This year marked the official rubber stamping of Moscow’s next rearmament program. The timetable and its goals, which span improvements in nuclear forces, smart weapons, and air defense, are supposed to extend the scope of the earlier effort that was menaced by dwindling government revenue.
The new “state program of armaments” is scheduled from 2018 till 2025. This overlaps with the military’s 2011-2020 modernization.
Moscow has been trying to rebuild its armed forces since the 1990s but this didn’t begin in earnest until the end of President Medvedev’s first and only term. Though some sources claim 2008–the same year when Russian tanks almost overran Georgia–marked the true beginning of the Putin-era’s attempt at full-scale rearmament, the changes from 2011 onward were indeed impressive, if sometimes baffling.
Proof of success manifested on several occasions. There was the growing visibility of Russian martial culture in the public eye. Moscow’s newfound adventurism as a result of a leaner professional army saw the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and a proxy war in Eastern Ukraine. Russian airpower then played a decisive role in Syria the following year.
In the past seven years a generous stream of money, estimated at $330 billion, was diverted to Russia’s armed forces and state-owned industries. This saw a new generation of submarines and warships enter service. The resurrection of the strategic bomber fleet. The arrival of new capabilities in Russia’s nuclear and conventional missile arsenal. The advent of a mature UAV doctrine working in conjunction with air and ground forces. The Russian half of the arctic circle was fortified and specialized equipment entered service for the task.
The army enjoyed the most attention. The debut of the Armata platform and related vehicles allowed it to race ahead of the best NATO technology, even by a small margin. There’s now compelling evidence that its use of electronic warfare is unparalleled anywhere else.
But these breakthroughs are contrasted by embarrassing letdowns. The delivery of two French-made amphibious assault ships was cancelled. The high tech T-14 tank won’t be entering mass-production, with just an initial batch of 100 ordered. Little to no progress was made on the T-50 stealth fighter. The sluggish economy with its marginal growth rate means the annual defense budget can’t be enlarged beyond its current percentage, which is already at a war time level of 5% GDP.
Yet the goals for 2018-2025 are noteworthy for what they don’t include. Its full scope hasn’t yet been finalized by Russia’s defense ministry anyway and exhaustive writing about it from think tanks and trade media reveal an unprecedented scale of cost-saving.
Although the new armament program won’t be set in stone until year’s end it’s been ascertained the funds for the period, totaling between $300 billion and $500 billion, are earmarked for very specific acquisitions. What aren’t included is a brand new nuclear powered supercarrier, large surface combatants for the navy, and next-generation aircraft and vehicles.
But the Russian military’s new buys are still impressive, if not surprising. The air force are receiving additional Su-30SM and Su-35 multirole fighters along with refurbished Tu-160 long-range bombers. The navy can expect more submarines. Cutting edge air defense systems like the S-500 might debut sooner as a result. Familiar models of helicopters and armored vehicles are joining the army soon.
Should these benchmarks be fulfilled then Russia’s geopolitical rivals have a lot to worry about. Possessing more firepower than any of its neighbors, the specter of Moscow launching fresh campaigns abroad can’t be dismissed. Aside from the fear factor, state funding of Russian manufacturers heightens their allure to international clients. Putting all this in consideration, it’s crystal clear Russia won’t recede from the world stage for a long while.