Alexander Mikheyev, the CEO of the Rosoboronexport state-owned arms seller, believes the Russian Federation is on track to dominate the global weapons trade, leaving the US behind. According to the 2018 SIPRI report, Russia is the world’s second-largest arms exporter, claiming 22% of all shipments sent abroad. The United States is still in the lead with 34% of all weapons sales, but Russia has an excellent chance of overtaking Washington to claim that top spot.
According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Army 2018 International Military and Technical Forum, which was held Aug. 21-26, is an outstanding event that reflects the "huge potential" of Russia’s defense industry and promotes military cooperation with other countries. Held at the Patriot Congress and Exhibition Center in the town on Kubinka, outside Moscow, this largest tri-service arms show offers indoor and outdoor exhibits for participating companies. Separate, live demonstrations at the Alabino shooting range, Komsomolskoe Lake, and the Kubinka airfield show off flyovers by air force aerobatic squadrons and displays of the latest army weapons systems in action. The forum showcases over 600 units of armament and equipment, divided into army, air force, and navy categories. A total of 1,209 exhibitors take part, offering 18,000 exhibits for display. Almost 700,000 people are expected to visit the forum, including foreigners from 62 countries. Sixty-five official foreign military delegations, 78 defense firms, and holding companies from 14 countries are also taking part in the exhibition. Seven national pavilions represent Armenia, Belarus, China, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Slovakia, and South Africa. A host of conferences are held throughout the days of the forum, covering 24 “thematic areas” or topics and convening 140 separate meetings.
Many systems displayed at the Army 2018 have been tested during the military campaign in Syria. The show features Russia's Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jet, the Kinzhal hypersonic weapon, the Armata main battle tank (MBT), and various types of drones.
The MiG-31K, Su-57, Su-30SM, MiG-29 combat aircraft, and Yak-130 trainer offer air shows of acrobatic flying at the Kubinka airfield. Army units equipped with the BMP-3, BMD-4A, and BTR-82A infantry fighting vehicles held amphibious exercises and conducted water-crossing activities at the Komsomolskoe Lake from Aug. 22-23. IntellTechExpo is being held for the first time to promote military R&D activities.
New systems are being unveiled. For instance, the 2S40 Floks self-propelled mortar (SPM) is armed with a 120mm gun-mortar mounted on the Ural-43206 mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) truck, which can fire high-explosive fragmentation (HE-Frag) rounds or mortar shells at a rate of 8 and 10 rounds per minute, respectively. The system weighs about 20 tons. Its maximum operational range is 13 km. (artillery rounds), 10 km. (guided artillery projectiles), and 7.5 km. (mortar shells). It can carry 80 rounds of ammunition. The armament suite includes a 7.62mm. machine gun. The system is also equipped with an opto-electronic jamming system to counter high-precision threats.
Another SPM is the 82mm. 2S41 Drok mounted on the K-4386 Taifun-VDV 4×4 MRAP vehicle. It weighs 14 tons and is operated by a crew of four. It has an operational range of 100–6,000 m., with a continuous rate of fire of 12 rds/min. The system carries 40 mortar shells.
The 2S12A 120mm. vehicle-carried mortar that is currently undergoing trials is mounted on a protected Ural truck. It has a maximum range of 7,100 m. and a rate of fire of up to 15 rds/min.
All three SPMs are being presented by Russia’s Burevestnik Institute, a subsidiary of Rostec’s UralVagonZavod (UVZ) research and manufacturing corporation.
The Army 2018 Exhibit includes a demonstration of the new systems being offered for sale that are transforming Russia into the world’s leading arms exporter: the Karakurt class Project 22800 corvette, the Sprut-SDM1 2S25M 125mm self-propelled anti-tank gun on an armored tracked chassis, the BUK M3 Viking medium-range air-defense missile system, the Tor-E2 medium-range air-defense system, and the recent modification of the TOS multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS). Yury Borisov reported that Russia is working on a vertical and/or short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) aircraft. The order to develop it was given by President Putin last year. Serial production is to begin within a time frame of 7-10 years.
The Russian Helicopter Corporation displayed its upgraded Mi-28 NE gunship armed with anti-tank guided missiles and Ataka-B air-to-ground missiles. The upgraded helicopter now has new features: the ability to guide drones and drop 500kg. bombs.
The BMP-1AM “Basurmanin” modernized infantry-fighting vehicle is also a brand-new system. It has the same armament suite as the BTR-82A, which includes a 30mm. dual-feed automatic cannon, a 7.62mm. PKTM coaxial machine gun, and a Metis-M anti-tank missile system. The turret incorporates two-axis stabilization and new sighting channels.
Rostec Corporation demonstrated its “stealth camouflage” technology for ground forces, which is capable of changing its appearance. It can alter its color and pattern depending on the soldier’s background environment. According to Rostec CEO Sergei Chemezov, the technology, “can reflect color changes and imitate graphical depictions as complex as the image of leaves fluttering in the wind.” It allows a soldier to carry a 50kg. load. Rostec reported that the exoskeleton has been tested under combat conditions.
But one system truly stole the show. The Kalashnikov Corporation displayed its robot Igorek – a walking soldier that weighs 4.5 tons and can fire weapons it holds in its claws. It can be operated from inside, with its pilots protected from bullets behind its armored glass and metal encasement. An operator can guide it with the help of the exoskeleton and special glasses. The robot can discern objects and answer questions.
The Igorek on display at the Army 2018 is only a prototype. It is still under development and some of its features have yet to be revealed. The robot's capabilities are still limited, but an improved version is likely to be displayed at the Army 2020 Forum. Igorek has a competitor – Feodor. Hopefully, the spirit of fair competition between them will spur progress in the robotization of the Russian military. The Kalashnikov Company also exhibited its Zala 421-16E5V2 unmanned aerial vehicle that is able to fly for a distance of 1,200 km.
Russia’s Kronshtadt Techologies Group, a leading high-tech company, demonstrated the Orion-E unmanned aerial vehicle — a one-ton class surveillance drone that is undergoing flight testing. It is capable of automatic takeoffs and landings and can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg.
The Army 2018 Exhibition has once again confirmed that Moscow’s ongoing rearmament program has made Russia the world leader in military technology, able to offer the best of the best on the global arms market. It has demonstrated that the export capabilities of the Russian defense industry have soared to new heights.