Russia has always been known for building military equipment that you can hammer into the ground and still work. The Russian weapons are seen as being far simpler in design and with fewer parts on the inside. This means there is less to go wrong and when it does, it is far easier and quicker to fix. Take for example the Kalashnikov rifle – it has very few working parts. This leads to it being a very dependable weapon, even after being immersed in water, mud and so on. It is pretty much soldier-proof! Weapons used by the America, European and other “western” armies tend to be built with lots of moving parts. They look a lot fancier but tend to have a lot more bits that can go wrong.
With this in mind, the question needs to be asked is: why are western weapons seen as being so much superior to their Russian counterpart? Could it be that the best Russian weapons are better than the best American counterpart? Both in design and operation? You won’t find mention of such blasphemy in the Western media for obvious reasons. Fed on a steady diet of Pentagon press releases and sometimes working as embedded reporters in war zones, most Western journalists are not able to make informed judgments.
They also suffer in another way – journalists can’t be seen as biting the hand that feeds them. Employment in corporate America means you can’t afford to write anything that will portray American defence equipment as anything less than exemplary. This leads to objectivity being tossed out the window.
Here’s what TIME magazine wrote in 1958, before Western journalists and corporate interests became bedfellows: “Russian weapons are generally simpler in design and more mobile. For too long the West believed that the Soviets made simple weapons because they were too unsophisticated to make complex ones. Now the West realizes that the simplicity bespeaks a high state of engineering skill”.
A classic case of Russian superiority is that of the MiG-25 interceptor, known as the Foxbat to NATO. It was designed originally to combat the American Valkyrie bomber, which never materialized off the design page. It became a major scare word among NATO pilots throughout the 1970s chiefly because the Foxbat could fly faster and climb higher, often to the edge of space, than any Western aircraft. It remained a mystery in the West until 1976 when a defector flew a MiG-25 to Japan.
When the Americans dismantled the aircraft they found the on-board avionics were based on older vacuum-tube technology rather than modern solid-state electronics. There was much derision in the Pentagon when they discovered the Russians were using outdated technology in their most advanced aircraft.
It took them many years to find out that the designer of the Foxbat was not as misguided as he appeared at first. With the vacuum tubes, the MiG-25’s radar had enormous power to burn through. This led to it being invulnerable to any electronic jamming. As well as this, the Pentagon was devastated to discover that the vacuum tubes made the aircraft’s systems resistant to electromagnetic pulses (EMP). Russian scientists knew about EMPs long before the West did. This all meant that in the event of a nuclear war the Foxbat would be the only aircraft left flying on the planet.
Even today, over 45 years after its first flight, the Foxbat remains the world’s fastest fighter, easily able to outrun every Western fighter that has been in service.
As a more modern example, take the Patriot missile. During the 1991 Gulf War, these missiles were known as the Scud-buster for its ‘record’ against Iraqi Scud missiles. As you watched the likes of CNN during the war, American reporters, executives at Raytheon which made the Patriot and US Army generals jumping up and down on TV describing a near 100 percent kill rate. According to them, United States and Israeli Patriot batteries were shooting down the Scuds like it was a turkey shoot.
What really happened could not be further from what was broadcast by the media. On April 7, 1992 Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Reuven Pedatzur of Tel Aviv University both testified before a US House Committee. According to their independent analysis of video tapes, the Patriot system very likely had a zero success rate. This is completely at odds with from the official figure of “near 100 per cent” given through the media.
Pedatzur is a retired Israel Air Force fighter-pilot, with 22 years’ experience. During his testimony, he quoted Major General Avihu Ben-Nun, the commander of the Patriot batteries during the war.
Ben-Nun testified that on the night of January 25, 1991, seven Iraqi missiles were fired at Israel – six at Tel Aviv and one at Haifa. Of the 27 Patriots that were launched in retaliation that night, not a single Iraqi missile was hit. In fact, the Patriots hit the ground and caused collateral damage.
This illustrates a key difference between Western and Russian weapons platforms. Western, in particularly American, weapons are treated as corporate crown jewels, since they bring in profits to the companies, who often have politicians in their pocket. They are seen as too big to fail even if they are completely ineffectual in war or militarily outdated.
America’s newest toy is the ‘fifth generation’ stealth fighter, the F-22 Raptor. It was designed during the final years of the Cold War to keep up with advances in Soviet fighter technology. But, while the Soviet Union walked into the sunset, the plane was cleared for take-off anyway. Each of these planes costs $361 million and around 700 were planned although production was eventually limited to 185. It is perhaps the only American aircraft in history that the politicians want to be built whereas the generals, have said please no more. The Raptor was developed for the defence of the continental United States, and currently the only country that has bombers that can reach the US is Russia, who have not flexed their military muscle till relatively recently and is in no way a threat to the American mainland. Despite its horrendously expensive price tag, the US Air Force does not appear to have the nerve to test the F-22 in combat.