operations such as anti-submarine warfare, but leaves high-risk results over hostile terrain.  With all the orders still flowing in from other countries wanting Mi-35’s, I guess there is no reason they shouldn’t keep producing them.  The Russian low-cost, but highly reliable trend seems to be paying off.  AH-64D’s are the most dangerous gunship on the battlefield, but maintaining them are a nightmare.  Not many industrially wealthy nations such as the US and Britain can afford to maintain them effectively.  However, the Apache is so effective in war that it will certainly still cause strong competition, despite the cost.  I expect to see the cheaper Mi-28N having a breakout decade with the Ka-52 tagging along.