In an interview, Director for International Cooperation and Regional Policy of ROSTEC State Corporation, Viktor Kladov spoke on the international sale prospects of the Su-57 and the recently unveiled ‘Checkmate’ fighter jet, impact of sanctions and other issues concerning the Russian defence sector.
1. Now that the Su-57 has entered serial production, what are the export prospects for this aircraft.
Rosoboronexport is currently working on applications for a fifth-generation fighter Su-57E from approximately 5-7 countries within the Asia-Pacific region, Africa and Europe. The fifth-generation fighter Su-57E has a number of unique combat and operational properties. It has a low level of visibility in different wave ranges, particularly due to the internal placement of the state-of-the-art aircraft armament; it can fly at supersonic speed in cruising mode for a long period of time.
Besides, Su-57E is super manoeuvrable, and this is a property retained at supersonic speed, it has high jamming resistance of airborne equipment and armament complex, as well as pilot intelligent assistance and combat employment automation systems.
2. The ‘Checkmate’ fighter aircraft has aroused great interest globally. What are the factors that will make it attractive over the F-35 to potential customers.
The combination of high payload, modern equipment and low cost per flight hour make the aircraft the most profitable in terms of price to combat effectiveness. The use of various configurations allows you to meet the needs of almost any potential customer in the most precise way.
The Matryoshka automated logistics support system was created for the aircraft. It allows for the organizing of personnel training, maintenance planning with high precision and the supply of components in a timely manner. The solution will reduce the cost of after-sales service, increase its efficiency and ensure a high level of combat readiness of the fleet even in high-intensity operations.
3. Will the ‘Checkmate’ compete with or complement the Su-57?
The LTA Checkmate is designed based on proven solutions and the latest technologies that have been developed, and which are used today in our Su-57 flagship. This, among other things, makes it possible to achieve a high tempo in the Checkmate production. Although these two aircraft belong to the fifth generation of fighters, they are machines of different categories, and there will be a different buyer for each of them.
And, since you mentioned the competitors, the Checkmate’s flight hour cost is estimated to be 7 times less than that of an aircraft such as the F-35, and comparable to the cost of a flight hour of the Gripen NG, with the combat capabilities of the Checkmate being substantially better.
4. ROSTEC has quoted a figure of 30 billion euros as the foreign orders for military equipment booked this year. Can you name some of the leading equipment to be exported (in terms of value) and to which countries?
Indeed, Rosoboronexport’s order portfolio has remained high for several years. According to the results of 2020, our special export company, despite the pandemic, objective difficulties and the fact that the global arms market has actually collapsed, has fulfilled its plan for deliveries to foreign customers. And we are not going to stop there. In the near future, Rosoboronexport plans to introduce about 50 new modern weapons and military equipment products to the global arms market.
I will refrain from commenting on cooperation with specific countries and partners. I would like to note that the wide range of products allows us to maintain a strong position in the arms market and expand it in the future.
5. What are some of the events in the next 6-12 months that ROSTEC/ROE and other Russian companies will be exhibiting and what new equipment is likely to be displayed?
By the end of the year, ROSTEC, together with Rosoboronexport, will organize unified Russian expositions at five international exhibitions, including those in China, Serbia, the UAE, Peru and Egypt, and will also take part in exhibitions devoted to security equipment in Moscow and St. Petersburg. For instance, in Dubai, we are planning to showcase our innovations in both civil and military aircraft construction. We expect that other leading world air shows will also resume their activities and will give us the opportunity to demonstrate advanced Russian equipment.
6. How have Russian companies managed to achieve continued defence export success in spite of US sanctions and the threat of CATSAA sanctions on buyers of Russian military goods?
Time has shown that U.S. sanctions have become a tool of unfair competition, and that they are trying to squeeze us out of certain markets, first and foremost – the arms markets. When the fair competition fails, sanctions come into play. Western colleagues use them to achieve their pragmatic business objectives. They try to make us give up and leave. But for us, it is only an incentive to work harder.
Life became more complicated under sanctions, but nothing catastrophic happened. Yes, we have lost a number of business opportunities in the U.S. and European markets because of the sanctions. But I’m sure that our partners are also not happy about the restrictions, because it has disrupted the normal, civilized course of business, which brought them income.
Nevertheless, we adapted to the new circumstances quite quickly. We began producing much of what used to be purchased abroad. We successfully reoriented ourselves toward new markets. You can also see that Rostec’s economic indicators are growing every year, despite the sanctions. We have adopted a policy of avoiding US dollar settlements and have switched to settlements in Russian roubles and national currencies. With this approach, we are not exposed to risks with payment delays in fulfilling contractual obligations to our partners.
7. Russian companies have upped the game in drones going by announcements made at MAKS and ARMY 2021 events. How will Russian drones compete with cheaper drones from China and Turkey, to name two of the leading competitors?
We have a queue of foreign partners waiting for two of our favourites – Orion-E and Orlan-10E. The companies are loaded for the next years, including contracts under the State Defence Order, and applications are still coming in. Rosoboronexport is currently working on applications from more than 20 countries for Orlan-10E and about 10 applications for Orion-E, a scout-attack system that has recently entered the global market. There are signed contracts for Orlan-10E, and our companies are fulfilling them. Part of the contracts have been fulfilled and the equipment has been delivered to the customer already.
We entered the global UAV market with some delay, but at the moment, Russia is rapidly closing in. ROSTEC’s enterprises are now bringing to market the entire UAV line up: ultralight and heavy drones, multi-rotor and helicopter-type drones.