Russian bombers to test-fire missiles in Bay of Biscay
Russia has sent two long-range bombers to the Bay of Biscay, off the French and Spanish Atlantic coasts, to test-fire missiles in what Moscow billed as its biggest naval exercise in the area since the Soviet era. Firing missiles off the coastline of two Nato members is the latest in a series of Kremlin moves flexing Moscow’s military muscle on the world stage. Russian bombers joined aircraft carriers, battleships and submarine hunters from the Northern and Black Sea fleets for the Atlantic exercises, which come as the country enters an election campaign to choose a successor to President Putin. “The air force is taking a very active part in the exercises of the navy’s strike force in the Atlantic,” the Russian air force said in a statement reported by Reuters. “Today, two strategic Tu-160 bombers departed for exercises in the Bay of Biscay, which ... will carry out a number of missions and will conduct tactical missile launches." There was no immediate comment from Nato about the exercise. Mr Putin has used military manoeuvres, including controversial North Sea overflights, to revive domestic and international respect for Russia’s armed forces which were shattered by the chaos of the 1990s. He has also boosted military spending, renewed long-range bomber missions and approved a plan to upgrade Russia’s nuclear attack forces, which he said was needed after Nato built up its forces close to Russia’s borders. But some analysts note that while the sabre-rattling is popular at home, Russian military spending in absolute terms is substantially lower than that of China, Britain or France and less than a tenth of that of the United States. Discipline is also still a major problem for Russia’s armed forces, which rely heavily on conscripts and outdated equipment. Russia last month said it would begin major navy sorties into the Mediterranean, with 11 ships backed up by 47 aircraft, that would then travel to the Atlantic for exercises. The navy’s flagship aircraft carrier, the Soviet-made Admiral Kuznetsov, was leading the fleet in the Atlantic where Nato were trying to keep a close eye on Russian movements, Russian media reported. “This is the biggest exercise of its kind in the area since Soviet times,” a spokesman for Russia’s navy said, adding that more details would be released later. There was no further information about where in the Bay of Biscay, which lies off the west coast of France and the northern coast of Spain, the missile tests were due to take place. Russia’s air force said turbo-prop Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers, codenamed “Bear” by Nato, would join ATO, would join the exercise on Wednesday “From January 23, the aviation component in the zone where the exercises are going on will be widened and the following planes will take part: Tu-160, Tu-95, Tu-22 M3, Il-78, A-50,”, the air force said.
Russian Navy uses supersonic cruise missile to hit test target
The flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet has effectively engaged a designated target with a supersonic cruise missile as part of a Navy exercise in the northern Atlantic, a Navy spokesman said Tuesday. The Moskva guided-missile cruiser launched the P-500 Bazalt (NATO reporting name SS-N-12 Sandbox), a liquid-propellant supersonic cruise missile, last used in 2003. The P-500 Bazalt, which entered service in 1973, has a 550 km range and a payload of 1,000 kg, enabling it to carry a 350 kT nuclear or a 950kg semi-armor-piercing high explosive warhead. A Joint Naval Task Force, comprising the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, the Udaloy-Class destroyers Admiral Levchenko and Admiral Chabanenko, as well as auxiliary vessels, is currently on a two-month tour of duty in the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic. "The missile system used for launches has no match in performance terms," Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo, an aide to the Navy commander, said Monday. Russian warships will also practice interoperability with naval aviation and strategic bombers for several days. The operation is the first large-scale Russian Navy exercise in the Atlantic for 15 years. All the warships and aircraft involved are carrying full combat ammunition loads, the Navy said. Vice-Admiral Nikolai Maksimov, commander of Russia's Northern Fleet who is heading the task force, earlier said that the current tour of duty to the Mediterranean, which started on December 5, was aimed at ensuring Russia's naval presence "in key operational areas of the world's oceans" and establishing conditions for secure Russian maritime navigation.
Russian military to purchase 10-15 Mi-28N helicopters per year
Russia's Defense Ministry is planning to purchase at least 10-15 Mi-28N Night Hunter attack helicopters every year until 2015, a ministry official said on Tuesday. The Mi-28N is the latest variant of the Mi-28 attack helicopter, manufactured by the Rostvertol plant in southern Russia. It has been designed to conduct hunter-killer missions against enemy main battle tanks, helicopters, ground forces and armored equipment day or night in adverse weather conditions. "The [Mi-28N] procurement program will last until 2015. In the next few years, we are planning to purchase 10-15 helicopters per year, and later increase annual orders," said Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of Armament for the Russian Armed Forces. Russia's Defense Ministry is planning to purchase at least 45-50 Mi-28N Night Hunter attack helicopters until 2010, and to fully replace the Mi-24 Hind choppers in the armed forces by 2015. Rosvertol launched mass production of the Mi-28N helicopters last year. On Tuesday, the first two mass-produced Mi-28N were transferred to the Russian Air Force by the manufacturer. They will be deployed at a training center in the Tver Region (Central Russia). The Night Hunter is powered by two TV3-117VMA turbo-shaft engines developing 2,200-shp each. The armored xxxxpit protects the crew from small arms fire and absorbs the impact energy during emergency landings, ensuring outstanding survivability. Its combat range with internal fuel tanks is 450 kilometers (about 280 miles), but with external fuel tanks may be extended to 1,100 km (about 680 miles). Meanwhile, Rosvertol general director, Boris Slyusar, said his company was ready to start deliveries of Mi-28N helicopters to Venezuela as early as in the second half of 2009, if the Latin American country signs a contract with Russia. "We have an official request from Venezuela, but it is too early to talk about the number of aircraft to be delivered and the timeframe until a contract is signed," Slyusar said. "Other than that, we are ready to start deliveries in the second half of 2009." Russia may also sell the Night Hunter to China, Algeria and some other countries.
Russian Space Forces to launch new military satellite in 2009
Russia's Space Forces will launch a new relay satellite in 2009, the forces' commander said Friday. "Next year, we plan to orbit a new military relay satellite that will have twice as many transponders compared with available satellites. The satellite will be in service for 12 years unlike current satellites in use, which have a service life of three years but operate for five years," Colonel General Vladimir Popovkin told journalists. Popovkin said the satellite, worth about 1 billon rubles (over $40 million), will be put into geostationary orbit over Russia to relay data obtained from Russian reconnaissance satellites positioned in different orbits.
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Russia's Space Troops Commander Col. Gen. Vladimir Popovkin said that the U.S. missile shield in Europe increases the military threat. "Technical characteristics of these missiles [U.S. antimissiles] suggest that they can be used not only as an antimissile weapon but also as an anti-satellite weapon," Popovkin told journalists on Friday.