The weak point of the Russian military-industrial complex is Western equipment – RHODUS Intelligence Report

To continue the war against Ukraine, the Russian military-industrial complex is constantly producing missiles and projectiles.


📷: @Reuters

In the span of four days, Ukraine faced its third major attack last night, with Kyiv being targeted for the second time. Russia also struck a critical infrastructure facility in the Lviv region.

As the group of OSINT-investigators Rhodus found out, almost all the equipment on which missiles are made (even old Soviet models) is Western.  This occurred during the crisis of the Russian military-industrial complex in the 1990s, when the industry lost many unique specialists and equipment was stolen. In the 2000s, when funds became available in the Kremlin, they began purchasing Western machinery for Russian military factories, primarily from Germany and Japan. By examining state procurement, resumes, and vacancies in the Russian military-industrial complex, as well as propaganda news segments, Rhodus compiled a list of manufacturers supplying equipment and technology to Russia. It highlights those without whose assistance Russia would be unable to produce ammunition and missiles. We present this list, along with a brief account of how Russia came to be fully reliant on the West in a strategically vital sphere.

Approximately 40% of the total production time of a missile or projectile is dedicated to machining the body and other metal parts. The reliability and accuracy of the missile largely depend on the quality of its body. Additionally, the bodies need to be standardized to ensure uniform behavior of the missiles or projectiles in combat conditions. During Soviet times, highly skilled workers were the key link in this process. The machines, however, were quite primitive, with only a small portion of them having computerized control.

Soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s military-industrial complex also fell apart. It reached a point where when foreign machines ordered during the USSR’s existence arrived at the factory, the plant was either producing a different product or not functioning at all. Throughout the 1990s, most skilled workers from such plants either found other jobs, sometimes abroad, or passed away. When Russia decided to restore its missile potential in the early 2000s, it turned out there simply weren’t enough skilled workers. But there was a simpler solution.

Source: Industrial Blogger Zavodfoto (Igor Yagubkov)

At that time, the world already had enough modern computerized machines with software that allowed for high precision work without requiring high qualifications. Workers simply needed to monitor processes on monitor screens and press the necessary buttons. This solved the problem of finding labor: in this case, people could be trained much faster. The Russian government decided to focus precisely on working with such machines.

The global leaders in manufacturing equipment for machine building are Germany and Japan. The USA and the United Kingdom possess the necessary technologies, but they produce these machines for export on a minimal scale. South Korea and Taiwan are gradually catching up with the leaders, mastering increasingly complex technologies, but in the 2000s they significantly lagged behind Europe. Chinese machines fall far behind German quality. Therefore, Russians decided to mainly import European machines.

Modern technologies have allowed Russia to restore the production of artillery shells and rockets, but with one caveat: now this industry has become technologically dependent on the West. New machines, spare parts for old ones, software – all of this is produced abroad. And the import substitution policy that Russians introduced in 2011 in this area has not led to anything. Machines continue to be imported from abroad, but through more complex legal schemes or in parts – and after assembling these parts in Russia, the product is called Russian.

Despite a significant industrial complex, Russia is not a notable exporter of equipment for factories and plants. In 2021, Russians exported various machines for $110 million – less than Singapore, Denmark, or Slovakia. For comparison, in the same year, Germany exported factory equipment for $10 billion, Japan for $8.5 billion, and Taiwan for $3.3 billion.

In propaganda videos about the Russian military-industrial complex, one can see many examples of Western machines and production lines. These are German, Czech, Italian, and Belgian facilities that drill, process, laser-cut, and so on. According to the book “Market of Machine Building Products” by the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, published in 2020, as of 2016, 91% of the cycle for producing Russian artillery shells and rockets was provided by Western machines. Considering that part of the machines was already considered Russian due to fake import substitution, the real figure is most likely even higher.

Developing a quality machine is not easier than developing a rocket or shell, and Russians do not have the corresponding expertise. Therefore, equipment for rocket production is one of the weakest points of the Russian military-industrial complex. Russians try to circumvent sanctions by importing machines supposedly for civilian production. However, considering that almost all active machine building in Russia is primarily related to the military-industrial complex, any factory equipment for working with metal should be considered as military equipment.

Among the companies that supplied their equipment to Russia at various times: Zeiss, Bosch (measuring modules), Hyundai (computerized machines), Siemens (controllers for electronics), and many others. The llist of  brands:

CNC Machines:

  • 🇩🇪 German – DMG MORI, Hermle, Walter, Index (Traub), VDF Boeringer, Heller, Trumpf, Spinner.
  • 🇯🇵 Japanese – Fanuc, Mazak, Okuma, Kitamura.
  • 🇰🇷 South Korean – Hyundai, DOOSAN, Hanwha.
  • 🇦🇹 Austrian ― EMCO.
  • 🇺🇸 American – Haas, Hardinge, NSH.
  • 🇨🇿 Czech ― Kovosvit Mas, Tos Varnsdorf, Skoda, TDZ Turn.
  • 🇨🇭 Swiss – GF, Schaublin.
  • 🇮🇹 Italian – PARPAS, Prima.
  • 🇹🇼 Taiwanese ― Leadwell.
  • 🇦🇺 Australian – ANCA, Techni Waterjet.
  • 🇧🇪 Belgian ― LVD.
  • 🇷🇸 Serbian – Stan.
  • 🇨🇳 Chinese ― DMTG.

External coating machines

  • 🇨🇿 Czech – Kovofiniš.
  • 🇸🇰 Slovak – Aquaflot.
  • Casting machines
  • 🇨🇦 Canadian – Shell-o-Matic.
  • 🇺🇸 American – Cleveland.
  • 🇬🇧 British ― VA Technology.

Industrial works

  • 🇨🇭 Swiss – ABB.
  • 🇯🇵 Japanese – Fanuc.
  • 🇩🇪 German – Kuka. (mostly found at precision casting & molding facilities)

Controllers for electronics

  • 🇩🇪 German – Siemens, Heidenhain.
  • 🇯🇵 Japanese – Fanuc.

Measuring modules

  • 🇬🇧 British – Renishaw, Hexagon.
  • 🇩🇪 German – Zeiss, Bosch.

Special tool

  • 🇩🇪 German – Guhring, Walter, Zoller.
  • 🇸🇪 Swedish – Sandvik, Seco.
  • 🇯🇵 Japanese – Kyocera, Tungaloy.
  • 🇨🇭 Swiss – Erowa.
  • 🇰🇷 South Korean – Korloy.
  • 🇮🇱 Israeli – Iscar.
  • 🇹🇷 Turkish – Iroglu.

Software for integration of production processes

  • 🇺🇸 American – PTC, Ansys.
  • 🇫🇷 French – Dassault.
  • 🇩🇪 German – Siemens.

There are no small suppliers in the list, mostly from Taiwan and Western European countries. 

Particularly noteworthy is the fact that since 2022, there has been a shift in Russia’s defense sector towards Chinese machinery. It is worth mentioning that the restoration of Russia’s capability to manufacture tactical missiles, including nuclear delivery systems, was largely accomplished with the assistance of Siemens.

Danieli Breda CNC forging press (Italy) at the Votkinsk Plant. Aiming for self-advertisement, this ICBM producer provided us with the only proof of this high-tech equipment being used at its new forging facility

On the background you see a Tos Varnsdorf (Czechia) machine framed as the Russian «domestic production». The Russian Ministry of Defense TV Channel «Zvezda», October 2022

Tos Varnsdorf (Czechia) machine tool52 milling an erector

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