The newly appointed head of the State Military Industrial Committee of Belarus (SMIC) Raman Halouchanka gave a detailed interview to state television. A number of points in the interview should be highlighted.
About Orsha aircraft repair plant (ARP). After the enterprise was returned to state ownership, there were discussions on its inclusion in some other company. But in the end, the authorities decided to keep the plant an independent legal entity. Mr. Halouchanka reported about receiving orders for the repair of Mi-8/17 and Mi-24 helicopters. This made allowed to improve the financial situation in the company: the plant worked with a positive result in October. However, there are several points to be taken into consideration here:
— firstly, Aliaksandr Lukashenka ordered to improve the financial state of Orsha ARP in a short time, and October was the last month before the report on the work done in this field;
— secondly, it is stated that the company received orders from foreign customers as well. It may turn out, that the improvement of the situation at the plant was achieved mainly (or exclusively) by an order for the repair of helicopter equipment from a state department. Most likely this is the case: after all, only in October, the SMIC top management decided on the organizational issues of its operation and development. In this case, one can’t talk about a radical improvement in the situation: the needs of state-owned helicopter operators are small, and the break-even point of the enterprise (as it was repeatedly stated earlier) is repair and deep modernization of 20 helicopters per year. This means that the orders should amount to around USD 80 million per year. This will allow the plant simply to continue its existance.
Mr. Halouchanka said that in perspective Orsha ARP plans to master the production of unmanned aircraft. This may directly be connected with Lukashenka’s order to develop a domestic UAV capable of carrying a payload of 1 ton or more. Foreign experience shows that a UAV of a similar loading capacity in its size is comparable to the Soviet long-range Tu-22 bomber. Orsha ARP specialized on the repair of these aircraft at the late USSR times. From those times, the company inherited the necessary infrastructure. Another thing is that the domestic UAV of this class has yet to be developed, and the company needs to live now.
Thus the epic of the long-suffering Orsha ARP is still far from the end, despite some optimism.
On the production of ammunition and small arms. “By chance” it turned out that Belarusian production of ammunition for small arms and small arms is created not far from Orsha. If it’s ok with the ammunition — it is needed all the time and own products will be in demand, there are some doubts about the production of small arms related to mastering the necessary technologies and economic feasibility of the production. Mr. Halouchanka said that at present, civilian and service weapons are being assembled from imported components in Belarus. At the same time, an engineering school for the development of combat small arms is being created. The arms should be competitive in the first place in the foreign market. Whether domestic developments will be able to interest foreign military is a matter of the future, and not of the nearest one. Taking into account the conservativeness and high competitiveness of the armament market, there is a question of the economic feasibility of the idea of producing Belarusian military weapons with full localization.
On the scientific potential of Belarusian military industry. During the interview, it was stated that about 5000 people are employed in the sphere of research and development in Belarusian military industrial complex. Less than 100 of them have the title of PhDs and doctors of science. Thus, almost a quarter of all workers of the Belarusian military industry are engaged in innovative activities. Which makes the military industry probably the most technologically advanced sector of the national industry. The fact that only 2% of them have scientific degrees is evidence of the continuing low prestige of academic science, and not the absence of worthy candidates for a degree.
In general, the selection and training of high-quality personnel is one of the SMIC priorities. The period when retired practitioners able to develop the production of military equipment based on their professional experience were the main engine of the development of the military industry is coming to an end. First of all, in terms of modernization of existing equipment or the use of technological solutions incorporated in them for the development of new products. Now it is required to create absolutely new units of military products from scratch. And one needs completely different specialists for that.
Belarus in the space. One third of remote sensing satellites are equipped with Belarusian equipment. This is really a great achievement and a subject for pride.
Export prospects. Mr. Halouchanka spoke cautiously about the prospects for exports in 2018. Yes, it is growing, and most likely it exceeded USD 1 billion in 2018. But compared to the beginning of 2018, the growth of the main indicators of Belarusian military-industrial complex is falling down. It is obvious that it is impossible to have 20-30% growth each year for an infinitely long time without a radical change/expansion of the product range.
On the national missile program. It has a complex interdisciplinary nature and is actively developing, including improving MLRS “Polonaise”. However, SMIC head intends to report the news on this issue only when specific results are obtained. Obviously, he does not want to repeat the experience of the former SMIC head, General Siarhei Hurulyou, who promised to show a model of the Belarusian air defence system by the end of 2017. But the year 2018 has finished, and now the public knows little about the results of the development of the Belarusian medium-range anti-aircraft missile system.
On cyber weapons. Mr. Halouchanka made it clear that Belarus plans to enter a relatively short list of countries having their own cyber-weapons (including the production of malicious software). This is one of the priorities of the military industrial complex of the country for the next period of development.
Electronic warfare equipment. Belarusian military industry produces electronic warfare equipment, which is at the level of the world’s best products. This equipment was used in combat conditions, where it confirmed its high performance. It can be assumed that the deliveries to Azerbaijan and/or the United Arab Emirates were meant. Note, that Mr. Halouchanka was the ambassador in UAE for the last five years. In the first case, the Belarusian technique would be used by the Azerbaijani against the formal ally of Belarus, Armenia. And in the second case, we could talk about Yemen, where a coalition of Arabian monarchies opposes the allies of Iran.
Deliveries of Belarusian EW equipment to one of the parties of the war in Syria or in the Donbas look extremely unlikely, since for Belarus these are wars in which the most important Minsk’s partners clashed.