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Russia’s hopes of establishing a second production line for T-90 battle tanks at the sprawly Uralvagonzavod mega-plant for use in Ukraine have been put on hold due to a shortage of workers, with factory bosses now forced to drop hiring standards in a bid to boost recruitment. The vast industrial site played a crucial role in building tanks for the Soviet Union during World War II, and experts believe the difficulties at the plant showcase how the Western military juggernaut vastly outclasses Putin’s struggling war economy.
High wages and housing allowances are being offered by the tank factory, which is now managed by the state conglomerate Rostec, to entice design engineers to move to the remote Siberian plant.
An employee told the Russian outlet Sverdlovsk: “It’s now impossible: there is an acute shortage of personnel at the plant. A master used to need special training, but now they take anyone with any experience in production.”
The severe shortage of skilled labour and knowledge is in part due to the 700,000 Russians—mostly young, educated men—who have left the nation since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates that Russia has lost between 2,000 and 2,300 of its pre-war T-72 and T-80 tank stock as a result of the fighting in Ukraine.
A semiconductor blockade imposed by the Weast has caused a 70 percent decline in chip imports, which has hampered the production of hypersonic missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and airborne early-warning systems. In an attempt to find military-grade chips, Russia has resorted to cannibalising home electronics like dishwashers and refrigerators.
Russia has resorted to cannibalising household electronics like refrigerators and dishwashers in an effort to locate chips for the military.
Mikron and Baikal are two of Russia’s main semiconductor producers, but their technology is outdated, with both companies producing chips in the 9 nanometer range – a technology that is over 20 years old and not suitable for the production of modern precision weapons.
In contrast, major companies such as Intel, Samsung, and Taiwan’s TSMC are already producing chips as small as 2nm.
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The Russian government has announced a national project worth £33bn aimed at mass-producing 90nm chips by 2030.
However, this project highlights the difficulty Russia faces in catching up with the rest of the world, as their current semiconductor technology is too outdated to be effective.
James Byrne, the Royal United Services Institute’s director of open-source information told the Telegraph: “Despite this Russian effort to build a home-grown semiconductor industry, despite the propaganda, they haven’t succeeded, and I don’t think they’ll ever succeed.
“It leaves them critically dependent on foreign technology.”
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Mr Byrne added that US chips, especially those from Texas Instruments and Analogue Devices, are found in the majority of the weapons confiscated or shot down in Ukraine.
Since these US-made chips were probably used in earlier-built legacy weapons, it was expected that they would be present in the early stages of the war.
But he noted it is surprising that Russia, even a year later, has continued to rely on US chips to support its military industry and has procured them illegally without the manufacturers’ awareness.
Mr Byrne said: “Can Chinese manufacturers replace all those components? I am sceptical. We’ve hardly seen any of these Chinese chips in Russian weapons platforms. They haven’t actually done it.”
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