The Russian Ministry of Defense revealed its immediate and future plans for hardware procurement

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The Russian Ministry of Defense revealed its immediate and future plans for hardware procurement.
The wish list, including conventional arms, and those “based on new principles of physics” was announced at a major military expo held near Moscow.

Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov said that during the Army 2017 expo, the ministry signed 23 contracts worth around 170 billion rubles (over $2.8 billion) with defense producers, many of them for weapons tested during the Syrian campaign.

Russia’s current rearmament program, worth 22 trillion rubles ($392 billion), will be completed by 2020, when 70 percent of weapons systems available to troops will be modern.

The military procurement program for the next seven years is due for adoption later this year.

report by the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies suggests that the new document will focus on precision weapon systems and nuclear deterrence.

The Russian military is pressing for a procurement budget of 30 trillion rubles ($536 billion) for the period, but experts doubt the Kremlin has the ability to allocate such a sum because of the economic crisis.

New aircraft

Andrey Frolov, editor-in-chief of Eksport Vooruzheniy (Arms Export) magazine, predicts that some of the current program’s procurement targets will be included in the plans – particularly the Sukhoi T-50 fifth-generation fighter jet.

“The government did not have the money to procure 50 of these aircraft as envisaged before the current crisis, so the order will be for a smaller number,” Frolov notes.

“Apart from the T-50, the country’s front-line aviation will get [Sukhoi] Su-34s and Su-30SMs.”

The military will also bring in Tupolev Tu-160M2 strategic bombers and 30 Tu-20M3 long-range bombers upgraded to Tu-22M3M standard.

“The Defense Ministry is also planning to finance the development of the [Tupolev] PAK DA next generation strategic bomber, but deliveries of this type are unlikely to begin until the end of the next decade at the earliest,” Frolov says.

New ground systems

The bulk of the equipment to be procured for ground troops will based around various vehicles using the universal Armata chassis, principally the T-14 next-generation main battle tank, experts believe. No specific procurement figures have yet been defined.

A T-14 Armata main battle tank on display at the "Russia Arms Expo 2015" exhibition in Nizhny Tagil. / Photo: Donat Sorokin / TASSA T-14 Armata main battle tank on display at the “Russia Arms Expo 2015” exhibition in Nizhny Tagil. / Photo: Donat Sorokin / TASS

The T-14 reportedly costs 250 million rubles ($4.5 million). The standard version is fitted with a 125-mm gun, but the tank can be upgraded to carry a 152-mm version.

The Т-14 has a fire rate of up to 10 rounds per minute and an effective firing range of up to 4.3 miles (7 km). By comparison, the U.S. military’s M1 Abrams tank can fire rate just three rounds per minute with a range 2.8 miles (4.6 km).

New missiles

Strategic missile troops will get new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles (ISBM). Viktor Murakhovsky, editor-in-chief of Arsenal Otechestva (Arsenal of the Fatherland) magazine, believes deliveries may start within five years. At least 46 Sarmat missiles are on the Defense Ministry’s shopping list.

Apart from the Sarmat, work to develop the Barguzin rail-mobile combat missile system is due for completion by 2020.

The system relies on the use of Russia’s railway system, with each unit carrying a payload of six Yars ICBMs on board.

Naval cuts

The crisis will particularly affect the navy, which will get fewer new warships and submarines. Dmitry Litovkin, a military analyst with Izvestia, says the military has to prioritize its procurement targets, so no new warships will introduced in foreseeable future.

“Most likely, Russia will have to abandon the Project 23560 Lider-class destroyer program and postpone until the 2030s construction of the Shtorm [Project 23000E] aircraft carrier, which is expected to carry around 90 fighters, including the naval version of the fifth-generation fighter,” Litovkin says.

The new 'Shtorm' aircraft carrier, Project 23E000E. / Photo: Artem TkachenkoThe new ‘Shtorm’ aircraft carrier, Project 23E000E. / Photo: Artem Tkachenko

He adds that this year the Russian navy will receive several warships and Project 955 Borey-class submarines that have already been built.

Hypersonic weapons

The defense industry has indirectly confirmed that work is in progress to develop hypersonic missiles, and equipping Russia’s forces with such weapons could begin within a few years.

A report on the Defense Ministry’s website reads that the arms program for 2018-2025 calls for “completion of the development, and delivery to troops, of fundamentally new hypersonic weapon systems, intelligent robotic systems, weapons utilizing new physical principles, and a number of next-generation conventional weapon systems and military equipment”.

During recent tests, Russia’s newest Tsirkon anti-ship missiles achieved a speed of 5,625mph (9,000 km/h). However, neither TASS news agency, which broke the story, nor the Defense Ministry has disclosed any details. In fact, there has been no official confirmation of the sensational news.

Experts say that if the report is accurate, the Tsirkon will become the first missile to have broken the sound barrier. Litovkin comments that hypersonic technologies are the key issue in the unofficial arms race between Russia and the U.S.

“The first country to develop missiles capable of traveling at eight to 10 times the speed of sound will have a weapon impossible to detect by contemporary radar,” Litovkin explains. “Systems capable of intercepting such missiles do not exist, nor are they going to appear anytime soon.”

T-14 Armata main battle tank

The Armata platform, which is considered the future of Russian armor, remains a “trump card” for the defense ministry, Borsov said.

“We can play it anytime we want, boost the series production when needed and stay ahead of our colleagues, so to speak,” he claimed.

The current plan is to have 100 Armata-based T-14 main battle tanks in the Russian armed forces by 2020.

One of the tank’s main advantages is its fully automated and unmanned turret, as well as HD cameras that provide an outside view. In the future, the tank may be equipped with a drone.

T-90M main battle tank

Yet, the modernized versions of the modern Russian main battle tanks are on par with the competition, so the defense ministry will not rush the replacement of the current fleet with the T-14, Borisov said.

The contract signed with Uralvagonzavod, Russia’s primary armor producer, is focused on upgrading older tanks.

For the first time, the Russian military will receive T-90M tanks, the third major upgrade of the model, which now has a new turret with a longer 125mm gun and a new fire control system.

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BMPT Terminator anti-tank vehicle

The ministry has also ordered a batch of BMPT Terminators, based on the T-72 tank chassis and is designed to support tank units by targeting enemy anti-tank weapons.

Russia’s military purchased some Terminators for test purposes, but the new contract will result in them being put into regular service.

Upgraded BMP-3 armored fighting vehicle

Another novel armor the ministry wants is the BMP-3 infantry fighting machine with the new Epokha turret.

The remotely-controlled Epokha was designed as a modular platform that can be outfitted easily with new weapons.

The version shown by the producer KBP at the Army 2017 expo had a 57mm autocannon, Kornet anti-tank missile launchers, and Bulat guided missile system, which is currently in development.

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Cutting-edge 5th-generation Su-57 fighter jet

Another advanced weapon, the fifth-generation air superiority fighter Su-57, is set to enter service next year.

The state-of-the-art aircraft would have an older engine dubbed ‘product 117,’ but work on the new one dubbed ‘product 30’ is “close to the finish line,” the official said.

The jet features a body primarily built of composite materials for stealth and supermaneuverability during dog fights.

Yak-152 trainer jet

Far less imposing than the Su-57, but no less important for the strength of the air force, is the training plane Yak-152.

The defense ministry expects to sign the first contract for three series Yak-152s before year’s end.

The model is designed for military pilots making their first career steps before switching to a more powerful Yak-130, which can also be used as a light fighter. The new plane made its maiden flight last year and will gradually replace the outdated Yak-52 model.

Karakurt-class littoral combat ship

For the Navy, the ministry ordered several more Karakurt-class corvettes, although Borisov refrained from disclosing the amount.

The lead ship of the class, the Uragan, was commissioned earlier this year and five more are currently under construction.

The 800-ton ships are meant for littoral zone combat and carry eight Oniks or Kalibr missiles as their main weapon.

Admiral Grigorovich-class blue water frigate

The ministry is also considering new orders for two Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates in addition to the three currently under construction for the Black Sea fleet and the three already complete, the official said.

Another possible purchase is two more advanced Lada-class stealth attack submarines. Funding for both has been requested for the new military procurement program launching next year.

A more distant prospect for the ministry is to fund the construction of a new aircraft carrier, which, according to Borisov, may happen as soon as 2025. The future ship will have a new naval fighter jet designed for its deck and possibly another one capable of vertical lift-off, the official said.

Iskander-M cruise missile

The missile producer OKB Novator signed a contract to produce more cruise missiles for the Iskander-M system. The tactical launcher can fire either ballistic or cruise missiles. The ministry also ordered launchers, radar, and control points to arm two more Iskander-M brigades for the Russian ground forces.

Another purchase announced by the Russian military is of the Lotos-M reconnaissance satellite, which “will join a constellation working in the interest of the armed forces” and “provide information support for the Navy,” he said. The spacecraft may be a new version of the Lotos-S signal intelligence satellite. The Russian military has two of them in orbit now and uses them as part of the Liana system, used by the Russian Navy to detect and target potentially hostile targets.

High-speed attack helicopter

The deputy minister also mentioned two R&D projects for the Russian military. One, called Skorost (Russian for ‘speed’), will be conducted over two years by helicopter producer Mil “to create technology basis for developing an aircraft of a new type.” Earlier reports said Mil was working on a Mi-24 version dubbed PSV, which will be capable of attaining speeds of up to 500kmh.

Another, the Zadira-16 (Russian for ‘cocky’) was signed with the Russian Federal Nuclear Center, a Sarov-based nuclear lab with historic ties to Russia’s nuclear weapons program. The system would be “based on new principles of physics,” a term used in the Russian military for non-traditional weapons systems, from direct energy weapons to anything more exotic.

 

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