Army 2019: Showcase for Russia Export and Joint Development

 - July 6, 2019, 8:44 AM
As part of Army 2019, a firepower and mobility demonstration was undertaken at the Alabino range. Here a Ka-52 fires a rocket. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Held June 25 to 30, the Army 2019 international military technical forum may have displayed only limited growth in numbers (1,254 companies with 27,239 exhibits compared with 1,209 with 26,459 a year ago), but its served its purpose of attracting overseas customers. The fifth in a row of annual events at Kubinka, 30 nm west of Moscow, the defense show attracted 120 official foreign delegations (118 in 2018) and 101 exhibiting foreign companies (84).

Even though foreign visitors represented only a fraction of the million attendees, including 178,000 during three trade days, the Kremlin seems happy to see their interest in Russian equipment remains high, despite the tightening regime of U.S. sanctions, including punitive measures such as CAATSA that targets those nations that shop for weapons in Moscow.

“In such a short term, this unique and high-scale project has become an event not to be missed for defense industry professionals,” defense minister Sergei Shoigu told the gathering at the show’s opening, which included 1,000 foreigners. “Despite the sanctions introduced in an effort to slow down technical progress in Russia, our military-industrial complex does not only survive but also demonstrates some positive dynamics.” Shoigu and other high-ranking state officials held 55 meetings with their counterparts during Army 2019.

According to Moscow, the backlog of foreign defense orders grew to $55 billion in 2018 as 1,100 new sales contracts worth $19 billion were signed. Last year Russia exported weapons worth $13.7 billion, making it the world’s largest arms exporter after the U.S. Even though the show in Kubinka has never seen foreign orders being placed, it serves the purpose of demonstrating Russia’s technologies in the defense sphere and promoting cooperation with foreign partners, including through joint development and risk-sharing.

The chief of the MoD’s main directorate for scientific research activities, General Andrei Goncharov, told journalists, “The Army [show] gives impulse to the search for advanced innovative solutions and their consecutive implementation in the interest of the armed forces. Another outcome is more mutual trust, which we can feel after a day spent at show with our foreign partners. They feel increasingly confident in Russia as a weapons supplier, in our defense industry as a developer and manufacturer, and in the defense ministry as the establishment that formulates requirements for future weapon systems, conducts their acceptance trials, and facilitates service entry. All this is reflected in a better image for the Russian military-industrial complex.”

What makes the Army show different from many other defense shows around the globe is that it is organized and managed by the Russian defense ministry and that the vast majority of weapon systems on display are from the armed force’s stock. Of 332 platforms employed in the “dynamic demonstration” at the Alabino firing range, industry provided only 28. Almost all of the 50 aircraft on display at Kubinka AFB are Russian air and space force assets. Live firing with explosive munitions at Alabino involved Ka-52 and Mi-35M helicopters launching rockets and firing 30mm shells, with a total of 73,000 munitions expended in five days.

Flight display programs over Alabino and Kubinka involved air force teams flying Su-30SMs, MiG-29s, and Mi-28MN helicopters, while the Su-35, Yak-130, Yak-152, and Ka-52 performed solo routines. First-timers at the show were a military version of the Mi-38T, in flight test since last fall, and an improved variant of the Ka-52 that reflects Syrian war experience. Additionally, the MoD demonstrated—both statically and in the air—dozens of drones, including the Korsar (Corsair) short-range UCAV and a scale model of the Okhotnik (Hunter). Other show debutantes included the Podlyet-K1 radar for detection of low-flying targets as part of the S-400 SAM system, a transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) for the S-350 SAM, and the Pantsyr-SM point-defense missile/artillery system.