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    OMSK, January 15, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Russian government contracts with the military-industrial complex for the year have been approved to a total 148 billion roubles, or US$5.13 billion-far more than the year before, said Sergei Ivanov, Russian Defence Minister, as he was addressing the media in Omsk, Siberia.

    Though Russian military expenditures have been steadily rising within the previous four years, they have always made the same 2.6% of the gross domestic product, he stressed.

    An overwhelming part of government military-oriented contracts for 2001 and 2002 concerned R&D to design weaponry whose manufacture will start five to ten years later, said the minister.

    If Russia is real serious about updating its arsenals, it will have sooner or later discard arms of Soviet design. However effective and reliable that weaponry might be, the day demands high-tech precision arms- in particular, space-based complexes, missile installations and pioneer communication technologies.

    Russia will never again have military-oriented industrial companies working solely on government contracts, reassured the minister. The military-industrial complex is getting through a reform. Its most promising field belongs to holdings, which manufacture diverse items, civil-oriented among them. The arrangement is beneficial in many aspects. In particular, the Defence Ministry will greatly gain when it has to do with a holding instead of dispersing money among many industrial companies. The holdings will have independent deals with their contractors and subcontractors.

    The now active Almaz-Antei holding, engaged in anti-aircraft defence R&D and manufacture, is a graphic example of the promising pattern, said Sergei Ivanov.

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