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Russia To Embark On Massive Rearmament Program

June 5, 2011

Russian Bereg SP artillery
On February 24 the Kremlin made public its 19 trillion ruble ($650 billion dollars) plan to modernize the armed forces, which still operates huge numbers of Soviet-era equipment.

The ambitious 10-year program will rebuild the Russian army, air force, and navy form the ground up with new tanks, thousands of new aircraft, advanced submarines, warships, missiles, and four Mistral amphibious helicopter carriers.

The program also signals an unprecedented break from the past. For the first time since World War 2, Russia is acquiring weapon systems from abroad. News of Russian interest in the French Mistral-class helicopter carrier was initially dismissed as rumor in 2010 until its confirmation months later. Russia doesn’t only intend to purchase two of the amphibious assault ships but plans on building another pair in Russian shipyards under license.

A senior French official revealed the first of the Mistrals might be delivered to Russia by 2013. Russia also expressed interest in another advanced French weapons system, the FELIN infantry combat suit, for its soldiers.

But that’s not all. IVECO armored cars from Italy are also part of Russia’s sizable shopping list and these are to be license-built as well. Though the rugged Gaz jeeps and BTR family of APCs have long been a mainstay among Russian units, an additional large purchase of Panhard VBL armored cars from France is underway and to be used by the FSB for patrolling Russia’s vast frontiers.
French Mistral-class assault ship

Despite these forays into the European arms market, the rearmament program is largely indigenous, with an emphasis on late Cold War systems that never received proper funding during the cash-strapped post-Soviet era. The Russian air force in particular will receive 1,000 new helicopters, including the much vaunted Mi-28 Havoc and the fearsome twin rotor Ka-50, plus 600 additional aircraft comprising Su-33s, Su-35s, and the overhyped fifth generation T-50 stealth fighter.

Having grabbed the world’s attention in the 2008 Georgian war, the ground forces are also due a much-needed boost with tanks, armored vehicles, and the new S-500 air defense system. There are also unconfirmed reports that a fifth-generation MBT might be unveiled in coming years.

It’s the Russian navy, however, that’s going to be subjected to the most extensive refurbishing. With much of the Russian fleet a shadow of its former self, eight new submarines equipped with the Bulava anti-ballistic missiles and a hundred surface vessels are scheduled to enter service by 2020. Since these changes won’t happen overnight and the introduction of new equipment is a time-consuming process, expect continuous updates on this trend here at 21st Century Asian Arms Race.

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