Top 10 highlights of Russian defence tech (2011: In retrospect)

The year 2011 saw Russia consolidating its position as the world’s pre-eminent supplier of cutting-edge, headline-grabbing military weaponry. From the RS-24 Yars ICBMs and T50 5th Gen fighter jet to the Yasen class nuke submarine and the Ka-52 “Alligator” helicopter, the Russian defence technology and weaponry scaled a new peak this year.

The Russian government’s military procurement volumes are growing at an astonishing pace – they will almost treble from 2009 to 2014. As a result, Russia may move up to the third rank globally in terms of dollar-denominated defence expenses (the defence budget up to 2020 amounts to 20 trillion roubles). New equipment accounts for a mere 10% of total stocks, but the figure is expected to reach 70% by 2020.


The nearly four-fold (in US dollar terms) surge in defence expenses between 2002 and 2009 has already brought in new technologies and armaments. This year was particularly rich in innovations in the Russian military sector: just take the T-50, the fifth-generation fighter jet that performed its first public flight at the MAX-2011 aviation show. Igor Korotchenko, Editor-in-Chief of the Natsionalnaya Oborona (National Defence) magazine, shares his views on the top 10 armaments of 2011 that he found particularly remarkable.


The RS-24 Yars solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missile


Designer: Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology

Manufacturer: VotkinskyZavod


Description: Serial produced in two basing modes: deep underground and mobile basing. It is expected to become the mainstay of the Russian strategic missile forces. The RS-24 Yars is able to deliver six nuclear warheads and has an inter-continental range. The maximum flight distance is 12,000 km. The missile’s length is 23m and its diameter is 2m.


Igor Korotchenko: Russia’s strategic nuclear forces are now being equipped with new types of ICBM. It is the RS-24 Yars that will be the key element of the Russian strategic missile forces for the next 20 or 30 years. The first regiment equipped with the Yars mobile missile complex was put on combat alert duty on March 4. It includes two RS-24 divisions, which had been on alert duty in a testing mode since 2010. Right now, arduous negotiations on the European anti-ballistic missile shield are going on between Russia and NATO. If no agreement is reached, the RS-24 will play a major part in giving an asymmetric response to the Americans and NATO.


The T-50 5Gen fighter jet

Source: RIA Novosti


Designer: OKB Sukhoi

Manufacturer: Sukhoi Company

Description: A project using the stealth technology, which increases the jet’s survivability in combat. Two T-50 jets are now going through a series of test flights and were for the first time demonstrated publicly at the MAX-2011 show. Length: 19.4m, wingspan: 14m, maximum takeoff weight: 35.5 tonnes. Serial purchases are due to start from 2016.


Igor Korotchenko: If we launch serial production of the T-50, it will be superior to all existing fighter jets in the world, other than the American F-22 Raptor, with which it will be on a par. Russia will also receive additional budget revenues thanks to T-50 exports to Russia’s military and technical partner countries. The aircraft will constitute the backbone of the Russian air forces’ strike potential.


The S-500 surface-to-air missile system

Source: Minoboroni


Designer and manufacturer: Concern PVO Almaz-Antey


Description: The surface-to-air guided missile has a range of up to 600km. The system is able to detect and simultaneously engage up to 10 ballistic supersonic targets. Serial production is expected to be launched in 2015.


Igor Korotchenko: The S-500 system (on the chart; the photo shows an S-400) will be the most powerful element of Russia’s airspace defence system currently being set up. Its key advantage is that it can intercept not only all existing air targets but also objects in near space, even satellites and ballistic targets moving at a speed of up to 7km a second, if necessary. The system will also be able to engage supersonic combat aircraft successfully. The S-500 is projected to become operational in 2015.


The Yasen class multipurpose nuclear submarine, the 885 project


Designer: the Malachite Design Bureau

Manufacturer: PO Sevmash


Description: A stealthy fourth-generation submarine capable of carrying sea-based cruise missiles (up to eight vertical missile launchers with three missiles each) and ten 650-mm and 533-mm torpedo tubes. Length: 119m, maximum hull width: 13.5m, crew: 85.

Igor Korotchenko: While it is extremely multi-functional, it is also very quiet and has excellent hydro-acoustics. The first nuclear submarine, Severodvinsk, is already being tested, while the second one, Kazan, is under construction. The Russian navy will be supplied with 10 such submarines.


The upgraded T-90AM tank

Designer and manufacturer: Uralvagonzavod

Description: the T-90AM is a completely upgraded version of the T-90 tank. No detailed technical specifications have been revealed so far but the features already disclosed include an automatic transmission gearbox, slat armour, a remote-controlled machine-gun and new observation equipment. With 1,130 horsepower, the tank’s engine is now more powerful by 130hp.


Igor Korotchenko: The T-90AM was demonstrated for the first time at an arms exhibition in Nizhny Tagil in the autumn of 2011. Special focus was made on the commander’s ability to exert tactical control over the tank and the unit, identify targets and operate the main armaments in any type of combat and with the same efficiency day or night. The T-90AM technical solutions are expected to provide the basis for modernising the entire existing fleet of Russian tanks, including both the T-72 and T-90 tanks.


The Iskander-M tactical ballistic missile

Source: Minoboroni

Designer: The Kolomna Machine Building Design Bureau

Manufacturer: VotkinskyZavod


Description: Designed for engaging small and area targets in the enemy’s rear, with a range of up to 500km. Able to carry tactical nuclear armaments. Serial produced. Missile launch weight: 3,800kg, warhead weight: 480kg, length: 7.2m, diameter: 920mm. Missile speed after the boost phase: 2.1km per second.


Igor Korotchenko: The first crew has already been deployed in the Leningrad Region and there are plans to deploy the Iskander system in the Krasnodar Region as a response to the launch of construction of the European anti-missile defence system. Later, the systems will become operational in other areas as well. In 2011, the Iskander-M was equipped with a correlation guidance system. The missile’s accuracy has doubled, with the probable circular error amounting to 5m. This makes it possible to destroy any enemy target with surgical precision. The plans announced early this year envisage that 10 missile crews equipped with the Iskander-M system will be deployed in the Russian army by 2020.


The Ka-52 “Alligator” helicopter (naval version)


Designer and manufacturer: Russian Helicopters


Description: The helicopter is designed to hit armoured and non-armoured vehicles, personnel and aerial targets. Serial produced. Crew: 2, cruise speed: 250km/h, practical range: 520km. The Ka-52K naval version (where a blade-folding mechanism has been added) is designed for basing on Mistral helicopter carriers, which will begin service in Russia in 2014, and other combat ships.


Igor Korotchenko: All four Mistrals Russia is purchasing from France will be equipped with the Alligator’s naval versions, which boast a broader range of guided and non-guided weapons and an around-the-clock, all-weather operational capability. It is a two-seater helicopter (unlike the Ka-50, dubbed the “Black Shark”) and the pilot and the operator can take over each other’s functions, if necessary.


The ORSIS T-5000 sniper rifle


Designer and manufacturer: State Corporation Promtechnologies

Description: The tactical and technical performance of the rifle allows targets at a range of up to 1.5km to be hit reliably under any lighting and weather conditions and without preliminary sighting or technical preparations.


Igor Korotchenko: The T-5000 rifle has yet to be put into service but this is expected to happen as soon as 2012. The weapon ensures pinpoint sniper shooting at a range of up to 1.5km, giving the sniper an exceptional opportunity to hit a broad range of targets. ORSIS T-5000 rifles are expected to be used by anti-terror units, special forces of the Main Intelligence Directorate and units operating in the Northern Caucasus region.


Soobrazitelny corvette, project 20380

Designer: The Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau

Manufacturer: Severnaya Verf

Description: Multi-purpose corvettes (coastal-duty ships) using the stealth technology. Armament: strike, anti-aircraft and anti-submarine weapons systems. Main strike weapon: the Uranantiship missile system with a range of up to 130km. Ship length: 104.5m, width: 13m, speed: up to 27 knots, economic speed: 14 knots. Crew: 99.


Igor Korotchenko: This is the first serial-produced warship in Russia using the stealth technology. It has broad capabilities when combating both submarines and surface ships. The ship is able to defend actively, if attacked by missiles or torpedoes. The Russian Baltic fleet’s combat ships include two project ships. The leading ship, the Steregushchy, was supplied to the naval forces as early as 2008. The first serial-produced corvette, however, was Soobrazitelny (commissioned to the Russian Navy in October 2011). Four more ships are presently under construction and 20 corvettes are projected to be bought.


The RPG-32 Hashim grenade launcher


Designer and manufacturer: State Research and Production Enterprise Bazalt


Description: Calibre: 105mm (72-mm calibre grenades can also be used). Effective range: 200m, sighting range: 700m. A PG-32V 105-mm calibre grenade can destroy reactive armour plus 650mm of steel armour.


Igor Korotchenko: The RPG-32’s high efficiency is ensured by using two types of projectile (armour piercing cumulative and thermobaric) of a 105-mm and 72-mm calibre. The projectiles are chosen by placing a respective container with a reactive grenade on the launcher.

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