Russia heading to arms buying spree

Feb. 24, 2011 at 2:20 PM
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MOSCOW, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Moscow plans to buy 1,000 helicopters, 600 aircraft and 100 ships by 2020 in a $650 billion arms procurement program aimed at modernizing Russia's armed forces.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin, the official in charge of arms procurement, detailed the plan Thursday in Moscow, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports.

More than 100 different Russian-made helicopters, which are among the best in the world, will be procured this year alone. The aircraft to be bought include Mil Mi-26 Halo transport helicopters -- the largest helicopter on the globe -- Mil Mi-28 Night Hunter, and Kamov Ka-52 Alligator gunships, RIA Novosti reports.

Russia will also buy 10 new generation S-500 surface-to-air missile defense systems, currently developed by the Moscow defense company Almaz-Antey.

After having been under-funded for years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's naval force will get the most attention.

Moscow plans to build eight nuclear submarines of the Borei class by 2020 and equip them with ballistic missiles, Popovkin said.

Intended to replace the Soviet-era Delta and Typhoon classes in service, the Borei class subs are to carry the Bulava (Russian for "mace") ballistic missiles, a key element of Russia's nuclear deterrent and its most expensive weapons project.

The fist sub of the Borei class, the Yury Dolgorukiy, is to enter service this year.

Russia will also purchase four French Mistral helicopter carriers -- two built in France, and two in Russia under license -- to boost its surface sea capabilities.

Russian and French officials signed the final agreement (not a contract) on the Mistral sail in the presence of French President Nicolas Sarkozy last month.

If Russia signs the contract, the first carrier could be built in 2013, a French arms industry official said in October.

The arms spending spree is to help replace Russia's Soviet-era military equipment and cut the number of troops to create a more modern and mobile force.

The Kremlin has in the past voiced its frustration with the domestic industry. Arguing that some of the Russian-made products aren't up to date, Moscow has urged firms to step up their product portfolio and internal procedures to become more competitive.

The costly overhaul of the Russian military comes as forces in Europe face severe budget cuts because of the recession.

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