Russian Aerospace Forces keep receiving new hardware – Part 2

In a distant future, the new Russian airborne system of long-range aviation (PAK DA) will replace the basic strategic bombers. Preliminary trials of prototypes are scheduled in April 2023 and acceptance trials in February 2026. Also, new munitions are being designed for the long-range aviation. The bombers will receive new missiles in the coming years, and some will be hypersonic.

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Russian Aerospace Forces keep receiving new hardware Part 2 Mil Mi-28NE attack helicopter displayed at Army 2019 forum near Kubinka (Picture source: Army Recognition)

Most helicopter units were rearmed with new transport and combat rotorcraft in the past years. Over 200 new Mil Mi-28N and Kamov Ka-52 participate in various exercises more frequently than Mi-24 and upgraded Mi-35M.

In 2021, batch production of a new generation of better armed and protected Russian helicopters began. The first serial Mi-28NM are already supplied. Trials of upgraded Ka-52M began in 2020. The Defense Ministry said it plans to sign a contract for over 100 of these helicopters.

Streamlined production of modern Mi-8 options provided hundreds of helicopters to the armed forces. It made it possible to consider creating helicopter brigades for joint operations with the airborne forces.

A new helicopter is created for paratroopers and commandos : the Mi-8AMTSh-VN began trials in 2020. It has more powerful weapons, additional machineguns, and can drop bombs and fire guided missiles. The paratrooper compartment is for the first time protected by armor. The first helicopters were designed for commandos. However, in December 2020, Deputy Defense Minister Alexey Krivoruchko said airborne forces of a new type will be armed with them and receive a part of the dozen of ordered Mi-8AMTSh-VN.

Airlifter and special aviation lags behind in new hardware. Most aircraft were produced in Soviet time. “It is difficult to imagine a Russian operation in Syria or Nagorno-Karabakh without airlifters. There is no alternative for rapid redeployment of peacekeepers abroad to fulfil allied commitments. They are also necessary to airlift troops inside the country,” expert Dmitry Boltenkov said.

Special-designation aircraft are critically important. They include tankers, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, antisubmarine aircraft and air command posts for the top command. It is impossible to keep Soviet-made aircraft operational forever, Boltenkov said.

The United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) so far failed to launch batch production of such aircraft. The project of upgraded Il-76MD-90A airlifters has progress most. However, the production constantly lags behind the declared deadlines. Nevertheless, the Defense Ministry signed an additional major contract for ten Il-78M-90A air tankers in December.

The research of the concept of heavier prospective airlifter has progressed. In 2021, R&D is to begin, as well as the construction of a prototype capable of carrying 80 tons of cargo to 5 thousand kilometers. However, it will take many years before batch production begins to replace An-124.

The light Ilyushin Il-112V is far from ready. It has to replace dozens of Antonov An-26s by early 2030s, which have nearly exhausted their life cycle. Aggravated relations with Ukraine stopped cooperation in An-140 and An-148 projects. The prospects of multirole airlifter known as MTS or Il-276 are vague.

In 2020, the UAC restructured and reshuffled its airlifter division to improve the situation with key projects and begin batch production of airlifters for the Defense Ministry and for export, the Izvestia said.