J.Hawk–While Russia’s next State Armaments Program (GPV) will be officially revealed only in early July, its general outline is already known on the future direction of the Russian Armed Forces. GPV’s priorities are a reflection of the perceived threat array facing the Russian Federation, and this GPV is clearly prioritizing the Ground Forces, which will sustain a rapid pace of modernization in spite of the recent economic crisis that has not yet been fully overcome. The political instability of the European Union, the rise of nationalists in Ukraine, the Baltics, and NATO’s overt hostility toward Russia, and the erratic foreign policy pursued by the Trump Administration compelled to take heed of the globalist faction of the US elite, all point to the need to bolster Russia’s ability to fight a large-scale land war in the foreseeable future. The other priority evident in the available information on the GPV is the desire to have “good enough” materiel in service now rather than “perfect” materiel later, as manifested by the deferred procurement of a number of systems currently under development.
The Ground Forces will not only expand in size but will also continue to modernize and upgrade its equipment fleet. While by 2025 the most numerous main battle tank in regular service will be the T-72B3 or its upgraded version, Russian sources believe the T-14 MBT of the Armata family will be procured at the rate of 20-30 vehicles per year, with the initial order for 100 vehicles already in.
The development of the Kurganets and Bumerang infantry fighting vehicles, on the other hand, has hit a few snags, so that they will not enter service before 2019 at the earliest. As a stop-gap measure, the Russian military will continue procuring Berezhok upgrade kits for the BMP-2 IFV, procure several hundred new BMP-3 IFVs, and overhaul the existing fleet. Land-based air and ballistic missile defense will also be a key priority, with the armed forces receiving Buk-M3, Tor-M2, and S-300V4 and S-400 missile systems. The prospective S-500, still in the development phase, will likely not be procured during the next GPV term.
The biggest predicted change in the new GPV concerning the Aerospace Forces will be the postponement of the PAK-DA strategic bomber program which is seen as redundant in the foreseeable future due to the ongoing efforts to resume the Tu-160 bomber production with the aim of procuring 50-60 of the bombers, and the modernization of the existing fleet to the Tu-160M2 standard. The PAK-FA development will continue as before, and the aircraft will enter series production in the upcoming years. However, most of the aircraft procured under the new GPV will be the already existing tried and true designs seen in the skies over Syria, namely Su-35, Su-34, and Su-30, as well as a number of MiG-35 “lightweight” fighters, and of course the Ka-52 and Mi-28N attack helicopters.
What the GPV will not skimp on is munitions procurement, and the recent statements by senior officials predicting that Russian military’s stock of precision-guided munitions will double in the upcoming years is a reflection of yet another lesson learned in Syria.
Naval Forces, by contrast, have a relatively modest role in the new GPV. Neither the Shtorm aircraft carrier nor the Lider nuclear-powered destroyer are likely to appear “in metal” within the next GPV term. Instead the existing ships, including the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier and the heavy missile cruisers, will undergo major refits to include the fitting of new missile systems, and the role of an oceanic escort will be provided by an enlarged variant of the Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate optimized to provide area air defense, a solution adopted by many European navies which found destroyers too expensive for their budgets. The construction of missile corvettes and light frigates, ships which more than proved their worth in the context of the Syria conflict, will continue unabated, as will the procurement of both conventional and nuclear submarines. There will be no change to Arctic-specific naval procurement.
The new GPV, in addition to being a response to Western actions and a reflection of lessons from recent conflicts, is also a tacit confirmation of the sad fact that Russia is perceived as a worthy partner for negotiations in the West only because it is relatively immune to political and military pressure. As before, these weapons are intended to be used only as a last resort.