WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — A Ukrainian proposal to co-manufacture large rocket engines with the United States to replace Russian ones would face enormous problems, Spinney claimed.
"From a program management point of view, based on my experience in the Defense Department… teaming corrupt — and probably incompetent — Ukrainians with US defense-space contractors is a formula for a budget-schedule-performance disaster," Spinney said on Thursday.
However, if such a deal was approved, both US aerospace contractors and Ukrainian companies partnering with them were likely to try and take full advantage of opportunities for cost overruns and loopholes in agreements, Spinney predicted.
"There is still a huge problem of corruption… by Ukrainians obviously, but also by US contractors," he noted. "As usual, US contractors and their neo-conservative consultants will make out like bandits exploiting this honeypot. No doubt so will the Ukrainian oligarchs."
Spinney cautioned that any such move could face major legal obstacles because the Ukrainians would be offering engine designs probably largely based on earlier Russian ones.
"I am not sure it is feasible… We would be teaming with the Ukrainians to build the same engine the Russians are selling us. Even if this arrangement is legal under the terms of the breakup of the Soviet Union, it is another slap in the Russians’ face," he observed.
"So who owns the design of this engine?" he asked.
Any US-Ukrainian deal build a new engine would face other major problems, Spinney advised.
"When you add in co-operative design and engineering in partnership with the Ukrainians on an extremely complex system, the probability of cost overruns, performance degradations, and schedule slippages becomes a virtual certainty," he commented.
Spinney praised the current agreement to provide Russian RD-180 engines for US Atlas-V rockets as an important example of continuing US-Russian cooperation.
"Politically, I think this engine program, while embarrassing for the United States, has been an example showing it is possible to work constructively with Russia, even in trying times," he remarked.
"Giving them this kind of gratuitous poke in the eye would simply be one more example that hard liners in Russia could use to pressure President [Vladimir] Putin into a more confrontational stance," he said.
In 2014, the United States said it decided to not to use the RD-180 engines to launch its military and intelligence satellites.