Russia signs defence deals worth billions as military modernises

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The Russian ministry of defence has signed several billion dollars worth of deals as part of its ambitious domestic weapons procurement programme that seeks to revitalise the Russian armed forces.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently reiterated the importance of overhauling the Russian military, especially in the wake of the five-day war with Georgia in August 2008. Medvedev has pledged 20 trillion rubles (US$720 billion) to buy domestic arms over the next decade.

Russia has steadily increased its spending on arms procurement, which last year reached 490.4 billion rubles, according to Export Vooruzheniy magazine. That included 318.8 billion rubles on new weapons, 63.7 billion rubles on upgrades and repairs and 107.9 billion rubles on research and development works. Arms procurement is set to increase to 726 billion rubles in 2012 from this year’s 574.6 billion rubles, and top 1 trillion rubles in 2013, Export Vooruzheniy says.

RIA Novosti at the beginning of this month reported that Russia’s defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov had said he had signed all but one of the weapons deals. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told the defence ministry to conclude all deals under the procurement programme by September.

On August 31 the Russia’s defence ministry and the Russian Helicopters group signed a US$4 billion deal for 140 helicopters after long delays caused by price disputes. In the end, President Dmitry Medvedev and Putin stepped in and got the contracts signed. Earlier in the year the Russian government sacked top officials for their poor implementation of the country’s weapons procurement plan.

Andrei Reus, director general of the state-owned Oboronprom corporation, said that “until 2020 Russian Helicopters will supply the Defence Ministry with 140 helicopters worth at least 120 billion rubles [US$4 billion].”

He also said that Russian Helicopters had earmarked US$200-250 million for research, mainly the development of such helicopters as Mi-38, Ka-62, Mi-34S1, and for upgrading the Mi-17.

Russia’s ambitious arms procurement programme stipulates the upgrading of 11% of military equipment every year. By 2020, 70% of the Russian armed forces’ equipment will be modern.

The Russian armed forces last year received 27 ballistic missiles, 37 helicopters and 21 aircraft as well as 19 air defence systems including S-400s, Export Vooruzheniy magazine has reported.

Last year Putin said that 4.7 trillion rubles (US$150 billion) would be allocated to the modernisation of the Russian Navy. Russia plans to build eight Borey class submarines by 2015 and equip them with Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Other new equipment for the Navy will be new conventional submarines, destroyers and corvettes.

Meanwhile, the Russian air force aims to procure more than 1 500 new aircraft by 2020, as well as increasing the quantity of guided weapons in its arsenal. “Overall, we are planning to acquire and modernise about 2 000 aircraft and helicopters by 2020…including more than 1 500 new aircraft and about 400 modernised,” air force deputy commander Lieutenant General Igor Sadofyev told reporters late last year.

Sadofyev said that this year the air force plans to induct Sukhoi Su-27SM, Su-30M2 and Su-35S fighters, Su-34 fighter-bombers and Yakovlev Yak-130 trainers as well as Ka-52 and Mi-28N attack helicopters, Mi-8 armed assault helicopters, Ka-226 and Ansat-U light multipurpose helicopters.
“The priority for the strategic aviation is the modernization of 80 percent of existing Tu-160, Tu-95MS, Tu-22M3 bombers and Il-78M aerial tankers…and the extension of their service life,” Sadofyev said.

He also said that the share of guided weapons in the air force’s arsenal would increase by 18 times and the number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) would increase by a factor of six so that UAVs constitute about 30% of the total by 2020.

Other weapons Russia will acquire include S-500 air defence systems, BTR-82A armoured personnel carriers, anti-tank missiles, new multiple rocket launchers and ballistic missiles (including the Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone). Earlier this year Putin said the production of ballistic missiles in Russia will double from 2013 and that missile manufacturers will receive 15 billion rubles (US$500 million) over the next three years to increase production. Russia will also receive a new tank in 2015.



Most of the equipment will be sourced locally, although a notable exception is the French Mistral class helicopter carriers Russia is buying in an effort to gain access to French technology. Two will be co-built with France while another two will be built in Russia.