A bit more about China and the Kitty Hawk deal, plus some more below the fold about another failure of Russia’s Bulava SLBM and some other aspects of the Russian defense industry.
New SSBN: Putin announced in October that the lead sub of a new/improved SSBN class, the Yury Dolgoruky would be launched in 2008 and that a fourth would be added as new construction. However, it appears that the problems with the development of the new Bulava SLBM (including yet another failed test earlier this month according to sources ) which in turn would push the launch date of the Yury Dolgoruky back to 2009 or 2010. The story of the Bulava is illustrative of the condition of the Russia’s defense industry post-Cold War. Intended as a new solid-fuel SLBM it was to draw from the design, development and production experience of the Topol-M, including sharing some common components. It is not a navalized Topol-M as reported in some quarters, primarily because of size disparities between the land-based Topol-M and the shorter/wider SLBM tubes on the next SSBN. Under the Soviets, competing design bureaus would have built alternate designs, and indeed, such was almost the caser here with the liquid-fueled Sineva follow-on to the successful SS-N-23 deployed in Delta IV SSBNs. Instead, the decision was made to leap to new technology and concentrate efforts on building the Bulava. The result has been desultory at best, a disaster at worst with five out of nine test launches a failure, and questions hanging over those deemed a success (e.g., the first two successes were just a test of the cold launch system, questions about a possible problem with the warheads on another, etc.). For now, the only option for the new SSBN is the Bulava which for all appearances looks to be a long ways from being ready for operation, despite being ordered into serial production.
Six new CV’s: Written of here and elsewhere earlier this year, but recent developments with the refit of the Admiral Gorshkov for the Indian Navy belies a greater issue of capability with Russian shipyards. Recall that under the original agreement, Russia “gave” the Gorshkov to the Indian navy with the proviso that India would spend some $600M on refit/upgrade work. This led to a $1.6B Memorandum of Understanding signed in 1998 between Russia and India for the refit work plus purchase of two squadrons of MiG-29K fighters. A major piece of the refit would be the installation of a “ski-jump” to accommodate fixed wing aircraft launches. Delivery was to be in 2005. Now, $458M in sunk costs (no pun intended) later, India is being handed an updated bill for an additional $1.2B for a program that has habitually missed deadlines and cost projections as well as showing little in the way of substantive progress, delivery has apparently slipped to at least 2010, if not later, and the Indian Navy must consider whether to continue pursuit of this option.
Air Force modernization: One SU-34 was delivered last year with 2-3 scheduled for next, down from the 6-10/year envisioned. Continuing problems with engine production have plagued this and the Tu-160 overhaul/update and production program. Appears to also be impacting the T-50 program which was slated for first flight in 2009 with IOC in 2015.