Western Sanctions Crippled Russian Defense Industries, Su-57 and Su-75 Are Pipedream

Russia is the world’s second-largest arms exporter after the U.S., averaging more than $13 billion in reported annual sales, according to the Congressional Research Service. On Wednesday, a U.S. State Department official told lawmakers it is unlikely Russia will be able to make new sales or provide maintenance to customers for existing systems.

Russia exports a majority of its arms to five states: Algeria, China, Egypt, India, and Vietnam. India has been the largest importer of Russian arms since 2016. Russia already notified India that it cannot meet the delivery deadline of S-400 surface-to-air missiles.

The Russian defense industry is unable to meet its production contracts for munitions and vehicles that are vital to its invasion of Ukraine because of sanctions and the consequent rising cost of raw materials and components, the Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate (GUR) alleged on Tuesday.

Supposed Russian Defense Ministry documents GUR claimed to have obtained say that the Kremlin is collecting data on the status of government defense contracts and disruption “associated with rising prices for the raw materials and components used.”

The Ukrainian intelligence body assessed that Russia has relied on foreign technology and electronics to produce modern military equipment, and sanctions have limited the supply of those items, in addition to driving up costs.

The Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, was announced to have had its production delayed on March 20, but this was attributed to a backlog of production demands. 

Due to the loss of key foreign components and costly raw materials, Russia may have to produce older components and vehicles — in the case of one factory, equipment allegedly developed from as far back as the 1960s — instead of modern gear GUR claimed. 

Kinzhal hypersonic missile debris collected by Ukrainian troops. Ukrainian PAC3 missile shot down Russian hypersonic missile. Photo Ukrainian MoD.

On Saturday, the directorate also claimed that Russia was attempting to restore preexisting old vehicles to replace losses suffered during its invasion of Ukraine but it is encountering difficulty in doing so because of corruption and the poor condition of the equipment.

The Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate alleged that corruption had been a major reason for the “extremely unsatisfactory” condition of the equipment being taken out of storage.

“Optical devices and electronics containing precious metals were stolen from the combat vehicles,” said GUR. The intelligence body reported that many of the 4th Tank Division’s stored tanks were “completely dismantled,” and that some did not have engines.

Corruption in the Russian defense establishment has also played a role in the development of munitions. According to Politico in 2012, a Russian arms company embezzled millions of dollars meant for a missile interception system. In 2016, a company embezzled funds for navigation and control systems for high-precision ammunition.

In contrast, open-source intelligence group Oryx, Russia had lost 3605 tanks, 5,723 armored vehicles, 2678 infantry fighting vehicles, 1305 artillery pieces, 196 multiple launch rocket systems, 345 surface-to-air missiles, 231 aircraft, 131 helicopters, 4,184 other ground vehicles, 14 ships, 275 fuel tanks and 481 drones.

Ukraine’s armed forces have claimed in operational reports throughout the week that the Russian military was attempting to reorganize, resupply, and replace lost equipment and vehicles. The Russian military has suffered logistical issues throughout the war, according to Western and Ukrainian intelligence estimates.

The US has unveiled a new layer of sanctions on Russia, targeting services, Russia’s propaganda machine and its defence industry on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s planned Victory Day parade.

The new technology export bans on industrial items such as heavy engines, machinery, electronics, semiconductors, composites and heavy-engineering equipment are intended to have an impact on Russian war efforts by hitting the supply chain for defense manufacturers. The U.S. claims that Russia’s Uralvagonzavod Corporation, United Engine Corporation, Sukhoi Design Bureau and Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant, have already been forced to halt production due to a lack of foreign components.

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