Written by Anton Lavrov; Originally appeared at Izvestia, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
The re-equipment of the Russian Armed Forces is moving faster than planned, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said at the end of the week. The revision of the initial budget for the development of the military department from 1.44 trillion rubles to more than 1.5 trillion rubles allowed increasing the share of new and modernised equipment for the troops to 68%. It would seem that this is only 1% more than the plans announced at the beginning of the year. But throughout the army, this means hundreds of additional units of the latest weapons. Taking into account the indicators already achieved, there is no doubt that in 2020 the Ministry of Defence will report on the successful achievement at the 70% bar of new and modernised equipment as established for the Department in 2013.
Of course, in 2020 the process of rearmament will not stop. But its priorities will be revised, new targets will be announced. How the structure of arms supplies to the troops will change, who will receive priority in the next years, and who will remain on the outside, read the material in “Izvestia”.
Money in the air
Of all the armed forces and branches of the Armed Forces, it is in Syria that we have gained the most real experience. They better than others understood their strengths and weaknesses and clearly see the necessary path for development. It is not surprising that the scales of upcoming expenses will tilt in their favour. The extraordinary decision of the President to accelerate the serial production and increase the purchases of Su-57 fighters and the Mi-28NM helicopters was extremely revealing. Promising contracts for additional “Kamov” attack helicopters and for the modernisation of Su-34 bombers were also announced.
Experiments with the creation of airborne assault units of the “new type” and giving air mobility to units of motorised rifle units will require continuing to increase the number of transport helicopters. One of the most expensive rearmament programmes will be the procurement of S-500 complexes for the Aerospace Forces.
It will be necessary to increase funding for the serial purchase of heavy unmanned systems for the Aerospace Forces, especially reconnaissance and strike version of UAVs. There are also extensive plans to upgrade transport and auxiliary aviation. Undoubtedly, the Aerospace Forces will receive priority funding.
On the ground
The most “lagging behind” in terms of rearmament we have are the ground forces. Against the background of almost completely updated strategic missile forces and 70% of new equipment in the Armed Forces as a whole, this figured is below 60%, which looks clearly insufficient. But the huge size of the Russian ground army makes the task of updating it extremely difficult and costly. It is impossible to quickly replace all tens of thousands of units of heavy military equipment.
Even what is now considered modern in them, like the modernised T-72 and BTR-80, does not fully meet the requirements of today, and even more so tomorrow.
Starting next year, with the current modernisation of existing models, it is necessary to move to the mass purchase and equipping of troops with completely new, advanced platforms of weapons and military equipment. Contracts for efficient but expensive “Armata”, new families of wheeled and tracked armoured vehicles will require an increase in the share of funding for the Army in the distribution of the development budget for the coming years.
And on the sea
What is clearly not going to be a priority of the new modernisation programmes is the Navy. Russia formally retains ocean ambitions, but the grand old plans for its development are already firmly forgotten. There will be no several carrier strike groups or a powerful landing fleet in the foreseeable future.
Due to the rupture of the treaty on short- and medium-range missiles, the relevance of small missile ships equipped with the “Kalibr” complex will also decrease. Cheaper and more resilient mobile complexes with cruise and hypersonic land-based missiles can assume the main part of their functions.
The long-awaited arrival in the fleet of new frigates with modern complexes of collective air defence “Poliment-Redoubt” will allow, if necessary, to create a fairly effective ocean grouping away from their shores, collecting ships from several fleets. But the ability to easily resist in a direct collision with the American or Chinese Navy is no longer worth counting on.
Therefore, an asymmetric increase in the priority of submarine forces seems reasonable. In addition to the already signed contracts for a couple of additional nuclear “Ash” we can expect to expand the order and “Borei”, as well as diesel submarines with missile weapons.
Not only equipment
The calculations of new tanks and aircraft often overlook the investment in the infrastructure that provides them. Since the beginning of the modernisation of the Armed Forces, it was necessary to meet basic needs: housing, social infrastructure of military camps, reconstruction of runways at air bases and modernisation of Russian Strategic Missile Forces.
Now comes the stage of wider development of the home infrastructure. Military equipment is becoming more complex, more expensive and more demanding in service. Of course, if necessary, it must withstand extreme operating conditions. Its storage in peacetime in modern hangars and shelters makes it possible to extend the service life, reduce repair costs and increase the percentage of serviceability.
The rearmament of missile brigades with “Point-U” on the “Iskander” has already required a complete overhaul of their basing infrastructure, primarily in the construction of new hangars for launchers. The deployment of additional medium-range ground-based missile systems will require more expenditure. We will have to deal with large-scale construction and to put into operation the most modern weapons systems, which the Russian Federation announced last year.
On Russian soil, the experience of Syrian Khmeimim will be very useful, where modern hangars-shelters have finally been built for the aircraft. The natural conditions of our country are no less severe than in the Middle East, so such designs will benefit military equipment and its personnel at home.
There are signs that in the coming years, the creation of a modern home-based infrastructure will be carried out in parallel with the supply of the latest weapons to the army. The cost of it will become increasingly prominent in the overall cost of re-equipping troops.