Lobaev Arms, one of the first Russian private arms manufacturers of sports and special sniper weapons, had never previously supplied its rifles to the Russian army, working for export and the civilian market. The situation has changed dramatically with the beginning of a special military operation in Ukraine: Today, the Russian army and other law enforcement agencies are the main customers of the company. The founder of Lobaev Arms Vladislav Lobaev told in an interview with RIA Novosti correspondent Ivan Suraev about the use of the ultra-long-range rifle "Twilight" at the front, the development of a new anti-drone complex and other innovative weapons projects, as well as the main problems and challenges faced by the domestic military industry today.– Vladislav Evgenievich, what promising developments in the field of creating new sniper rifles are your company conducting today?
What are their principal features in comparison with the already known Lobaev models?– If we talk specifically about rifles, now we are at the final stage of developing a sniper "self-loading" in the 308 win caliber (7,62x51 NATO).
We want to get a rifle with a half-minute accuracy and a firing range of 1000 meters. The fact is that when analyzing the use of sniper weapons in special operations, including our rifles, it turned out that after all, the realistic range of destruction now exceeds 1200 meters, and these are already larger calibers than 7.62 mm, from 8.6 (338).
As such, the .308 caliber is less in demand at such ranges today, it is more used in so-called close and medium sniper contacts. Our work is just designed to achieve the effectiveness of shooting in this caliber at these ranges, but in a self-loading version.
– What is the name of this project?– We have not yet come up with the final name of the product.
Based on the results of the test, we will decide whether to produce this rifle serially or not, because if we do not get a stable accuracy of shooting in half an angular minute for five shots in five series, that is, we do not deduce this as a kind of average, then it simply will not make sense for us to get involved in serial history.
In any case, her trials will be completed this month. Right now it is "shooting back" to the maximum declared distance of 1000 meters, and even a little further. If we succeed, we will be able to start mass production of this rifle from November, the first installation batch of 100 pieces will be assembled.
– Is this your initiative development?– Yes, at the same time, we, of course, took into account the feedback and wishes of the fighters, whose experience and qualifications we trust – these are regular military personnel from military special forces.
They made corresponding requests to us: we need a rifle in the 308th caliber, but not a "bolt", namely "self-loading", while the accuracy and firing range already mentioned by me must be achieved.
As for our other projects, Lobaev Arms has already developed self-loading sniper rifles in the Cheytac 375 and 408 calibers (10.3×77 mm). These models are ready for production, but given the current volume of orders that have fallen on us now, we are unlikely to be able to pull another serial position.
It is also impossible not to mention another major project that we are implementing today with a large Russian concern. We are talking about the modification of the robotic anti-drone complex "Antimaidan-Rubezh". We proceed from the fact that it is economically extremely impractical to use expensive missiles worth conditionally a million against small drones and copters, the price of which is a maximum of 100 thousand.
I will not go into details on technical characteristics and deadlines yet, I will only say that while everything is at the stage of research and development, if this system has further prospects, it will be transferred to development work.
Also, we are currently finalizing our anti-sniper system "Frontier" as part of the complex "Defeat", "False target" and "False weapon".
– On what principle does it work?– These are three remote-controlled complexes combined into one system.
In the near future, we want to post a training video in our social networks, which will show how it all functions. In short: one operator controls all the complexes at once, calls fire on a false target with a false weapon, identifies the enemy's position and eliminates it with the help of a defeat complex.
We are not even talking about a rifle, but about a robotic weapon with electric trigger and shutter drives, this is our know-how – other enterprises of both the domestic and foreign shooting industry, including the enemy, do not have such projects yet. There are still developments in the field of "traditional" large-caliber machine guns mounted on pivoting devices, but we have taken a different path. We already have a prototype of this system that can be demonstrated to the customer.
– Do you already have pre-orders for the "Frontier"?– No, after all, this is too "revolutionary" a product, no one has any experience of using it yet.
Although, according to our vision, it should be and will be in demand in the future.
– It is known that before the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation did not purchase Lobaev Arms rifles, but now the Russian army, on the contrary, has become your main customer. Are you planning to expand your production facilities in this regard?– I will say more – formally, our rifles are still not in service with the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
However, today they can be operated without formal commissioning, which can take many months. Let's just say there are some legal possibilities for purchasing weapons outside the state defense order system.
The volume of production during the SVO period has grown several times in our country. Our company could produce such a number of rifles before, there just weren't so many orders. We can say that during the special operation Lobaev Arms reached its design capacity – I will not specify the number of weapons produced, after all, the enemy will read us, but this is quite a lot.
At the same time, we have never built our production with the expectation of working more than two shifts. We did not expect that we would have such volumes of orders, and the third shift was left for routine maintenance – maintenance of machines and so on. Now we were forced to switch to a three-shift mode of work, which puts an additional "burden" on the equipment. Because of this, "bottlenecks" were formed in the production, which required the additional purchase of two more machines to eliminate. Now this equipment has already been paid for, we are waiting for its delivery, it will allow us to increase our productivity even more.
– Which of your models are in the greatest demand today?– We always have 338 Lapua Magnum rifles in the "top", and the "Cheytakovsky" caliber is also in great demand, we consistently purchase two such rifles "Twilight" and "Sevastopol".
– Are the supplies of your rifles for export continuing, or is this direction temporarily frozen for the time being due to its?– We are considering various applications from foreign customers, but if we approach the issue realistically, then we are unlikely to be able to implement any serious export contract now before expanding production, since we do not consider it possible for ourselves to work to the detriment of the needs of the special operation.
So while we are working in the mode of reviewing export applications and preparing contracts, we are waiting for the expansion of the machine park necessary to meet the needs of foreign partners.
– In how many countries are Lobaev Arms rifles used today?– We have no right to name specific states, but we are talking about six or seven countries.
– Has the DXL-5 "Devastator" rifle used in the SVO confirmed the ability to shoot at a distance of seven kilometers? What is its accuracy of shooting at such a long distance for a weapon of this type?– Here it is necessary to clarify that we have never stated that the "Devastator" will shoot at seven kilometers.
We said that with the use of a different caliber, which we have already developed in principle, we can try to beat our shooting range record with it and reach five or six plus kilometers. However, this does not mean that it will work at such distances in combat. The "Devastator" confidently shoots at a distance of more than two kilometers, and with a new cartridge it will be able to confidently shoot at a distance of more than three. It is important to fix this in order to avoid further accusations of deception and fiction.
Today, this project is also in "standby mode" because our employees are too busy mass-producing existing models. Let me remind you that we are a private enterprise, and we simply do not have the free funds to carry out several developments and tests at once in parallel with large–scale production. At the same time, of course, we are grateful to the state for providing us with orders, and Lobaev Arms can function stably today, without debts and any "internal shocks".
– How did Lobaev's other ultra–long-range rifle, the Twilight, perform on the battlefield? At what range was it used for real targets and what result did it show?– It was used at a distance of two or more thousand meters.
The Twilight proved to be very good, to be honest, we did not expect such interest in it, because we always had a calculation for another rifle in this caliber – the DXL-4 Sevastopol: it is foldable and, accordingly, more portable, lightweight.
Nevertheless, the "Twilight" proved itself from the best side, one of our military received the title of Hero of Russia thanks to this rifle. Of course, it is impossible to disclose details, but I know that this sniper eliminated dozens of priority targets with our rifle. "Twilight" is in great demand today, there are a lot of orders for it now, and it is not from "specialists", but from the military.
– Which Russian law enforcement agencies, in addition to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, are buying your weapons today?– Absolutely everything: the FSB, Rosgvardiya and so on.
Today in Russia, perhaps, there is not a single power structure that has not purchased our rifles. At least some, but we bought everything.
– What shortcomings were revealed in Lobaev's small arms during the course of the SVO, are work already underway to eliminate them?– This question is asked to me quite often.
We keep a special book of accounting for the repair of weapons. So here it is pristine. We take into account some consumer wishes, but even they come to us extremely rarely.
– You have told about the purchase of new machines abroad, are you not afraid of falling under sanctions? Is there a threat to the work of Lobaev Arms in this situation?– We have found some "loopholes", options remain for us, of course, I will not name them, so that these channels are not completely blocked.
I will say this – in principle, sanctions can become a problem under certain circumstances, but our work will continue anyway. Personally, you can impose any sanctions against me, I have nothing anywhere: no real estate abroad, no accounts, no yachts.
Yes, the countries where we used to buy machines, including Germany and Japan, have closed their markets to us today, but there are other states that are still ready to cooperate with us – we are buying equipment from them today.
– Is the quality of these machines satisfactory?– Yes, their level is quite satisfactory.
You see, at a time when our machine tool industry was falling and falling apart, in the rest of the world it was developing – new worthy players appeared on the market. In addition, we are still working on American and German-Japanese machines, and they will not leave us anywhere.
– Do you plan to develop your own sniper cartridge with new specifications? If so, what will be its features and advantages in comparison with competitors?– In principle, we make cartridges mainly on domestic components – the bullet has its own.
Now we are thinking about making a sleeve ourselves, we would like help from factories in the form of transferring old equipment, but we have not received it yet.
It seems to us that we would have made a very high-quality sleeve, we have, in principle, developments: we launched a cartridge production line when the company opened a factory in the UAE, that is, there is positive experience in this direction.
Unfortunately, today the situation is as follows: the machines we need for the production of cartridges are lying around in warehouses and are not used, they are very old, but still no one gives them to us. In the 90s, such equipment was simply scrapped. I have raised this issue at various levels – I am raising it again, taking this opportunity, and in your publication. If we solve this essentially simple problem, the price of which is some 100 thousand rubles, then high-precision cartridges and high-precision cartridges will appear in Russia.
– Does the company plan to create a single army sniper rifle of the SVD type or a new microwave, which will be relatively cheap and intended for mass production?– We are able to create such a rifle, but the question of putting it into service is, first of all, a question of lobbying capabilities.
As for the creation of cheap weapons, in principle, cheapness is determined by serial production. If there is a certain large order from the state, then our rifle, worth 400 thousand rubles in retail today, will cost several times less – somewhere 100, and maybe even 50-60 thousand. By the way, we already sell our weapons on our own with a 50% discount.
It should be understood that the engineering costs for the development of weapons samples will be the same regardless of the volume of the ordered batches. Suppose writing an engineering algorithm for the production of a particular weapon costs a million, if then I order 10 units or 1000 pieces, the development costs will remain the same, but the profitability and price of the final product will be completely different.
– Does the company plan to expand its model range in terms of classes of small arms, including submachine guns or pistols?– As for sniper weapons, we already have the largest model range in the world today, even if compared with such giants as Barret or Steyr-Manlicher.
Working in the Emirates, we have launched a line of semi-automatic and automatic weapons, this is also all familiar to us.
Yes, we really would like to go to other "fields", personally I really like pistols. However, in order to start producing their own pistols, Russia needs to change the relevant legislation, the need for pistols, if you focus only on the domestic Federation of Practical Shooting, is scanty – no enterprise will pull such a project from scratch due to low profitability. Here again, the question is for the state whether it wants to develop the arms business in Russia, the arms industry or not.
– Today there are ideas for the introduction of neural network technologies with elements of artificial intelligence into the aiming complex of small arms, which would make it easier for the shooter to find a target on the battlefield and aiming and would ensure high accuracy of fire. Are Lobaev Arms considering similar systems for your rifles in the future?– The sphere of our competence is, after all, first of all, "iron" – a rifle and a cartridge.
Sights and especially software are another, very complicated story. But conceptually, the need for such technologies really exists today: the sniper "craft" has become very complex, too many factors have to be taken into account by the shooter or sniper group today, including the choice of targets, the distribution of their priority. These functions could be outsourced to a machine, but creating such intelligent sights would require very powerful horizontal cooperation. We need some kind of body that would manage these processes, because the Ministry of Industry and Trade is still too high-standing structure. Probably, each industry needs its own coordination center that would manage such cooperation across industries or even individual areas within them.
– Is it possible to pair sighting systems of sniper rifles with small drones to increase the effectiveness of shooting, including in the framework of counter-sniper combat? Are you considering such ideas?– It is not just possible, but also highly desirable.
Today we advocate that every sniper group consisting of two or four people should be equipped with a quadrocopter. This is a question of both target intelligence and security. If the information from the copter is integrated into the sighting and observation devices, our fighters will get a very big advantage in battle.
– At the end of our conversation, could you name the main problems in cooperation with the military department that you, as a small private enterprise, are facing today? What could be corrected to improve coordination and achieve the overall goals of its?– There is one simple measure that would now make life easier for everyone: both customers and performers.
In my opinion, today it is necessary to give the army the opportunity to purchase weapons and military equipment of interest before they are officially put into service. And directly to the divisions. It is only necessary to remove this bureaucracy, and the troops will be sated with novelties. Such a decision should be fixed by law: for the time of ITS, WHO or war, such barriers should be removed.
By the way, this is what happened with our quadrocopters when they were allowed to buy them directly to our rear services of military units. As soon as the logistics workers were able to purchase copters from their budgets, the problem of filling the troops with them was solved. The same, in my opinion, should be done with weapons. In this case, the novelties will be tested directly on the battlefield and only then, in peacetime, they can be finalized and finally decide whether or not to adopt the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Everything can be tested and refined, but today weapons are needed in battle, otherwise it will simply be too late to test and analyze anything.