On February 18, 2015 round table devoted to the development of Belarusian defense industry and its contribution to the national economy was held in the framework of analytical project “Belarus Security Blog”.
Since Soviet times, a significant part of industry has been working for the military in Belarus. Not the least reason for this is development of social infrastructure and food base of the BSSR, which was quite important during the Soviet era.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the officials could not overcome the provincialism of their thinking for a long time. They didn’t understand the significance of the military industrial complex, formation of a complex of an independent state but not of part of the empire. Here there’s an indicative example – the creation of Makarov rifle of Bullpup system, which outperforms AK. But the sluggish thinking of our officials didn’t allow starting the production. As a result, the Belarusian product has emerged in China.
For a long time the main hope for the maintenance of the defense capability of Belarus was assigned to Russia. However, Russia didn’t provide new arms, explaining this with the crisis of the military-industrial complex and the lack of production capacity. Rather, Moscow wasn’t interested in excessive strengthening of its allies. A significant part of the arms (especially defense) was provided on the conditions of return of the equipment in case of termination of the bilateral alliance.
From a certain point the official Minsk began to understand the need to develop cooperation in the military-industrial complex with other countries in addition to Russia. Especially with Ukraine. This country is in a position to assist in the modernization of some military equipment of Belarus. But such cooperation has not caused excitement in Moscow, there were attempts to counteract the Belarusian-Ukrainian cooperation.
Nevertheless, for the period after 1991 Belarusian MIC was able to develop a number of large-scale projects. Much of which remains unsold for several reasons. Among them is the creation of series of APC, including fire support vehicles on a common wheelbase “Umka” by Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant. The practical implementation of this project could fully occupy almost all domestic defense companies by virtue of scale ideas. Armament for armored vehicles was intended to be purchased in South Africa.
Among the completed projects of new weapons and military equipment it’s necessary to pay attention to creation of armored vehicles “Fox” on the basis of Russian “Tiger”, anti-tank systems (especially the “Hornet”), a number of projects in the field of unmanned aircraft, communications, control systems, countering high-precision weapons, air defense, vehicles.
Belarusian SAM “Halberd” has great potential as well. Problematic point here is the absence of own anti-aircraft missiles. The solution is the development of cooperation with Ukraine, which has the necessary technology and production.
Market advantage of our country’s military-industrial complex in comparison to major producers of defense equipment is the absence of radio units that are able to deactivate the system arms.
There is a progressive increase in exports of domestic products and services for defense purposes. According to expert estimates, last year it was about USD 1 billion.
Prospective partners for our military-industrial complex are Arab monarchies, Iran, Asia countries. Among the most popular in the international markets are products in the field of air defense, electronic warfare, electronic reconnaissance.
At the same time there are some things that negatively affect the capacity building (including economic one) of domestic defense industry. Thus, limited government investment in this sector in comparison with, for example, wood processing or agriculture can be explained with low lobbying power of defense industry and elementary incompetence of senior officials in technical fields, that often does not allow them to understand the importance and potential of MIC projects. The second problem is the relatively small number of experts, who are able to generate new developments. Many developers are already at an advanced age, an issue of young developers in really pressing. The poor development of fundamental science in Belarus, which limits the development and introduction of applied technology, also has negative influence.
Belarusian MIC has the potential to become a “growth point”. First of all – of a technological growth. But the defense industry needs state support and benefits for the implementation of this potential. Which, despite all the difficulties, is quite significant.