Another “Accident” Andrei?

This morning brings news of another “industrial accident” in Russia. Via OSINTdefender, comes news of a major explosion at the Zagorsk Optical-Mechanical Plant. From video shot on scene, it appears that artillery shells were either being stored there, or were being made/refurbished there. Read the thread for more details, but a couple of things pop out for me.

I’m catching hints that Soviet-era work habits seem to have made a comeback. Drinking on the job, poor quality, poor process control, and more may have returned along with the attitude “They pretend to pay us, so we pretend to work.” It still sort of floors me how many people still don’t know how bad things were in that regard in the USSR.

Clearly such people never had the dubious joy of a bite of Soviet chocolate, which one could be forgiven for suspecting was really compressed excrement. Or examined a Soviet made product of almost any type. Tolerance? What’s a tolerance? “Identical” parts varied wildly, and the instructions seemed to be that if part A fits into part B, go smaller than dimension to be sure it fits.

It wasn’t just a problem in general industry. It extended to the “elite” programs, like their space and missile program. Parts for “identical” spacecraft weren’t interchangeable because each was essentially a custom build shaped around various issues and QC problems. Don’t take my word for it, Jim Oberg and others were writing about this well before the fall. It’s why Soviet rockets had so many engines: they anticipated up to a third failing, so put enough on there to ensure getting to orbit if two thirds did work. You might also want to check out what happened to their Nova moon rocket. They denied it existed for years, but Charles P. Vick dug it out.

The attitude, and drunk/drugged workers, were responsible directly and indirectly for a lot of accidents. Some minor, many not. The number of “accidents” and fires could suggest a return of an old attitude and untrained workers. Word is that what real craftsmen and precision machinists they had have retired, and no one bothered to train up younger people to replace them. On The Job Training is NOT recommended at any point for the manufacture or refurbishment of artillery shells.

The accidents and fires could also suggest that the Russian government has a problem with sabotage. While some of the fires and accidents could be blamed on Ukraine, we are talking what may be a growing number of incidents across Russia. To me, blaming Ukraine for something that happens in the Russian Far East is a bit of a stretch. It is possible, but I’m not sure how probable it is. I know I’ve talked about this a bit before, but there is discontent and it does seem to be growing, and some may be acting out as it were.

Or, if they were working in any way, shape, or form with Soviet-era shells… Aged explosives and propellants tend to be “touchy” as it were, especially if they weren’t stored properly. Or built properly for that matter. Given that we are not seeing a lot of good storage (how many modern tanks will have to be replaced rather than repaired because of poor storage?), handling such is not a job I would take. Oh, if you are not familiar with Soviet/Russian ammo production and storage issues, look up the Northern Fleet explosion and go from there.

It could be any of the three, but don’t expect the truth to come out of Russian media or government. If they can find a way to pin it on someone non-governmental and safely dead…

Oh, you might also want to spend a few minutes on what this tells us about current usable war stocks, production rates, etc. For there are a number of implications when a plant that is supposed to be producing advanced optics and night-vision devices for the military has an apparently large number of artillery rounds on hand. If optical seeker heads were to be added, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to do that at the factory. Rather, one would suspect the components to be sent to depot centers or the original ammunition factory to be mated with the rounds. If you are developing some form of optical seeker, you don’t use, need, or want live rounds in your R&D or manufacturing areas. Live rounds are a pain and a major safety issue. Oh, and don’t forget what this says about the ability to produce those advanced optics and night vision gear desperately needed, if some portion (or all) of the manufacturing facility was turned over to manufacturing or refurbishing artillery shells. Lots to chew on in this one.

As for some caveats above, a lot of the “accidents” are not getting media coverage, especially inside Russia. People are usually very careful in talking about such on social media, as the Russian government is fairly quick these days to go after defeatists and those telling the truth maligning Russia. It’s only when something is so massive it can’t be hidden, like today, that the news gets out. Makes it hard to track events and honest opinions. That said, it’s much easier today than it was back in the day.

Meantime, lots to think about and it would just break my heart (/sarc) if the Russian ability to deliberately target civilians (or much of anything else to be honest) just took a major hit. If anyone has some solid data on production rates of the plant for optics and night-vision, or the percentage of such they provided the military, sing out. Given Russia has gone back to the “one big factory” concept in a big way…

UPDATE 10AUG23: Started hearing yesterday that there was a fireworks company using a warehouse on site, said company reportedly in bankruptcy. There is also speculation about possible “unofficial” ammo production. It will be interesting to see what comes out officially and unofficially. Also, the extent of damage to the main plant is getting debated, and ranges from severe to cosmetic. Again, it will be interesting to see what comes out.

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19 thoughts on “Another “Accident” Andrei?”

  1. Most of the tear downs I have seen of “Russian” weapons and vehicles end up revealing optics from Somewhere Else – drones using Japanese camera optics, formerly-red-army tanks with optical sights which came out of French tanks when they were upgraded, and so on. Perhaps the “optics plant” was screwing around with artillery rounds because they have not actually been making any optics in a long time.

    1. It’s very possible given how things work in Russia. Most of the critical Russian military parts come from Germany, France, and the U.S. among others. Ball bearings, chips, etc. that they don’t have the equipment or people to make. Heck, a “Russian” tractor is one made elsewhere and shipped in as parts, assembled in Russia and has a Russian name/logo slapped on it. They may add a few stamped sheet metal parts to it. So, they may have been making just enough to meet legal requirements and using foreign for the rest. Also, given the corruption, they may well have been reporting that they made X number to the government when they only made Y, and pocketing the difference like many other military contractors in Russia. Any number given as the amount of X on hand for the military is incorrect, and it is guaranteed to be less.

      1. Not surprised at any of this. I had a friend that had to fly on one of the airplanes ( several years ago) from the Russian airline and he was terrified the whole way. He said it was a miracle that they made it to their destination.
        They also had troubles with some of their submarines as I recall.

        1. Heh. The problem with being a pilot is you know how certain things should sound, operate, etc. Flying from St. Petersburg to Moscow, I looked out the window and picked the spot where I thought we would hit. When we actually did make it in, think I imitated the Pope and literally kissed the ground. They have indeed had sub troubles, and sank one of their best and newest trying out a new torpedo which blew up either on the rack or as it was being loaded in the tube (if I remember correctly).

          1. The state of post-Soviet air travel is measured in rivets missing from cowlings and control surfaces; and from the worn-to-the-mesh spots in the tire sets. Ground crew talent by the depth and length of the wheel ruts in the skirt at Krasnoyarsk where a day’s triumph amounted to pushing the jetliner back the prescribed distance through fresh concrete. Let’s leave ‘em to it.

  2. on some scales the soviet / russian pattern of production can kick out some effective weaponry. my Makarov is the most reliable pistol I have ever owned. Sure – it is a derivative of a German design, but it is honestly a complete improvement there. And I like this bit from John Parshall on the different ways that the US, Germany, and the Soviets built tanks in WW2:

    plus how they seem to manage to pull off herculean efforts when their back is against the wall – like the Chernobyl cleanup.

    this is not meant as cheerleading, by the way. more like make sure the damn snake is right and truly dead first. Their problems are endemic and predate the Soviets – I have a copy of “The Fleet That Had To Die” about the Russ0-Japanese war, and it was really enlightening in that regard.

    1. The Makarov is indeed a good pistol, have carried one a time or two. The AK is a solid and reliable platform as well. You raise some good points, and will have to check out that book. They can also do some interesting one-offs, like Snowjob, er, Buran space shuttle. Also, some of those Hero Projects, like Chernobyl, did what was urgently needed, but also need some urgent repair and/or augmentation. I say that holding the good portion of the response crew in high regard as they were magnificent and kept a very bad thing from being even worse.

  3. One issue early in the Ukraine invasion I kept seeing were issues with….tires.

    The logistics people apparently never turned the trucks over to move them a few feet to keep the tires viable. Dry rot set in and then thousands of trucks suddenly needed new tires.
    They replaced the bad ones with really cheap Chinese knockoffs, which led to a whole new set of problems.

    1. Note even months after all the images of rotted formerly-red-army tires causing perfectly good newish vehicles to be abandoned and captured by the Ukrainians, the US had exactly the same tire and lube problem with vehicles, HMMWVs and such, pulled from “storage” in the gulf (in Kuwait I think). Local US mil and their actually-supposed-to-do-the-work contractors had not been bothering to do required upkeep maintenance, so large numbers of “war ready” vehicles, well, weren’t, and had to be shipped to Germany where they went through extensive overhauls before they could be given to Ukraine.

      IIRC I believe the Kuwait car park commander was relieved.

        1. Oi! Hope he was relieved, and that the company involved got blocked from contracts for a while. Thanks for sharing.

    2. Yep, and we talked about that a bit at the time. It’s also why Ukraine changed ops to take out the tires, to the point Russians were having to come up with a variety of field expedient cover for them, esp. when parked. Think there’s been some discussion of tank storage issues For all their power, tanks can be delicate beasts about maintenance. That, and military vehicle maintenance in general, actually gets a very good discussion in John Ringo’s Black Tide Rising series.

  4. Word is that what real craftsmen and precision machinists they had have retired, and no one bothered to train up younger people to replace them

    Happening now here in the USA. I’m 68. still working, as a boiler operator. Youngest person in the plant is 55. And he barely has a clue.

    1. True. Some of the highly specialized fields, like glassblowing, have had a very hard time finding new people. Machinist training seems to have the numbers, but quality remains to be seen. I’m just glad a lot of younger have figured out welding is a good career.

  5. I think the lot of you are seeing what you want to see.
    We are taking 8 months to refurbish 30 M1 tanks.
    Our old RIM7H missiles actually made it off the rail less than half the time.
    You take any Russian Kalashnikov and it will work. Cannot say the same for M16 or its variants.
    When one of our $billion dollar subs runs into a reef and gets destroyed or one of our MCM runs aground and has to be cut up and disposed of we don’t make a blanket indictment about anything.
    40% of our subs are sidelined for lack of required maintenance and cannot put to sea yet the Russians are pulling T62 and T55 tanks out of storage and running them down the road to Ukraine.
    You should really consider diversifying your sources of information both about Russia and the War in Ukraine. In case you missed it, the Russians won. The NATO hardware was mostly destroyed without any Russians having to so much as take a deep breath.

  6. You should totally just go to war with Russia and be done with it because it’d be so easy for you. Make their children trans like American kids are.

  7. Other sources however suggest that the actual incident is at a fireworks factory, not the Zagorsk OMP. Entirely understandable if so, fireworks plants are typically accidents looking to happen. Getting all snarky about Tissians and Russian weapons is rather desperate of you, no ?

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