Procurement: Russia Buys Back In

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June 26, 2009: Russia is buying $42 billion of military equipment in 2009. This includes, in the first six months of this year; eight Su-27 and 12 MiG-29 fighters, three Topol-M ICBMs, one Soyuz space craft launcher, 20 tanks, at least a hundred other armored vehicles and over 2,000 trucks. Russia will spend about the same amount in the next two years, all in an effort to replace aging Cold War era equipment. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union would produce about ten times as much gear annually.

It was only three years ago, for the first time in fifteen years, that the Russian army began receiving significant quantities of new and refurbished equipment. The Russian army has been falling apart since the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991. That's fifteen years of practically no new equipment, and a vast downsizing. The Cold War force of 175 divisions dwindled to 25, plus 21 independent brigades (equivalent to another five divisions.) These divisions are, for the most part, very under strength. The Russian army is now smaller than the American army, and much less capable.

Most of the 1991 era equipment has been scrapped or cannibalized to keep the new, now quite miniscule (320,000 troops) army going at all. Most of the trucks and tanks are twenty years old, or more. Tiny defense budgets over the last decade were barely able to buy food for the troops, much less fuel for training exercises. For a generation now, tank crews trained in vehicles that rarely moved, and engines were only started to see if they were still functional, not to move the vehicle around.

 Now the army is getting enough gear to equip some rapid reaction forces, and get the assembly lines going for a new generation of weapon. To that end, in 2006 the troops received 30 new T-90 tanks, and another 180 refurbished, Cold War vintage, T-72s and T-80s. Some new BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles were obtained, as well as lighter, BMDs for the parachute and air-assault units.

Noting the success of the American Stryker, a hundred new BTR-80 and BTR-90 vehicles were purchased. In addition, some 600 refurbished BMPs, BMDs and BTRs were also put into service that year. Twenty anti-aircraft missile batteries received new, modernized missiles. Some of these batteries had not fired a missile in years, because the only ones they had had "aged out" (become too old to safely fire.)

 The army received new radios, field uniforms, protective vests and small arms. More powerful RPGs and grenades were purchased as well. Perhaps most telling, large quantities of small arms ammunition were made available for training. This is another side-effect of the war in Iraq, where Russian planners noted how the American army successfully dealt with training deficiencies by greatly increasing live fire training.

 The tactical air force, which supports the army, received about fifty refurbished and upgraded aircraft (Su-24 bombers, Su-25 ground attack aircraft, plus some Su-27 and MiG-29 fighters). Ten new Mi-28 and Ka-50 helicopter gunships were purchased as well.

 But most of the $11 billion being spent on new weapons and equipment in 2006 went for nuclear weapons systems, including missile carrying subs and new ICBMs. With such a miniscule army, and such ramshackle equipment, nukes are now the main defense of the largest country in the world.

 


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