Tablet computers for Ministry of Defense: How much for home-made technologies? 

Tablet computers for Ministry of Defense: How much for home-made technologies?
Atri company, with its questionable competitiveness, wins tenders to supply tablet PCs on a regular basis Photo: The CrimeRussia

Enterprises subordinate to the Ministry of Defense sign contracts that can rarely be monitored. In most cases, all information pertaining to these contracts is classified. When scarce pieces of such information leak online, they often raise questions. Take, for example, the most recent acquisition of tablet PCs at the price of 356 thousand rubles per unit.

The contract to purchase tablet PCs has been posted on the governmental acquisitions web site in the beginning of February 2017. The Ministry of Defense has ordered 324 tablet computers at the price of 356 thousand rubles per unit; the total cost of the contract was 115 million rubles. The customer was St. Petersburg-based Signal Research and Development Enterprise founded by the Federal Agency for State Property Management of the Russian Federation (successor to Signal Research and Development Enterprise Federal State Unitary Enterprise established in 1974 on the basis of Signal Factory in St. Petersburg). The tender documents explain that the computers are purchased from a sole supplier – Atri Closed Joint Stock Company, a private enterprise specializing in producing mobile devices for displaying ground- and sea-based information, equipment for automatic data processing, information systems, and software for those. It is necessary to note that Signal has been purchasing these tablet PCs from Atri at least since 2014.

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According to the company web site, Atri has been founded in 1998 by a group of electronics engineers. Currently it is a private design engineering bureau specializing in the design and production of sophisticated digital and digital–analog equipment in the framework of contracts with governmental and nongovernmental clients.

 

The order does not provide any specifications for the tablet computers; the documents only state that these must meet requirements of the State Standard SVU AGRSh.466229.054.

This abbreviation means a home-made rugged tablet PC with a Russian operating system. The Ministry of Defense needs a high-quality product that could be used in extreme conditions, and the data stored on these computers must be securely protected. 

Interestingly, but Atri itself does not produce tablet PCs (at least, its catalogue does not mention this). Instead, it produces panel PC, which means that these devices must be installed into production units. Based on the order code, panel computer Orion PK-E-103-07 SVU AGRSh.466.229.049-07 is the closest match. However, this might also be related to specific features of the terminology. 

The CrimeRussia was able to locate a similar tablet PC – Orion PK-E-123-N AGRSh.466229.022 – produced by another enterprise: St. Petersburg-based SVD Embedded Systems Limited Liability Company. Currently this company is developing protected software, including Neutrino Protected Real Time Operating System. 

All these devices are highly resistant to impacts and can be used in extreme temperature conditions.

Interestingly, this home-grown technology is based on Intel Atom processors – this is clearly indicated in the specifications. It can’t be ruled out that other important components are also produced abroad. 

At the same time, foreign-made rugged tablet PCs with better characteristics (faster processors, larger volumes of RAM, and higher durability) are considerably cheaper. 


Technical characteristics of the panel computer Orion PK-E-103-07 SVU AGRSh.466.229.049-07 

For example, XSlate B10 Rugged Tablet PC has considerably higher characteristics and meets the MIL-STD-810 military ruggedness standard. The cost of this professional mobile device depends on the configuration and starts from $2.8 thousand (some 170 thousand rubles). 

So, what is the advantage of the home-grown technologies and why are they twice as expensive? Perhaps, this is because of the domestic protected operating system? But according to the governmental acquisitions web site, the above-mentioned SVD Embedded Systems Limited Liability Company sells licenses for its Neutrino Protected Real Time Operating System at the price of 70 thousand rubles. 

Devices based on Neutrino OS and having similar characteristics with foreign analogues are available in Russia. Privately-owned Dolomant Research and Development Company produces ONIKS08 rugged tablet PC and also participates in governmental acquisition tenders. The price of its more powerful hardware working on the same software is only 224 thousand rubles. But due to some unknown reasons, their devices are not purchased.


Technical characteristics of ONIKS08 rugged tablet PC 

In 2014, Signal had purchased tablet computers from Atri for the first time in the framework of so-called vendor quotation. The starting price of a contract to purchase 440 tablet PCs was 67 million rubles (152.5 thousand rubles per unit). Atri, being the sole bidder, has won the tender with its price of 96.3 million rubles (218 thousand rubles per unit). All the subsequent tenders have been invariably won by Atri with its invariable price of 356 thousand rubles.

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