Pace Of Russian Rearmament Quickens

By Maxim Pyadushkin
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

The air force expects the stealthy bomber aircraft, to be developed under the PAK DA program, to replace its current strategic bomber fleet of Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjacks, Tu-95 Bears and Tu-22M3 Backfires by 2025-30. Meanwhile, the veteran bombers are being upgraded with new avionics and airborne weapons. UAC completed factory testing of the upgraded versions of the Tu-160 and Tu-95 and is handing them over for the official trials.

The procurement program also calls for enhanced air transport capabilities for the air force. In November, UAC completed the first phase of official tests of the Il-76MD-90A, a much modernized Ilyushin Il-76 heavy transport aircraft. During this phase, the aircraft completed 38 flights, including tests at the maximum takeoff and landing weights (210 tons and 170 tons, respectively). The air force has 39 transports on order; the modifications will be done in Russia, although the older variants were manufactured in Uzbekistan. Pogosyan has promised that deliveries will start next year. The UAC has begun development of medium transport aircraft as a joint program with India and completed the detailed design of a new light transport, Pogosyan says.

Meanwhile, the aerospace defense troops are being reequipped with the S-400 (SA-21 Growler) long-range air defense and anti-ballistic missile systems. Two units of these surface-to-air missiles (SAM) were delivered this year and three more are to be deployed in 2014, Putin says.

S-400 manufacturer Almaz-Antey is working on a next-generation system, the S-500, that will undergo intensive trials in 2014-15, says the company's chief designer, Pavel Sozinov.

The aging S-300PT and PS (SA-10 Grumble), the most common air defense missiles in the force, will be replaced by new S-350 Vityaz medium-range mobile SAMs unveiled this summer. Sozinov says official trials will be conducted during 2014 and deliveries could start in 2015-16.

The aerospace defense troops' missile capabilities will be supported by expansion of the early-warning radar network. The service operates three Voronezh modular radar stations and plans to deploy seven more in the next five years.

Defense experts are quite skeptical of the rearmament program's feasibility, however. “Even if the program is properly financed, it is unlikely to be fully implemented, as the required modernization of defense industry facilities and the respective regulatory environment lag behind,” says Konstantin Makienko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow-based defense think tank.

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