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The Russian Military Is Upgrading All Its Weapons

June 27, 2020

BMP-2M IFVs at the June 24 parade in Moscow. Via Russian media.

Russia’s annual Victory Day parade took place a month and a half after its intended date because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the spectacle in Red Square on June 24 was much larger than anticipated with several new and upgraded weapon systems featured. It’s undeniable that even amid the present difficulties Moscow has ample resources for building up its hard power regardless of sanctions. This is becoming all too common for the countries deemed geopolitical rivals of the US; their economic size may not be on par but this has no relation to how fast their military strength is growing.

While media coverage of the parade focused on the restored T-34/85 tanks that led the transition from the infantry squares to the vehicle columns not enough scrutiny was directed at the weapons being shown the public other than superficial descriptions. A surprise appearance at the event was the return of the BMP-2 in its newest variant. The BMP-2M is a generational improvement on the ubiquitous Soviet vintage fighting vehicle and troop carrier whose combat record is somewhat disappointing. But the BMP-2M does boast having stronger armaments than any of its NATO rivals thanks to the Berezhok turret. These include the standard 30mm cannon and its coaxial light machine gun plus four Kornet missiles and a remote controlled AGS-30 automatic grenade launcher. Besides its weaponry numerous external changes are noticeable such as reinforced side skirts and a redesigned engine compartment at the front.

For how long the Russian military intends to keep its BMP-2M’s is unknown but the huge fleet of these IFVs, sometimes estimated at more than 3,000 operational vehicles, suggests a few decades more alongside the larger BMP-3. The variety of tracked and wheeled troop carriers at the parade was simply astounding. Besides the BMP-2M’s at the parade and older BMP-2’s in service, the Russian Army has the BMP-3 and the upcoming Kurganets-25 with its immense firepower (a 30mm cannon and four anti-tank missiles) for its mechanized units. There’s also the T-15 whose exact role, whether as a heavy APC or a fire support vehicle, isn’t too clear. The airborne forces, also known as the VDV, have their own specialized combat vehicles like the BMD-4M that has the same armament as the BMP-3 and the BTR-MD, which serves as an air transportable APC.

Also at the parade was the Derivatsiya-PVO armed with a 57mm cannon. The Derivatsiya is based on the BMP-3 but with a different weapon station and is designated an anti-aircraft system although it’s capable of engaging ground targets. The same abundance of fighting vehicles applied to those with wheels. The BTR-82A remains the army’s main wheeled APC and these had a ceremonial role in the parade leading the different columns. The Typhoon-VDV armored truck with its new weapon station mounting a 30mm cannon was present too and its mass-production is a direct challenge to its NATO rivals. At the end of the parade three Bumerang 8×8 APCs bearing flags trailed the last column of road mobile missiles just as the aircraft formations arrived.

It turns out the Russian military’s broad modernization that got underway in 2011, despite the ensuing problems that snarled up countless programs, has achieved inarguable results. At the very least, the Russian Army packs a heftier punch than any of its neighbors.

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