All The Russian Navy Wanted for Christmas Was a Set of Multiple Rocket Launchers

AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

The Russian Navy has announced it will be going into 2017 with more weapons — though not all the technology included in this “modernization” will be new.

Starting in 2017 the SPLAV arms firm will renew supplies of “Udav 1-M” and “Zapad” multiple rocket launcher systems to the Navy, according to SPLAV’s director. It does so after a 20 year intermission. Meanwhile, the Navy also plans to develop shipborne unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, according to the Major General Igor Kozhin.

In the 2017-2020 period, the Navy will also add Mig-29K and Mig-29KUB fighter jets to its park of shipborne fighter aircrafts, and will replace Ka-29 attack helicopters with more advanced Ka-52K “Katran” helicopters.

In total, the Russian Navy will receive around 100 new airborne vehicles by 2020, Kozhin said.

The two announcements present a complicated picture of naval modernization. The Udav and Zapad missile systems – used to defend ships from missiles, torpedoes, and submarines – are hardly new, but do represent increased firepower. UAVs, on the other hand, are a more recent technological development that Russia has increasingly sought to harness. In 2012, the Defense Ministry invested 5 billion rubles ($81.6 million) to develop drones.

The Soviet Navy fires a "Udav" rocket during 1987 exercises involving the Baku aircraft cruiser. Soviet Ministry of Defense

Since the late 2000s, Russia has placed an increasing emphasis on military modernization, planning to spend 20 trillion rubles ($326.2 billion) on the project between 2011 and 2020. The country’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and its military operations in Syria have emphasized the Russian military’s growing strength.

However, modernization has proven a challenge, particularly for the Navy. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet largely languished for years in Ukrainian-controlled Crimea. Although the peninsula’s annexation gave Russia a free hand to modernize and utilize the fleet, Western-imposed sanctions affecting military technology imports and a tanking economy have hindered upgrade efforts.

Russia’s October 2016 deployment of eight naval ships – including the Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s only aircraft carrier – to the eastern Mediterranean was both a major show of strength and a failure of optics.

The internet mocked the enormous cloud of diesel smoke billowing from the 30-year-old Admiral Kuznetsov as it wended its way to Syria. In December, two fighter jets crashed during takeoff from the carrier.

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