US vs. Russia in 2018: Comparing Efficiency of Military Programs
Andrei AKULOV | 30.12.2017 | SECURITY / DEFENSE

US vs. Russia in 2018: Comparing Efficiency of Military Programs

The US military budget is $824.6 billion. US military spending is larger than the next nine countries combined. The 2018 year budget of the Russian Defense Ministry will total $46 bn. Despite the huge difference in expenditure, the military potentials of the two great powers are compared without offering indisputable conclusions. This is a very interesting phenomenon and many people wonder how it is possible.

Launching a program of developing a new weapon system is a great responsibility – success is never guaranteed and there are always snags on the way. It’s an open secret that Russia’s R-30 Bulava submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) has been plagued with problems. It was not design but rather production quality. Thorough study has been done to overcome the difficulties. It’s all over now as the recent tests show and the missile with enhanced ability to evade enemy anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defenses has entered service.

 Another major program - the PAK FA, now renamed the Su-57 fighter – had not run smoothly. A lot of effort was applied to develop a new power plant. In early December, 2017, the aircraft was successfully flight-tested with a new engine.

The T-14 Armata new generation tank, which is able to fire an anti-tank missile at targets more than seven miles away, is to enter service in 2020.

Russia's newest nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) the Knyaz Vladimir (Prince Vladimir) was officially launched last November.

Russia’s new hypersonic 3M22 Zircon anti-ship missile capable of Mach 8 or 9900 km/h is to enter service this year to make Russia the world leader in hypersonic weapons.

Russia has conducted a successful test launch of its Nudol direct ascent ballistic missile defense interceptor, while the efficiency of US GBI interceptors remains dubious.

It’s always more difficult than expected but the plans go through. There could be delays and expenditure may go up but what really matters is that no major Russian armament program has been shelved or abandoned.

The new US National Security Strategy emphasizes hypersonic weapons, laser and beam weapons, electromagnetic railguns, counter-space weapons, and artificial intelligence-directed robots to ensure America superiority in the 21st century leaving behind Russia and China.

The magnitude of US weapons programs takes breath away. The world is watching to be often frustrated by the news that much-hyped programs are suspended or to be revised to do away with shortcomings and staggering costs. Roughly, $85, 8 billion have been spent in the recent ten years on the programs that have never come to fruition. For instance, the suspension of the decade-long, electromagnetic railgun (EMRG) program in favor of a cheaper alternative was quite a shock.

It’s an open secret the US, Russia, China, Israel and some other countries are working on the weapons based on new physical principles. But only the US has is the only one to have a ready platform to install such a weapon on. Initially USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) was to carry 80 Tomahawk cruise missiles and a railgun. Instead it will carry an ordinary gun with a range of 148 km. The range is great but…the cost of one shot is $2 million. It’s comparable with the cost of a Tomahawk missile, which can travel much farther carrying a much heavier payload. And the result? The US Navy has received a $4bn ship with the capability of 1,5bn Arleigh Burke destroyer!

F-35 Lightning II – the most advanced strike aircraft - was to become the backbone of Air Force and Navy fighter fleet. 265 aircraft has been produced since 2006. The cost is $100bn in nearly 25 years – staggering enough to make President Trump ask questions. One plane costs $100 million. At that the aircraft still has a long way to go before it will be operational, probably no earlier than 2021. In October, the Israeli Air Force used F-35s to strike Syrian army’s positions near the city of Baalbek. One of the planes was reported to be damaged by the obsolete S-200 air defense system in service since 1967!

The Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser Testbed (formerly Airborne Laser) weapons system was a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) mounted inside a modified Boeing 747-400F. It had been expected that the US would be able to knock out enemy’s ballistic missiles. In 2010, the system hit two missiles during a test in California. But the problems proved to be insurmountable. The cost of one-hour flight was $92 million. The operational range was over 80 km to make an aircraft enter the enemy’s air space becoming vulnerable to air defenses. As a result, the program was scrapped in 2011 and the aircraft was taken out of service in 2014. The estimated cost of the program running from 1996 to 2011 was $92 – the money gone down the drain.

Future Combat Systems (FCS) was the Army’s principal modernization program in the period from 2003 to early 2009 claimed to be "most ambitious and far-reaching modernizationprogram since World War II.” The goal was to create new brigades equipped with new manned and unmanned vehicles linked by an unprecedented fast and flexible battlefield network. It was curtailed in 2009 to be cancelled in 2011. The only result was the XM1216 lightweight, man portable Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) that can be used in military operations conducted in urban environments, tunnels, culverts and caves. Some developments were used for the implementation of the Brigade Combat Team Modernization concept. The cost of the failed program was $18, 1 bn.

USS Gerald Ford, the first-in-class aircraft carrier, was delivered to Navy after 15 months of delays. The cost-$14 bn.

There is a reason to say the sky-high costs don’t result in the implementation of programs to make America lead in superweapons race. In 2012, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Brave New Foundation non-profit organizations found that 70 percent of retired three-and-four star generals took jobs with defense contractors or consultants. Defense contractors enjoy great influence among lawmakers. Megaprojects are launched, huge sums are spent but no wonder weapons appear. Super-high-frequency guns, long-range lasers, and climatic weapons and cruise missile swarms and other sci-fi weapons are used only in Hollywood movies.

The answer to the question who is leading in the “cost-efficiency” race leaves no place for doubt. 

Tags: Russian Army