Keywords: Yefremov Russia
Description: MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Viktor Litovkin) - The late Veniamin Yefremov, general designer of the Almaz-Antei Air Defense Concern, developed a number of unique weapons systems that
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Viktor Litovkin) - The late Veniamin Yefremov, general designer of the Almaz-Antei Air Defense Concern, developed a number of unique weapons systems that the United States, the United Kingdom and France still lack.
The two-volume Large Encyclopedic Dictionary offers a brief five-line entry on Yefremov, who is referred to as a Soviet scientist in the sphere of automation, a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences since 1984 and Hero of Socialist Labor since 1976. According to the Dictionary, Yefremov authored scientific papers on computerized automation processes.
The new edition of "Who's Who in Russia," which offers slightly more information about him, says Yefremov, a full-time member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, general designer of NPO Antei and recipient of the Lenin and State Prizes, graduated from the Electrical Engineering Institute of Communications in Moscow in 1951 and mostly specialized in radiolocation and control-and-guidance systems.
These vague entries provide very little insight into Yefremov's background. Few people seem to know the definition of NPO Antei. And "scientific papers on computerized automation processes" is not very informative either. It appears that Yefremov's biography has been deliberately distorted so that nobody can learn much about his career.
This is quite understandable because Yefremov worked in a particularly sensitive sector of Russia's defense industry since 1945.
His top-secret agency was first called R&D Institute No. 20 (NII-20), subsequently renamed the Electrical Mechanical R&D Institute (NIEMI) and then known as NPO Antei since 1983. Over the decades, Yefremov developed several types of mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems for the Army's air-defense units.
The list of such weapons includes the world-famous Osa-AKM SAM system with an effective horizontal range between 1,500 meters and 10 km. This system, which can hit targets at an altitude of 6 km, was supplied to 25 countries.
Yefremov also developed the self-contained army-level Tor-M1 SAM system with a horizontal range of 1-12 km and a vertical range from 100 meters to six km. Apart from Russia, the Tor-M1 system is used by China and Greece.
One should also mention the Krug medium-range SAM system and its modified versions with a horizontal range of four to 50 km and a vertical range from 150 meters to 25 km, the S-300V long-range SAM system (horizontal range: 7-100 km; vertical range: from 250 meters to 25 km). His latest invention was the little-known Antei-2500 theater-level anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system, which can destroy aircraft and ballistic missiles at a range of up to 200 km and 40 km, respectively. The system's vertical range is 250 meters to 30 km.
The Antei-2500 closely resembles the S-300V, which is sometimes called the Russian equivalent of America's Patriot SAM system. Just like the S-300V, each Antei-2500 system has six crawler vehicles, including Gigant and Gladiator missile launchers resembling an organ in a Christian cathedral.
The new system's more effective and powerful missiles, which were developed at the Yekaterinburg-based Novator design bureau, fit inside the same launch containers, as their weight has not changed. The Antei-2500 has the same command center and all-round and sector-scanning radars, as well as a fire control radar. Only experts can notice that the Antei-2500 system's multi-channel missile-guidance station has a much larger array than its prototype version, and that there is no Gigant launcher with a target-illumination station.
This station is now located on the Gladiator missile launcher, and the Gigant can also be launched from the transporter/loader.
Most importantly, the Antei-2500's range considerably exceeds that of its predecessor. This is the world's only defensive SAM system which can destroy aircraft and helicopters, including AWACS surveillance planes, Stealth-type fighters and bombers, as well as non-strategic medium-range and short-range ballistic missiles. The Antei-2500 has a horizontal and vertical range of 200 km and 30 km, while the corresponding ranges for the S-300V were only 100 and 25 km, respectively.
In addition, the Antei-2500 can destroy ballistic missiles with a range of up to 2,500 km flying at 4,500 meters per second, and this explains the system's official name.
These missiles are China's Dunfen-3, Dunfen-15 and Dunfen-25, the United States' ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) and Pershing, France's Ades, the Iraqi Scud-S and Israel's Jericho-2. Incidentally, obsolete Scuds and Pershings are still in service all over the world.
The S-300V could destroy ballistic missiles with a range of 1,000 km and a speed of 3,000 meters per second, whereas the Patriot PAC-2 missile, which was widely advertised during both Gulf Wars, has a maximum horizontal and vertical range of just 40 km and 24 km. The defense company Raytheon estimates that the PAC-3 missile's horizontal and vertical ranges were increased to 150 km and 25 km after an upgrade last year. The PAC-3 can destroy missiles with a 1,000-km range.
But it is unclear whether U.S. designers will manage to cope with the Patriot system's main drawback. Patriot missiles usually hit enemy-missile bodies and sustainer engines, rather than their warheads, which usually reach preset targets. Ninety percent of the 65 Scud missiles launched by Iraq in the first Gulf War hit their targets. However, during the second Gulf War Iraqi air-defense units missed numerous U.S. missiles that were launched from the sea.
In addition, Patriot missiles are launched at a certain angle to the horizon and cannot therefore hit targets approaching from the opposite direction. Consequently, at least four Patriot launchers are needed to cover a 360-degree sector, whereas only one Antei-2500 system is needed to do the same. Its vertically launched missiles streak in the direction of the target at 60-100-meter altitudes.
Most importantly, the highly accurate Antei-2500 and S-300V warheads can hit any missile warhead with a 100% success rate. Each Antei-2500 system can simultaneously fire at 16 ballistic missiles, including even those with small Stealth-type echo areas. This makes it unique in the world.
How did the United States finance Yefremov's efforts to develop the Antei-2500 system? That is a good question.
The cash-strapped NPO Antei and its partner, the Russian Defense Ministry, were unable to pay their employees in due time, to say nothing of developing new weapons. But science-and-technology ideas cannot be stopped no matter what. NPO Antei experts realized full well that they had to predict the long-term development of weapons and military equipment in line with the Russian Army's current and future requirements.
NPO Antei executives had to find money to implement new R&D projects. Excuses that the Russian authorities failed to provide adequate financing at the time would seem naive. In this seemingly hopeless situation Yefremov suggested a way out.
He ventured that the Defense Ministry and the Rosvooruzheniye state-owned arms exporter (now called Rosoboronexport) sell an S-300V SAM system to the United States. His offer was motivated by the fact that the CIA had been trying to lay its hands on the S-300V for a long time. Raytheon Company, which was upgrading the Patriot system, had to study all S-300V components in detail in order to accomplish the required objectives.
Yefremov contacted some high-ranking generals and asked them for help; but they apparently thought he was out of his mind.
At that time Moscow was trying to sell an ancient S-300-PMU system developed by rival company NPO Almaz, headed by member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Boris Bunkin, to the United States via Belarus. The local press raised a fuss in connection with the sale of Russian secrets by way of Minsk.
However, the S-300-PMU sale amounted to a skilful disinformation campaign because that system could only hit enemy aircraft. Moreover, the United States received only its control-and-guidance elements, which had been scavenged by shepherds for non-ferrous and precious metals, from the Emba testing range in Kazakhstan. But the press said nothing on this score.
China bought four battalions of the more advanced S-300-PMU-1 system from Russia, and experts said cooperation would continue. Beijing, which had begun to deploy a national air-defense system, needed several dozen more S-300-PMU-1 complexes. This meant that the Russian defense industry and other sectors would receive additional investment. However, a Russian-U.S. S-300V contract could have delayed this prospect for a long time.
A question immediately arose why the Pentagon and Beijing were buying different systems, and whether Russia had deceived China. The generals told Yefremov that the S-300V was a reserve element of Moscow's air-defense and ABM systems, and that they could not risk divulging its secrets. They said it was impossible to allow the United States, which Moscow did not completely trust, to learn such secrets.
Yefremov tried to convince them that it would take over a decade to solve the secrets of the S-300V system's control-and-guidance elements, and that Russia would develop an even more powerful and effective system by that time. He also said that NPO Antei, which was the only ABM weapons manufacturer, the Yekaterinburg-based Novator design bureau and affiliated enterprises would go bankrupt unless Moscow sold the S-300V system to Washington.
However, senior officials merely shrugged their shoulders and said the Russian defense industry had inherited too many enterprises from the Soviet era. They told Yefremov that only the fittest would survive, and that the rest had to go under, one way or another.
Yefremov, who had no time or heart to observe the Russian defense industry's demise, resorted to blackmail in order to achieve his goal.
He asked the rabble-rousing chairman of a committee of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, to visit a top defense official and ask him to sign a document on the sale of the S-300V system to the United States. The Duma representative agreed, and the ensuing conversation was quite heated; the committee chairman told the official that the Duma would raise the issue of his resignation if he refused. The document was signed as a result.
Following these events Yefremov was accused of selling Russian secrets to the enemy and of high treason. The Federal Security Service even opened a criminal case against Yefremov. A major Russian newspaper wrote how Yefremov's missiles were removed from combat duty near Moscow and secretly taken out of the country.
In real life, everything was quite simple and open. The S-300V system was officially removed from a factory in the presence of officials from the FSB, other export-control agencies and Rosvooruzheniye. The United States received only two batteries, including an all-round radar, a command center, two Gigant launchers and two Gladiator launchers with 23 missiles, rather than the standard 144-missile reserve, for $90 million.
True, NPO Antei received only $45 million because the Pentagon and Rosvooruzheniye were playing some mysterious game apparently involving the Russian and U.S. secret services.
Anyway, Rosvooruzheniye never sold the system's core element, the sector-scanning radar, to Washington. But Yefremov did not care because he had received enough money to streamline the Antei-2500 system, which has now been tested and placed on combat duty.
However, the S-300V episode was not the only one in which Yefremov had to deal with people in high places who were not very decent, to put it mildly.
In the mid-1990s, Germany gave a gift to Greece, its NATO ally, of several battalions of Osa surface-to-air missile systems inherited from the East German army. The Greeks gracefully accepted the present and asked Russia to upgrade them. An improved version, the Osa-10M, had already been shown at several exhibitions. Antei did the job quickly and well. But while doing so it demonstrated to the Greeks another SAM, the Tor-M1, which was more effective and had a longer range. Yefremov offered the new model to the Greeks.
They were interested and started pestering Rosvooruzhenie with requests to hold talks and negotiate a price. In the meantime, Rosvooruzhenie was being shaken up. Its general director, Alexander Kotyolkin, was replaced by the board chairman of a bank close to some Kremlin people. A contract to sell Tors to the Greeks didn't interest him. The reason remains unclear to this day. Either the price was unsuitable - a mere $650 million, while the new management wanted only contracts worth billions (to prove the effectiveness of the new team), or something else, but the fact remains that none of the Rosvooruzhenie top brass went along with Yefremov's idea to earn several hundred million dollars for the country and Antei, and use the windfall to resuscitate the gasping defense sector, revamp it and launch new projects for the Russian army.
Yefremov, however, was supported by some former Rosvooruzhenie staff members, who had to look for other jobs as the new management came in. They joined Antei, whose designer general obtained a foreign trade license. It was they who conducted the necessary negotiations with the Greeks and drafted a very lucrative contract for Russia, which only needed to be signed.
When the Rosvooruzhenie management learned that the contract was ready for signature, its director general demanded that it be inked through an intermediary - Rosvooruzhenie. This meant Antei had to give 10% of the price to people who had never lifted a finger to promote the deal and to depend on them for delivering spare parts and performing upgrading work later. It was not fair. Yefremov put up a fight but to no avail. The general director had Kremlin backing and stood his ground. The future of the $500-million contract hung in the balance. Help came from an unexpected quarter.
Valentina Matviyenko, the Russian ambassador to Greece, gave a mighty push. She sent several letters to the Russian president and the prime minister, requesting that the contract be signed not by Rosvooruzhenie's director, but by the person who negotiated it -Antei's designer general. The fortress, however, continued to stand. All Kremlin decisions supporting Yefremov and Matviyenko's initiative were soft-pedaled by some minor officials, and Antei did not receive either a yes or a no.
Things changed when Yevgeny Primakov became prime minister and Lieutenant General Grigory Rapota, his colleague in the Foreign Intelligence Service, was put in charge of Rosvooruzhenie. Rapota, being a man of integrity, at once went over to Yefremov's side. He stopped some of the meddlesome executives of the state agency from claiming credit for the deal, although Rosvooruzhenie was to lose a sizeable sum, and its personnel some nice bonuses.
"Money belongs to those who earn it," Rapota said, drawing a line under the dispute of who was to sign the contract.
The agreement between Antei and the Greek government became the first one in Russian history concluded directly between a weapons developer and its foreign customer without any middleman. It brought the country $650 million, and was followed by further air-defense contracts between Russia and Greece.
Today Greece is the only NATO country to have its entire air defense - including the close-range Strela and Igla units, the short-range Osa-10Ms and Tor-M1s, and the medium-range S-300-PMU-1s - made up of the most reliable Russian anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons. When the Americans try to persuade their North Atlantic partners that European-theater air defenses can only be supplied by Raytheon, Athens, with its Russian SAM systems, serves as a very weighty argument against the overseas monopoly in the Old World.
It is no secret that a brand-new Antei battalion is currently in the shipment yard of the manufacturer waiting to be delivered. The Russian Defense Ministry is as yet unable to pay for it. It already owes a lot of money to the association and no one knows when it will be able to repay the debt. These days, without money not even a bird will sing.
But Yefremov did not lose heart. His firm today is much more prosperous than one could have imagined only recently. Greece received several battalions of Osa SAMs from Germany, and there was no one but Antei to modernize and repair them. And it did the job. China purchased a couple of Tor-M1 regiments, providing another source of income for Antei. Then the Greeks bought several more Tor-M1 battalions, on top of the initial quantity, for a handsome sum, which benefited not only Antei, but also the Izhevsk Kupol manufacturer of these systems. But greenbacks are not the whole story.
Now one of the members of the North Atlantic alliance has an anti-aircraft system that consists entirely of Russian weapons. This means not only dollars - without which one cannot, alas, make a living - but also the prestige of our defense industry, the prestige of Russian military equipment. Other countries now mainly looking to overseas partners may well follow suit. France, for example, has problems with its Mediterranean missile security (with potential threats from Libya, Algeria and other North African countries), and its experts have come to consult Yefremov. What's wrong with that? Perhaps a European-theatre missile defense, too, will need his advice.
One day Yefremov and I were standing by a world map hanging in his study on Vereiskaya Street in Moscow. There was India, which can defend itself against its neighbors' missiles only with Antei's help. There was Israel - the hopes it has pinned on the Patriot PAK-3 have not yet been warranted. Where to look for a dependable partner? It may well be Moscow. This is no longer a problem.
And if we take a look at South Korea? It has two nuclear powers facing it from the north. Despite the Americans trying to foist their PAK-3 on it, the Koreans refuse to accept such a "friendly dictate". They already have our T-80 tanks and BMP-3 vehicles, and Seoul is pleased with our hardware. Rosoboronexport is said to have received representatives of the South Korean army for negotiations. Yefremov, however, was not invited.
There is suspicion that some of the bureaucrats are again throwing a monkey wrench in Antei's works. Or perhaps the time is not yet ripe to appeal to the designer general? The arms trade is a delicate business. This, however, did not bother Yefremov. He considered his 2500 system to be many times better than any other similar unit in the world, and believed that a discerning purchaser would choose whatever best suited his pocket and objectives.
As far as reliable weapons for the Russian army are concerned, there, too, the Antei-2500 designer general saw no particular problems. His theater missile defense system has a lot of potential. Recently, his firm joined forces with its perennial rival Almaz to set up a joint air defense missile company including all subcontractors, among them manufacturers of missiles for Antei and Almaz. This will pave the way for a new weapon based on shared integrated circuits, which will drastically reduce costs, while at the same time improving its combat characteristics. That would be beneficial, believed the designer general, and would open up very encouraging prospects.
Yefremov was sure: Russian officers would be playing solo on the world's best missile system. He also wanted to see these weapons not only performing on training fields, but also protecting the peaceful skies of Russia and its capital.
P.S. On September 16, Yefremov passed away. He is, however, survived by his work and his ideas, which he shared so generously with his pupils and colleagues. The cause he spent his whole life serving is in reliable hands.
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