International Military

Russia to focus on its Land Force

Russian President Vladimir Putin has given a priority for the development of the domestic land and airborne forces among the other branches of the Russian army in the newly approved state armament program, according to recent statements from the Russian Defence Ministry and Presidential Administration.

According to Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, the 2018-2025 program approves massive purchases of new weapons and combat equipment for the Russian army. It will partially replace and complement the current state armament program, which had been designed for the 2011-2020 timeframe.

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu.

The main priority in the new program provides for significant development of land forces, which is confirmed by the fact that funding of this branch will account for 25% in the overall structure of cost items covered by the program.

President Vladimir Putin recently confirmed that: “By the end of 2019, the share of modern weapons in the Russian land forces should grow up to 42%, while in the case of airborne forces up to 58%. It is important not only to continue to increase the volume of supplies of new weapons, but also to create conditions for the increase of their quality and combat power. The latter will be also achieved through the increase of R&D activities in the field of domestic land forces.”

The 2011-2020 state armament program, in which costs exceeded the record RUB 19 trillion (US$285 billion), was adopted in December 2010. The heaviest priorities had been on domestic navy and nuclear deterrence forces and, according to Putin and senior officers in the Russian Defence Ministry, insufficient attention had been directed to future development of the domestic land forces. That changes with the 2018-2025 iteration.

The largest expenditures in 2011-2020 armament program included the purchase of aviation equipment (about 4.5 trillion rubles), navy re-armament (RUB 4.7 trillion), and the purchase of new aerospace defence systems (RUB 3.4 trillion). The amount allocated for domestic land forces, was only RUB 2.6 trillion (US$32 billion).

The majority of these funds have already been invested in the purchases of new weapons and combat equipment, with the biggest contracts signed on the purchases of BTR-82A armored personnel carriers; BMP-3 infantry armored vehicles; BMD-4M armored vehicles; Iskander tactical missile systems; T-90S tanks, as well as Iveco LMV; Tiger and Volk (wolf) armoured vehicles.

The decision of the Russian government to increase funding for land forces is mainly due to ongoing military conflict in the southeast of Ukraine between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian military, which poses a threat to Russian borders. Statements by Sergey Shoigu indicate that land forces are considered the most suitable military units to respond to potential military conflicts along its borders.

The Russian Defence Ministry has stated the total cost of the new armament program (2018-2025) will be set at RUB 17 trillion, and that 4.25 trillion of this will be directly allocated for land forces.

These funds will be mainly used in the purchase of new military air defense systems, the T-90 and T-14 Armata tanks, as well as new Kurganets-25 infantry armored vehicles, and Boomerang armored personnel carriers.

The main battle tank of Russian land forces for the next decade will be the next-gen Armata tank.

In the case of Boomerangs, currently the Russian Ministry of Defence is conducting negotiations with its official designer and producer Military Industrial Company (one of Russia’s leading producers of armoured wheeled and tracked vehicles), regarding the beginning of their supplies for the needs of Russian land forces this year.

According to the Defence Ministry press-service, it is planned that the new carriers will replace BTR-80 and BTR-82 vehicles, which are currently used in the Russian army but are considered significantly outdated. One of the main problems of the BTR-80 and its modernized BTR-82 analogue is its weak level of protection – especially from landmines. Because of this, soldiers prefer to move on top of the vehicle, but not inside it.

Alexander Krasovitsky, General Director at Military Industrial Company, describes the new armoured carrier as a “breakthrough of modern engineering”, which offers significant improvements in terms of technical specifications, protection and combat potential. Boomerangs can also be controlled remotely: “They are almost fully robotized, being resistant for the attacks from precision weapons,” confirms Krasovitsky. He believes the Boomerang could be a cheaper and better analogue to the Finnish Patria and the American Stryker vehicles.

Russian Boomerang
The Boomerang or Bumerang is a new development of 8x8 armoured vehicle personnel carrier launched by the Russian defense industry to replace the old BTR family used by the Russian armed forces.

Series production of Boomerangs will begin before the end of 2019 and up to 100 of the vehicles are expected to be supplied to Russian land forces. The contract is estimated at US$250 million.

According to Defence Minister Shoigu, the Boomerang, the modern T-14 tank, and the heavy T-15 infantry fighting vehicle (both of the latter are based on the Armata platform), will become the main strike force of the Russian Ground Forces for the next 5-7 years. In fact, the Ministry of Defence has already reached an agreement with the country’s leading tank producer, UralVagonZavod, to begin massive production of T-15 Armata heavy infantry fighting vehicles for the needs of domestic land forces by the end of the current year.

It has been reported that up to 100 of the T-15 vehicles should be supplied to the Russian land forces by 2020.

In addition, the Russian Ministry of Defence has recently reached an agreement with one of Russia’s leading military design bureaus – the Russian Central Research Institute of Precision Engineering (RCRIPE) – on the design and production of an upgrade to the 120 mm self-propelled gun. Offering vastly increased range (up to 40 km) and power, with more firing precision, the new 152 mm system is specially designed for the needs of the Russian airborne forces.

Self-propelled 152mm gun on display.

According to Dmitry Semizorov, General Director of the Institute, the new gun will be known as “Lotos” (or "Lotus"). Its design and tests will be completed by the end of 2019, and then mass production will begin.

Semizorov says the new Lotos will be a “flying” platform that can be landed by parachute. It will be built on the basis of either BMD-4M IFV or MIC-39373 wheeled armored vehicle.

The Lotos will replace the “Nona-S” self-propelled gun, which is currently in service in the Russian Airborne and Marine Corps. The Nona-S dates from the Soviet times and is seriously outdated. This is confirmed by the fact that its fire range is only 12 km, compared to 40 km range of the M982 Excalibur, and the 155 mm extended range guided artillery shell, being used by NATO land force armies.

The new Lotos gun will be built on the “Zauralets-D” platform, for which tests have been recently completed by the Ministry of Defence. According to initial plans, “Zauralets-D” should have become a priority, however, these plans were revised at the end of 2018. Sources close to the Russian Defence Ministry say the main reason for the freeze of the “Zauralets-D” project was dissatisfaction of some senior airborne commanders with technical characteristics of the new gun – its firing range in particular, which was only 25 km. Due to this, RCRIPE decided to focus on the new version with better combat features.

There is a possibility that up to 20 Lotos guns will be supplied next year for Russia’s airborne forces. Deliveries will take place incrementally until 2024.

The new gun will be used both within the country and during the execution of Russian military missions abroad, and in particular in Syria.
As part of the program, the Defence Ministry plans to continue purchases of weapons and combat equipment that are already in service in the Russian army. Included in these are the BMD-4M armored vehicles, BTR-MDM armored personnel carriers and self-propelled “Sprut-SD” anti-tank cannons.

Defence Minister Shoigu (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin toured the Arctic last year to confirm a site for Russia’s ­military base.

In the 2018-2025 state armament program, particular attention is paid to the adaptation of armaments for use within Arctic territories and permafrost conditions. The coming decade will see increased competition for Arctic claims due to its rich fresh water resources and hydrocarbon reserves. This will result in the strengthening of local military groupings. As part of these plans, the Russian government plans to complete purchases of S-300V4 anti-aircraft missile system and the Tor-M2 anti-aircraft missile system.

– Eugene Gerden is a FrontLine correspondent who specializes in military and defence.