The status of Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in the government may be upgraded. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, he has a chance to become Deputy Prime Minister, leaving the post of Defense Minister.

Ivanov started meeting with leaders of the military industrial complex frequently after Ilya Klebanov lost his post of Deputy Prime Minister. It is known that after a series of scandals Klebanov ceased to be curator of the military technological cooperation. Some people say that it is high time to take the powers of defense industry curator from him too.

On May 17, the Defense Minister visited the Tula Region where he got acquainted with enterprises of the military industrial complex. It is interesting that the regional authorities learned about the visit of Ivanov literally a day before it. Even Governor Vasily Starodubtsev failed to correct his working schedule beforehand and had to meet with Ivanov only in the second half of the day. The Defense Minister visited two leading defense plants of Tula, namely the federal state unitary enterprise Instrument Building Design Bureau (KBP) and federal state research and production enterprise Splav.

The visit was organized in conditions of high security and strict secrecy. Representatives of mass media were not admitted to the meeting of Ivanov with the management of the defense enterprises of Tula, and it was known about the meeting only from the minister himself, who had two short press conferences, as well as from General Designer and Director of KBP Arkady Shipunov and General Director of Splav Nikolai Makarovets.

This was the first visit of Ivanov to Tula with a view to study new armament. Russian Armed Forces will be armed with this armament in accordance with the rearmament program recently signed by the President. According to the minister, Russian Armed Forces can adopt not all models recently developed by the Russian military industrial complex. First, there is simply no money for this yet. Second, new armament should have high-tech nature, be precision-guided and standardized for use in all branches of the Armed Forces. Ivanov got acquainted with some models of this armament in the exhibition hall of the KBP. The minister was obviously shown not only small arms, for instance, pistol of the 21st century GSH-18, but also antitank guided missiles of the fourth generation, which had been developed by the KBP a long time ago. Ivanov himself only said that the state trial of the new weapons would be conducted between June and July. After that it will be adopted and included into the state defense order.

According to the General Designer, “The new armament is being developed at expense of armies of foreign countries,” and the share of state order in the overall output of the enterprise amounts only to 2%. The Defense Minister emphasizes that at present the major part of assignments for rearmament will be spent on research and development. Hence, in 2002 defense order for the defense enterprises of Tula grew by 100 million rubles, and 40% of this assignment will be transferred in the first half of the year and not at the end of the year, like it has been before.

At any rate, this is only one of the numerous problems of the defense plants of Tula. Hence, Ivanov had to admit that the defense industry would not survive without exports. At Splav the Defense Minister met with directors of 13 defense enterprises of Tula. Financing of Splav was also included into the federal armament program for 2002. Splav became the center of the corporation bearing the same name and uniting 12 enterprises. Due to the corporation Russia became an indisputable leader with development of multiple rocket launcher systems Grad, Uragan and Smerch.

The Tula Region remains one of the most “militarized” regions of Russia. Before breakup of the USSR the share of enterprises of the military industrial complex amounted to 80%. Now the share of defense sector in the regional economy is about 18%. The defense sector is inferior to petrochemical and food industries and metallurgy, although 17 military plants, eight research and design institutes and five large design bureaus of national scale keep working for the defense order. According to the governmental program “Reform and development of the defense industry between 2002 and 2006,” three holdings will be established in the region. These are Precision-Guided Weapons, Multiple Rocket Launcher Systems and Small Arms and Cartridges.

In the future these three holdings and other defense enterprises will supply up to 40% of armament and combat materiel necessary for general-purpose units of the Russian Armed Forces. This was also confirmed by the state armament program for the period until 2010 signed by President Putin in January 2002.

Thus, the prominent role of defense sector of the Tula Region became one of the main reasons for visit of commission of the Defense Ministry headed by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.