This article belongs to The big Bear named Russia theme.
Ever since the end of the Cold War, Russia has been looking at modernising its defence structures and equipment but never had the money or the expertise to do so. Now, with greater access to better technology and more money being available through its resources boom, Russia might well be able to substantially modernise and further upgrade its defence forces.
However, it is not just the equipment that needs upgrading. There are also issues of personnel morale, the safeguard of old, often nuclear, equipment that is rotting away at various locations throughout Russia and there is the issue of the centralised structure of the Russian Defence Forces, a structure that failed in Afghanistan and copies of which proved to be disastrous for Iraq against the Americans, and Syria and Egypt against the Israelis.
"Nuclear equipment is rotting away at various locations throughout Russia
We shall first deal with the current status of Russian Defence in terms of its equipment, personnel and structure.
The command structure of Russian Defence is a centralised one, dating back to Cold War days. It has been proven to be highly unreliable in terms of its response times and effectiveness. Such a structure is vulnerable to first-strike attacks, enough to knock out a complete command system. This scenario has been proven to be valid, as recent even as the Russian response into Georgia and earlier the Iraqi response to the US-led invasion.
The centralised system failed to result into more substantial outcomes in both those events.
On the equipment side, the situation does not look good at all at this point in time. Although plenty of them, the weapons provided to the soldiers on the ground are outdated and almost antique and no match for well-designed western equipment. Larger pieces of equipment such as tanks and APCs are old; some of the most modern tanks being the T72 which, in its own right, is now more or less a museum piece.
Support equipment is outdated and not effective.
The Russian Navy still mostly has to rely on equipment that was designed during the Cold War and there is a lack of spare parts, modern point-defence equipment and support structures. Most of Russia's nuclear powered submarines are rotting away in various ports and are rendered non-operational.
The air force is slightly better equipped but there are not enough good airframes that can be classed as effective against a modern western air force. The most effective aircraft are the Sukhoi SU30 series of aircraft with their off-shoots the SU34 and SU35 being more than a match for the best western aircraft, current and future, except the F22 Raptor. Most the available aircraft equipment however is no longer effective with most the old larger bombers now either mothballed or used for reconnaissance purposes.
"Most of Russias old larger bombers are now either mothballed or used for reconnaissance purposes
We must remember that Russia has a substantial nuclear force. Most of this material also dates back a number of years and some of it is no longer functional. Through corrupt practices, some of this stuff has disappeared into the stockpiles of other countries including Pakistan, Iran and North Korea. Most of the current stockpile of nuclear weapons is only maintained in its most basic form and then only out of necessity.
The Russian army, in terms of personnel, is large but under-trained, the evidence of which came into view during the recent campaign in Georgia when Russian forces roamed around the Georgian countryside like a bunch of badly disciplined hooligans. Military service in Russia is badly rewarded in monetary terms and bad, undisciplined and corrupt behaviour is rife within the Russian defence forces as it is throughout other levels of Russian society.
Now we come to the shopping list that, in my view, Russia should be looking at in terms of spending increased resource revenues on modern equipment.
First of all, the command structure of Russian defence needs a major overhaul with a regional and local command structure replacing the current centralised command structure. Russia needs a well-paid, well trained and well-equipped army that is much smaller than is currently the case. A second-tier reservist force could be put in place. An effective commando force along the lines of the British and Australian SAS should be constituted with the same type of training and levels of equipment.
"The Russian Navy could well scrap most of its old destroyers
Most of the heavier equipment such as tanks and APCs will have be replaced with new types as does most of the support equipment.
The Russian Navy could well scrap most of its old destroyers, frigates and other surface vessels except two missile cruisers and one carrier and then reconstitute a force of standard multipurpose type maritime force that has the capacity to respond quickly and is able to defend itself. This may mean a new carrier design as well. The nuclear-powered and armed submarine force would also have to be reconstituted into a much smaller force.
The air force could do with a number of things. It can further develop the Mig-AT type concept and also develop more structural reform in terms of tactics.
Russia needs a new ground-attack aircraft as the current stock is no longer capable to do the job properly.
The Sukhoi series of aircraft could see further development in terms of stand-off weapons and better air-to-air missiles. A new navigation, command and control system should be developed on perhaps the TU204 airframe or a further development of the Ilyushin IL76-78 airframes.
Further tanker development is also required.
Transport services could be made more effective by replacing old AN12s with IL76-78 as well as a purpose-built C130 size aircraft while long range transport needs a development of the AN124.
Russia needs a smaller nuclear, more modern missile strike deterrent equipped with multiple target warheads. There is simply no longer a purpose to be served by the current nuclear structure.
In overall terms though, Russia's current reliance on large numbers in all aspects is no longer a viable solution for Russia's defence needs. A much smaller, better equipped and better trained defence force would a much better job.