Home / Geopolitics / Syria, became test bed for high-tech Russian weapons and leading to increased Russian arms sales and new arms race

Syria, became test bed for high-tech Russian weapons and leading to increased Russian arms sales and new arms race

The more than 6-year-old civil war in Syria has been a showcase for Russian-made arms. Russia has supported Assad and his forces, while the U.S. has helped moderate rebel groups and called for Assad to step down. “Syria is not a shooting range for Russian weapons, but we are still using them there, our new weapons,” Putin said. “This has led to the improvement of modern strike systems, including missile systems. It is one thing to have them, and quite another thing to see how they fare in combat conditions.


Russia has emerged as the world’s second-largest arms producer after the United States. Russia surpassed Britain, which had held that spot since 2002 and remains Western Europe’s No. 1 arms maker. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in its annual report on the world’s 100 biggest armaments groups that the combined arms sales of Russian companies amounted to $37.7 billion in 2017, an 8.5 percent rise from a year earlier. Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher at the institute, said Russian producers of arms and weapon systems have been on a significant growth path since 2011. According to Rosoboronexport, a state-owned export monopoly.Russian-made weapons “proved their efficiency, reliability in the most diverse conditions,”


And that’s good news for President Vladimir Putin amid a deepening economic crisis caused by low oil prices, the falling rouble, and Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s actions in Ukraine. “Financially, it is becoming a No. 2 [source of the Kremlin’s revenue] after oil and gas,” defense expert Ruslan Pukhov said in an interview. The exports are operational in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, he said. Russia’s military-industrial complex’s  largest buyers include India, China, Vietnam, Iran, Venezuela, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates.


Russia is willing to keep its forces in Syria despite the potential losses incurred because the Kremlin believes that the benefits outweigh the costs. From the Russian perspective, Moscow’s campaign in Syria affords the Kremlin invaluable combat experience that is helping it to refine the capabilities of its military forces.


The Syria campaign has helped Russia to further develop its military leaders and provided its officer corps with actual combat experience. That, in turn, has allowed Russian forces to vastly improve their tactics, techniques, and procedures. “The use of our armed forces in combat conditions is a unique experience and a unique tool to improve our armed forces,” Russian president Vladimir Putin said during a televised public question and answer session on June 7. “No exercises can compare with actually using the armed forces in combat conditions.


Putin noted that Syria has also proven to be important for Russia’s defense industry—which has gained valuable insights into how the Kremlin’s forces use their hardware in combat. “When we started to use these modern weapons, including missiles, whole teams from our defense industry companies went to Syria, and worked there on-site—it is extremely important for us—to finalize them and figure out what we can count on when using them in combat conditions,” Putin said.


The Syrian operation provided an “excellent opportunity to show off the goods”, Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told Al Jazeera. The operation provided a chance to battle-test “all the last-generation military systems that Russia could not test in military condition – high-precision weaponry, missiles, helicopters, planes and cruise missiles”, he said.


However, while the overall performance of Russian forces in Syria was good according to Putin, the operation did reveal flaws that will need to be corrected. “Some of the weapons and equipment samples revealed flaws in Syria,” Putin said. “The objective control data say as much, as well as the firsthand feedback from our servicemen who took part in the hostilities. I am asking you to carefully study this information and make prompt adjustments to the production process.”

Syrian crisis shall lead to greater Russian and US arms sales

Even before the start of the airstrikes, Moscow had been supplying Assad with a significant amount of including guns, grenades, tank parts, fighter jets, advanced anti-ship cruise missiles, long-range air defense missiles, military officers as advisers, diplomatic cover, and lots of cash. Russia also began using the Syrian crisis as a testing ground for high-tech weapons, going so far as to shift its budget for weapons tests to the Syrian campaign. Russia tested its new EW systems like Krasukha-4 system in live combat but avoiding direct conflict with NATO.


The success in Syrian operations demonstrated that Russian weapons are battle worthy and further bolster Russian arms sales to its allies like Iran. The order book of Russian defense contractors totaled a record $56 billion in 2015, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in his annual report on the government’s work in the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament. “Last year, revenues from the exports of military products exceeded $14 billion. Contracts worth over $26 billion were signed while the order book in late 2015 hit a record $56 billion,” Medvedev said.


Rosoboronexport, the state-run arms export agency, reported that sales of Russian aircraft account for 47 percent of the country’s military exports. The involvement of Russian Su-34 and Su-24M bombers, the newer Su-30CM and Su-35 fighter jets, as well as Mi-24N and Ka-52 helicopters have spurred interest not only from the major arms importing countries with whom Russia has traded with before, but also from new buyers in the Middle East. Algeria has bought a dozen Sukhoi Su-32 fighter bombers costing Algeria at least $500-600 million, an export version of the Su-34 that proved lethally effective in Syria.


According to general manager of the Russian power Russian satellite network technology group, Dubai, Sergei Chemezov told reporters that Saudi Arabia intends to purchase the latest Russian S-400 air defense missile systems, but currently only Russia and China signed a contract. Speaking to reporters in Moscow, the head of Rosoboronexport, Anatoly Isaikin, said the agency is negotiating a series of contracts with Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Algeria — noting that the Arab world accounts for 37 percent of Russian arms exports.


High Proficiency

Russia not only demonstrated advanced weapons but also demonstrated that their military is able to employ them effectively and also with high tempo, Russian warplanes sometimes fly more missions daily than the US-led coalition does in a month. The chief of Russia’s General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, reported that Russian forces have made nearly 2,300 sorties in 48 days since their deployment at the behest of Syrian President Bashar Assad. By February, shortly before the cease-fire took effect, Russia’s Defense Ministry often reported that it was carrying out more than 60 or even 70 sorties a day.


Russian Defence Ministry spokesperson Major-General Igor Konashenkov, said the strikes have taken out, two command centres of illegal armed groups, three ammunition and armament depots, two underground bunkers, 32 firing positions in mountain-woodland areas, nine fortified firing positions of illegal armed groups, a workshop used for [missile] launch pads and rocket projectiles. Lt General Hodges, the commander of US Army Forces Europe, commented that Russia had demonstrated a high level of offensive EW proficiency against Ukrainian forces in Donbas using a first foreign deployment of the Krasukha-4 system.


Top Military Weapons demonstrated in Syria

Russia’s military successes in Syria include leveraging maritime and naval vessels for sealift, sustaining aircraft sortie rates, demonstrating the Kremlin’s capability to carry out strategic bombing missions. Putin noted that Russian forces used some 215 new types of advanced weapons systems in Syria.


Air defence

The introduction by the Kremlin of advanced air-defence systems has gained impetus since the shooting down of a Russian jet by the Turks. The S-400 Triumph system has been positioned at the Russian base at Latakia.  This has array radar that continuously monitors the skies, and a missile battery which can shoot down targets 250 miles away.


Russia says it has completed shipping S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Syria’s government and will now begin training Syrian troops to operate them. “We have completed the delivery of S-300 systems. It included 49 pieces of equipment, including radars, control vehicles and four launchers.” Russian authorities first announced they would turn over an unspecified number of S-300s to Assad’s regime on Sept. 24, 2018, in the aftermath of a bizarre incident in which Syrian air defenders accidentally shot down one of Russia’s Il-20 Coot surveillance aircraft after an Israeli air strike against targets near the country’s Mediterranean coastline.


Russia has completed the creation in Syria of a network of surface-to-air missiles as well as electronic-warfare devices that can jam mobile phones, radar, and the like and interfere with the systems used by aircraft. The most advanced Russian anti-aircraft missiles now provide protection to almost the entire country, and their range extends into northern Israeli airspace.


Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu stated on September 24 that Russia would jam the satellite navigation, airborne radar, and communication systems of combat aircraft in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in order to protect its facilities on the Syrian coast. Shoygu likely issued this threat in order to deter future strikes by the U.S. and Israel against Syria


Electronic warfare

Russia  deployed its most modern electronic warfare system to Syria – theKrasukha-4 (or Belladonna) mobile electronic warfare (EW) unit. The 1RL257 or Krasukha-4 is a Russian-made mobile electronic warfare system designed and manufactured by the Company Bryansk Electromechanical Plant (KRET). The Krasukha-4 is a broad-band multifunctional jamming system intended to neutralize Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) spy satellites such as Lacrosse/Onyx series, radar surveillance aircrafts (NATO E3 Sentry (AWACS), USAF RC135-Rivet Joint, RAF’s Sentinel R1 and Reaper drones. The system is also able to cause damage to the enemy’s EW (Electronic Warfare) systems, communications and radar-guided ordinance at ranges between 150 to 300 kilometers.


The Krasukha-4 system works by creating powerful jamming at the fundamental radar frequencies and other radio-emitting sources. Krasukha-4 is able to effectively shield objects on the ground against radio-locating surveillance satellites, ground-based radars, or aircraft-installed Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), according the manufacturer. Interference caused by Krasukha-4 will render radio-controlled missile attacks ineffective. The system has been designed to counter attacks from enemies possessing advanced technologies.


The electronic warfare system in Syria will be a reliable cover for the Russian troops, adviser to first deputy CEO of Radio-electronic Technologies Concern (KRET) Vladimir Mikheyev told the Army Standard publication.


NATO is also tested  its electronic countermeasures (ECCM) features against Russian EW systems. Some of these rebel groups are directly supported by the US and its allies, new evidence strongly suggests that US-backed militants in Syria are using American weapons to target senior Russian military officials in the country, a new report says.



Russia T-90 tank

In, Feb one of the Russia’s most advanced battle tanks, T-90 tank was hit by a US-made “tank killer” – a tube-launched, wire-guided BGM-71 TOW missile. The tank withstood a lightning-like explosion without igniting, and one of the crewmembers hastily got out of the turret. The tank was being operated by Syrian government forces, while TOW was launched by Hawks Mountain Brigade, an opposition group that got the TOW via Saudi Arabia or directly from the CIA, a military analyst said.

The whole episode was “a chance to see what happens when state-of-the-art hardware from two major world powers violently collide in the Middle East”, Robert Beckhusen wrote for the National Interest magazine. It was also a perfect commercial for Russian arms producers.


Russian Mi-28 attack helicopter in the battle for Palmyra

The battle for Palmyra, ended as ISIS militants fled the city, and Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah forces recaptured the city. However Russia also contributed in it in two ways: Russian Mi-28 attack helicopter—Moscow’s answer to the U.S. Army’s fearsome Apache gunship made its combat debut. Video posted online by a pro-regime group clearly shows a Mi-28 firing a rocket from beneath one of its stubby wings. Russia’s elite Special Forces, also known as Spetsnaz had also contributed to victory.


Russian Operations changed the operational situation in Syria

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that during the Russian airstrike campaign, Syrian forces had been able to recapture 400 populated areas over nearly 4,000 square miles of territory. Russian intervention has been a game changer; Syrian MP claimed Russia had destroyed more terror targets in 15 days than US armed forces managed in a year of raids. In a speech to the Middle East country’s parliament, Mohammad Jihad al-Laham said Russia’s intervention in the region was having a positive difference whereas America and Britain had created instability and war. To this end, Russia has sent brand new tactical aircraft, strategic bombers and cruise missiles into battle. It has also showcased its impressive electronic warfare capabilities, which Lt. General Ben Hodges, commander of US Army Europe, once described as “eye-watering.”


Precision Airstrikes

Shoigu said that Russia’s Tu-95, Tu-22 and Tu-160 strategic bombers have been brought into the operation, while the Air Force command added that the strike group has been bolstered with 37 new planes, including Su-34 bombers and Su-27 fighter jets. The head of the General Staff reported that the new phase of the anti-ISIS campaign will involve 25 long-range bombers flying out of airfields in Russia.

Precision strikes by Russian combat aviation in the Damascus province have crucially changed the operational situation in this region. ISIS militants are suffering a severe lack of ammunition and are leaving their positions in large numbers.


Russian cruise missiles against Islamic State targets

Gerasimov said that 26 cruise missiles had been launched from Russia’s Caspian Fleet, and ten space satellites had been involved in mapping target sites, including several that had been repurposed from civilian use.

In October 2015, Russian warships belonging to the Russian Navy’s Caspian Sea Strike Group launched 26 cruise missiles against Islamic State targets located in Syria. The missiles flew nearly 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) over Iran and Iraq and struck targets in Raqqa and Aleppo provinces (controlled by the the Islamic State) as well as Idlib province (controlled by the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front).

It was the first time Russia had fired the new Kalibr cruise missile in a combat mission. According to the Russia’s MoD, the cruise missiles “engaged all the assigned targets successfully and with high accuracy.”

The missile used to conduct the attack is the 3M14TE Kalibr-NK with a maximum range of 2,600 km, fired by a strike group consisting of the Dagestan missile ship, the small-sized missile ships Grad Sviyazhsk, Uglich, VelikyUstyug.

Defense experts believe that 26 missiles that were launched were land-attack versions of Russia’s SS-N-27 anti-ship missiles similar to a Tomahawk cruise missiles.


Russian Stealth Frigate “Dagestan”

The Dagestan, which was the flagship of the strike group, is more than 328-feet long, has a displacement of about 2,000 tons, according to the Ministry of Defence. On the other hand, the smaller ones like the Grad Sviyazhsk, Uglich, and VelikyUstyug are over 230 feet in length with displacements of 1,000 tons, respectively.

“To put things in perspective, the two variants of the U.S. Littoral Combat Ship, Freedom and Independence, are substantially larger at roughly 2,900 tons and 3,100 tons respectively—but they do not possess any cruise missile or similar power projection capability,” writes Garrett I. Campbell Federal Executive Fellow, Brookings Institution

“It’s unique that they are putting [these missiles] on small ships. The U.S. needs to be aware that we do not have a monopoly on high-tech weapons,” Eric Wertheim, author of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World told FoxNews.com.

Comparing the smallest US ships that carry similar missiles are around 9000 tons, explained Wertheim. “The smallest ship in the U.S. Navy to carry a Tomahawk missile would be destroyer size – that’s about 10 times the size [of the Russian ships],” FoxNews.com reported Wertheim saying.

Expert says that firepower of Russia’s small missile ships should not be over-estimated. “The small size of the ship does not necessarily make it more or less of a danger,” he said. “It uses the much protected waters of the Caspian Sea – you’re unlikely to see these making frequent Atlantic crossings.” However in its Facebook blog post Russia’s Ministry of Defence noted that the Dagestan can operate about 2,500 miles from base.


Dagestan frigates

The Dagestan is the Russian Navy’s first warship equipped with the Kalibr-NK missile system that is capable of using several types of high precision missiles against surface, underwater and coastal targets. The vessel uses elements of stealth technology, which lower its exposure to radars.

These vessels are capable of employing their weapons systems in conditions up to Sea State 5. The hull and superstructure are constructed primarily of steel, with some aluminum-magnesium being used in the upper superstructure. They are equipped with fin stabilizers and twin rudders, and can use either gas turbines or diesel for propulsion in a CODOG configuration.

In April Adm. William Gortney, head of U.S. Northern Command, warned that Russia’s modern military is now “far more capable” than that of the Soviet Union, saying Moscow is “messaging” the United States that “they’re a global power.”


New Arms race, US launches third offset strategy to deter Russia

The deployment of Russian electronic warfare equipment in Ukraine and Syria, such as the Krasukha-4 which can jam Awacs and satellite radar systems, has been another sobering experience for NATO. Ronald Pontius, deputy to the US Army head of cyber command, stated: “You cannot but come to the conclusion that we are not making progress at the pace the threat demands.”

As Popular Mechanics pointed out,” Indeed, some of the armaments produced in Russia have “no counterparts in the US.” Moscow has showcased some of those in Syria.


Five evolving challenges drive the department’s planning; US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said, including Russian aggression in Europe, the rise of China in the Asia Pacific, North Korea, Iran, and the ongoing fight against terrorism, especially the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The department must and will address all five challenges and across all domains, Carter said.

“Not just the usual air, land and sea, but also particularly in the areas of cyber, space and electronic warfare, where our reliance on technology has given us great strengths but also led to vulnerabilities that adversaries are eager to exploit,” he added.

US has launched Third Offset strategy, as Secretary Hagel said, “This new initiative is an ambitious department-wide effort to identify and invest in innovative ways to sustain and advance America’s military dominance for the 21st century.”

This offset strategy that we pursue in the Pacific is focused primarily on overcoming anti-access and area of denial network.

As applied to Europe, for example, we’re probably going to have to have a high technology component as well as an innovative whole-of-government concept to counter the ambiguous hybrid threats we saw in Crimea and we continue to see in Ukraine today.


US FY2017 Defense Budget

Highlighting new investments in the budget to deal with new challenges Carter said the department is requesting $7.5 billion, 50 percent more than in 2016.

According to the Pentagon’s 2017 budget, $1.8 billion will go to buy more than 45,000 GPS-guided smart bombs and laser-guided rockets. $3 billion to upgrade undersea systems; $3 billion for human-machine teaming and “swarming” operations by unmanned drones; $1.7 billion for cyber and electronic systems that use artificial intelligence; and $500 million for war-gaming and other testing of the new concepts.


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