– 2008-10-04 21:52:33
Russia to Stage Largest Air Force War Games since Soviet times
Adrian Blomfield / The Telegraph
MOSCOW (October 4, 2008) — Their progress watched closely by increasingly jittery western militaries, dozens of nuclear bombers will take part in the exercise. Tu-95 Bear bombers will fire cruise missiles at targets in sub-Arctic Russia for the first time since 1984.
While Russia insists that the war games are not meant as a gesture of aggression, the West is growing increasingly uneasy about the scale of the manoeuvres.
The aerial exercises, which will take place close to American airspace in Alaska, are part of a month-long war game known as Stability 2008 that Russia claims is the biggest for 20 years.
As the bombers take to the air next week, Russian ships will also be conducting exercises in the North Sea and the Baltic as well as in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. A flotilla of war ships is also sailing to the Caribbean for joint exercises with Venezuela, Washington’s greatest foe in South America, which will come within a few hundred miles of the US coastline.
A Russian nuclear powered submarine has also just docked in the Kamchatka peninsula after completing a one-month voyage under the Arctic Ocean without resurfacing. The Kremlin has made territorial claims to a large portion of the Arctic, which holds vast energy supplies under its rapidly shrinking ice.
Not since the end of the Cold War has Russia demonstrated its global military reach in such a manner.
Over 60,000 troops and 1,500 tanks and armoured personnel carriers have taken part in the first fortnight of exercises. Land-based and submarine launched nuclear missiles have also been tested. Once the bombers have fired their cruise missiles next week, Russia will have carried out its first near-simultaneous test launches of all elements of its nuclear triad since the Cold War.
The has worried military observers critical of the Kremlin, who say the scope and character of the exercises does not gel with official explanations that they are designed to train the country’s armed forces in counter-terrorism and military defence.
Pavel Felgenhauer, a respected military analyst, says the geographical reach of the exercises suggests that they are intended to simulate a nuclear war with the United States.
“Russia is preparing for the eventuality of a nuclear war,” he said. “These are the most elaborate war games for 20 years and is clear evidence that we are returning to the Cold War.”
As relations with the West have deteriorated, Russia has shown that it is increasingly willing to flex its military might. Long-range nuclear bombers are again patrolling the skies near Western airspace. One squadron came within 90 seconds of Hull last month after apparently escaping the detection of British warning systems.
Russia, which has become more aggressive in forming friendships with countries opposed to the United States, has also begun an ambitious rearmament programme that will see defence spending double over the next five years. New battleships, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines have been ordered.
Not everyone is convinced as the Kremlin appears to be that Russia will soon be as militarily competitive as it was in the Cold War. Despite some improvements, the armed forces – and especially the air force and navy – are still in woeful condition and would be incapable of challenging a medium-sized European country in a conventional war, analysts say.
The Kremlin has been frequently embarrassed by the regularity with which Russian war ships break down.
There was further embarrassment for the administration on Friday after photographs surfaced on the internet showing Anatoly Serdyukov, Russia’s portly defence minister, stuck in a submarine hatch last week.
Mr Serdyukov, whose ministry has run a campaign to urge senior officers to lose weight, was inspecting the Russian fleet during exercises in Kamchatka with Dmitry Medvedev, the president, when the incident happened.
Mr Medvedev, a man of slight build, slithered into the submarine with little difficulty. But when Mr Serdyukov followed him, his belly allegedly became wedged in the hatch and he struggled for several minutes before servicemen managed to pry him free.
The photographs, posted on a Russian web site, were swiftly removed.
Russia to Build Eight Nuclear Submarines
Adrian Blomfield / The Telegraph
MOSCOW (02 October 2008) — Senior military officials said that the new ships will be equipped with the country’s problem-plagued submarine-launched ballistic missile, the Bulava-30.
Russia is struggling to revamp its dilapidated military structure in order to give substance to an increasingly assertive foreign policy that has seen warships and bombers deployed to the far corners of the world for the first time since the Cold War.
Last week, Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, announced a dramatic rearmament programme that would see the construction of new missile defence system and the mass production of warships and multi-purpose submarines.
Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, also announced that defence spending would increase by 27 per cent next year to £54 billion.
Russia’s navy, perhaps the most decrepit arm of the country’s armed forces, desperately needs modernization. With 50 per cent of the fleet estimated to be in dry docks at anyone time, Russia’s warships have a reputation for frequently breaking down.
Unable to challenge the West’s conventional superiority, Russia has had to rely on its nuclear deterrent. At sea, that has meant developing the Bulava and a fleet of Borei-class nuclear submarines to carry it.
Already three years behind schedule, the Bulava could be launched in 2009, the defence ministry said.
“I hope we’ll accept the Bulava-30 for service next year,” Col-Gen Vladimir Popovkin, a deputy defence minister, said.
Western military experts are not so sure.
The Bulava has only been successfully tested four times, while most new nuclear missiles need at least 12 launches to be officially commissioned.
While Russia’s military boasted of a successful test last month, information that has emerged since suggests that the missile’s warheads failed to separate during the last phase of the launch.
Only one of the submarines meant to carry the missiles is ready. Russia had announced that 12 Borei-class submarines would be launched and it is unclear whether the eight vessels announced yesterday were part of that number.
The Russian navy currently has 14 strategic submarines capable of launching nuclear missiles and 58 non-tactical submarines.
In July, Russia also revealed it would build four or five new aircraft carriers to replace the ramshackle Admiral Kuznetsov, the only vessel of its kind in the fleet. While the announcement was seen as a declaration of the Kremlin’s ambitions, it also raised eyebrows in the West as Russia has no shipyards capable of building such large vessels.
Critics say the best way to better the country’s armed forces is to improve the woeful living standards of its servicemen, most of whom are conscripts, and to tackle corruption. One-third of defence spending is either embezzled or misspent, analysts estimate.
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