Key point: While decisions about weapon systems often reverberate across an entire defense-industrial base, they only rarely change the fates of nations.
For nearly seven decades, the defense-industrial complex of the Soviet Union went toe-to-toe with the best firms that the West had to offer. In some cases, it surprised the West with cheap, innovative, effective systems. In others, it could barely manage to put together aircraft that could remain in the air, and ships that could stay at sea.
No single weapon could have saved the Soviet Union, but several might have shifted the contours of its collapse. The relationship between technology and the “human” elements of war, including doctrine and organization, is complex. Decisions about isolated systems can have far reaching implications for how a nation defends itself.
As with prior list, weapons are often cancelled for good reason. Events intercede in ways that focus a nation’s attention on its true interests and needs, rather than on the pursuit of glory and prestige. In the Soviet case, many of the “wonder weapons” remained safely in the realm of imagination, both for the enemies of the USSR, and the USSR itself.
Sovetsky Soyuz class battleship:
During the interwar period, the Soviet Union explored a variety of options for revitalizing its decrepit fleet. Until the first decade of the twentieth century, the czars had maintained a relatively modern, powerful navy. After the Russo-Japanese War, however, Russian shipbuilding fell steadily behind the West, and the Revolution disrupted both the industry and the Navy itself.
By the late 1930s, the Soviet economy had recovered to the point that Stalin could seriously consider a program of naval construction. The Sovetsky Soyuz class battleships spearheaded an ambitious acquisition plan, which also included battlecruisers and aircraft carriers. Based loosely on the Italian Littorio class, the Sovetsky Soyuzs would displace approximately 60,000 tons, carry 9 16” guns, and make 28 knots. This made them competitive in size with the most powerful battleships in the world, although inexperience and shoddy Soviet construction practice would likely have rendered them troublesome in battle.