Soviet Design Policy and its Implications for
U.S. Combat Aircraft Procurement

Rebecca V. Strode

THE COSTS of U.S. tactical aircraft have increased enormously over the past three decades, to the point that severe budgetary pressures now constrain the nation's efforts to procure aircraft in the numbers required to maintain its accustomed defense capabilities. The most expensive tactical aircraft currently under production, the Navy's F- 14, is fifty times more costly (measured in constant dollars) than the most expensive World War II fighter.[1] If the postwar trend continues, the unit cost of a hypothetical "F-1985" might well exceed $50 million, or almost three times the price of the F-14. The consequence of higher procurement prices is fewer purchases, so that the U.S./Soviet numerical balance in tactical aircraft shifted over the decade 1965-75 from a 78 percent U.S. advantage to a 7 percent U.S. deficit. (See Table I, next page.)

Quantity, of course, is not the only measure of military capability; quality plays an equally important role, and it is precisely the high-performance characteristics of recent U.S. aircraft that have been largely responsible for the escalation in price. High performance and high costs both derive from two basic aspects of U.S. fighter aircraft design, versatility and technological sophistication. American aircraft have consistently embodied systems and components that have marked the bounds of the technologically feasible at the time of their construction. This trend in U.S. design was clearly endorsed by Rear Admiral T. R. McClellan, Chief of the Navy's Air Systems Command, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Asked why the Navy chose the Grumman F-14 over McDonnell Douglas's less expensive aircraft, Admiral McClellan replied, "In a fighter aircraft, sir, we try to get the maximum design we can."[2]

The second aspect of U.S. design, versatility, enables a single fighter to carry out a variety of missions: close support, air superiority, interception, and interdiction. Close support constitutes the tactical air forces' most immediate contribution to the battlefield outcome by striking directly at the enemy's deployed forces while they are engaged against friendly ground units. It requires the ability to fly at very low altitudes under heavy fire. Air superiority is achieved by destroying enemy air power on the ground and by maintaining air-to-air combat dominance in the sky. This mission puts a premium on energy-maneuverability, particularly the ability to turn inside an opponent and bear high-load factors, since air battles are generally not fought at maximum speed but in an "envelop" ranging from mach 0.6 at 10,000 feet, to mach 1.4 at 17,000 feet. The interception of enemy bombers and other aircraft requires speed, maneuverability, and range. Finally, modern multirole combat aircraft (MRCA) are designed to accomplish missions of interdiction; that is, to conduct deep penetration of heavily defended areas in order to attack well-guarded targets. Because this mission pits the pilot against a wide array of enemy radar, missile, and other air defense systems, interdiction requires great range and payload, low-altitude capability at mach 0.8-0.9, sophisticated avionics and navigational equipment, powerful electronic countermeasures/electronic counter-countermeasures (ECM/ECCM) equipment, and efficient fire control systems--all of which translate into larger and more expensive aircraft than would be necessary for fighters not required to operate deep over hostile territory.[3 ]

Interdiction is the most controversial of tactical air missions because its risks and costs are high while its outcome, the reduction of enemy logistical support, constrains the opponent's military initiatives only in the long run and with debatable effectiveness. Yet it has played a major role in U.S. combat experience. During World War II, interdiction accounted for 51 percent of U.S. sorties in the European theater. During the Pacific Leyte campaign, where air superiority had not yet been achieved, most sorties were sent on counterair missions; nevertheless, almost 20 percent involved interdiction. In the Korean War, the share was 55 percent, and while precise figures are not available for the war in Southeast Asia, it is not unlikely that interdiction strikes accounted for 75-90 percent of all U.S. sorties.[4] Should the United States become involved in an air war within the next decade or so, multirole fighters would probably spend between one-sixth and one-third of their flight time on interdiction missions.[5 ]

While the versatility typically built into U.S. fighters may drive up their unit costs, less versatile aircraft would not necessarily be less expensive. Multirole aircraft provide several program, as opposed to unit, cost savings, including:

Multirole aircraft also offer the important combat advantage of flexibility. Since aircraft are not lost in equal or predictable proportions in time of war, it is beneficial to have at one's disposal aircraft that can perform a variety of missions and hence can be shifted about as necessity dictates. The disadvantage of multirole aircraft is a certain loss of cost-efficiency due to the requirement that each possess the capability to fulfill several missions, even though performing only one at a time. Consequently, on any given assignment, a multirole aircraft is equipped with a number of systems that are superfluous to the accomplishment of its mission.

The advantages and disadvantages of mission-specific aircraft are the obverse of those enumerated for multirole fighters. On the one hand, single-mission aircraft appear to be more cost-effective, since they need not embody "superfluous" capabilities. On the other hand, such aircraft do not provide the economics of scale and standardization offered by MRCAs. As for combat, the advocates of more specialized aircraft argue that no multirole fighter can perform any single mission as proficiently as one specially designed for the task. However, those who favor MRCAs point to the loss of flexibility which a mission-specific force structure entails and contend that it is preferable to perform several missions reasonably well than one superbly and others not at all.[6 ]

Further examination of this debate lies beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that a growing number of critics of U.S. procurement policy exist who feel that MRCAs place an inordinate fiscal burden on tactical air forces. It should be noted, however, that the argument of many of these critics does not stop at challenging the value of multimission fighters but goes on to question the need for maximum technologies in general, be they incorporated in multirole or mission-specific aircraft. The F-111, for example, is mission-specific (for deep penetration) but at the same time very expensive (unit cost = $15 million) due to sophisticated capabilities. Now it is clear that the use of state-of-the-art technology increases cost as well as capability, and insofar as there are budgetary constraints, there will be a tradeoff between quality and quantity. The task, then, reduces to determining the extent to which combat advantages accrue to technologically superior aircraft.

ADVANCED American fighters have confronted inferior Soviet aircraft on several occasions, and it is instructive to examine the results. In the MiG Alley of Korea, the F-86 Sabre was pitted against the MiG-15 deep over hostile territory, a condition that favored the North Korean, Chinese, and Soviet pilots. Yet the American aircraft--larger, more complex; indeed, the most expensive fighter the United States had yet built--achieved a remarkable kill-ratio against its Soviet opposite and thus proved to be clearly cost-effective. But the results of more recent battles have been more ambiguous. The currently deployed F-4 Phantom and MiG-21, for example, have met over both Vietnam and the Middle East, and while the American plane again proved to be the better fighter, its margin of superiority was not always so great as to justify its cost in the unequivocal manner of the F-86. The exact combat ratio between the F-4 and MiG-21 in the Vietnam War remains classified, but William White of the Brookings Institution has estimated it to be about 2: or 3:1 in favor of the Phantom. During one short period for which data are available, the summer of 1972, air-to-air combat resulted in the loss of 12 MiG-21s, 4 MiG-17/19s, and 11 F-4s, yielding a kill-ratio of about 1.5 MiGs for every Phantom shot down.[7] In the October 1973 War, Israel's 550 combat aircraft--127 of which were F-4 Phantoms--were highly effective in air-to-air combat against Soviet-built MiGs but proved vulnerable to the Egyptian Army's surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).[8 ]

Where national security is at stake, cost-efficiency analyses alone are hardly persuasive, and it must again be stressed that the F-4 did win the battle for the sky in both Vietnam and the Middle East. But to the extent that cost-efficiency criteria are valid considerations in determining force structure, the F-4's performance might be seen as somewhat disappointing. Almost three times as heavy as the MiG-21 and with a 38 percent greater combat radius, it costs about three times more to produce when measured in dollar terms.[9] But is it three times more effective, or do technological improvements at some point become subject to diminishing returns?

Critics of current U.S. force structure believe the latter to be the case and contend that saving could be realized without significant loss of combat effectiveness by limiting the missions and capabilities of tactical aircraft. Proponents of this policy frequently look to the Soviet Union for an example of an alternative procurement policy, claiming that the U.S.S.R. has secured its defense at lower cost by restricting its tactical air forces to air superiority and ground-attack missions, with little regard to interdiction; by building simple, mission-specific aircraft rather than MRCAS; and by resisting the temptation always to push technology to the limit when designing new aircraft, opting instead for quantity over quality. A closer inspection, however, reveals this analysis to be seriously flawed. In the first place, it is not at all clear that Soviet tactical air forces truly "cost less" than their American counterparts. Second, the argument confuses past capabilities with current policy and then unjustifiably projects that policy into the future. The purpose here is to provide a more accurate understanding of Soviet design policy and suggest the implications that that policy holds for future combat aircraft production.

Missions, Performance, and Design

It is true that the U.S.S.R.'s Frontal Aviation forces have generally not undertaken deep interdiction missions and that the service's aircraft are primarily designed for air superiority or ground attack. They are also more mission-specific than the major U.S. fighters. The MiG-21 and -27 are designed for air superiority; the Su-7 and -17 for close support; and the Su-24 for penetrating ground attack against hardened targets. Within Voiska PVO, too, aircraft are designed for specific, limited roles. Pilot training, for example, concentrates on ground control interception, not free air combat, and the MiG-25, while performing high-altitude, highs-peed interception ably, is far less capable in other roles. The Su-9 was designed as a point defense interceptor; the Yak-28, as a low-altitude interceptor. The Tu-28 was built specifically for long-range intercepton.[10] None possess the multirole capabilities of U.S. fighters.

It is also true that Soviet aircraft do not exhibit the same level of technology as U.S. aircraft. But one should not underestimate Soviet equipment, for in some areas it performs very well. The U.S.S.R.'s electro-optical and laser systems are highly capable, as are its ECM and infrared equipment. But overall, Soviet designers do not build into their aircraft the high-performance characteristics typical of U.S. forces. Their onboard computers are less sophisticated, and they fall far short of the United States in the use of composites and miniaturized avionics.[11] Indeed, the MiG-25 in which Lieutenant Viktor Belenko defected in September 1976 did not even make extensive use of advanced metals. The aircraft was constructed primarily of steel, with titanium found only in structures subject to extreme heating, such as the wing leading edges. The resultant weight penalty reduced the amount of equipment that could be carried, and this constraint was still further exacerbated by the aircraft's use of vacuum tubes rather than solid-state circuiting in its electronics. A comparative examination of climb, acceleration, turn radius, and radar capability reveals the superiority of the F-15 and F-16 to late-model MiG-21s and the MiG-25, and even the older F-4 compares not unfavorably.[12 ]

Underlying the differences between U.S. and Soviet aircraft are divergent approaches to aircraft design. The United States has emphasized complexity, versatility, and technological sophistication and has been willing to sacrifice a certain amount of quantity in exchange for higher quality. Within the Soviet Union, however, radically different practices were fostered among the research and development (R&D) community during Stalin's rule and have remained persistent features of Soviet design policy to this day. The five most prominent of these recurrent patterns are simplicity, commonality, prototype modeling, incrementalism, and reliance on foreign technology.

The simplicity of Soviet designs relates to their modest performance specifications, just sufficient to allow completion of the minimum tasks required and no more. Simplicity is evident in the designs as a whole, in the utilization of conventional, readily available construction materials, and in the lack of detailed finishing. Commonality refers to the use of standardized parts and assemblies on various types of aircraft whenever possible. Alternatively, an entire aircraft series, on reaching obsolescence in its original role, may be modified to fulfill some new system requirement. (This is not, however, the multirole principle found in NATO designs, in that Soviet aircraft have usually not been designed with more than one function in mind. It is only after an aircraft can no longer perform the specific mission for which it was originally created, or when an unforeseen requirement has arisen for which no aircraft yet exists, that an attempt is made to find a new use for the older series.) The ASh-82 engine, for example, was used to outfit the World War II-vintage La-5 fighter, the Tu-2 frontal bomber, and the Pe-8 long-range bomber. Indeed, twenty years later it was still in service on the I1-14 passenger carrier and the Mi-4 helicopter.[13] Similarly, the Su-7 ground-attack fighter and the Su-9 interceptor, although fitted with different wings, armament, and equipment to suit their particular roles, nevertheless possess identical fuselages and tails.[14] To take another example in a somewhat different vein, the M-4 Bison, though currently being phased out of its bomber role, is being modified to serve as a tanker, and a version of the old Tu-95 Bear has been developed to operate in an antisubmarine warfare capacity.[15 ]

The third feature of the U.S.S.R.'s design process, prototype modeling, specifies the purpose to which research, development, testing, and evaluation are being directed. In the Soviet Union, newly designed aircraft fall into two categories, "test" (opytnye) and "experimental" (eksperimental'nye). Test models are designed to serve as prototypes of forthcoming series production aircraft, and the emphasis is placed on feasibility and existing technologies. Experimental aircraft, on the other hand, are not intended for series production but are built to test a particular new technology or flight characteristic--record-breaking speed, new maneuvers, a new design principle, etc.[16] Prototype modeling, then, provides a link between the static traits of Soviet design policy (simplicity and commonality in series production aircraft) and the dynamic features that foster innovation (incrementalism and foreign input).

The conservatism of Soviet aircraft design policy is nowhere better exemplified than in its stress on innovation through incremental improvement. The approach blends well with the nation's predilection for commonality, since when only modest, step-by-step changes are introduced to upgrade performance, follow-on aircraft are left with many of the same features as their predecessors. While experimental prototypes (I and Ye series) occasionally introduce major improvements in technology, the predominant pattern has been gradual upgrading. Even what appear to be discontinuous advances in the performance characteristics of deployed aircraft have, in fact, been achieved little by little through prototype testing. The transition from the MiG-19 to the delta-wing MiG-21, for example, involved five intervening prototypes: (1) the Ye-50, a sweptwing aircraft with an upgraded MiG-19 engine; (2) the Ye-2A, a sweptwing model equipped with the future MiG-21 production engine; (3) the Ye-5, a deltawing prototype with the same fuselage and engine as the Ye-2A; (4) the Ye-6, a preproduction series very similar to the Ye-5; and, finally, (5) the production version, the MiG-21F/Fishbed-C. This model itself has undergone extensive upgrading since its introduction in 1960, so that the most recent version has twice the range and payload of the original.[17 ]

The other major avenue to qualitative improvement employed by the Soviets is to borrow from Western technology and experience. Numerous examples could be given, from the jet engine to integrated circuitry. Such innovation may take the form of partial borrowing or complete replication (bez otsebiatiny). As A. Fedoseev, an applied scientist who recently defected from the Soviet Union, explains: "The themes of new military developments are taken from foreign technical journals and intelligence information on foreign equipment, and often arise as a result of obtaining actual examples of the equipment from abroad."[18 ]

  Sources of Soviet Design Policy

Conservatism and simplicity are evident in all aspects of Soviet design, but the reasons for their prominence are not so easily identified. Do they result from the free choice of the nation's leaders in light of various cost-benefit analyses? Or do they reflect the limited options available to a country plagued by economic irrationality, bureaucratic ossification, and negative historical experience? Those who see in Soviet force structure an alternative to the escalating costs of defense procurements generally accept the former explanation, and the Soviets do claim to find in their approach practical advantages which do not inhere in the more complex United States designs. However, there is strong evidence that the deeper source of the conservatism and technological modesty found in Soviet aircraft designs lies in the systemic inadequacies of the Soviet polity.

Certain benefits do accrue to that Soviet design policy. Aircraft can be completed more quickly, for instance, if they are unencumbered by nonessential accessories and are derived from previous models.[19] In addition, simplicity facilitates pilot training and eases the pilot's task under the difficult conditions of combat.[20] World War II in particular drove this lesson home to the Soviets. As former test pilot M. Gallai explains:

  "A plane does not live by speed alone"! Consequently, all our efforts were directed toward getting the new fighters "off," with the goal of making them reliable and accessible to any pilot of average qualifications. (In a major war, you won't get very far on aces alone!)[21 ]

With this in mind, the Soviets not only designed simplicity into their MiG-3s but, on receiving American lend-lease aircraft, straightway stripped them of their nonessential equipment--extra fuel lines, gauges, etc.[22 ]

Commonality, too, makes good sense. it reduces the logistics problems associated with providing spare parts, saves time and resources, and makes it easier for pilots to switch from one type of aircraft to another.[23 ]Prototype testing minimizes uncertainty and avoids the problems that can arise when one attempts to manufacture unproven designs. Through prototype testing, costs and performance can be scrutinized before substantial commitments to a project have been made.[24 ]

Like simplicity and commonality, incremental innovation can facilitate pilot training and performance. For example, a MiG-21 was modified in the 1960s to provide an experimental analog to the Tu-144 supersonic transport then in development. The "Analog" MiG had its tailplane removed and was fitted with a scaled-down version of the Tu-144's ogival wing in order to accustom the test pilots to the wing's aerodynamic effects before they took the larger plane into the air.[25] But far more important is the impact of the incremental approach on quantitative measures of military power. Once again, the U.S.S.R.'s wartime experience played a crucial role:

The fact is that any measure--even the most effective--is not suitable if its realization would hold up the output of combat aircraft from the assembly line for even a few days. The front can't wait! Over the field of battle in those days our aircraft were already fewer in number than the enemy's. This gap had to be reduced, or at least not increased. Therefore, in the course of designing aircraft, the necessary results had to be obtained with relatively few means--only those which could be incorporated without holding up production.

This was a good school! The ability to achieve improved tactical-technical characteristics without having to turn the whole aircraft design upside down became one of the most important elements in the work style of our aeronautical engineers and scientists, even in relatively calm times, when there was no special need for it.[26 ]

The Soviets do not like to discuss their reliance on foreign technology, but one can surmise that this method of innovation reduces R&D outlays not only on individual projects but on applied science as a whole. Thus, when the technology, materials, and equipment needed to replicate a Western aircraft or other weapon have been lacking, entire new branches of industry have been created. According to Fedoseev, the government believes this to be an infallible method of determining how best to allocate the nation's research funds and order investment priorities.[27 ]

But for all the advantages of Soviet design practices, there are costs as well. Overreliance on foreign technology, for instance, may bring short-term savings on R&D, but it exacts a tremendous toll over the long run by inhibiting domestic experimentation and ultimately weakening the nation's scientific base. That the U.S.S.R. spends some 40 percent more on R&D than does the United States, yet continues to exhibit inferior technology, is a clear manifestation of this dilemma.[28] Moreover, while incremental innovation can provide steady, gradual improvements in aircraft capabilities, it inhibits the realization of major advances and thereby exposes the Soviet Union to the risk of sudden obsolescence due to technological breakthroughs in the United States.

Logistics savings provided by commonality and interchangeability of parts may not be sufficient to offset the logistics burden of servicing faulty equipment. Here an instructive illustration may be taken from civil aviation, about which information is more accessible. When the U.S.S.R. entered the export market for jumbo jet liners, it priced its Tu-154 at only half the cost of the Boeing 747 in order to compensate for the aircraft's marked technological inferiority. Several sales were made to developing nations, but within six months, these buyers had canceled all contracts. Even with its much lower purchase price, the Tu-154 could not justify its operational costs: time between overhauls, for instance, was but 600 hours, compared to 3000 for the 747.[29] Commonality of parts constantly in need of repair is hardly a positive characteristic.

Finally, although the relative simplicity of Soviet aircraft would seem to translate into lower unit costs than those obtaining in the United States, this may not be the case. Dollar cost comparisons estimate only what it would cost to replicate Soviet equipment in the United States; they do not indicate the true cost of that equipment to the U.S.S.R. Given the vast differences between the two countries' economic systems, resource endowments, labor productivity, and industrial-technical capabilities, these two costs may vary widely even in fiscal terms, not to mention the more complex issue of opportunity cost. It may be that the Soviets build unsophisticated aircraft because that is all they are capable of producing, and even such as they build are extremely expensive in terms of human and material resources consumed (and denied to the economy as a whole). Certainly this would be the conclusion suggested by the performance of the civilian industrial sector.

There are, however, important distinctions between military and civilian production processes in the U.S.S.R. which partially mitigate the impact of overall inefficiency on armament production. To an extent not true of the civilian sector, something akin to consumer sovereignty may be discerned in military production, the consumer being, of course, the Soviet government. Weapons producers respond to the demands of the Ministry of Defense, which delineates detailed specifications that the new equipment must satisfy. Quality control standards are more demanding and inspection commissions less susceptible to supplier pressure. In the civilian sector, quality control is the responsibility of the Department for Technical Control (Otdel tekhnicheskogo kontrolia or OTK), but since OTK inspectors receive bonuses from the enterprise and therefore benefit when the plant does well, they can usually be persuaded to accept defective products if correction would so disrupt the production schedule as to jeopardize plan fulfillment. Where weapon systems are produced, however, the OTK inspection is followed by a special military inspection. The voenpredy ("military representatives") who conduct this examination are permanently attached to a particular enterprise but are completely independent from its management. Their wages are paid by the Ministry of Defense, not the enterprise, and hence they have no vested interest in the enterprise bonus system. The voenpredy are instructed to pay no heed to production delays that might result from the rejection of defective output. While this presumably improves product quality, rejections are reportedly quite frequent, which must drive up costs.[30 ]

Perhaps the feature that most distinguishes military production in general and aircraft production in particular from the civilian production process is the existence of competition among military design bureaus. Competitive designing has been the rule in the aviation industry since 1939-40, when more than twenty designers were instructed to come up with two or three basic types of aircraft. Competition occurs in all aviation projects, civil and military, at the initial, preproduction stage (when broad, tentative ideas are put forward), but for military aircraft it continues among two or three bureaus all the way down to the prototype testing phase. But while competition remains an important feature of aircraft research and development, there is some evidence (admittedly incomplete) that it has abated over the years. In 1945-49, 37 percent of identified prototypes were put into production; in 1950-54, 44 percent; in 1955-59, 57 percent; and in 1960-65, 50 percents.[31] Unfortunately, more recent data are not available, but it may be that rising R&D costs have made it increasingly difficult to shelve designs on which considerable resources have already been expended. Occasionally, both competing prototypes are accepted for series production.[32 ]

Despite these departures from nonmilitary practice, military industrial production--especially in such high-technology fields as aircraft development--remains hampered by many of the same scarcities, irrationalities, and disincentives that plague the civilian sector. The design philosophy that has emerged from these circumstances has simply attempted to make the best out of a bad situation. Quantity is not chosen over quality; it is accepted for lack of any other option. For reasons to be explained later, the Soviet R&D community has simply been unable to produce the sort of sophisticated equipment found in Western air forces and has hence been obliged to make a virtue of necessity. This interpretation was trenchantly summarized by the famous designer Andrei N. Tupolev:

The country needs aircraft like it needs black bread. Of course, you can imagine pralines, tortes, etc., but to no purpose--we haven't the ingredients to make them. From this it follows:

(a) that we must develop a doctrine concerning the missions which aviation is to perform, and that doctrine must be based on a realistic conception of the capabilities of projected aircraft;

(b) that, on the basis of technology and production processes which have already been assimilated, we must turn out long production runs of those aircraft which correspond to that doctrine;

(c) that if these aircraft fall somewhat behind those in the West in terms of technology--to hell with them; we'll get by on quantity; and

(d) that, in order to prevent quality from falling too far behind quantity, the design bureau should (i) concentrate on the technology of constructing experimental aircraft, without being burdened with responsibility for series production, and (ii) work on two basic tasks: designing aircraft intended for production and designing purely experimental aircraft used to achieve technological breakthroughs.[33]

As indicated in this passage, Tupolev traced several aspects of Soviet design policy--the creation of simple, "black bread" aircraft in large quantities, for limited missions, by means of prototype modeling--to the short supply of materials and equipment apparently endemic to the planned economy. This situation is somewhat alleviated in the production of weapons, due to the top priority enjoyed by the military sector. Nevertheless, problems remain. In order to accommodate the plan, researchers are required to specify at the beginning of the year all the supplies they will need throughout the entire twelve-month period. Yet a researcher cannot know in advance which materials he will require for experiments of which he has not yet conceived. As Fedoseev notes:

I could never comprehend why they would entrust me with millions in the plan system (and sometimes even wastefully), yet not trust me to spend literally a few rubles to encourage people, to raise their interest in their work, or to purchase an instrument or some material directly from a store. After all, I knew how to make my planned work less expensive.[34]

One response of Soviet industrial officials to the problems of supply has been to keep the production process as much as possible within their own organization, be it the enterprise or the ministry. Consequently, the aviation industry is highly concentrated, at both the development and the manufacturing level. Design bureaus are few and of the thousands of components that make up an aircraft, 90-95 percent are produced by the Ministry of Aviation Industry.[35] But such ministerial "empire-building" creates its own set of problems. Transportation costs, for example, will often be needlessly high as parts are procured from a plant perhaps several hundred miles away, yet within the same ministry, rather than from a plant producing identical components, but for a different ministry, right in the same city. Moreover, as military equipment grows more complex, it becomes more and more difficult, even in the face of ministerial protectionism, to insulate weapon production from the deficiencies of the rest of the economy. Thus Brezhnev, at the Twenty-fifth Party Congress, insisted that planners and producers take greater cognizance of the interdependencies that exist among branches of the economy, and Major General M. Cherednichenko soon responded that the defense industries had taken the secretary's admonition to heart and would act on it.[36] To what extent procedures have changed, however, is unknown.

The role of the party at the operational (as opposed to the declaratory) level is itself ambivalent. Within the civilian economy, one of the chief functions of obkom and raikom officials is to overcome supply bottlenecks, primarily by authorizing violations of the plan.[37] Presumably, the same holds true for defense industries. But such has not always been the case, and while recent evidence is lacking, past experience indicates that on occasion the party may even obstruct the flow of supplies. A. Yakovlev recounts in his memoirs that for more than five months in 1946 no progress was made toward constructing a design bureau called for in the plan. Neither materials nor workers had been provided. The Minister of the Aviation Industry, Mikhail Khrunichev, complained to Stalin:

... the local organs not only do not help, but even hinder ... You see, the Obkom Secretary has been detaining the construction workers sent to us there, figuring that they are more useful in reconstruction work.[38 ]

This episode, coming soon after the war, may be atypical, but the reconciling of conflicting claims on scarce supplies remains a major task of the party apparatchiki, one they may not always be able to fulfill. As for the ministry itself, it does its best, as indicated by Khrunichev's appeal. But here, too, problems of supply are sometimes so severe that the government simply resigns itself to their inevitability and urges producers and scientists to do the same. General Artem Mikoyan once complained to a group of Canadian industrialists, for instance, that the Ministry of the Aviation Industry would not allow him to use as much titanium in his designs as he would like, and engine designer Kuznetsov confirmed that he had met with the same difficulty.[39 ]

Even designs that have been approved for series production and hence presumably utilize only available materials remain jeopardized by unforeseen shortages. Gallai notes that demands from the production engineers "grab the designer by the throat," as costs and breaches of contract by "tens and hundreds of supplying plants" make the original design unworkable.[40] It may take an entire year to convert the design into a blueprint that can be produced,[41] and the process is far from orderly. Designer O. Antonov has remarked:

It is common knowledge that the director of a plant engaged in series production and the chief designer who plans the machines or other items produced by the plant often get along like cats and dogs.

It is common knowledge that the introduction of a new and better product, or even a proposal to improve and modernize an item already in production, sometimes meets a hostile reception by the director.[42]

Taut planning and short supplies not only result in production delays but also slow the pace of modernization at the plant. In response to a recent appeal by O. Antonov for improved quality in the production of sophisticated equipment, the Novosibirsk aviation enterprise director G. Vanag replied that everyone recognized the need for innovation, but until resources are provided, few results can be expected. Too often, Vanag complained, the enterprise is left "to fight one-on-one against difficulties which [the planners] themselves are simply unable to handle."[43]

While supply problems have placed limits on the sophistication the Soviets have been able to achieve thus far in their combat aircraft, such difficulties could conceivably be overcome by allocating a still greater share of the country's material resources to this sector at the expense of civilian consumption. There is, however, a deeper source of the simplicity (or, one might say, backwardness) characteristic of Soviet designs, the roots of which go back to the early years of Soviet rule, particularly the 1930s, and which is much less amenable to solution. It is the network of disincentives to innovation which pervades the scientific and industrial communities and atrophies their performance potential. Reluctance to experiment with new methods and concepts has been ingrained through historical memory and current experience; through excessive bureaucratization and rigid planning; and, above all, through the basic distrust in which the scientific community is held by the Soviet government.

Obstacles to Innovation

Of the bureaucratic impediments to innovation, some arise from the ministerial system of organization and others from the planning mechanism. As noted previously, the industrial ministries have attempted to build self-contained "empires," partly in an effort to reduce supply difficulties but perhaps more to consolidate and enhance the authority of their various agents, be they enterprise directors or government officials. Consequently, enterprises, research organizations, and individuals subordinated to one ministry often lack contact with their counterparts elsewhere, and these communication barriers hinder the flow of information across ministerial lines.[44] The result is duplication of effort and slower progress. Ministries may hesitate to endorse technological drives which would necessitate reliance on organizations outside their control. The Minister of the Aviation Industry, for example, might be reluctant to force the pace of innovation if such a policy would depend for its success on input from the Academy of Science. A slower pace that remained within the capacities of the ministry's own research institutes and experimental design bureaus might seem preferable to dependency on nonsubordinates.[45 ]

Within the mechanism of central planning, the Soviets have been unable to define criteria of success which guide economic units to optimum output. Early efforts at cost-efficiency calculations specified weight as the unit of account, the goal being greater weight at lower cost. The perniciousness of this standard in aircraft production soon made itself felt, for it removed the incentive to build aircraft with the lightweight materials needed to obtain high thrust-to-weight ratios.[46] But even when gross output targets were superseded by financial indicators in 1965, the defense industries may have used the newly instituted profitability norms to justify risk aversion and discourage innovate on rather than improve efficiency through technological advance.[47] Even tying bonuses directly to innovation has failed to produce the intended effect. The bonuses tend to lose their merit/incentive character over time and become an expected component of the researcher's salary. Moreover, there is a tendency toward artificial innovation, wherein existing products are given but minor modifications and new names in order to meet innovation quotas.[48] When bonuses can be obtained by such simple measures, there is little incentive to undertake major innovation programs, particularly since they may temporarily require a reduction in the other plan indices (gross output, profitability, etc.) by which success is measured.

The most important incentives encouraging innovation are prestige, financial benefit, and career advantages provided to designers whose prototypes are accepted for series production. But the process also encourages conservatism insofar as designers believe that their designs will have a greater chance for approval if they resemble aircraft accepted previously.[49 ]

Apart from the simplistic, often irrational, incentive structure developed by the central authorities, the plan framework and its bureaucratic accouterments retard innovation through their inflexibility. Before beginning a project, a research team must draw up two documents: the "technical assignment" (tekhnicheskoe zadanie or TZ) or the "tactical-technical requirements" (Taktiko-tekhnicheskie trebovaniia or TTT) and Plan Form No. 4. The TZ or TTT defines the proposal and must be approved by (1) the director of the team's scientific-research institute, (2) its voenpred, (3) a representative of the military client, (4) an agent of the Defense Ministry's coordinating organization for military research, and (5) the particular ministry to which the research group is subordinated. The procedure at best takes months and can draw out for as much as two years. The various authorities involved often have divergent interests and place incompatible demands on the project. Plan Form No. 4 is a cost estimate and time schedule for the proposal and specifies the types and quantities of all materials and equipment that will be needed. It must be signed by there research group's ministry--and often by the Minister himself--as well as by all concerned enterprises, suppliers, and planning organs.[50 ]

The TZ, TTT, and Plan Form No. 4 cannot be changed without permission of the ministry, which is rarely given. If, during the course of research, it becomes evident that an anticipated procedure is no longer necessary, still it must be performed in order to fulfill the plan. "Thus," writes Fedoseev, "having expended a tremendous amount of nerves, labor, and time on the TZ or TTT and Form No. 4, the researcher dons the cruelest corset, binding himself hand and foot."[51 ]

The plan framework, into which defense contracts must fit, and the rigidity of the approval process just described conspire to freeze aircraft designs at an early stage. The MiG-25 high-altitude interceptor is a case in point. Designed to counter the B-70 high-altitude, supersonic bomber, which the United States had under development in the early 1960s, the fighter would appear to have lost much of its raison d'Ítre when the B-70 program was canceled. Yet production of the MiG-25 has continued to the present; indeed, it did not even make its maiden flight till after the B-70 program had been dropped. While its high speed and ceiling grant it continued value in a reconnaissance role, as an interceptor its relatively poor performance in low-altitude regimes at a time when the air threat to the Soviet Union has shifted decidedly toward low-flying attackers (both aircraft and cruise missiles) has considerably degraded its effectiveness. It might have been wiser from the Soviet perspective to have canceled the MiG-25 altogether and to have undertaken the development of a new interceptor of radically different design, but the momentum of the program was apparently too great to overcome. Such are the costs of bureaucratic inertia, plan rigidity, and risk avoidance.[52] Thus, while much can be said for a steady state production process, its negative concomitants ought not be ignored. The gradualist approach to design so commonplace in the Soviet Union makes rapid adjustment to changing situations that much more difficult, especially when the new conditions call for major departures from previous designs.

The Communist Party leadership has at times sought to overcome excessive caution in the scientific community by exerting pressure for discontinuous leaps in technology. In this regard, design bureau chief O. Antonov has noted that it sometimes "takes a fight" to push through an innovation: "The Party has several times rolled up its sleeves, gone after one industry or another, and, dragging it out of the morass of gradualism, given it a powerful push in a direction that the country required."[53 ]

On the other hand, party and government officials have also on occasion offered resistance to innovative proposals put forward by researchers. Gallai, for example, although generally endorsing the nation's incremental approach to force improvement, nonetheless criticizes the obstacles presented by the "conservatism" of the leadership and bureaucracy.[54] The problem is also described in Yakovlev's memoirs. In 1951, Stalin told Yakovlev to stop work on several new designs, explaining:

We already have a good plane in the MiG-15, and there is no sense in building new fighters in the near future. Better just to modernize the MiG.[55 ]

This attitude disturbed Yakovlev for two reasons: first, cancellation might lose him the trust his designers had in his leadership abilities; and second, he knew that:

If all experimental work were organized around modernizing existing series of aircraft and not on building new, more advanced ones, before long we would inevitably fall behind . . . I felt it was necessary to create something qualitatively new.[56 ]

Yakovlev therefore began work in conjunction with the engine designer Mikulin on a fighter with an improved thrust: weight ratio, the Yak-25 reconnaissance aircraft. Stalin was impressed and ordered Artem Mikoyan to use the same engine on an interceptor. The result was the MiG-19, another illustration of incrementalism and commonality in Soviet aircraft design.[57 ]

Party conservatism in matters of applied science derives in part from the leadership's lack of confidence in the abilities of Soviet scientists. Fedoseev reveals that research engineers in the U.S.S. R. are frequently ordered to copy Western equipment without modification and are not allowed to make improvements even if such are clearly needed. Later, no doubt, the United States or other originating country will correct the problem, but unless the U.S.S.R. obtains an example of the improved model, no correction will be made on the Soviet copy.[58 ]

Ultimately, the leadership's lack of confidence in the skill of Soviet scientists probably derives less from past performance--the deficiencies of which can largely be attributed to the defects in the economic and incentive structures already discussed--than from the basic distrust the leadership feels toward all intellectual segments of the society. This distrust impacts negatively on the quality of Soviet science in a number of ways. First, it has fostered censorship, which weakens the country's scientific base by limiting the number of people to whom access to foreign scientific and technical materials is allowed.[59] This element has probably lessened somewhat with time and may continue to do so. A more serious problem derives from the harsh sanctions imposed for failure and the fear which the threat of such sanctions engenders.

The system of unlimited liability for failure reached its apex under Stalin, who felt that the "epidemic of improvements" degraded weapon designs. He encouraged designers to resist demands for innovations from the military consumer, saying:

 The designer shouldn't be at everyone's beck and call; he above all others answers for the machine, and if he is given unfounded, irresponsible demands, he must protest.[60]

Stalin's advice often turned into an angry warning. At one confrontation, Yakovlev recalls:

He pointed his finger at us and threatened "Remember: a designer must be firm; he must protect his aircraft from irresponsible advisors. It's hard to make a good machine, but very easy to spoil it. And it's the designer who'll have to answer for it!"[61 ]

The sanction for errors included criminal prosecution under laws "on technological discipline," and punishment was extremely severe. A man could lose his job and see his career ruined even for petty mistakes and delays, while significant failures could mean imprisonment or even death. Moreover, the system was arbitrary, with even the best designers being incarcerated in various sharagi or special prison-laboratories in which scientists and engineers were forced to do research. Such was the fate of the great designer Tupolev and many of his subordinates during the 1930s and 1940s.[62 ]

Such sanctions are no longer imposed for errors in design, but they still remain in the memory of historical cognizance of many scientists in the U.S.S.R. today. The phenomenon was not unique to the Stalin period; even under Khrushchev, the aircraft designer Aleksandr A. Arkhangelskii was imprisoned for his failure to produce a successful prototype of the Tu-110. And still today, not a chart is drawn, not a formula computed, without someone's signature at the bottom. An error can still cause severe detriment to one's career, prestige, and living standard.[63] Given the price that failure may exact, combined with the quite comfortable lifestyle which moderate success will bring, it is not surprising that designers hesitate to contract into ambitious projects. Risk aversion is the salient characteristic of the Soviet aircraft R&D community. It is this which encourages design simplicity, modest, incremental innovation, and heavy reliance on proven foreign technology.

Those who see in the Soviet Air Force an example of a limited-cost force structure fail to appreciate the true cost that industrial inefficiency and economic irrationality impart to the U.S.S.R.'s defense programs. In addition, misinterpretations arise when the dearth of positive incentives and the existence of actual disincentives to innovate are equated with a deliberate cost-effectiveness decision. Past performance as well as current developments indicate that the relatively unsophisticated technological level of Soviet aircraft derives rather from lack of ability than want of desire. As the capabilities of the R&D community improve, therefore, one can expect Soviet designs to grow more complex.

This trend can already be observed in the recent, growing emphasis among the Frontal Aviation forces on deep interdiction missions, particularly with the deployment of the Su-24 and MiG-27. It can also be seen in the latest prototypes of Soviet tactical aircraft currently being tested at Ramenskoye Airfield. The Ram-K, a variable-geometry air superiority fighter believed to have been designed as the follow-on to the MiG-25, appears to be "a close approximation" of the Grumman F- 14, according to a Pentagon spokesman. The Ram-L, a Sukhoi analog to the McDonnell Douglas/Northrop F-18, will be equipped with advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMS) of the type now in early development in the United States as the aircraft reached full deployment in 1983. Finally, the Ram-J or T-58 ground-attack aircraft, which is already in production and whose deployment is imminent, resembles the Northrop A-9, the aircraft rejected by the United States Air Force in favor of the Fairchild A-10 close-support aircraft.

All three prototypes evince progress toward more complex, more expensive fighters; and the RamK/L exhibit considerable multirole capability. The trend, then, seems to be away from the single-mission aircraft produced by the Soviet Union heretofore. Among the advanced systems now in evidence are terrain-avoidance radar; Doppler navigational equipment; look-down, shoot-down, and side-looking airborne radar; Gatling-type guns mounted in pods; laser-guided weapons; and real-time electro-optical surveillance equipment--precisely the sort of equipment that has escalated U.S. fighter costs.[64 ]

THE implication of this interpretation of Soviet aircraft design policy is that the U.S.S.R. will produce aircraft of as high a quality as it is capable. Just what technological levels will be reached is difficult to project, as it depends on the extent to which the government can rationalize its economy and improve its incentive structure. As Stalinist repression fades into the more distant past and a new generation of researchers comes to the fore, fear of innovating may subside somewhat. But unless deeper changes transpire in the leadership's attitude toward intellectual segments of society, it seems doubtful that risk aversion will disappear altogether. One might expect, therefore, to see a more rapid pace of technological advancement in the future but one still somewhat behind that of which the United States is capable.

Even given this interpretation of Soviet policy toward aircraft design, it might still be the case that the United States should move toward cheaper aircraft in greater quantities. But in weighing this alternative, it is essential that Soviet trends not be ignored. Since technological inferiority is not the preferred Soviet strategy, one cannot assume that the capabilities of Soviet aircraft will remain static. Consequently, if the United States opts to reduce unit costs by procuring less sophisticated aircraft, it must be willing to see its margin of qualitative superiority over the Soviet air forces gradually erode.

This is not necessarily an unacceptable situation, since technological superiority does not always translate into greater combat effectiveness. For example, the short service life of Soviet equipment is less a penalty in military than civilian aviation. Since civil aircraft are generally designed for approximately 30,000 hours of flight service, while designers of combat aircraft aim for only 5000, a component whose durability is far too low for civilian use may be perfectly satisfactory in military aircraft. To take another example, consider the MiG-21C captured by Israel during the 1967 war. Although gaps of up to one-eighth inch were found in the butt joints of the skin panels, the drag penalty of such shoddy finishing was minor. Faced with a choice between poor workmanship and delays on the production line, the Soviets, as one observer noted, "showed no hesitation in choosing the former and getting the hardware."[65] Choosing the proper balance of quality and quantity, weighing technological sophistication and cost reduction, is an extraordinarily difficult task, but correct decisions cannot be made without due regard to the aircraft with which one's own pilots might have to contend in some future conflict. The nature of Soviet design policy suggests that the U.S.S.R.'s fighters will be the most complex and capable aircraft that the Soviets can produce.

National Institute for Public Policy
Fairfax, Virginia


Editor's note: This article is adopted from the lecture that was presented by the author to the U.S. Air Force Intelligence Conference, "The Soviet Union: What Lies Ahead?" at Reston, Virginia, on 21-23 September 1980.

The author wishes to express her appreciation to Dr. Mark Kuchment for his suggestions on source material for this article.


1. Measured in constant 1975 dollars, the F- 14's flyaway unit cost is approximately $17,000,000; that of the World War II F4U Corsair, $350,000. See William D. White, U.S. Tactical Air Power: Missions, Forces, and Costs (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1974), pp. 47-48.

2. U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Armed Services, Fiscal Year 1973 Authorization for Military Procurement, Research and Development, Construction Authorization for the Safeguard ABM, and Active Duty and Selected Reserve Strengths, Part 6: Bomber Defense, Tactical Air Power, and F-14, Hearings, 92d Congress, 2d sess., 1972, p. 3788.

3. White, pp. 63 and 69.

4. The large number of interdiction flights during the Southeast Asian conflict is in part a reflection of the lack of strong air opposition by the North Vietnamese, a factor that reduced the need for counterair strikes. Thus, because the supply of U.S. air power was abundant and the demand for alternative missions limited, the heavy reliance on interdiction during the Vietnam War may not be indicative of normal U.S. tactical air doctrine. See White, p. 67.

5. The estimate of an industry specialist.

6. White, pp. 56-58; and Bonner Day, "Pros and Cons of a Multimission Fighter Force," Air Force, April 1979, pp. 60-61.

7. White, pp. 45 and 65-66.

8. Of the 114 Israeli aircraft lost, all but 20 were shot down by SAMS, whereas some 400 of the 500 Arab aircraft lost were shot down in air-to-air combat. See Nadav Safran, Israel: The Embattled Ally (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1978), pp. 275 and 311.

9. White, p. 65. This estimate should be accepted only in conjunction with two caveats. First, the estimated dollar costs of Soviet aircraft are conjectural. White, for example, estimated the MiG-21's price tag to be $1.3 million, while the Israelis believe it to be $2 million (1975 dollars). Second, and more important, dollar cost comparisons are often misleading in that they do not reflect the true burden a weapon system places on the Soviet economy. A weapon that costs $2 million to replicate in the United States might be far more costly to the Soviets, in terms of resource allocation and opportunity cost, due to systemic industrial and research inefficiencies. That such inefficiencies do exist in Soviet aviation R&D is a point this study seeks to demonstrate.

10. U.S. Department of the Air Force, Soviet Aerospace Handbook (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1978), pp. 40 and 45.

11. Composites are nonmetallic construction materials (such as graphite epoxy) which have higher strength: weight ratios than commonly used aircraft metals (aluminum, steel, titanium). With weight savings of 25-50 percent over conventional materials, they also provide high thrust: weight ratios. In addition, composites improve vibration damping, enhance resistance to fatigue, and retard environmental damage. Composite materials will not rust or corrode, and hence they extend vehicle durability and reduce operational costs. The United States began development of advanced composite materials for Air Force applications in 1963 and currently uses them on the F-111 horizontal stabilizer, F-5 fuselage, F-15 wing, F-16 forward fuselage, and B-1 horizontal and vertical stabilizers.

12. Jane's All the World's Aircraft, 1975-76, edited by John W. R. Taylor (London: Jane's Yearbooks, 1977), pp. 386-88 and 500-01; Jane's All the World's Aircraft, 1976-77, edited by John W. R. Taylor (London: Jane's Yearbooks, 1978), p. 445; and George Panyalev, "MiG-21bis and F-16A Air Combat Potential: A Comparison," International Defense Review, 1978, No. 9, pp. 1431-32.

13. M. Gallai, "Ispytano v nebe," Novyi mir, No. 4, 1963, p. 51.

14. Arthur Alexander, R&D in Soviet Aviation (Santa Monica: Rand, R-589-PR, 1970), pp. 21-22.

15.U.S. Department of the Air Force, Soviet Aerospace Handbook, pp. 50 and 92.

16. M. Gallai, Tret'e izmerenie (Moscow, 1973), p. 9.

17. Arthur J. Alexander, Decision-Making in Soviet Weapons Procurement, Adelphi Paper No. 147/148 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1978/79), pp. 34 and 49-52.

18. A. Fedoseev, Zapadnia: Chelovek i sotsializm (Frankfurt/Main: Posev, 1976), pp. 115-17.

19. Arthur J. Alexander, Weapons Acquisition in the Soviet Union, United States, and France (Santa Monica: Rand, 1973), p. 10.

20. Gallai, Tret'e izmerenie, pp. 32-33.

21. M. Gallai, "Ispytano v nebe: Okonchanie," Novyi mir, No. 5., 1963, p. 86.

22. Alexander, R&D in Soviet Aviation, p. 23.

23. U.S. Department of the Air Force, Soviet Aerospace Handbook, p. 93; and Samolety Strany Sovetov (Moscow, 1974), p. 183.

24. Alexander, Weapons Acquisition, p. 11; and Alexander, Decision-Making in Soviet Weapons Procurement, p. 34.

25. Samolety Strany Sovetov, p. 234; and Heinz J. Nowarra and G. R. Duval, Russian Civil and Military Aircraft, 1884-1969 (London: Fountain Press, 1970), p. 201.

26. Gallai, Tret'e izmerenie, p. 33.

27. Fedoseev, Zapadnia, pp. 115-16.

28. U.S. Department of the Air Force, Soviet Aerospace Handbook, p. 94.

29. Information provided by an industry specialist.

30. Hannes Adomeit and Mikhail Agursky, "The Soviet Military-Industrial Complex and Its Internal Mechanism" (Kingston, Ontario: Queen's University Center for International Relations, 1978), pp. 19-25.

31. Alexander, R&D in Soviet Aviation, pp. 22-25.

32. This was the case with the Yak-15 and MiG-9 fighters and the An-10 and II-18 transports.

33. A. N. Tupolev, quoted in G. Ozerov, Tupolevskaia sharaga, 2d edition (Frankfurt/Main: Posey, 1973), p. 57.

34. Fedoseev, Zapadnia, p. 144.

35. D. P. Andrianov, M. Z. Gendel'man et al., Management, Planning, and Economics of Aircraft Production, translated by Translation Division, Foreign Technology Division, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio (1964), p. 97.

36. Major General M. Cherednichenko, "Sovremennaia voina i ekonomika," Kommunist vooruzhennykh sil, September 1971, pp. 25-26.

37. For a thorough study of this point, see Jerry F. Hough, The Soviet Prefects: The Local Party Organs in Industrial Decision-Making (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1969).

38. A. Yakovlev", Tsel'zhizni: Zapiski aviakonstruktora, 2d edition (Moscow: 1970), p. 485.

39. Alexander, R&D in Soviet Aviation, p. 12.

40. Gallai, Tret'e izmerenie, p. 271.

41. Alexander, R&D in Soviet Aviation, p. 16.

42. O. Antonov, "Why Does It Take a Fight to Modernize Output?" Current Digest of the Soviet Press, May 29, 1957, p. 6.

43. G. Vanag, "Upravlenie kachestva," Trud, January 6,1979, p. 2.

44. Alexander, R&D in Soviet Aviation, p. 16.

45. Karl F. Spielmann, "Defense Industrialists in the USSR," Problems of Communism, September-October 1976, p. 60.

46. See S. A. Sarkisian, "Predvaritel'noe opredelenie zatrat na proizvodstvo aviatsionnykh izdelii--vazhnaia ekonomicheskaia problema," in Predvaritel' noe opredelenie trudoemkosti i sebestoimosti izgotovleniia aviatsionnykh izdeiii, edited by D. P. Adrianov and S. A. Sarkisian (Moscow, 1962).

47. David Holloway, "Technology, Management, and the Soviet Military Establishment," Adelphi Paper No. 76 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1971), p. 6.

48. A good description of this process in the civilian economy may be found in Joseph Berliner, The Innovation Decision in Soviet Industry (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1976), particularly Chapter 14.

49. Alexander, Decision-Making in Soviet Weapons Procurement, pp. 32-33.

50. Fedoseev, pp. 161-64.

51. Ibid., pp. 164-65.

52. Norman Friedman, "The Soviet Mobilization Base," Air Force, March 1979, pp. 67-70; and William Schneider, "Trends in Soviet Frontal Aviation," Air Force, March 1979, p. 81.

53. Antonov, p. 6.

54. Gallai, Tyet'e izmerenie, p. 271.

55. Yakovlev, p. 491.

56. Ibid., pp. 491-92.

57. Ibid., p. 493.

58. Fedoseev, p. 116.

59. See also Adomeit and Agursky, p. 31.

60. Joseph Stalin, quoted in Yakovlev, Tsel'zhizni, p. 347.

61. Ibid., p. 348.

62. See Ozerov, Tupolevskaia sharaga, for an eyewitness account. See also Fedoseev, p. 117.

63. A graphic illustration of the pressures under which Soviet aircraft designers work was provided to a group of Canadians by Alexander Yakovlev when he said, "After considerable negotiations with the customer as to what will be produced, the designer signs the contract and symbolically hands over his testicles with the contract. When the aircraft is delivered as specified, he gets his testicles back." Quoted in Alexander, Decision-Making in Soviet Weapons Procurement, p. 60.

64. Clarence A. Robinson, Jr., "Soviets to Field Three New Fighters in Aviation Modernization Drive," Aviation Week & Space Technology, March 26, 1979, pp. 14-15.

65. William H. Gregory, "Soviet Union Seeks Balance in Technology," Aviation Week & Space Technology, March 18, 1968, p. 88.


Rebecca Strode (M.S., Harvard University) is a Senior Research Analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy, Fairfax, Virginia, and was formerly a Soviet Defense Analyst at the Hudson Institute. She has published articles in Comparative Strategy, International Security, and Problems of Communism and is a contributor to Laser Weapons in Space (Westview Press, 1983).


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.