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Russian and Western military-industrial companies face growing competition

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In the next ten years, companies of growing military-industrial powers will increasingly compete with Russian and Western companies that previously contributed to their development, [...] experts writeThe International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in an article for the American edition of "Defense News".

Experts from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Jaena Jo and Tom Waldwin (c) Defense News

During the previous decade, the governments of Turkey, South Korea, Brazil and Poland made large-scale investments in the military-industrial complex, which led to a significant increase in their production capabilities and the introduction of complex weapons systems to the market. Despite the fact that many of them were licensed copies of Western models, the share of their own developments was growing. At the same time, the dependence of these countries on the key subsystems of Russian and Western production will continue for a certain period of time, remaining a weak point of these countries.

Licensed production with the subsequent transfer of technology has become a more successful model for the development of the national military-industrial complex than creating your own technologies from scratch. For example, Turkey and South Korea built hundreds of F-16 fighter jets in the 1980s and 1990s, and built submarines under German license, as did Brazil.

Large investments in these programs have enabled these countries to build industrial capacity for an increasing number of proprietary platforms. So the South Korean T-50 Golden Eagle (combat training and light strike aircraft in various modifications) was created based on its own development and transfer of technologies used in the assembly of F-16 fighters.

Production under license of Finnish armored personnel carriers [Patria AMV] allowed Poland to present modifications of its own production, created on the basis of this platform. Turkey, in turn, began developing a new combat helicopter, using the experience of production of the T129 helicopter developed by Italy.

At the same time, reforms were implemented in the areas of procurement and production. In 2006, South Korea established the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) within the country's Defense Ministry to acquire weapons and military equipment, as well as develop industrial capabilities. Poland in 2015 concentrated the majority of state-owned enterprises under the control of the PGZ holding.

Over the past decade, South Korea's arms exports have tripled: in 2016, they amounted to $ 1.52 billion, in 2019 - already $ 2.36 billion, due to the success of South Korean companies in the fight for contracts with Russian and European competitors. The aforementioned T-50 aircraft in various modifications was purchased by countries such as Iraq, Indonesia and Thailand, which preferred it to Russian and European models. South Korean shipyards have also signed contracts to export frigates and tankers to various countries, including Thailand and the United Kingdom. It is significant that in 2011, one of the shipbuilding enterprises of South Korea received a contract for the supply of submarines to Indonesia, gaining the upper hand in the competition over the German company, which sold the license for the production of submarines to South Korea in the 1980s.

Although Turkey's outstanding success in arms exports is largely due to political relations with partner countries, rather than success in competition, Turkey's exports of arms and aviation products (including civil aviation) have more than tripled, reaching $ 2.78 billion in 2019.

The growth of Brazil's arms exports ($1.3 billion in 2019) was mainly driven by the aviation sector. For example, the A-29 (EMB-314) Super Tucano combat training aircraft was actively exported. Brazil also began to receive the first contracts for the supply of military transport aircraft KC-390.

Despite a significant increase in production capacity (both South Korea and Turkey say that the level of localization of production is about 70 %)? These countries continue to depend on imports of key Russian and European systems, especially high-quality electronics and engines. Attempts to put a power plant of its own production on the main K2 Black Panther tank were unsuccessful, and South Korea was forced to order additional engines and transmissions from German suppliers. Similarly, Poland's production of the Krab self-propelled howitzer encountered a number of technical problems with the chassis and engine, and Poland was also forced to turn to German and South Korean suppliers.

The example of Turkey provides an excellent case study of what reliance on importing foreign weapons systems can lead to if relations with the importing country deteriorate. Since the mid-2000s, the development of the Altay main tank has progressed successfully, partly because the prototypes were fitted with proven German powerplants. But the introduction of an arms embargo on Turkey since 2016 has put serial production on the verge of disruption. The contract for the development of the propulsion system concluded in 2015 was terminated in 2017, when the Australian company that concluded it withdrew from the deal. Similar problems arose with the supply of Italian-designed combat helicopters [T129 ATAK] with American engines to Pakistan and with the production of unmanned aerial vehicles [Bayraktar TB2] equipped with Canadian electronic equipment and engines.

In addition to the new players discussed above, other countries need to be taken into account. Japan, a country with a high degree of localization of production, is a manufacturer of high-tech platforms in various sectors. However, changing government policies and companies ' business practices to support exports will take some time. India has invested heavily in the military-industrial complex, but bureaucratic conflicts and technical difficulties pose a serious challenge to development. The UAE has started exporting military products, but so far low-tech.

It is important to note that the impact of COVID-19 on countries ' spending will be felt for several years, and some importing countries are already delaying procurement programs. Whether domestic demand will be able to make up for the losses of exporting countries remains in question.

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