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Eastern Europe and Central Asia , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft

Moscow's New Armaments Plan Elaborates on the Future of Russian Aerial Warfare

April 20th - 2018

With one of the most advanced air fleets in the world, including the largest air superiority fleet, largest strike fleet, second largest bomber fleet and third largest overall number of combat aircraft, Russia's aerial warfare capabilities have been quickly and efficiently modernised over the past ten years to provide a lethal fighting force. Moscow's new state armaments plan, which will run from 2018-2027, will continue modernization of the Russian Aerospace Forces - but with a different focus than previous modernisation programs. While modernisation of existing combat capabilities is set to continue, namely with the induction of further Su-57, MiG-35 and Su-35 fighters, Su-34 bombers and Tu-160M2 bombers, the Kremlin’s new state armament plan will focus more on developing its support capabilities - such as aerial tankers, AWACS and transport aircraft.

Russia is set to rely primarily on its '4++' generation platforms such as the Su-35 for the coming years to maintain parity with potential adversaries - while the Su-57 will be inducted into service only in small numbers for testing as the fighter's capabilities continue to be refined. Indeed, Russia may well intend to induct the Su-57 into service in large numbers only as a sixth generation fighter - and the military has already expressed its intention to develop its most modern fighter into a sixth generation platform. Procurement of fighters in general however is set to slow as the military addresses the needs of its support fleet such strategic airlifters and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms. Center for Naval Analyses senior research scientist Dmitry Gorenburg stated in regards to the systems Russia would focus on modernising: “Transport and refueling aircraft, long an area of weakness for the Russian Air Force, will be one area of focus. Serial production of the long-troubled Ilyushin Il-76-MD90A is expected to start in 2019, and the Russian military is expecting to receive 10-12 such aircraft per year thereafter. A light transport aircraft is under development, with prototypes expected to be completed in 2024... The A-100 airborne warning system (AWACS) aircraft, based on the Il-76MD90A, was expected to be delivered starting in 2016 but has been repeatedly delayed. Nevertheless, procurement of this aircraft will be included in SAP-2027."

Russia's new state armament plan also addresses Russia's air defences, stating that existing systems are set to continue production while new more capable platforms are inducted into service such as the S-500 Prometheus. A prototype of the S-500 will be expected by 2020. Alongside enhancing its support capabilities and expanding its air defences, Russia is also set to focus more on developing unmanned aerial vehicles including its first attack drones. Gorenburg stated in regards to this: “Russia is experiencing a boom in domestic production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).. By 2020, it will have a strike UAV in production, as well as a new generation of reconnaissance UAVs.” China and Israel currently dominate markets for military drones and producers of the highest quality export platforms, though the United States has indicated its willingness to lift restrictions on the export of its own attack drones to allow it to compete internationally. Russia too could well become a major exporter in future.

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