January 28, 2006:
Russian defense firms are getting over eight billion dollars worth of orders from the Russian armed forces this year. Some 70 percent of that involves weapons, the rest equipment (especially electronics). The Russian defense industries have been surviving largely on export business for the last decade. Now, with much more Russian business, and growing exports, the Russians are investing in research and development to keep themselves in play as a world class arms supplier. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, so did most of the business for Russian weapons manufacturers. Most research money dried up by the end of the 1990s. Many projects were kept barely alive, rather than completely shut them down. But work did keep going on in the West, leaving Russian equipment over a decade behind by the time research could be revived. Russian researchers took advantage of this by adapting new commercial technologies, and skipping a generation of military equipment. The Russians are determined to catch up with American and West European military technology. At the moment, they are competitive enough to keep their main customers, India and China, happy.