Russia will spend $650 billion to equip its dilapidated military with 600 new warplanes, 100 ships and 1,000 helicopters by 2020, Defense Ministry officials were quoted as saying Thursday.
The ambitious weapons procurement program also envisages eight new nuclear submarines and two Mistral aircraft carriers in addition to the two that Russia is buying from France, Russian news agencies quoted First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin as saying.
His announcement comes during a large-scale streamlining of personnel in Russia’s bloated and poorly equipped armed forces. The unpopular reforms of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov have seen as many as 200,000 officers lose their jobs and nine of every 10 army units disbanded.
Though the program foresees spending on strategic forces, analysts hailed the massive order of conventional arms, saying it would lower Russia’s dependence on its nuclear arsenal. But they warned it could only be a success if there was a professional and efficient military to use the new equipment.
“Russia needs a professional noncommissioned officers core to train specialists who can really put these arms to effective use,” said Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military analyst. “This spending necessitates a whole new kind of military.”
Last week, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin promised that from next year 1.5 percent of gross domestic product would be spent on army modernization, military pay and other defense spending. He said the country currently allocates 0.5 percent of GDP.
Chief among the aviation procurements are the modern Su-34 and Su-35 fighters and Mi-26 transport helicopter and Mi-8 gunship helicopter, Popovkin said. Navy orders include 20 submarines, of which eight are to be armed with the Bulava nuclear missile – which has experienced years of glitch-stricken tests – 35 corvettes and 15 frigates, Popovkin said.
The Mistral, which could carry up to 16 helicopters and dozens of armored vehicles, would allow Russia to land hundreds of troops quickly on foreign soil. Popovkin said Russia would build two Mistrals domestically on top of the two it had ordered from France. The carriers will all feature Russian-only weaponry, he said.
Several hundred modern mobile S-400 and S-500 air defense missile systems also are on order.
Good news, except for this part:
“The Mistral (…) would allow Russia to land hundreds of troops quickly on foreign soil”
Why would Russia need this? Mistral is a waste of money.
@Carlo: the short answer is:
a) to protect Russian nationals in:
b) For the Pacific Fleet
Does that make sense? If not, I can expand on that later. Now I need to go to work.
Well, a landing ship would make things easier to defend Abkhazia. It would make sense also to defend the Kuriles, if Japan ever dares to invade these islands. Anyway, in that later scenario, the Pacific fleet is quite weak and the Mistral would be an easy target for the Japanese navy and air force – Mistral is known for having very weak defenses.
Nowadays, Russia doesn’t need to worry about Crimea, but who knows what may happen later in Ukraine. But I still think that Russia needs much more urgently medium-sized multifunctional ships as corvettes and frigates than large and vulnerable landing ships that need escort. This was proven in the South Ossetian war, when the US sent warships to the Black Sea and Russia couldn’t do anything because the Black Sea Fleet almost doesn’t exist anymore.
Anyway, I would like you to explain a bit more on the issue, if you can.
@Carlo: I would like you to explain a bit more on the issue, if you can.
Sure. First, I am not suggesting in any way that Russia needs Crimea or has any intention of having a war with Abkhazia, Georgia or Baltic countries. All I am saying is that these countries have all shown a potential for ‘toxicity’ (if you want) which compels Russia to have a modern capability to rapidly deploy forces in the cases of a crisis (if only to evacuate people, or deploy a force to protect Russian nationals. Remember that Mistrals are not so much combat ships as troop deployment ships.
Second, it is a fact that many Russians see China as a bigger threat than Japan. I would have to say that I think that neither China nor Japan are a threat. China has a huge but very inflexible, bloated and under-equipped military, while Japan’s geography and population density is such that they would have to be absolutely certain that in the case of war with Russia they would be hit in the entire depth of their densely populated islands with the possible exception of remote Okinawa. So I think that Russian fears are unfounded – neither China or Japan have what it takes to threaten Russia. However, others do believe otherwise. Here is an example of a recent article with a very intelligent discussion of likely Russian naval priorities for the next decades:
I would add that you cannot take the Pacific Fleet outside the geographical context. Yes, the Pacific Fleet is in bad need of modernization, as much or more as the other Russian Fleets, but in case of conflict it could count on the facts that 1) it would operate under Russian Air Force cover which, as you know, has been modernized with the latest MiG-31, Backfires and AWACs and b) it would operate in an area of powerful Russian anti-submarine capabilities. So I would not agree with you when you say “he Pacific fleet is quite weak”. Also, consider this: the Mistrals would provide a handy force deployment capability not only against China or Japan, but also in case of a crazy explosion in DPRK.
You write “large and vulnerable landing ships that need escort”. Well, that would be true if Russia wanted to land troops in Hawaii or New Zealand, but I think that these ships will have at most a green-water task, operating well within the air cover of the Russian Air Force and protected by Russian Navy combat ships. Just think that 2 Mistrals and one Udaloy or Sovremenny -class destroyer could do in any conflict with any of Russia’s neighbors. The advantage of using such a relatively small but mobile force would be that this would not have to be perceived as a sign of a major war, but rather a show of force.
Even for a more distant conflict, such as the evacuation of Russian nationals from a civil war like in Libya, the combination of transport ships and destroyers would be a flexible and powerful capability for Russia.
Lastly, always remember that more than any other branch of the armed forces, a crucial mission for any navy is to “show the flag”. For that mission, the Mistrals are also ok.
Now, I agree with you that Mistrals are not my favorite solution. But the fact is that the Russian Naval Infantry is in bad need of modern transport and helicopter ships and the fact is that the Russian military industrial complex has shrunk so much that it simply cannot do everything at the same time. Yes, 4 Mistrals is probably too much, but at least that will give jobs, access to technological know-how and a break to deal with other issues. And let’s be honest here: the booming Russian economy can afford it.
Does that make sense and answer your question?
@Carlo: one more interesting article with details about the Mistral’s missions for the Russian Navy:
@Carlo: you might want to read up a little about these ships: they are really very modern, versatile and capable ships and the Russian Navy could add more capabilties in the areas where Russian technology is superior to the French one (I am thinking anti-air missiles in particular). Check these out:
@Carlo: one more article, and then I am done – promise :-)
Thanks for your comments, they make sense. And thanks also for the links, I will have a look. I had the impression that the Mistral was a big, expensive and vulnerable ship which wouldn’t have much use for a country which doesn’t need to have a global projection force.
@Carlo: I had the impression that the Mistral was a big, expensive and vulnerable ship
And, indeed, it is. But once you integrate it into a force sufficiently sophisticated to make a good use of it you find out that it is also a very capable, flexible and useful asset. Notice that one of the articles specifically speaks about how the Mistrals would be integrated with the rest of the armed forces (meaning more than the Navy).
No, the Mistrals are really the bleeding edge of Western military shipbuilding, no doubt here. They are pretty much unique in their class and, frankly, Russia as the money to purchase them, but not the technical basis to build them or something on par with them. Again I am not so sure whether Russia needs 4 of them, or 2 or 6 – but I would say that the kind of capabilities the Mistral will provide the Russian Navy with is quite sophisticated and currently lacking.
Have a wonderful week-end!